Parents often separate due to poor communication. However, co-parenting often creates conditions where more communication is necessary.
So, the issue isn’t if you will communicate with your ex, but how you will communicate. We distinguish three areas for discussion:
The message: The message refers strictly to the information you are seeking to convey. This may be about an exchange time, bedtime routine, illness, school trip, etc.
The tone: The tone refers to how you come across emotionally in your message. You may appear matter of fact, or alternately, you can come across happy, sad, blaming, shaming, etc.
The method: The method refers to how your message is delivered. It can be delivered face to face; verbally by phone; text or email; video; through social media, etc.
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Depending on your level of conflict, communicating with the other parent can create challenges in any and all three areas. The greater the conflict, the more important these general rules:
1. Think of yourself and the other parent as train conductors. Provide only the information necessary to keep the trains running on time. Convey information related to health concerns, schedules, needs of the child or matters that may disrupt or create the need for changing the schedule. If an issue arises, take a problem-solving approach without lecturing or blaming.
2. Be respectful. Never blame, shame, put down or tell off the other parent. Manage your own emotions if intense. Pretend you are seeking to return an item to the store that is past the return date. Consider how you would approach the clerk in such a situation. Be polite and courteous, and approach your co-parent similarly. You want your co-parent to concentrate on the message and not your delivery.
3. The greater the conflict, the more formal the method of delivery. Those who get along well may pick up the phone or speak with each other when next together. If there is some degree of conflict, then text or email offers some safety through distance, although you still must check yourself for tone. If there is greater conflict, then online programs such as Our Family Wizard can provide a platform for more structured communication (and the program even includes a “tone checker”).
These days you may be recorded, and your text and email messages provide a permanent record of communication. How you communicate, and the content can end up in your dispute resolution process if someone takes offence.
Communicate nicely, and remember, your children may be watching or privy to your communication. How you communicate is a reflection on you despite what you may be seeking to convey to the other person.