Effective Communication: Sharing Information
A coParenting relationship, like any other relationship, will only work well if both parents have the same body of information. This is called an “open information system,” that is, a system (relationship) in which both participants have access to the same information. There are important reasons for this:
- By sharing information directly with one another, parents can keep children out of the role of carrying all of the information back and forth.
- If parents know most of what is going on in the other house, dealing with the children becomes much easier (e.g. if mom knows what dad’s bedtime is, when the child says differently, the mom knows how to respond effectively).
- As is hinted above, when parents are sharing information, they can prevent children from telling different stories and getting the parents angry at one another.
- Parents miss out on less if they can hear about the children when with the other parent; they can speak to the children about that part of their life
- Knowing about upcoming appointments, plans and events prevents con ict from arising later and allows both parents to participate in more of their children’s lives.
- Having information prevents inferential thinking, from interfering in the family.
When parents live in the same residence, they are able to share information without having to do anything formal. They know the bed times, because they are there. They talk everyday about the children. When parents live in two residences, however, they have to do something formal. They have to have a mutually agreed-upon and understood system.
There are four types of information that must be shared: general information, transition information, emergency information and paperwork.
1. General information: There are two steps:
Step 1. Decide how and when the information will be shared. Usually a telephone call is the best and most efficient way to share general information. Start with one phone call per week and see if that is enough. Schedule it (e.g. Tuesday evening from about 9 to 9:30 p.m). Pick a time when both parents are generally available and decide who will make the telephone call each week. Be sure to include rules of courtesy (i.e. what will happen if one of the parents cannot be available on a particular day).
Note: Avoid the “journal” or email approach. Both are very inefficient.
Who will make the call? ___________
Step 2. Make a list of information to be covered. What is it that both parents would like to know and should know in order to have the two households work smoothly for the children? This is a work in progress; add to the list as you go.
and so on…
2. Transition information: This is an easy one. Whichever parent has the children might have some important information for the other parent. Design a method to pass this information to the other parent (a phone call, a notebook in the children’s backpack, spending a few minutes together at the transition).
3. Emergency Information: Most parents want to be contacted right away under certain conditions. Make a list of those conditions and agree on a method of contacting each other in an emergency.
EMERGENCY INFORMATION LIST:
List emergency contacts.
4. Paperwork: Most parents want to see school newsletters, grades, activity schedules, and so on. Some even like seeing the schoolwork a child brings home. Make a list of the paperwork that both parents want to see and then design a method.
Now you have a system of sharing information. Keep updating and modifying it so that it works for you. Add information to the list, for example, or discuss ways of having more or less detail. Make this a working procedure for you, not a legal document that cannot change.
From COPARENTING TRAINING WORKBOOK For Separating or Separated Parents by Kenneth H. Waldron, PhD and Allan R. Koritzinsky, Esq.