The Fort Leonard Wood Chaplains Corps held its first co-parenting training event Feb. 20 and 21 at the Main Post Chapel.
The event, named “One Heart, Two Homes: Co-parenting Kids to a Positive Future,” is part of a curriculum created by Tammy and Jay Daughtry, co-founders of The Center for Modern Family Dynamics and guest speakers of the event.
Co-parenting is a situation where a child is raised by divorced, separated or otherwise divided parents.
“At its simplest, a big part of what we do is give a voice to kids who are in that place, letting Mom and Dad know what’s happening in the heart of their child in that process, what they’re feeling, what they’re experiencing, and anticipating what they may experience,” Jay said.
Family Life Chaplain (Maj.) Miller Eichelberger said blended families, or families that include children from a previous marriage, are becoming more common and with this training, chaplains will be better prepared to assist those parents.
“Chaplains face family dynamics that are continuing to change,” he said. “The training provided for our chaplains prepares them to counsel and help blended as well as traditional families.”
Tammy recognized the versatile duty in counseling chaplains provide to military personnel.
“Chaplains wear a lot of different hats in helping people, helping pre-divorce (parents), post-divorce (parents) — sometimes they work with both and sometimes they only get a chance to interface with one parent,” she said. “We’re trying to empower them with research and tools to put in their belt of how to help hurting parents.”
Open communication and sharing time with children are two key factors in a successful co-parenting relationship, she added.
“We try to really talk brass tacks about how to interact (together) in a setting where your child is present,” she said. “We get as specific as your tone of voice, body language, and (even) how to plan ahead on where you’re going to sit during a ball game, so there is not confusion, frustration or stress for the children.”
According to Jay, avoiding disputes in these situations is paramount to healthy co-parenting.
“The more that interparental conflict is present, the more challenging the developmental and emotional things (are that) kids face,” he said. “Children still need Mom and Dad to be Mom and Dad.”
He said that if parents can “separate their personal pain from their parental role,” it will be much better for the child’s future.
“They can put (the children) on a trajectory that leads them to a place where, in the end, (the children) don’t remember or have their life defined by this pain of divorce or separation,” he said. “Their life is still defined by the fact that they had loving parents who were fully engaged in this process of growing up.”
Eichelberger felt the same way looking forward.
“The most valuable takeaway from the event is hope — hope for children whose parents separated or may never have married, hope that parents can co-parent even if the traditional marriage failed to continue as expected,” he said.
Although this will not be an annual training event, he said, “the training will be used daily to counsel couples, families and single parents.”