Divorce is a painful severing of the ties between two adults. It is not meant to sever the tie between parents. Keeping the parental relationship after divorce is essential. Just as an efficient business relies on effective communication skills, so should a well-functioning two household family. Although it is typically stressful learning to communicate with your co-parent, your child(ren) will benefit from two parents who continue their parenting relationship. The long-term goal of raising a well-adjusted child is the primary reason the two parents should continue to communicate across households. Divorced parents share many common difficulties when communicating about the their children. Many parents have found the following tips useful in maintaining effective communication.
- Focus on your child rather than your own needs.
- Be dedicated to a common goal of raising emotionally and physically healthy child(ren).
- Be committed to a win-win relationship.
- Limit your communication to specific topics such as aspects of child-rearing.
- Communicate with facts not feelings. Emotions tend to interfere with problem-solving.
- Be positive and control your emotions.
- Observe common courtesies.
- Give your co-parent the benefit of the doubt.
- Provide reasonable timelines. For example, “Let me know your thoughts about signing our son up for basketball. I need to hear back from you by Friday.”
- Use respectful words such as “please”, “thank you”, and “I appreciate your willingness to work with me.”
- Acknowledge a scheduled email or text even if you have nothing to add or share to show respect. For instance, respond, “I received your text.”
- If you have agreed to answer questions within 24 hours and need more time make a decision inform your co-parent rather than avoiding a response.
- Delay responding to written communicate when you are upset.
- When the topic is emotional create a written draft but do not send until you are calm and have revised your response.
- Shield your child(ren) from potential conflict by communicating with the other parent when your child is not in the home.
- Keep communication between co-parents. Significant others and stepparents should never attempt to write an email to the biological parent unless you and your co-parent mutually agree to this ahead of time. Likewise, a significant other should not write an email or text or respond to any type of communication in place of the biological parent.
- Remember the 3 Ps: Focus on the problem not the person. Focus on the present or the future not the past. Focus on one problem at a time.
- Avoid asking any personal questions or making comments about your co-parent’s personal life.
- If you have agreed to communicate every Sunday evening by email, and respond within 24 hours unless it is urgent, then do not respond to additional emails until the following Sunday. This reinforces respect for boundaries.
- Do not make demands. Make requests and accept “no” as a reasonable response. If you keep repeating yourself you are really trying to get your way.
- Eliminate any “interpretation of motive”. Only speak to how the problems impacts upon you and/or your child(ren). For example, rather than saying, “You do this all the time just to make me crazy!” say “I feel irritated when our daughter returns without her bag of clothes. Please send them even if they are dirty.”
- Avoid starting your sentence with the word “you.”
- Eliminate the use of “always” and “never”.
- Don’t defend yourself or counterattack.
- Never make any accusations or threats in your communication.
- Don’t jump to conclusions or over-react.
- Don’t write in capital letters. Capital letters imply that you are angry. Your co-parent will read your words with a very negative tone.
- Avoid underlining your words when using written communication.
- Don’t criticize, insult, the other parent.
- Eliminate words that advise, command or demand such as “You ought to…, “, “You should.., or ”You have to…”
- Don’t use a series of questions that interrogate.
- Avoid “analyzing” your co-parent even if you believe you are right. For instance, “You just can’t be assertive because your mother used to yell at you whenever you stood up for yourself.”
- Eliminate judgments.
- Avoid the use of sarcasm or profanity.
- Don’t say the same thing over and over and over and over again!
Increasing your understanding and practice of good communication skills is an important step in facing the challenges of divorce. You are dedicating yourself to collaborative relationship with your coparent and providing your child(ren) with a successful two-home family.
In a respectful, supportive and non-judgmental manner, she helps clients use their strengths and unique qualities to find solutions to their problems, enhance their relationships, build confidence, and improve their quality of life.
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