Co-parenting during and after a divorce is a challenge for most families. The friction that caused the divorce in the first place may continue during the divorce process and long after the parties finalize their divorce. For the benefit of their children, parents must find ways to set aside their personal conflicts and learn to communicate well with each other. The America Academy of Pediatrics expresses it this way: “The most important predictor of a child's long-term adjustment to divorce is the way his parents adapt to their separation—specifically that the divorce ends the discord the child was experiencing.”[i] [ii]
Day to day communication between parents can be incredibly stressful if no mechanism has been put in place to facilitate it. Although texting is a common communication tool, it can be destructive when strong emotions are involved. Lagmann family law attorneys frequently remind their divorce clients that they face many co-parenting years ahead, until the youngest child turns 18, and that their children are watching each parent carefully and learning how mom and dad are relating to each other. If parents get stuck in their old negative patterns of communication, children may learn those negative patterns and repeat them in their own relationships with their significant others.
So how do parents end the discord? Wisconsin statutes provide courts the option of ordering divorcing parents to attend educational classes about the effects of divorce on children. In most counties, attendance is mandatory, and every county has agencies or nonprofits that provide those brief one-time classes. But there are additional resources parents should consider to help facilitate communication with the other parent:
No matter what tools parents choose to communicate with each other after divorce, they should always keep in mind that even their youngest children are carefully watching and listening and learning from their parents’ habits. With that in mind, try to imagine what your child will be describing 20 years from now when he or she utters that scary phrase: “Oh my God! I’m becoming my mother!”