As difficult as co-parenting is for married couples, it’s even more challenging for many divorced couples. Communication is often tainted by financial strains, jealousy over ex-spouses’ new relationships and unresolved conflicts over marital issues long past. In this climate, the children end up losing and, unless parents decide to work together or compromise, often develop additional problems as a result of parent disagreements.
Tips to help separated and divorced parents co-parent effectively:
Separate feelings from behavior. Regardless of how angry parents are, emotions need to be kept at bay in front of the children. Parents need to find outlets for negative emotions that do not involve the children. Remember that parents who manage emotions do not allow ex-partners to dominate their parent-child interactions.
Children are not messengers. Using your child as a messenger is a set-up for them to feel caught in the middle. Inevitably, they will get something wrong and, in the process, you’ve thrown them in the center of the conflict.
Stay neutral. Communicating negative feelings about an ex in front of children can trigger them to feel that part of them is bad; after all, they are half your ex. Thus, parents need to refrain from making negative comments about each other.
Communicate with a neutral, business-like tone. When communicating with an ex, a detached tone is the most effective. Parents can make requests of each other, not demands.
Commit to ongoing communication. Communicating often shows interest and commitment to a child’s needs. Control conversations by keeping them kid-focused and away from anything personal.
Consistency. If possible, arrange a consistent schedule and routine that both parents adhere to. Don’t make changes without getting an ex’s support. Try to establish rules and discipline procedures that are similar across settings, including use of technology. When compromise and agreement do not seem possible, explain to the children that each parent makes the rules for their home.