What is a parenting course and how does it help?
Enrolling in a parenting course does not mean you are a lousy parent. It means that you are willing to develop your parenting skills to meet the specific needs of your children after separation. And for many kids impacted by conflict, that can only be a good thing. In this article, we’ll explore some popular types of parenting programs and what to look for in a parenting course to meet your needs.
Identify and accept areas for improvement, then find a parenting course to match those needs
For many parents, co-parenting after separation is like starting again – only harder. The resources have halved, and the work, doubled. Emotionally depleted, mentally exhausted and the air thick with conflict, many co-parents find those first months after separation the most challenging. And it’s around this time that some parents (if they are willing to admit it) realise the size of the gap left by the other parent – and understand they need to fill it. Whether this involves meeting the basic needs of the children, helping them socialise, cope with school, stay active, manage their feelings – the list goes on. Anyone who believes they don’t need a hand is kidding themselves (or superhuman). Parenting programs can be a fantastic way to get support, gain knowledge and expertise and develop a deeper understanding of the developmental needs of the child – from baby or toddler right through to teens. Sometimes in mediation, one parent will agree to undergo a parenting program at the request of the other parent. There are several reasons why this is often ‘on the table’ at mediation and the types of programs and courses recommended are unique to each scenario. But a willingness of one or both parents to agree to completing a parenting program is a hugely positive step that can set the co-parenting relationship up for success instead of failure.
What are the main types of parenting courses and programs available?
Parenting courses tend to fall into two basic categories. The first category relates to your own skills and behaviours as a parent (such as managing your conflict, coping with the separation, communicating with your child and even self-care), while the second category focuses on the needs of the children at their various developmental stages. Each parent will face a unique set of circumstances as they embark on a co-parenting journey following separation. It’s common that during the relationship, certain responsibilities fell to one parent over the other, so one parent may lack the necessary experience and familiarity to manage certain aspects of parenting. Examples include communication with the children, socialisation skills, nutritional needs, exercise, homework, age-appropriate activities, routine setting, and healthcare and mental wellbeing.
What to look for in a parenting course
There’s no shortage of parenting courses and programs and many of them are free. With so much out there, it can be daunting trying to find the right one in terms of content, and one that suits your preference (online, self-learning, in-person, group classes etc). To help make the right choice, there are some practical questions we recommend you ask first.
Does the course cover the age and developmental stage of your child?
Be mindful that the parenting course you choose is age appropriate. Some parenting courses are aimed at children of all ages, while others are age/developmental stage specific, and others are designed to help with challenges or issues related to a child of a specific age (for example, behavioural challenged 5 – 12-year-old). Courses are generally offered for the following age categories:
0 – 5 years
5 – 12 years
12 – 18 years
Is the program/course an effective and proven approach?
Investigate the research that the program is based around. Are there testimonials or reviews available that advocate that this is a pragmatic, results-focused course?
Is the course delivered by a reputable, professional organisation?
Check the accreditation of the facilitators/educators of the program – what are their qualifications and training credentials? Is the course affiliated with a religious organisation, an educational organisation, or a government organisation or is it a private fee-based course? How experienced are the educators?
How is the parenting course delivered?
Some parents enjoy participating in a face-to-face group learning experience, others prefer an online group learning experience. You may also prefer to learn at your own pace, suited to your schedule, and choose a self-guided course, or even take a one-on-one learning option.
What is the approach of the parenting program?
This is an important consideration to make when choose the right course, as some parenting courses advocate a specific approach – for example some courses will centre on the family (parent and child) participating in decisions, while others put decision-making as the responsibility of parents only. If the course sits comfortably with your own values, you are more likely to embrace and apply the learnings.
Parenting courses are a pro-active step towards building positive relationship with your child
Following family separation, parents and their children find themselves navigating life in a new world, where especially for the kids, everything is different. Some children cope better than others, but all children are impacted by this seismic event in their world as they knew and understood it. And like kids, some parents are better able to cope than others. Parenting courses are filled with parents on the same journey with the same challenges. Some are on a steep learning curve; others are dealing with very specific behaviours that are beginning to appear in the children. Most importantly, children need confidence in their parent’s ability to care for them – they need comfort that you know what you’re doing. A parenting course can help you gain confidence in your own skills across a range of areas, which in turn, brings confidence to the children. And for kids who have been seriously impacted by high levels of conflict, or who are at an age where they have very high needs and dependencies, on the parenting front, winging it just isn’t good enough.
To help you prepare for mediation, we have created a library of helpful information including checklists, tips and added detail around the process of mediation. For useful and relevant information you can download for free, we encourage you to visit our resources page.
In our mediation work, we see first-hand how much effort it takes from both parties to reach a co-parenting agreement in the best interests of their child. Once an agreement has been reached, the relief felt by both parties is palpable. But then comes the hard part - making the co-parenting agreement work. That’s where co-parenting apps come in - to make this next stage of co-raising kids just that bit easier.
Understanding our brain’s response to stress is the first step in changing our brain's response to one we can use to negotiate our way through. If we can learn to do that, we can begin to understand ourselves better.
It’s affordable, informal and collaborative – almost the opposite of family court. Yet the idea of going into family mediation with an ex can trigger feelings of anxiety, stress, and sometimes, fear. Considered preparation can go some way to alleviating the intensity of these feelings.
Mediation works because it replaces blame and punishment with problem-solving. And the effects of this approach can produce real and lasting behavioural change (rather than the antiquated notion of being caught and punished in an ongoing cycle that can continue into adulthood).
A solid co-parenting alliance leads to less hassle and less drama for the parents and improved wellbeing for the kids helping them continue a stable and positive developmental journey despite a massive change to their small world.