One of the realities of divorcing when there are kids a part of the picture is that you and your ex-spouse are forced into a lifelong relationship co-parenting your children. If your divorce was less than amicable, this can be especially challenging. When it comes to your kids, it’s important to remember that you and your ex have the same goal– to raise healthy, successful children. If you communicate from this perspective, always keeping your kids’ best interest in mind, this can help to eliminate many arguments. Here are five tips to help you communicate and co-parent more effectively with your ex-spouse.
Aim for Consistency
Rules and expectations between households do not have to be identical, however, it is helpful for children to have some level of consistency around the big things. Those larger issues might include major lifestyle rules such as homework, curfews, and limits around certain activities, so that kids are not bouncing back and forth between extremes. When a child is disciplined in one household, as much as possible, those consequences should be maintained between households. So, for example, if a child has lost screen time privileges in one household, it is helpful if the other parent enforces this in their home.
Maintaining similar schedules and routines between parents’ homes is beneficial to children (especially bedtimes), which can affect their health and ability to focus. Open communication and discussion around the high-level rules is important, for both households to be on the same page. This cooperation benefits everyone involved.
Need help with this? For those that may need help establishing consistent ground rules between households, consider working with a parenting coach or family therapist.
Pick Your Battles
When co-parenting, it is beneficial to strive for consistency around the big things, it is wise to choose your battles carefully. Save arguments for larger issues, such as medical or educational decisions. When it comes to irritating habits or minor lifestyle choices, it is best to leave those alone. Not bad-mouthing your ex-spouse is vitally important, for so many reasons. Keep reminding yourself: there’s a reason you are divorced!
There are many ways to parent. You and your ex will not agree on everything. However, other than behaviors that directly put your children in danger, such as addiction, abuse or neglect, how their other parent chooses to parent is their choice. You may not like the fact that the kids play more video games, watch more TV and eat more junk food when they are with the other parent, but you cannot dictate the rules of the other parents’ house.
It’s important to refrain from criticizing, avoid over-discussing (no long emails), and no texting wars. Divorce is about separation. Move towards less communication, with civility as your guide.
Unless the issues are egregious, the best defense is a good offense: Do your best parenting when your kids are with you; focus on your kids. Give them an armor of love, discernment and self-confidence, for the times they are not with you.
Communicate Directly, Not Through the Kids
Never use your kids as messengers to communicate with your ex-spouse. All communications should go directly to your ex-spouse, and both parents need to be fully informed of all significant decisions or changes to their children’s situations. This applies to anything regarding education, medical care and general welfare of the children.
Keep Your Communication Peaceful, Consistent and Purposeful
Remember that the purpose of your communication with your ex is for your children’s well being, so make sure to keep it about your children. Do not allow the conversation to digress into your own needs, complaints or personal commentary. When communicating with your ex, practice using a professional and cordial tone. The less words, the better. Speak to them as if speaking to a colleague or work associate. Always be careful about what you put in writing, especially when you’re feeling upset.
Make requests rather than demands. Using language such as “Can we try…?”, “What would you think..?” and “How would you feel about…?” can go a long way in building a healthy rapport for the future.
Do Not Disparage Your Ex in Front of the Kids
It is in your children’s best interest that they maintain a positive and loving relationship with both of their parents. Trash-talking your ex will diminish your child’s self-esteem, affect their emotional regulation, and can erode their relationship with you and/or their other parent. Kids do not process information in the same way that adults do, nor should they. No matter their age, children view themselves as part mom and part dad. This process is tumultuous for everyone.
Guard your children’s hearts and minds from your personal frustrations with your ex-spouse– have those conversations privately. When kids hear someone criticizing their parent, they internalize these remarks, turning that criticism inwards towards themselves. This can have a variety of negative affects now and later in life.
Your Trusted Partner
If you and your ex are struggling with co-parenting, or perhaps you’re in the initial divorce process, we’re here for you.
We’re here for you. We help you consider your options, arm you with practical information, and strategize with you how to navigate your divorce. Feel free to get in touch with us; we are always available to help!