Co-Parenting Through Divorce
The disruption of a family through separation or divorce inevitably has an impact upon children. They may be greatly stressed by this experience, and they may fear the loss of one or both of their parents. The Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Center offers a program for parents who may no longer be married but still share the responsibility of parenthood. Titled "Co-Parenting Through Divorce," the one-session workshop helps parents put their children's needs first both during and after the divorce. The workshop also helps parents see the new family structure from the child's perspective and helps them understand that co-parenting is a life-long process that goes beyond the current issues of divorce. Oklahoma County judges are ordering some parents to attend Extension's Co-Parenting Through Divorce workshop before their divorce will be granted. The workshop costs $20, and sessions are offered monthly at the Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Center, 930 N. Portland in Oklahoma City. Call 713-1125 for registration. The registration form is listed at the bottom of this page.
Parents may want to protect children from the pain and bitterness of a separation or divorce, but the best thing parents can do is be open and honest. Major changes need to be discussed with children. This will strengthen the parent-child relationship, lessen the child's feelings of guilt and responsibility, and open lines of communication for future talks. Following are some tips for helping children cope with divorce:
- Talk with children about what is going to happen.
- Describe what divorce means.
- Explain that your decision has come after careful thought.
- Do not blame anyone.
- Describe changes they can expect in their lives.
- Assure them that they will always be free to love both parents.
- Encourage children to ask questions.
Impact of Divorce Upon Children
How will divorce affect your children? This is difficult to answer because there is no single outcome. However, some important trends have emerged from research. For instance, a parent's emotional health is a significant factor in the child's adjustment. It is predictable that children will push a parent to the limit. Children can be tearful, moody, restless, or have difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Many parents ask at what age the child is most susceptible to problems. That isn't an easy question to answer. Generally, when parents separate:
- Preschool children become more irritable and whining. Their symptoms are usually temporary as long as their physical needs are met and loving care is restored.
- Five and six year olds become more anxious and aggressive, restless and moody.
- Seven and eight year olds frequently experience sadness and grief. They often fear for their safety.
- Nine to eleven year olds often direct their anger at the parent who they perceive caused the divorce.
- Adolescents frequently feel anger, depression, guilt, and withdrawal. They often distance themselves as a defense against more pain.
- College-age young people can also be deeply affected by their parents' divorce.
Research indicates that boys seem to be more affected by divorce than girls. They experience more depression and are more intensely preoccupied with the divorce. They long for their fathers more and feel rejected by their fathers. However, five years after the divorce, the sex of the child does not seem to be a factor in post-divorce adjustment.
Be sure to call and register for the class you would like to take at 713-1125.
There is a $20 fee per person for each class.