Co-parenting happens for a variety of reasons, including divorce, parents who never married or lived together, incarceration or other job situations. Parenting across two households or locations introduces challenges for parents and children. Fond du Lac County UW Extension Family Living Educator, Michelle Tidemann provides educational support for parents learning their new role as a co-parent and to meet this need seeks out new methods of educational outreach.
eParenting® Co-Parenting text messaging was piloted with Fond du Lac County co-parents in 2015 and 2016. The text message series was designed to supplement the co-parent education and extend the duration co-parents were engaged in teaching positive co-parenting methods via text messaging.
In 2015, Fond du Lac County invited 134 parents to participate with 80 parents participating in the first pilot. Fond du Lac County parents represented 40% of the six county pilot study of 200 parents. Two-thirds (65%) of co-parents in the six counties who were offered the text messages signed up to receive the texts. Participation in the pilot was extended into 2016; 181 parents were invited to participate in the text messaging pilot with 95 parents choosing to participate.
Fond du Lac County co-parents participating in the text messaging series, supporting their co-parent roles are represented in the outcomes from the six county pilot. From the 2015 pilot evaluation, the majority of parents (75%) said the co-parenting texts were useful. About two-thirds (67%) of parents said the text messages helped them remember and practice what they learned in their face-to-face co-parenting class. Respondents to both the weekly texted evaluation questions and the final questionnaire also agreed because of these text messages they:
- Made a greater effort to cooperate with their co-parent
- Were less likely to make negative remarks about their co-parent
- Incorporated digital media more positively into their co-parenting
The text messaging pilot continues into 2017 with a new feature: e-mail delivery as an option for the co-parent messages in addition to texts. The addition of the e-mail delivery option is in response to pilot participant involvement barriers affiliated with texting fees or “no smart phone” access. The text messaging project aimed at co-parents has the potential to teach and reinforce co-parent skills with co-parents in an efficient and effective way.