Many experts, family law courts and parents aim to negotiate a joint legal custody arrangement, even if the physical custody is not split equally. This means both parents are equally involved in major decisions concerning the children even if the children spend more overnights in one parent’s household. Even if parents agree on how the custodial time should be divided between them, co-parenting can still be a challenge.
Parents have many options to support them through these challenges, including mediation, smartphone apps and parenting classes. Parenting classes and programs are becoming more popular according to recent studies.
First: State law already provides parenting courses
North Carolina law established a Parent Education Program. These are free classes, both in-person or online, that help divorcing parents:
- Understand their child’s needs throughout the divorce process
- Learn strategies for conflict-resolution
In most of these cases, parents must take these education programs because of a court order. The programs often become a requirement if parents face serious child custody disputes or experience significant conflict.
New study highlights benefits of parenting programs
Researchers at Arizona State University conducted a study where parents used one of the online programs, eNew Beginnings. In the responses from both parents and their kids, the study found that taking the course helped to:
- Improve the overall quality of parenting
- Minimize parental conflict
- Reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression in the kids
What is more interesting, is the study determined that online programs were much more effective and helpful than in-person classes. The researchers made the courses more accessible, so parents could complete them at any time and on any device.
These classes are not a source of shame, or a reflection that the parents are failures. Co-parenting after a divorce is a skill, and it takes time to learn how to approach it effectively. These classes can be a supplement for parents as they move forward and navigate the new terrain of co-parenting while maintaining separate households.