All healthy communication originates from and is guided by respect and civility. Wow, so much easier said than done when dealing with a difficult co-parent.
We know it; you know it. That is the most important lighthouse in each and every communication with your co-parent. Let’s get clear about what we mean by respect and civility in both written and verbal communication:
In your kids’ best interest. Remember, you’re writing/speaking to your children’s other parent, not your ex-partner.
Pleasant tone. Use the same tone you’d use with your boss.
Appropriate word choice. This is not the time for four-letters or other expletives).
All caps. Judiciously use ALL CAPS for highlighting and ease of reading—not for shouting at the reader.
Keep it simple. Be brief, informative, well-organized.
Email communication. Use the subject line of an email effectively.
Don’t overdo it. Be thoughtful about how many communications you send; repetitive texts or emails are intrusive and insensitive.
Don’t keep them waiting. Respond in a timely manner to appropriate communications received, even if all you say is, “Got it. I will get back to you tomorrow” or whenever is appropriate and possible.
Don’t feed the fire. Ignore unproductive emails, texts, or voice messages. Think of any response to negative/unproductive communication as kindling on a fire you’re hoping will die-out. Again: Don’t feed the fire.
When angry or triggered, go quiet. Your least productive interactions will occur when you’re angry or triggered, So, to the extent that you can, excuse yourself, take a break and step away from interactions when you are in those states of mind. Go for a run, sit in meditation, take a nap, do some work, watch a funny movie. Re-engage and/or respond when your perspective is unclouded by difficult emotions and when productive problem-solving can resume.
If you and your co-parent are in an entrenched cycle of high-conflict conversations, consider using a family specialist to facilitate communication while you both build skills and learn to soothe emotions. After a few problems tackled successfully, you’ll have more confidence to fly solo.
“Technically, co-parenting exists with any parenting arrangement, regardless of its formal designation. In whatever way each parent is involved in raising the child, the parents co-parent. Most effective co-parenting arrangements contain the following characteristic dynamics between the parents: cooperation, communication, compromise, and consistency. These dynamics often grow over time and typically take a period of years to evolve effectively.” —Michael Scott, mediator/marriage and family therapist
Editor’s Note: This piece has been taken from Karen Bonnell’s book, THE CO-PARENTS’ HANDBOOK For more information on Karen or her books, you’re invited to visit http://coachmediateconsult.com/coParents-handbook/