The Sandcastles Program™  

Helping the Children of Divorce Rebuild

About the Sandcastles Program™ 

The Sandcastles Program is a group experience designed to assist minor children, ages 6-17, in dealing with their reaction to their parents' separation/divorce. 

The program is mandatory in more than a dozen counties in the United States of America. In these counties no final divorce decree will be granted unless children participate in the Sandcastles Program. The program also operates in Canada, Mexico, Panama, England and now also in South Africa.

This three-and-a-half-hour one time group session for children of divorce is aimed at helping children cope with divorce through the experience of sharing and listening to other children of divorce. The last half hour includes the children's parents and focuses on improving communication between the children and their parents.

The group experience was developed in order to help children see that they are not alone and that their thoughts and feelings are similar to many others who are experiencing divorce. Numerous research studies agree that a group process is the designated method to assist children of divorce. As a result of meeting with peers who are going through a similar experience, kids usually emerge with a new-found sense of confidence, hope, and community. 

Research on The Sandcastles Program in South Africa showed an improvement in self-concept and decrease in levels of anxiety and depression amongst children who participated in this program.

Divorce is typically a very stressful experience for children. The overwhelming majority of children of divorce feel sad, confused, angry, guilty, and conflicted. When these feelings are not expressed and dealt with in a healthy, productive way, they endure and taint children's views of themselves and others. 

Children can be greatly assisted in coping with divorce through understanding and sensitivity. They can learn what divorce means to their personal situation, how to express their feelings and approach their parents for help, and that the new family system can one day be comfortable for them. The Sandcastles Program underscores these points. 

Sandcastles uses a range of innovative techniques designed to help children: 

  • develop self-expression and problem-solving skills,
  • learn appropriate means of expressing anger and other intense emotions,
  • reach a better understanding of the reality of divorce,
  • recognize their own unique qualities and strengths.

Kids are invited to draw pictures, write poems, compose letters to their parents, answer questions about their divorce experience, and more.

In the last half hour, parents together with their children learn techniques for interacting and expressing their feelings about divorce. The Sandcastles Program serves as an excellent start in resolving children's issues with the divorce and helps to bring parents and children together to continue that resolution.

It is our hope that every child affected by parental divorce will be given the opportunity to experience The Sandcastles Program.

Meet the Sandcastles SA Team




Facilitators of the program in South Africa:  

Adél de Swardt (Psychometrist) left and Martinette Pienaar (Clinical Psychologist) in the middle with renowned author of the program: M. Gary Neuman from Miami Beach, Florida, USA (




Martinette Pienaar (

I have always had a special interest in helping children from divorced families. I was introduced to the Sandcastles Program™   during my training in clinical psychology and decided to do an evaluation of the Sandcastles Program™ for my Masters thesis in 2003. The positive results of my research started a dream of becoming a licensed Sandcastles provider for South Africa. This dream became a reality when the author of the program (the well-known and respected M.Gary Neuman) visited South Africa for the first time in June 2013. I am now a licensed Sandcastles provider and I hope that every child of divorce will be offered the opportunity to go through this program. No child should be dealing with these intense emotions on his/her own.

I am also a registered Clinical Psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa, practising in Durbanville, Cape Town.

I am married and the mother of twins. 

Adél de Swardt

After I completed B.Soc.Sc. Hons degrees in both Psychology and Industrial Psychology, I worked as Psychometrist and People Assessment & Development Consultant in the Organisational Psychology field for most of my career thus far. I gained extensive experience in a wide variety of aspects, working with people and being part of their personal development journeys. I especially enjoy the areas of individual career coaching and counselling activities as well as the development of Emotional Intelligence.  

I've always had a passion for children though - their optimal development and realisation of their potential - and have a special interest in Play Therapy and Kindermuzik. The moment that I was introduced to the Sandcastles Program™ by Martinette, I knew I wanted to be part of it and hence, I'm very happy to be a Sandcastles provider. 

I am married and the mother of 3 wonderful boys.