Family Healthy Choices

A nonprofit agency dedicated to helping families meet their needs and embrace their opportunities.

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Session 1 Outline


  • Overview of topics covered by the program
  • Goals of the Courts in mandating parenting classes for divorcing parents
  • Encourage participants active involvement by sharing their own experiences and/or raising questions that are relevant to understanding the stages of divorce or specific parenting challenges
  • Foundational information that the course is grounded in the recognition that divorce is a transition in the life of a family, and that parental understanding of the stages in this process combined with development of communication skills promotes positive adjustment for parents and children

Overview of Social Science Research on Divorce

  • Research of Dr. Judith Wallerstein and Dr. Mavis Hetherington
  • Summary of research on positive adjustment of children
  • National perspective on parenting classes for divorcing parents

Factors that Impact Children’s Adjustment

  • Age
    o overview of stages of child development and relevance of divorce to each of these developmental stages
  • Gender
    o overview of potential differential responses to divorce based on gender
  • Temperament of the Child
    o overview of how a child’s personality and temperament will impact the child’s response
  • Environmental Stability
    o overview of the importance of creating environmental stability for children during this transition
  • Psychological Functioning of Parents
    o parents who demonstrate effective coping skills and psychological functioning are able to promote positive adjustment in their children
  • Contact and Ongoing Relationships with Both Parents
    o Emphasizes the importance of sustaining child’s relationship with both parents (accessibility of both parents, quality of time spent with each parent, etc.)
    o Equal importance of each parent’s willingness to proactively promote and support the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • Intensity of Post-Separation Conflict
    o Emphasizes parental recognition that ongoing high conflict is the best predictor of a poor outcome for children. A primary goal for the course is to assist parents in recognizing that this is an area over which they have substantial control with strategies to minimize conflict and promote positive adjustment

Children’s Experiences of Divorce

  • Participants gain greater insight into children’s experience of divorce through discussion of children’s drawings and statements about their family. Specific topic areas covered by discussion of these drawings include:
  • Lack of grounding / stability children often experience during divorce
  • Changes in relationships between siblings
  • Children’s perspectives on changes in familial relationships and introduction of new parental relationships
  • Children’s fears and fantasies

Statistics Related to Divorce & Remarriage

  • Information from census and demographic data on divorce
  • Statistics on frequency of remarriage

Stages of Parental Emotional Response to Divorce (Loss, Grief, and Healing)

  • Participant discussion of losses they experience going through divorce process
  • Presentation of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages for loss, grief and healing and respective relevance to divorce process for each of the stages
  • Presentation of the experience of adults who have been in a relationship that involved emotional abuse and/or domestic violence (sense of safety and relief)
  • Discussion on the importance of achieving acceptance as it relates to factors which promote positive outcomes in child’s adjustment

Stages of Child’s Emotional Response to Divorce

  • Participant discussion of losses that children experience
  • Overview of children’s emotional and cognitive maturity and the resulting effect on their understanding/experience of parents’ divorce
  • Overview of children’s fears and fantasies relative to the divorce; sense of responsibility for the divorce and concerns regarding abandonment
  • Discussion of the ways in which children experience divided loyalties and being "caught in the middle" between parents
  • Presentation of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of loss, grief and healing as they relate to children’s experience of divorce
  • Presentation of the experience of children who have been witness to domestic violence
  • Discussion on the importance of supporting children as they progress through the emotional stages, assisting them in achieving acceptance, and indicators of positive adjustment for children

Go To Session 2 Outline