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Dec. 3, 2009 Volume 31, No. 14

Online focus on kids

Maintain & nurture

Program supports and educates separated parents

More than half of all marriages end in divorce, and the majority of these involve children, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Conflict between parents, before and after divorce, is associated with feelings of anger, helplessness, loneliness and guilt in children. Now, an online program created by MU researchers is teaching separated parents to maintain and nurture relationships with their children.

“There is a great need for effective online programs to support and educate separated parents,” says Larry Ganong, co-chair of human development and family studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. “In many cases, parents who divorce also move apart, and relocation makes it difficult to attend court-mandated trainings or develop effective strategies for co-parenting. Children are often the ones who suffer when parents don’t take steps to minimize issues caused by separation.”

Researchers in Ganong’s department developed Focus on Kids Online, a training course that helps parents going through divorce build stronger, more supportive relationships with their children. The Web-based program is designed to offer parents an alternative to in-person trainings.

After completion of the course, parents reported improved relationships and better awareness of separation-related problems and how to solve them, according to new research by David Schramm, assistant professor of human development and family studies, and doctoral student Graham McCaulley.

The face-to-face version of Focus on Kids satisfies the Missouri law that requires parents who are divorcing to attend an educational program. It is conducted in cooperation with Missouri’s circuit courts and available in 50 counties. Ganong says the online program is growing and will be made available to other states in the future.