Parenting without conflict – Session I

On June 7, 2005 I was ordered to attend a Parenting Without Conflict workshop at the LA Superior Court starting in August. Well, I attended my first session yesterday, August 16, 2005. It was about two hours and there are five more sessions that are two and a half hours each. FYI, if I had know about this, I would have asked to judge to order it for us a long time ago as I had been asking, no BEGGING my “co-parent” as they referred to us, for years to attend such counseling with me and he had flatly refused.

I arrived early, but by the 3:30pm start time, there was approximately 300 parents waiting outside of the room where we were instructed to congregate. During the orientation period, I learned that there were two different PWC sessions. One was three 2 1/2 hour sessions of lecture style counseling and the other was six 2 1/2 hour sessions of interactive counseling which you were only allowed to take if both parents were attending together. There was a problem with the paperwork and somehow, my “co-parent” was sent to the session group and I was sent to the six session group, but parents couldn’t attend the six session counseling alone, both parents had to attend together. They almost sent me home with a letter to the judge stating that my “co-parent” didn’t show, but luckily I had caught a glimpse of my him in the hall when I arrived and I asked the moderator to please check and see if he could locate him before I left. Based on the information I was given, I was convinced that if I attended the three session group (which was also an option offered to me), I would simply be ordered to do the six session group by the judge (we need this counseling, so attending wasn’t a problem) and I would have to take yet more time off work (my boss was NOT happy about this as it was) .
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Both of us were finally settled into a group. If I counted correctly, there was a total of seven couples in attendance. The first thing they ask us all to do is introduce ourself, state our primary co-parenting issues, provide a brief history (how long married, how long seperated etc.) and give the age of our child(ren). Then we began reading some of the common “negative behaviors” that we may or may not have engaged in. Next, everyone was escorted to a room where there was an audio presentation of a child saying things about how divorce make’s them feel. Any parent without a stone heart would probably had to fight back tears. The presentation had no pictures of any children, so in my mind, I was really picturing my daughter and after a few minutes, I was looking around the room for a kleenex. The presentation was about 1/2 hour and afterwards, we returned to the room and talked about how we felt about what we had just seen.

I felt a little envious of the couple who had a toddler age child and had only been seperated for a few months because before the session was over, I found myself wishing that I had had the benefit of this counseling years earlier. It could have potentially saved my daughter a lot of difficulties and me a lot of money. During the break, I couldn’t help but to read further into the workbook than “Lession 1”, and before I went to bed last night, I had read most of the workbook. The good news is that I knew most of what was there. Not because I’m a goody two shoes, but because I have been through quite a bit of this sort of counseling, but by myself. As far as I know, my “co-parent” has not had any such counseling, but no matter, I’d do it again, and again with him if I had to for our daughter.

At this point, there are a few things I would like to see happen to improve this program:

1) Consider breaking out the couples who have never been married, there are many issues that are unique to parents who have never been married or even in a committed relationship.

2) Offer a similiar, relavant program for step-parents and significant others.

3) Both parents are required to attend this workshop together, but they don’t offer ANY child care at all and I think they should at least consider offering it even if they need to charge a fee to cover the costs. Most parents probably have to pay a baby sitter SOMETHING in order to attend the PWC class since it’s on a week day during business hours.

4) They probably need to semi-outsource this program. The instruction and materials need to be consistent. My thoughts would be to request the donation of space in churches that have exsisting preschools and/or primary shools and use that space to provide child care. They might also be able to offer more flexibility in scheduling the 15 hour (six session) counseling into a two 7 1/2 hour sessions or other flexible arrangements. It would alleviate the cost of validating parking for attendees and parents could possibly benefit from scheduling their counseling closer to home or their children’s school.

I look forward to posting more after each session and I hope that it’s of value to someone. I highly recommend anyone who is litigating custody or having difficulties at least try this if you can. I know it can sometimes be hard to convince your “co-parent” to go to counseling, in my case it was court ordered, so we didn’t have a choice.

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