How to Communicate After Divorce
Your marital union may be over, and you are no longer husband and wife, but you remain mom and dad. Having two loving parents who are actively involved in the lives of their children is what research shows is best for kids, no matter what the marital status of their parents.
Shared parenting, or co-parenting, has been linked to better outcomes for children of all ages, across a wide range of emotional, behavioral and physical health measures, according to findings published
by Linda Nielsen, a Wake Forest University professor.
Unless there are serious issues such as domestic violence or substance abuse that prevent one parent from sharing in the parental responsibilities, you will most likely still be joined together when it comes to the raising of your children, so here are a few tips to help you navigate this new relationship with your former spouse.
Tips for Divorced Parents
Tip #1: This new relationship between you and your ex is about your children, not one another.
It no longer matters why the marriage didn’t work or whose fault it was. What is important now is making sure the needs of your children are met, and to do that you must set a healthy example of how a respectful relationship should work.
Agree with your ex that disparaging one another in front of the kids or allowing the kids to speak disrespectfully about either parent is strictly forbidden. Never, ever force your children to choose sides when there is a disagreement and do not use your children as messengers between you and your former spouse.
Tip #2: Work toward consistency.
You are co-parenting to provide your children with the stability and support of two loving parents. You can’t be working at cross-purposes with your ex, trying to outshine he or she as the cool parent or the responsible parent.
Work with your ex on a detailed plan for raising your kids that focuses on consistent rules, bedtimes, curfews, screen time, disciplinary practices, and expectations for performance at school, work and in extracurricular activities. The more consistent the routine between homes the better.
Tip #3: Consistency doesn’t mean even-steven.
Doing what is best for your child may not always equate to a 50-50 split. If one parent travels frequently, it might make more sense for the children to spend more time with the other parent. If your ex has always taken the kids to their sports practices, don’t nix it just because it is your weekend. Talk to your children. Consider their feelings and remember the most important thing is meeting the needs of your kids.
Tip #4: Adopt a business-like tone.
Think of your new relationship with your spouse like a business. You wouldn’t disparage your co-workers or boss, even when you disagree. You can’t do it in this situation either. Communicate as you would with a colleague, cordially, respectfully and clearly. Make requests of your co-parent, not demands. Don’t criticize, blame or accuse him or her. If you catch yourself starting a sentence with “You always” or “You never,” consider restating it. And definitely don’t use profanity.
Make appointments to talk about the business of your children just like you would at work. Prepare meeting notes ahead of time. This is the time to address schedules, academic reports or behavioral issues. Ensure you both walk away with a clear understanding of what the next steps are going to be and why. Be prepared to compromise.
Tip #5: Have another outlet to express your emotions.
Your children are not your outlet for expressing hurt feelings, feelings of anger or even hostility toward your ex. For example, when you arrive to pick up your kids from a visit with the other parent, don’t sit in the car and angrily honk the horn for the kids to come out. This is going to stress your kids out.
Your children also are not your caretakers. You can’t expect them to be your movie-night companion or to forego a party with friends this weekend because last weekend they were at the other parent’s home. Your kids still need to be kids. Recognize that there is going to be grief and loss as a result of the divorce, including loss of time with your kids. Be prepared to work out your feelings with a counselor or other professional and seek support from friends and relatives to help you through the tough times.