Better Options Initiative – Working to Prevent Harm to Acadiana’s Children Due to Parental Conflict

Better Options Initiative (“BOI”) focuses on making our region a better place for children, preventing parental alienation, and helping adults focus on effective parenting skills when their families are living in conflict.

Formed in late 2015, BOI has a mission to mitigate the rate and magnitude of high conflict divorce and the consequential lasting negative effects on children. BOI works with the legal community, mental health professionals, and clergy to provide research-based alternatives to divorcing parents in an effort to disrupt the transgenerational problems associated with high-conflict divorce within the Acadiana area.

In other words, BOI gets people to talk about the heart of what is important: providing safe and loving spaces for our most vulnerable, our children, who need a loving hand as they navigate through their childhood and young adulthood.

This episode features Dr. Luke Elliott and Dr. Eric Green who discuss the genesis of BOI and the empirical data which conclusively shows that children need stable and loving parenting in order to thrive in their own relationships, work and life as they mature.

Children from divorced homes have more problems than children from intact families. This data is most easily obtainable when you can track divorces through the public records. However, BOI quickly realized that with an ever increasing number of people who never marry, the odds are that familial problems are more intense and more frequent in unmarried households because the families don’t have the societal structure and support of a traditional marriage to work within. To benefit from the most effective upbringing, children need two parents, no matter whether the parents are man and woman, or two partners committed to their wellbeing.

Most interestingly, BOI found that divorce is not the underlying cause of the most harm to a child: if parents divorce amicably and maintain a good relationship as they raise their children, their offspring will thrive. But if the parents fight and stay married, more harm can be caused.

Divorce is a process, the fights and arguments start at least two years before there is a separation. Then the legal delays of filing, continuances, attorneys, and a myriad of court dates about who gets to keep the child can be a six-year process. When the adults are tied up in their own survival and battle, they don’t have the time or energy to devote to their children.

Judges and Family Court Advocates have names for the adults who are in and out of the court system fighting over their community property and child custody: frequent fliers. 20% of the people in court represent over 80% of the time spent by judicial resources in dealing with family feuds.

And that’s where the harm comes to children caught up in their parents’ fights. BOI reminds people that they brought their child into the world, and their child loves them and needs love and tender support.

BOI is working to change the community mindset about what is acceptable in our society when it comes to raising children. Just as societal norms have changed about the dangers of smoking and drinking while pregnant, societal norms can also change about the treatment of children by adults who have split or in turmoil.

Dr. Green listed a few things to look for as you visit with friends or family and wonder if their children might be adversely impacted by a parental split:

  1. Denigrating the other parent in front of the child.
  2. Withholding gifts or messages from the other parent.
  3. Shutting off contact with the spouse/partner’s extended family.
  4. Asking the child to spy on the other parent for evidence to use against them or in a court hearing as evidence.

This is part one of two episodes on the important work of Better Options Initiative. Our next episode with feature two professionals who provide the training for families to learn effective parenting skills.

For more information, please visit