In our programs for parents, Kids First explores the evolving definition of what it means to be a family. We serve families who share a child or children but do not live together with their child’s other parent. Kids First supports the notion that love is love, and encourages the building of families in a multitude of ways. The focus of our programming is on safe and healthy co-parenting whenever possible, and keeping conflict away from the kids. Kids First offers a series of classes that provide practical information and emotional support to parents, regardless of their marital status.
If you'd like to learn more about our programs or to apply for financial assistance, please email us at email@example.com, or call us at 207-761-2709, Monday-Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. Need-based scholarships for Maine residents are made possible, in part, by a grant from the Maine Judicial Branch. The Kids First Center's goal is to make its programming affordable for all parents, children, and allies regardless of financial hardship.
First Step: Foundations in Co-Parenting
This four-hour workshop introduces the foundational skills necessary for an effective co-parenting experience. This workshop will explore topics including basic family and parenting law concepts, what role a child’s development plays in building resilience, how to care for yourself during a divorce/separation, and what skills are helpful for parenting together while living apart. The workshop will also introduce co-parenting strategies that work to keep kids from being in the middle. This is a webinar-style workshop and participants are not seen by the facilitators or other attendees. Parents should attend as early in the process as possible or at any time when struggling to work with their child’s other parent. Available Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.
Next Step: Putting Conflict Aside
This four-week program builds on the concepts taught in the foundations class, the First Step. The Next Step focuses on co-parenting skill-building, managing conflict, and improving communication. This is a meeting-style workshop with attendees participating online as a group. Co-parenting partners may attend together, though it is not required. Attending the First Step within two years of enrollment is a pre-requisite; if you attended more than two years ago, you may attend again for a $75.00 fee (reduced from $125.00). Because this is a group experience, attendance at all four weeks is required for a certificate, and joining after the first session is not an option. Available Monday evenings.
Parents with New Partners
This four-hour workshop outlines challenges faced in parenting and co-parenting when new partners are introduced into the family. The impact of a new relationship on family systems is discussed along with strategies for making this transition successful for children and to enhance the family experience for all. Open to parents and new partners, as well as parents who have not re-partnered but want to support their children in a blending family. This is a meeting-style workshop with attendees participating online as a group. Attending the First Step within two years of enrollment is a pre-requisite; if you attended more than two years ago, you may attend again for a $50.00 fee (reduced from $95.00). Available Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.
Kids First Program for Women
This six-hour workshop is designed for female-identifying parents who have left relationships where intimate partner violence or domestic abuse is present. This program provides information about parenting under these circumstances, about abuse, safety planning and community resources. This is a meeting-style workshop with attendees participating online as a group. Available Saturday mornings.
ICOPE (Intensive Co-Parenting Education)
This nine-week program is for parents who have demonstrated to a judge or magistrate that the lack of effective co-parenting is negatively impacting their children. Participants must be ordered by a Maine court to attend ICOPE, though parents may ask a court for a referral order. ICOPE is designed to build co-parenting skills for parents who are in high-conflict situations or, alternatively, have little or no effective communication, either during the initial parental rights litigation or post-judgment. Psycho-educational programs such as this are predicated on the understanding that conflict resolution is about changing behaviors and actions, and not about changing feelings. Parents attending this course must be separated or divorced from each other and will be assigned together into a 9-week session. This is a meeting-style workshop with attendees participating online as a group. Attending the First Step within two years of enrollment is a pre-requisite; if you attended more than two years ago, you may attend again for a $75.00 fee (reduced from $125.00).
Authored by Kids First Center
What separation feels like to kids
Listening to children
Telling kids about the separation
Steps toward a healthy co-parenting partnership
Holidays and celebrations
New relationships, new families
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Pro Tip #1: It is the conflict that children experience between their parents that is harmful, not the divorce or separation itself.
Pro Tip #2: The language that you use is important—think of your child’s other parent as a “co-parenting partner” or “CPP,” not as an “ex-“ anything.
Pro Tip #3: Children are not possessions; avoid saying “MY kids” or “MY time.”
Pro Tip #4: Being the “primary residential parent” does NOT mean that you are the “primary parent.” It only means that your children reside with you more than 50% of the time.
Pro Tip #5: To be an effective co-parent, it is important to build a community of friends, family members, and professionals who support your effort to co-parent. Reject the notion that divorce or separation needs to be a battle of the “good guys” versus the “bad guys.”
Pro Tip #6: It is okay to acknowledge that break-ups are hard and often result in sadness and bitterness. At the same time, you do not have the luxury of making your children wait until you feel better to begin effectively co-parenting
Pro Tip #7: Assume that your children are listening to EVERY word you say about your CPP and watching EVERY interaction. Speak and act respectfully, regardless of what your CPP says or does.
Pro Tip #8: Your goal is not to be a perfect co-parent; you goal is to be “good enough.” This means saying you are sorry and being accountable when you screw up—and screw-ups are inevitable!
Pro Tip #9: Surprises are the enemy of an effective co-parenting relationship and structure is its friend.
Pro Tip #10: Transitions between households need to be arranged so that each parent shows the other respect and common courtesy. Do NOT be the parent who is nicer to the grocery store clerk than you are to your CPP.
Pro Tip #11: There is no shame or weakness in allowing your CPP a “do-over” if things do not go the way you want. Teach your children that mistakes and forgiveness are parts of life, and each mistake is a new opportunity to learn and try again.
Pro Tip #12: Co-parenting is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Your CPP may very well become your “CGP” (co-grandparenting partner) one day!
“I learned how important our behavior (verbal and non-verbal) is, and how it impacts our children. How I can rise above all issues, and just focus on my babies.”
“What I learned was that the best thing I can do for my kids is to say something good about their other parent!”
“I appreciated the focus on how many different relationships my/our kids are dealing with.”
“I learned I am in control of my behavior; I can’t control my co-parent!”
“I received validation; it helped to know that I’m not alone. I appreciated the section on preparing for court – that is coming up soon and I am scared.”