Class teachers couples how co-parent through divorce |

Class teachers couples how co-parent through divorce

by Merrie Leininger

Finding common ground when raising a child can be difficult enough for a couple, but determining how to divide the task after a divorce can be hell for the more than 50 percent of couples who divorce.

Family Support Council is trying to help those parents make it easier on their children, and therefore easier on themselves, by offering a “co-parenting through divorce” class.

“Divorce isn’t the problem, it’s the conflict after the divorce that is really the problem,” explained instructor Tammy Taylor. She and Deborah Van Bruggen, both of Family Support Council, conduct the class.

Taylor said to ensure the child is not psychologically damaged by the conflict, parents have to work hard to “help the kids through the changing family if we expect this child to do well.”

In the class, parents do exercises and watch videos that help them examine how they and their children are responding to the divorce.

The class has been taught four or five times a year since the Douglas County District Court judges asked Family Support Council to provide a resource for divorcing parents.

– Sign up. The judges suggest that couples who come before them during a divorce settlement attend the two-day class, especially if they seem to have difficulties sharing parenting duties now that their marriage has dissolved. Other parents sign up voluntarily for the class. The only cost is $20 for materials, but space is limited to about 15 people per class and parents shouldn’t take the class together.

The next class will be held Jan. 18 and 20. At the last class, held in September, the students said they learned a lot.

Monica Roybal was at the beginning of divorce proceedings when she took the class. She and her ex-husband have a baby daughter.

She said in addition to the things she learned, it was just nice to be with other parents who were going through the same thing.

“It’s scary. And now I have a baby and I wanted to hear what can and can’t be said around her,” Roybal said. “There are no handbooks on this kind of thing. But this class is full of information.”

Elizabeth Hatcher and Mark Dagher were planning on getting married soon after the class and Dagher would soon become a stepfather – his first experience with any kind of parenting.

Hatcher said they wanted to obtain some parenting skills to learn how to better handle the unfamiliar situation.

Hatcher said the class also helped her realize some things she was probably doing wrong that was causing undue stress on her two children.

Hatcher said, in particular, she was struck by how parents cause their children pain when they bad-mouth each other, grill them after a visit, or try to guilt them into spending less time with the other parent.

Hatcher said her parents responded that way during their divorce, and she vowed never to do that to her children. However, during the class, she realized that discussing legal issues with her daughter was something that wasn’t necessary, and probably caused her stress.

“You don’t realize you’re doing these things, but when you see it on paper, it makes you aware. You have to make it easier on your child,” Hatcher said.

– Anger management. “When you hear yourself saying, ‘If he would only…’ you have to stop. It’s hard to look past the hurt to our responsibilities,” Taylor said.

The class also teaches useful tips such as how to effectively deal with anger without exploding or repressing it.

Taylor points out that even when parents think they are behaving well in front of their children, body language can communicate a lot.

“They are incredibly perceptive. They have this radar. They can feel it, but they are terrible at interpreting because they don’t have the life experience. You have to be very clear about your signals. Even if they never ask you, you need to make it clear the divorce isn’t because of them,” she said.

The class also explains how children of different ages, genders and temperament will handle the divorce and how to effectively lead them through it.

To sign up for the class, call Family Support Council through Jan. 18 at 782-8692.