Co-parenting class helps families through divorce process
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Media Contact: Trisha Gedon | Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 | firstname.lastname@example.org
For more than 30 years, experts with Oklahoma State University Extension have provided parents with effective strategies to help children adjust to their parents’ separation.
Created by OSU and taught by trained OSU Extension educators, the Co-Parenting for Resilience course — or a similar course taught by other organizations — is required by Oklahoma judges for couples with minor children going through a divorce.
“The program gives parents the skills necessary to help them navigate through the separation and divorce process while keeping the best interest of their minor child in mind,” said Katey Masri, program manager with OSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Science.
Available in both English and Spanish, the class addresses topics specifically for the parents, the children and the family unit, including: a definition of co-parenting and why is it important; when not to co-parent; how children are affected by divorce; children’s developmental stages; raising a resilient child; managing parental stress; financial management; step-families; creating a parenting plan; and how to deal with high conflict.
Danielle Wells — interim county OSU Extension director and family and consumer sciences educator in Carter County — has taught Co-Parenting for Resilience for 11 years.
“This course helps parents better understand what their children are going through. Having been through a divorce before, I feel like I can relate to these parents,” Wells said. “There wasn’t a class available when I got a divorce, and I know it really could’ve helped our family.”
When parents begin the class, they often tell Wells they don’t need anyone telling them how to be a parent to their children. However, once the class progresses, they realize the valuable support it provides for their children.
“Parents are appreciative of the information we give them in class. They tell me they listen more to their children and have learned the importance of not arguing in front of them,” she said. “Unfortunately, I’ve had parents in the class who are no longer in touch with their kids. I always encourage them to keep in contact. On a positive note, I’ve also had parents who decided to seek counseling and were able to save their marriage after taking this course.”
Post-evaluations indicate Co-Parenting for Resilience is effective at helping reduce the impact of divorce on children, while at the same time increasing parent coping skills and positive parenting. Evaluations also show better collaboration between co-parents; parents ensuring children have a relationship with the other parent; parents protecting their children from the trauma of divorce; and parental commitment to pay child support.
Course evaluations also indicate decreases in parental stress, child exposure to parental conflict, child irritability, child emotion dysregulation and child anxiety.
“This class has given me a better understanding of what I can do to help my children cope,” said a participant in the class.
Another parent said, “I learned better ways to communicate with my co-parent and how to keep the children out of the middle of things.”
Parents can choose either an online or on-site format for the course, both of which take four hours to complete. The on-site option, available in 53 counties across the state, is taught in one class and involves live instruction and videos. The online course has more flexibility and is done at the parents’ own pace.
Wells advises parents to check with the judge in their county as some judges require the in-person class.
Masri said they often hear people coming into the class indicating they’re frustrated the court is requiring them to attend.
“When they leave, they say the information was helpful and they wish they’d taken the class much sooner,” she said. “It all boils down to the fact this class is helping parents be the best parents they can be. Our focus is all about what’s best for the children and recognizing their children’s needs.”
In 2020, nearly 250 classes took place with 3,313 parents completing the English version and 64 parents completing the Spanish version.
Course instructors receive initial training along with yearly refresher courses to help ensure they’re providing the most up-to-date information to parents.
For more information about Co-Parenting for Resilience, contact Masri at 405-744-8428 or a local OSU Extension County office.