It makes sense that parents who are assigned Parenting Coordinators for help with their post-Decree relationships have poor communication skills with each other, as poor communication is a significant factor in divorce and break-ups. (Communication “with each other” is emphasized. Some people are excellent communicators with everyone except their former spouse.) The divorce itself, combined with financial pressures and the stress of co-parenting then exacerbates what was already poor communication, leading to need for PC or counseling assistance with communication.
An article in the Journal of Family Psychology, titled “Why Do Even Satisfied Newlyweds Eventually Go On To Divorce” explores the role of couples’ communications and divorce. [J. Lavner, Department of Psychology, UCLA, February 2012] That study notes that “[d]ivorcing couples displayed more negative communication, emotion, and social support as newlyweds compared with couples who did not divorce. . . . [E]ven couples who are very successful at navigating the early years of marriage can be vulnerable to later dissolution if their interpersonal exchanges are poorly regulated.” The study, which may be purchased from the APA, surmises that education to improve communication might help. While a post-decree Parenting Coordinator or co-parent counselor usually arrives too late to save the marriage, that help can improve a child’s life by reducing conflict.
What can a Parenting Coordinator do to improve communication between parents? A good PC can give the parents guidelines for communication with each other and help them create boundaries and limitations on what they are allowed to discuss. Some couples go on bickering and insulting each other in their parenting communications because this is what they are used to — this is the way they spoke to each other while they were together. When re-directed to stop rehashing past events, focus on the future of their child, and speak to the other parent in a way one would speak to a business associate, parents can learn to change their style of communication and develop a new, co-parenting style. Many parents need referral to a co-parent counselor to work either with both parents or with one parent individually about letting go of anger, focusing on the child’s future, and realizing the harm done to a child when the parents are in conflict. Some parents show symptoms of PTSD in dealing with the other parent. They feel physical symptoms of dread and fear in seeing an email or a text coming in from the other parent, because of the content and fallout from previous communications. Breaking that cycle is a major focus of parenting coordination.