U of M Extension helps separated and divorced parents keep their children’s needs front and center – West Central Tribune

FERGUS FALLS – Divorce can be a difficult and painful journey to navigate, even when the path leads to a place of prosperity. Over the past 25 years, the University of Minnesota Extension has helped improve the experience, especially for children, by supporting family resilience through divorce, separation, and transition. a change of guard.

Parents Forever reaches parents and caregivers through referrals from court systems concerned with contentious divorce situations. The program is offered online and in person with Extension-trained facilitators and is available in many community settings.

Mary Matteson, Community Education Director of Fergus Falls, has facilitated the course as an extension-trained instructor since its inception. “It works,” she said. “The course explains how you and your co-parent are going to take care of your children now that you are not together, but it is like this metaphor of how the flight attendants say that you have to put on your own mask first to oxygen. I like to start with lessons on how to take care of yourself because parents are so overwhelmed at first. »

Phyllis Onstadt knows the feeling. The now-retired extension educator was one of the authors of the program in 1997. Although she was a family and financial educator at the time, she felt hopeless over her own divorce. “As an educator, I looked for educational programs that could help make sense of all of these aspects of divorce,” she says. “There were none.”

To develop the Parents Forever course, Onstadt and colleagues like retired educator Minnell Tralle spoke with judges, social workers, financial counselors and mental health experts about ways to reduce the negative impact of divorce on the children.

They decided to participate in the sessions separately for each parent before having them interact to create a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan.

“The program has stood the test of time,” says Ellie McCann, an Extension family resilience educator who is responsible for keeping the program current and training facilitators. “It helps all kinds of families, including blended families with all these complexities.”

I learned a lot of different strategies and tools to help me not only be the parent I want and need to be, but also how to get through my divorce with a positive outcome.

Parents Forever Participant

Parents Forever supports families

Parents Forever, a course offered by the University of Minnesota Extension, focuses on building healthy relationships between children and parents during and after divorce.

University of Minnesota Extension

Six months after taking the Parents Forever course:

  • 98% of participants said they had adapted their parenting role to better meet the needs of their children.
  • 94% said they had used or somewhat used one of the co-parenting strategies learned.
  • 96% of parents said they never or rarely speak negatively about the other parent in front of their children.

Parents who have followed Parents Forever have reported a variety of positive changes in their parenting. They also reported an increase in their children’s social behaviors, such as helping others.

When parents learn how dysfunctional behaviors negatively affect their children, they open up to healthier alternatives taught in the Parents Forever course. These behaviors can include:

  • Merry Mom, or Disneyland Dad: Parents buy lots of gifts for children or keep them up late because they want to spend time with them and be the favorite parent.
  • I spy and the secret keeper: Parents ask children about the life of the other parent and the people they see, which makes children feel loyalty. Or a parent asks the children to keep secrets from the other parent.
  • Messenger: A parent asks a child to send information to the other parent about plans, pick-up times and changes in plans which could be bad news.
  • To file: A parent says insulting things to the child about the other parent, such as being bad with money or only caring about their favorite sport.

Finding and keeping a home is an important step in maintaining a stable home environment. Extension’s free online Renter 101 course gives participants an overview of the tools and strategies needed to secure housing, helping them become responsible renters by learning:

  • How to wisely manage financial resources to pay rent on time each month.
  • How to choose adequate, safe and affordable housing.
  • How to communicate effectively.
  • How to maintain a house.
  • How to navigate the rental process. This includes learning about selection, tenancy agreements, security deposits and moving.

This course requires no registration and lasts approximately one hour. Participants receive a certificate and can repeat the course as often as necessary.

This article is republished with permission from the University of Minnesota Extension.

Allison Sandve, Extension’s Head of News Media, can be reached at [email protected], 612-626-4077 (office) or 651-492-0811 (mobile). Contact Extension Communications at [email protected].

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