The Court Ordered Parent Information Program (Parenting Class) and How It Can Change Everything
Do I really have to take a parenting class?
Yes, you really do. In Arizona, every parent with a divorce, legal separation or custody (legal decision making) case has to take the court ordered parenting information program, a parenting class. The good news is that you can take these at a variety of locations including online.
This is a post written by our very own Candice Tully. She’s a single mom and she’s been there. This is her post about how the required parenting class effected her.
For all pending matters in Maricopa County involving minor children, the completion of a Parent Information Program (“PIP”) is required. I know- we hate that word. Required. And I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, I’ve heard of it, but why do I have to take it? I’m a good parent. I already know how to raise kids. It’s my spouse that doesn’t take care of them. Make them do it!”
I know how you feel. I said the same thing. (And by the way, they do have to take the class, too.)
When my ex filed to establish paternity, child support and all of that other good stuff, my heart sank. Like being served with papers wasn’t enough. My then 3-year-old was what I considered perfect. Well-mannered, loved vegetables and went to bed (reasonably) early. I gave myself a lot of the credit since his Father wasn’t a consistent part of his life.
I’m in a legal office all day long so luckily I knew what to expect when I was served. But then I remembered the parenting class. Oddly enough, after explaining it several thousand times to clients, I dreaded the thought of spending a Saturday there. “I already know how to be a parent. I’ve been doing it for three years by myself, and I’ve done pretty well.” But, it’s required. So I complied.
I’ll admit, the first fifteen minutes, I was resentful. I had a million other things I could be doing. It was completely unnecessary. “Everything this man is saying, I already know. I don’t even talk about my ex, it’s like he doesn’t exist. Everyone knows he abandoned us.” Wrong answer.
It wasn’t until later in the class that I realized how bad my mouth was. Not literally as in every word that came out was a “bad word” per se, but I portrayed him as the “bad guy who just ruined everything”, even in front of my son when I was sure he wasn’t paying attention to me. It didn’t take long to click that in doing so, I took away a very special piece of love that my son had for his dad.
It’s true what they say: your kids do hear everything. Even when you think they’re not around, or they’re uninterested. They’re not. They’re absorbing every single word you say, all the time. And since they can’t necessarily comprehend what you’re talking about, they only know that it’s bad. In their head, all they can think is “I don’t know what you’re saying, but those words are not good, that’s for sure.” Looking back, I remember my son asking me, “Why is daddy mean? Because he left? Did he hurt you Mommy?” Why doesn’t he want to be with us?” So much of me wishes I could take all of that back.
Luckily, now at 6-years-old, we’ve fixed that. Every so often, my son will bring up his dad and all of the good times they had, and I am quick to encourage the conversation (as painful as it may be for me). I don’t ever want my son to forget those memories with his dad. It’s my job as a parent to help him remember them, and make sure they never go away. Not bash them. Who wants to have someone rain on their parade?
To this day, I sometimes catch myself referring back to the class I attended, and one key point in my teacher’s story that really hit me. It involved the story of how he personally had learned as young boy that his parents were separating. His parents never spoke of why, or gave him details, but consistently reminded him that he was loved and it was nothing that he did. It wasn’t until years later when he had established a family of his own that he found out one parent had an affair, hence the divorce. He told us that for a long time, he didn’t believe the person who told him about the cheating, solely because his parents never spoke badly of each other and never involved the children in adult matters.
Parenting is constant. It never gets easier, and it never goes away. We all want to do the right thing, but you’ll never have the right answer, and you will probably never do completely the right thing. However, through attending this class, I learned something more valuable. Parenting is not about you. Parenting is about showing your children that they are the only things that matter, and more importantly, that they are loved. Your children will always be the better part of you. As their parent, you are their greatest role model. Really think about it; if the tables were turned, would you want your ex putting words in your child’s mouth?
My Certificate is much more than a court document or a wasted Saturday. It is a promise to my son that I will allow him to live his life without making my problems, his problems (at least until he starts dating).
For those of you who are being forced to take the parenting class for reasons that may hurt every part of you, I suggest you keep an ear open, and an open mind. It’s easier than you think, and you have it in you.
“As parents, they loved us enough to love each other, even after the divorce.”
Class topics include:
How to talk to your child
How to face your own feelings
Long distance parenting struggles and how to keep the other parent informed
How to build an effective support system
How to deal with an uncooperative co-parent
How to adjust to an absent parent
Bridging the gap for parents who were never married
Reduce child support and visitation conflicts
Avoiding long, expensive, no-win custody battles.
It will also cover:
Respectful Communication Skills
Studies show that effective parenting after divorce is directly related to parents ability to respectfully communicate with one another. CIBO identifies 5 major ways to improve communication including: I-Message, Reframing, Self-talk, Stop-Look-Listen, and Active Listening.
Parents who can control their anger are more likely to engage ex’s in a manner that is most likely to lead to amicable results and limit the effects of the separation on their children. By focusing on skills training, CIBO teaches conflict resolution, mindfulness, and self-talk.
Ending Loyalty Conflicts
Loyalty conflicts cause the most damage to children. We focus on how parents involve their children in these conflicts unintentionally, and change that.
For a full version of the handbook, check out: