Monday, July 10, 2006

Parents need to focus on what’s best for children in divorce - Illinois

Parents need to focus on what’s best for children in divorce


Divorce can affect each child differently, and parents need to learn how best to help their children through the situation.

For the last three years, Marriage and Family Counseling Service in Rock Island has offered classes on co-parenting after divorce or separation.

New rules enacted by the Illinois Supreme Court require parents in divorce proceedings to go through a class like the TransParenting class offered by Marriage and Family Counseling Service. Parents who have never married but who are going through a child custody case also will be required to take the class, said Rock Island County Circuit Judge Lori Lefstein.

The state supreme court announced the class requirement in February as part of a series of new rules to help ensure that child custody proceedings be handled expeditiously, competently and with great emphasis on the "best interest of the child."

The rules grew out of the continuing work of the special Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues that was established in January 2002 to study child custody, parental termination and adoption issues.

Judge Lefstein said she often recommended the class to parents even before the requirement went into effect July 1. Even if the parents are going their separate ways, they can learn to work together for the sake of their children, she said.

"Co-parenting is a very different relationship than a spousal relationship," he said. "Even though the marriage is ending, the parenting continues."

It's important for parents to focus on the child, he said, even though they may have their own emotional issues to deal with.

Families who navigate divorce successfully are those who talk about it and continue to talk about it and allow children to have their say, he added. If a family doesn't address the issues raised during a divorce right away, it can cause problems down the road.

Tips for divorcing parents

1. Don't badmouth the other parent. "Kids have loyalty to both parents regardless of how great or lousy the person is," said Derek Ball, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

2. Don't make your kid the messenger. Your child will be very interested in what's going on and will want to get the inside scoop, but as a parent, do your own communicating with the other parent as much as possible.

3. Be a good listener. Mr. Ball said parents are quick to use opportunities to lecture or teach their child, but in this situation, your child just wants to be heard. Give them feedback to make sure you understand what they are saying.

4. Don't make your kid into your confidante. Your child needs to be allowed to be a child. Go to your friends, parent, pastor or therapist for emotional support, not your child, Mr. Balls aid.

Upcoming Dates
5:30-9:30 p.m. July 13
5:30-9:30 p.m. July 25
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 9
5:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 24
5:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 5

Cost: $50 per person

Location: Marriage and Family Counseling Service, 1800 3rd Ave., Suite 512 Rock Island
For more information, call (309) 786-4491.

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