Webpage Supplement to

Chapter 19: Learning to Parent Apart

Deborah Zuver & Mary Grigsby

Posted Sept. 29, 2006

Related Parenting Education Programs

One goal of an effective divorce education program is to convey this critical message to parents: you love your child and you need to empathize with your child; you must reduce your level of conflict or your child will suffer. Another goal is to provide practical take-home information and resources. How the information is conveyed will affect whether parents are able to fulfill this expectation. Several parent education programs serve as helpful examples.

“Spice it Up” is the program used by Jody Johnston Pawel, a powerhouse in the field of parent education. She says, “Most people come to an educational program to learn, but will enjoy it more if they are entertained and involved. The best presenters are performers” (Pawel, 2003). She uses props, story-telling, and interactive scenes. For example, one person is seated in a chair as the child; two people stand behind the chair as parents. The instruction is, “Parents, your job is to keep the child in the chair. Go!” After about 20 seconds, participants are “paused” and they consider what they tried: Did they use force? Did anyone ask the child to remain sitting? How did “parents” feel? How did the “child” feel? In the course of this brief role-play exercise, the group of parents is immersed in exploring issues of power, obedience, cooperation, and communication. “Simple stories and small problems are little tests” of how to deal with larger and more complex ones. Pawel tackles a range of issues that are pertinent to families in transition.

Another program, “Children in the Middle” (CIM), is a skills-based divorce education program for parents in Jacksonville, Florida. About five years ago, a study examined the effectiveness of the program, as compared with another program that is information-based (Kramer et al., 1998). CIM’s specific focus is for instructors to have parents actively practice communication skills and conflict resolution techniques. While neither CIM nor the information-only program reduced actual levels of parental conflict, children of parents in the CIM program seemed to fare better in a number of ways. They were exposed to less conflict between their parents and they had fewer doctor visits and school absences. More research is needed, but findings suggest that the skills-based CIM approach makes a difference in helping parents communicate. It is interesting to note that what parents do not seem to be learning is the more difficult task of responding to their children’s emotions. This is the area where the L2PA enactment process can take the skill another step closer to application because emotion is such a strong component of L2PA.

The “Parents’ Education About Children’s Emotions” (PEACE) Program in Marion, Ohio began more than ten years ago as a court-mandated program for divorcing parents. The parents voted the role-plays as the “most helpful aspect of the program, and any information that was communicated to the parents through a role-play seemed to be remembered with the greatest clarity.” One father said, “It’s hard to see things through a kid’s eyes when you are not a kid anymore, but that’s one of the advantages to the program. It sort of shows you through a kid’s eyes” (McKenry, Clark & Stone, 1998).

The field of training in general has been taking a closer look at how emotion enhances learning. In Training and Development, Ruth Palombo Weiss (2000) noted “that the same areas of the brain that are involved in processing emotion are also involved in processing memory…. The more emotionally engaged a learner is, the more likely he or she is to learn.” Trainers who keep this concept in mind “create a sense of surprise and mystery in teaching and use humor.” Certainly this applies to parents in a life transition who may be charged with a range of emotions.

McKenry, P, Clark, K., & Stone, G. (1998). A qualitative evaluation of a divorce education program. Human Development and Family Life Bulletin 4(2):5-6. Describes the impact of Parents’ Education About Children’s Emotions (PEACE) program; participants voted role-play was as the most helpful aspect of the program.

Pawel, Jody Johnston. (2003). Spice it up! Using interactive activities to energize groups and boost skill building. In Parents Toolshop “Tour Guide” Instructor Manual. Springboro, OH: Ambris Publishing.  Offers interactive activities, including role-play games, to energize groups and boost skill building.

Weiss, Ruth P. (2000). Emotion and learning. Training & Development November:45-48.
 Describes how feelings, bodily sensations, and memory are intertwined in the brain and discusses implications for linking emotion and learning; cites examples.

Web Resources and Links

1. Parenting After Divorce , 1006 W. 104th #315 , Denver, CO 80234 , Phone: 303-329-9942
Fax: 303-280-0130pad@ecentral.com
Co-Parenting After Divorce - is a four-session, ten-hour class offered by Parenting After Divorce-Denver to divorcing, divorced and never-married parents who live apart. It is a skills-based class that parents attend together with three to five other co-parent teams. It is designed for parents who want to improve a co-parenting relationship that is working fairly well, as well as for those parents who have more difficulty getting along. Parents will learn skills and strategies needed to successfully communicate and work together for the sake of their children and to form the foundation of a businesslike co-parenting relationship.

2. Parenthood Requires Supportive Neighborhoods and Communities
“In order to succeed in life, children need supportive families. In order to be successful parents, many parents need support and education.” -- Lisbeth B. Schorr, Director, Harvard University Project on Effective Interventions, Washington, D.C.

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The Individual Development and Educational Assessment Center (IDEA) has twenty-six, excellent online-papers focused on the improvement of learning and teaching. www.idea.ksu.edu/resources/index.html

The National Teaching and Learning Forum provides thoughtful essays and practical articles on learning and teaching, as well as an online teaching forum.www.NTLF.com

Sites at Faculty Development Centers that have a number of useful articles on learning and teaching are:The Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Carolina--Chapel Hill.

The Teaching and Learning Center, University of Nebraska-- Lincoln

Faculty Development Committee, Honolulu Community College

The International Alliance of Teacher Scholars provides information of the Lilly Conferences on Teaching. These conferences are a wonderful opportunity to meet others who are trying innovative activities in the classroom. www.iats.com