I met my ex-husband nearly two decades ago, at the ripe age of 20. At 25, we each said, “I do,” vowing to be one of those rare couples who weather the ups and down of matrimony far beyond the bells of a 50th wedding anniversary. For 14 years we built a life and started a family, but sadly the marriage didn’t work.
As parents, we took a new vow: Put the past to rest and focus on the best thing in both of our lives, our 6-year-old daughter. Our parenting style, which to us came naturally out of respect for one another and our daughter, actually has a name—"cooperative parenting"—and a complete educational program wrapped around it.
A report released by the National Center for Health Statistics says 43 percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years. A primary factor in a child’s adjustment to divorce is the quality of the parents’ post-divorce relationship. Cooperative Parenting & Divorce, written by Susan Boyan and Ann Marie Termini, is part of a video-based educational program that gives divorced parents the skills to become effective co-parents for the sake of their children.
Cooperative parenting groups benefit divorcing or divorced parents by helping them shift roles from former spouses to co-parents. It also educates on the impact of parental conflict on a child’s development and helps parents identify how they help contribute to conflict. And it teaches parents anger management, communication and conflict resolution skills.
Both the group program and the workbook are intended to help divorced parents shield their children from parental conflict and loyalty binds. The program can be assisted by mental-health professionals, mediators, special masters, parenting coordinators and parent educators employed by private institutions, universities, social-services agencies, hospitals, churches, schools and the court system.
While my ex-husband and I never took any classes or attended counseling sessions to learn the ‘official” concept of cooperative parenting, we have adopted its premise. We attend parent/teacher conferences together, make the ‘big” decisions together, openly discuss health and discipline issues, and do our best to show our daughter that, even though we are no longer married, it isn’t her fault and we’ll always still be a family. Are we perfect? Hardly, but we each provide a stable, loving atmosphere that is fully supported by the other parent.
I don’t advocate divorce, but I do advocate putting children first. If you have children and are currently going through the pains of divorce, log on to www.cooperativeparenting for more information. Locally, call the Parent Education Network at (530) 893-0391 or visit www.parented.org.