July 13, 2018
Let’s be brutally honest here… If you are a parent experiencing a divorce or separation, regardless of the ages of your children, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the thought of raising a child by yourself or co-parenting apart. There is so much to learn when it comes to raising your kids in two homes, and court-approved parent education programs can help guide you onto a path of effective co-parenting with your ex-spouse, as well as several resources that will help you put the thing that you and your spouse can most agree on, your children’s well-being, first and foremost. Here are 7 reasons why you should look forward to your Parent Education Program requirement.
1. No Spouses Allowed
Even if you wanted to, Massachusetts prohibits co-parents from attending a parenting education program together. Without your co-parent there, you can feel comfortable enough to ask questions you want answers to and to speak freely about your experiences of divorce or separation without a fear of judgement or causing tension. Our facilitators will help to create a safe environment where people can fully receive the support of everyone in the class.
2. Advice from Parents Just Like You
You are not going to attend this class by yourself. The two sessions (each lasting 2.5 hours) you are required to attend will be with others who will have come from several variations of a similar situation you are in. However, every person brings a unique lens and perspective to the struggles and strategies of parenting separately. It is very often that people have found great value in simply listening to strategies that worked and didn’t work for others. It is also very comforting to hear that though everyone has a different story, their circumstances may not be that different from yours. The people in your class can be a resource of their own. Whether it be through connecting over parenting strategies, or simply empathizing with your struggles, everyone can benefit from each other in more ways than one.
3. Qualified and Caring Facilitators
If you are hesitant to trust that you will get something out of this class due to its facilitators, trust me when I tell you that some of the most qualified persons associated with MWI facilitate these programs. Two facilitators conduct each program. Each has a graduate degree in a mental health discipline or a related graduate degree with appropriate clinical training, and is experienced in conducting pyschoeducational programs or leading groups. MWI facilitators also have specialized knowledge of issues concerning divorce, separation, paternity actions, family dynamics, and child development. In addition, MWI’s Director of Mediation Services, Josh Hoch is always on hand to be helpful and supportive to participants.
4. Focus on What Matters: Your Kids!
Children can be greatly impacted by divorce or separation. That does not mean, however, that the impact is always negative. It is naïve to believe that children can go on living the same way with everything that comes with a divorce happening around them. Divorce comes with a lot of change that can confuse children, especially when emotions are running high with everyone involved. It is a process of grieving and change, and believe it or not, it is a loss for them as much as it is for you. In the parent education program, you will gain knowledge and skill to help you approach your divorce in a way that is best for your children’s well-being and growth. You are divorcing your spouse, not your children, after all. Luckily, this program is geared to assist parents in raising their child in an environment that they can thrive best in given the circumstances.
5. We Support Parents of All Shapes and Sizes; Every Child is Different
I think it is safe to say that no child is ever the same as another. Every child has unique needs, personalities, and ways of dealing with things. We are aware that your situation is varied in maybe a thousand different aspects. That is why, at our parent education program, we believe in facilitating this experience rather than rule it. We present research, and share resources and strategies for parenting kids of all ages, so parents of every child can have an idea as to how to move forward in their parenting in the best personalized way for their children. You know your children better than we do, so our job isn’t to tell you what to do, but to give you the tools and know-how on how to approach your parenting in a way that you know best fits your children. Your children are one-of-a-kind, so we want to treat them like it.
6. Conflict Resolution: Making Co-Parenting Work For You
Every couple is different, and with that comes different ways to parent. Maybe parenting wasn’t something you had trouble with when you were together, but maybe you and your co-parent had different opinions, or were divided on certain things. Now, with children living in two different homes, it is important that both parents learn how to work together to parent effectively while living apart. The parent education program will focus on many ways to work with your co-parent, so that when you walk away from the program, you will have a clearer idea of how to navigate your children’s lives with your co-parent. All differences aside, you will always be connected by your children. So, the easier you can work with your co-parent, the better it will be for you and your children’s lives.
7. Self Care: This is for you!
All of the things previously mentioned are critical to the well-being of your family, but these things can be very difficult when you aren’t taking care of yourself. This class is for you to have the tools to better navigate parenting, but it also reminds you that you are important too. There is a reason why on airplanes, they tell you to put your mask on first before helping anyone else. If you don’t have your mask on, it will be hard, if not impossible, for you to help someone else. This program reminds you to put your mask on first, because your children need you to be the best parent you can be, so your child can be the best they can be. Who doesn’t want that?
We trust you will find your time spent at a court-approved parent education program at MWI to be well worth your time. For upcoming program dates, click here.
About the Author
Jessica Maldonado is a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and works as a Program Assistant as part of an internship at MWI. For more information about internships at MWI click here.