Working together with an ex to raise children is not easy. It’s especially difficult when parents struggle to cope with the intense emotions of a difficult separation and remain stuck in conflict and prolonged custody litigation. The strain of being caught in the middle of parents’ battles takes a toll on kids and is the biggest predictor of poor adjustment to the separation and ongoing emotional and behavioral issues over time.
Masters, judges and attorneys in Chester County often refer co-parents to Kids Come First, a program of Family Service of Chester County. Since 1947 Family Service mission has been to promote the well being of individuals and families and advocate for change. Kids Come First is a program where parents work with a counselor on strategies to resolve disagreements and develop practical co-parenting skills to reduce pressure on their children. In the last year, Family Service provided 252 co-parent counseling sessions to 56 co-parents. Parents also attended skills classes to learn ways to cope with strong emotions, prioritize children’s needs, problem solve, and communicate more effectively.
Our Counseling Director Meg Pope commented “We see change come when co-parents realize that they’re now in a professional relationship instead of an intimate partnership and begin to apply the same kind of behaviors with their co-parenting that they would with their colleagues in any other job.” A Kids Come First counselor can then help parents identify what is not working and develop realistic tools to work with their parenting plan, communicate more effectively, and protect the children from stress and emotional pain.
Unique problems take an integrative solution, easy accessibility, and sustainability. Family Service is grateful for its partnership with the Chester County Bar Foundation in helping to make reduced fees for this program possible for those who need them. Divorce is always tough when children are involved. With proper counseling, education, and support, co-parents can create a better way forward by ultimately putting kids first.