In a previous article titled Is your child’s contact schedule in their best interests? I mentioned that as co-parents you need to identify the best method to effectively communicate with one another. Why? Because even though your marriage or relationship has ended, your role as a parent hasn’t. How you communicate with one another about parenting issues can affect your children now and in years to come.
I understand that communicating with the mother or father of your children can be challenging; especially when a breakdown of communication is one of the main reasons for divorce or separation. However, healthy communication between divorced or separated parents is possible; it all begins with your mindset which is: your child’s best interests.
Here are some guidelines on keeping communication with the mother or father of your children as effective as possible:
- Be brief, to the point, and stay focused on your children.
- Stay focused on current or future events. Resist bringing up the past.
- Use positive language in a formal manner.
- Keep in mind the reason for your communication which is to share information with the other parent.
- Do not jump to conclusions or over-react.
- Be mindful of the language you use and avoid criticising, blaming or accusing the other parent. Remember; focus!
- Remain respectful. Do not make rude or sarcastic comments about the other parent.
- Provide the other parent with reasonable deadlines and be cooperative. Your children’s best interests are the focus.
- Communicate with the other parent as you would want to be communicated to.
As co-parents, you need to identify the best method to effectively communicate with one another. Here are some examples of different ways of communicating in a healthy and productive manner:
Email communication is concise and effective. It allows you to create a true record of your communication. It is especially beneficial when telephonic or face to face communication is challenging. It enables you to communicate the facts to the other parent in a child-centred way. All the time you should bear in mind the above; remain focused and keep calm.
Keeping a journal will help you and the other parent stay in touch with what is going on in your children’s lives. Journals achieve this by assisting you to communicate and work together when communication can be difficult. Each parent completes the journal during the time the children are with them and then is handed over to the other parent. A journal can document numerous points such as:
- The children’s mood and behaviour during the parenting time
- Important events that occurred that the other parent needs to know about
- Information necessary for a smooth transition to the other parent’s home
- Anything you need to talk to your co-parent about and how and when you would like to communicate
- Upcoming events and appointments
In my practice, I give parents an annual contact schedule. The parents use this as a working document between themselves and add in key events for the children, such as medical appointments, parent-teacher meetings and public performances or sporting events. Also, important news should be entered such as “Lucy wins netball game” or “Justin got 80% in his math test.”
Through your co-parenting relationship, your children shall be able to feel and see that their parents love them unconditionally despite the change of circumstances.
Benefits for your children
Children whose divorced or separated parents have a cooperative relationship:
- Feel more secure. When assured of the love of both parents, children are more likely to adjust to divorce and the new circumstances it brings.
- Benefit from consistency. Co-parenting nurtures rules, discipline, and rewards between the households, therefore children have a sense of control and also know what to expect and what is expected of them.
- Better understand problem-solving. Children who witness parents working together are more likely to learn how to solve problems themselves in an effective and positive manner.
- Have a healthy example to follow. By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a positive role model in your child’s life which they can look up to and take with them into their future.