In the first installment in this series, we looked at one of the most important items on our list: addressing how to build a positive co-parenting relationship after a divorce, namely not undermining your ex in front of your kids. Moving on, we are going to look at the next item on the agenda – Structuring parent-to-parent communication
Structuring Parent to Parent Communication
Communication with your ex is probably going to be hard. After all, this is the person you used to be married to, and now you aren’t. So whatever else lies in your shared history, a broken marriage hasn’t made talking to each other any easier. For the sake of your children however, it would be best if you could lay that aside and focus on the future.
If being with your ex is difficult, then perhaps starting by having any necessary parenting conversations on the phone would be best. For some people, trying to talk to their ex is simply too hard, especially if the divorce is very recent and the pain is still fresh. If this sounds like your situation, then start out with conversing on the phone and when you feel ready, agree to short conversations in a neutral place.
While talking to your ex about anything at all may be difficult, it would provide some peace of mind if you could go into the conversation knowing that you’ve both agreed to keep this interaction strictly “kids only.” This means no discussions about issues that either of you are having in your personal lives, no biting remarks about their new love interest, and no rehashing the past. Stay on topic. In other words, don’t talk about anything not related to your shared children. It will make the whole thing easier for both of you.
It is important that you keep your ex informed of all information that may affect your children while they are with your ex. Changes in sleep patterns, increased nightmares, bed wetting issues, possible food allergies, new relationships at school, etc. – all of these things are important to a parent and the children. If you have the information, then share it. It will help them to make more informed choices in their parenting, which will benefit your kids enormously.
Another critical aspect of making the communications with your ex easier to handle is keeping your temper in check. You and your former spouse are not always going to be on the same page about key parenting issues, but getting mad and yelling at them for not seeing your point isn’t going to make this process any smoother. Whether you have to count to ten in your head every minute or so, take deep breaths, or simply plaster a smile on your face and soldier on, try to keep your cool. Screaming and shouting won’t help your children in any way.
Finally, remember that you have no control over how they choose to parent your shared children, in the same way that they have no control over how you choose to parent. Assuming that what they are doing with the kids is not neglectful, dangerous, abusive or illegal, then there is very little you can do about it. So focus on being the best parent you can be, which also means being willing to work with your ex on co-parenting your children to the best of your ability.
Join us next time, when we will be looking at number three on our list – Making Your Values & Expectations Known