© 2015 by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq, CFLS
Parenting After Separation (PAS) is a free, 4-hour online parenting class for separating and divorcing parents in California. It is good for the majority of separating and divorcing parents, but it's not designed for:
1) The issues of high-conflict parents;
2) Parents who want to know how to deal with a high-conflict co-parent; and
3) Parents who want to know HOW to manage their own behavior, not just that they should.
Often professionals and parents do not understand that the needs of high-conflict parents are substantially different and often the opposite of what people feel like telling them. This is very important, because high-conflict parents are the majority of those who we see repeatedly in family courts today around the world.
PAS provides a good overview for the 70-80% of separating and divorcing parents who are seeking information and are able to reflect on their own behavior and change their responses non-defensively. This program gives good messages, such as: "When you acknowledge and understand your own emotional experience, you are more receptive to the experience and feelings of your children;" "When you acknowledge and understand what your children's are experiencing, you will be able to listen and respond to their emotions and feelings;" and "It's your responsibility to care for the well-being of your children. This includes how you interact with your former partner." It also demonstrates with child testimonials how negatively parents in conflict can affect their children.
However, it does not focus on the needs and problem areas of high-conflict parents in separation and divorce (20-30% of parents), who are not seeking objective information, are highly defensive and are unable to reflect on their own behavior. In fact, high-conflict parents will feel more defensive and less likely to change after receiving these "should" "need to" and "must" messages. And hearing children's negative comments increases high-conflict parents' defensiveness and commitment to protecting the children from the other parent - rather than having insights about their own behavior - such as by interfering with the other parents contact or returning repeatedly to court.
High-conflictparents' guilt, shame and anger levels are already high and lectures (or perceived lectures) often increase their high-conflict behavior. What they need are self-management skills, taught with lots of empathy for the parent – so that they can then build empathy for their children. The problem for high-conflict parents is that they are generally unable to self-reflect like this, unable to empathize like this and unable to separate the children's needs from their own perceived needs.
Parenting Without Conflict (PWC) is an online class with 12 sessions for a nominal fee, which uses a substantially different approach. PWC focuses on more fundamental self-management skills (managed emotions, flexible thinking, moderate behavior, checking yourself, how to write non-hostile emails, how to make and respond to proposals, how to calm yourself, etc.), which is more necessary and more important for high-conflict parents and those dealing with a high-conflict co-parent. In a sense, the difference between the two programs is like the difference between telling a non-alcoholic not to drink and drive, and telling an alcoholic not to drink and drive. The high-conflict parent - just as the alcoholic - needs a more intensive, more repetitive and more simple approach, based on learning and applying skills for self-management at the most basic level - without being told WHAT to do, but rather HOW to do it in order to be successful and positive.
This is what the Parenting Without Conflict course was designed to do, by:
1. Reinforcing self-management skills over and over again;
2. Preparing them more thoroughly to negotiate or mediate a parenting plan;
3. Helping reasonable parents deal with various levels of difficulty of a high-conflict co-parent; and
4. Assisting them with a wider range of issues that parents face during and after a separation or divorce.
PAS and PWC are both good programs addressing different needs and there is no harm in a parent taking both of them.
To compare these two programs for yourself, please go to:
Parenting After Separation: http://familieschange.ca.gov/
Parenting Without Conflict: http://newways4families.onlineparentingprograms.com
Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Family Law Specialist. He is the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute and the Senior Family Mediator of the National Conflict Resolution Center. He is the author of several books. He is also the developer of the New Ways for Families program, which is being operated in four Family Court systems in the United States and Canada and the developer of the New Ways for Mediation method of structuring and engaging high-conflict clients in using simple skills during the mediation to make their own decisions out of court.