New Beginnings Program – Focus on Effective Parenting Following Separation or Divorce

This Discover Lafayette podcast is the second part in our focus on Better Options Initiative, whose mission is to eliminate harm to Acadiana’s children due to parental conflict.  In 2016, Better Options Initiative brought the New Beginnings Program to Acadiana after it was identified as one of the most effective in the country to facilitate children’s healthy adjustment following their parents’ divorce or separation.

Our two guests, Dr. Shaunda Johnson and Sally Creed, discuss the New Beginnings Program for Divorcing and Separating Families which originated at Arizona State University in 1992.

When parents separate, their children are at increased risk of health issues, mental health problems, aggression, and academic and social problems. All family members experience great stress when parents separate. New Beginnings strives to build up the positive resources and strengths of the family in order to keep children out of the middle of conflict. Chronic exposure to conflict is most harmful to children, not the actual parental separation.

New Beginnings is a 10-session program with group meetings lasting 2 hours each, plus an hour orientation. The program teaches skills that help parents create positive and warm relationships with their children, use open communication with children, employ effective discipline, and keep children out of the middle of conflict between the parents. The program focuses on effective parenting because research has shown that the quality of parenting by both mothers and fathers is one of the most powerful resources for helping children adjust positively to parental divorce or separation.

Father’s groups are led by males, and Mother’s groups are led by women. The parents are not taught in the same classroom. All participants benefit from the effective parenting strategies that are easily understood and result in better relationships from “day one.” New Beginnings gives parents the opportunity to start afresh in their family relationships, give their children a safe and secure childhood, and establish new traditions of fun and loving behavior.

Parents learn to refrain from pulling their children into arguments and to realize that adult problems need to be vented with”adult ears,” not the ears of their vulnerable children. The first five sessions focus on building a warm relationship with the children by encouraging family connections by doing fun activities. The parent learns how to listen and have fun with their children.  The sixth session teaches participants to keep their children out of the middle of conflict with their estranged spouse. Sessions 7, 8 and 9 focus on effective discipline techniques.


  1. Parents have filed for divorce, modification of custody, or went to court to establish or change parenting agreements.
  2. Parents have at least one child between the ages of 3 and 18 with whom they spend three or more hours each week while the child is awake, or have one or more overnights every other week. (If there are unsubstantiated charges of abuse or neglect, parents would still be eligible for the program, as long as they have sufficient time with the child).
  3. The parents must agree to participate fully in all eleven (11) sessions and three phone calls.
  4. Parents are able to do the program in English.
  5. Parents are not being mandated to a parenting class by Child Protective Services or the Juvenile Court.

For more information on the New Beginnings Program, please visit

Special thanks to Better Options Initiative for allowing Discover Lafayette to share this wonderful education program which is transforming lives in Acadiana.