Communication is hard. It is even hard when you have a good relationship with someone, so this can be particularly challenging for divorced and separated parents. Although it is and will be a challenge, the first and foremost thing you should have on your mind is, “This is what is best for our children!” Remembering that simple fact as you continue working through our program and working to build and maintain a co-parenting relationship with your ex, will remind you that it will all be worth it!
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘communication is key’; we teach our children to ‘use your words’ as toddlers and won’t give them what they want for until they ask with words and ask politely. So, why don’t we utilize these same simple phrases and techniques in our own lives and in our own relationships?
Communication is Critical to Co-Parenting
Communication is an extremely important element to human interaction which allows us to express thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Without it, we are left guessing others’ wants, needs, and motives, and they are left guessing ours. Guessing leads to assumptions, and we all know what happens when we assume! This is why communication is such a critical component to co-parenting!
Your child has two homes, leaving a lot of potential for mix-ups, misunderstandings, children manipulating and taking advantage of the arrangement, and the potential of things falling through the cracks. Whether it’s your child hiding a report card, having a dentist appointment reminder sent to the wrong home, or another instance that overlaps and is in need of both parent’s awareness and attention. How can you help your child in school if report card information isn’t relayed to you or bring your child to the dentist if the other parent is receiving the reminders, but doesn’t communicate with you? There are countless instances where communication proves invaluable in a co-parenting relationship.
Minimizing Manipulation with Good Communications
It is important to set reminders or implement a process so whenever you are taking note of an important appointment, grade, or disciplinary action, you are creating a note to provide the details to your ex. Without making a note, you may forget to share the information, and without this communication, there are plenty of things that could go wrong. As an example, children are master manipulators; from a young age, they test reactions, test the boundaries, and they begin to learn how you react to their actions. Children will learn from your behavior, and they will catch on to any lack of communication between their parents. And, trust us when we tell you — they WILL try to use this to their advantage! It is natural behavior for all children. They do this in intact families as well. A prime example is kids asking one parent if they can do something, that parent says “no”, so they immediately go and ask the other parent in order to get a more favorable answer.
If children can manipulate and get their way in an intact family, they can CERTAINLY do it in two homes when communication is lacking – or nonexistent. This reason alone makes communication integral to co-parenting. Children can attempt to skip school or attend events not agreed upon by both parents.
Work to Improve Your Co-Parenting Communications Skills
If co-parents can work to create strong communication skills, it can help in numerous ways by preventing missed appointments, completion of school assignments, and getting children to needed extracurricular activities. Some parents rely on their children to be messengers, so they can avoid communication. Children have young, developing minds and cannot always be reliable to relay messages between parents, NOR SHOULD THEY HAVE TO! You are the parent, you must take the responsibility to communicate with your ex regarding your child, and your child’s needs! And, think about what a great role model you are being for your child.
So how can you strengthen communication? Take some time at exchanges to talk to your ex about what happened while your children were with you. Update them on school, events, etc. If you are not at this point yet, written communications may suffice. Write emails or texts with all necessary information to provide your ex with what they need to know in regards to your children. Written communication can be great in the beginning allowing for an easy way to get all of your thoughts put in a calm, well thought out, and respectful manner. After practicing written communication, you will begin to feel more comfortable with verbal communications regarding your children and their needs.
Good Communication and Your Child’s Future
These communications will serve invaluable to not only your children’s immediate needs but also for their long term developmental and emotional needs. By exemplifying strong communication skills and exhibiting mutual respect, you will instill these in your children. Your children will grow up happier and healthier, with strong conflict management skills, in an environment where their parents have an open and honest line of communication.
We encourage you to open the line of communication with your ex this week! C’mon, what are you waiting for?