Whether you are divorcing or separating, when you have children, everyone involved must learn the importance of good communication. Children are the victims of bad communication in a divorce situation the last thing we want to do is make them feel like they are split in two because of our own issues of anger, frustration and/or loss. Not only will that cause our children to experience the same feelings it can open a door to a very upsetting future. Children need both parents in their lives, to provide a foundation of love and support.
Here are a 6 ways to effectively communicate after divorce:
- Focus on Positive Language
How we refer to our child’s parent is essential. The relationship between you and your child’s parent is now a co-parenting relationship, therefore respect one another. Focus on Positive language, and remind others to do the same. Children should only hear sincere positive language regarding their parents do not bad mouth or use name calling. Use the term co-parent, or child’s parent when referring to your former spouse.
- Focus on the Present and the Future
Conversations between separated Moms and Dads about the past easily get heated, stressed and even dangerous. Ideally, you want to get to a point where your communication is calm and actively contributes to a positive future. It is not always about being right or wrong. If you have unresolved issues relating to your past relationship, you must find a way to process these independently from your conversations with your co-parent. Find a good mediator, parenting coordinator, a qualified friend or family member (i.e. they know how to keep you moving forward and are not going to spend time just agreeing with you), or a counselor – whoever it is, work through your feelings about your co-parent in a constructive and forward-focused way in your own time. Besides, the past is over and it is time to move on.
- Focus on the Children’s Wellbeing
Remember regardless of what you think about your child’s other parent; your child loves you both and is full person deserving of having both parents respected. Your child is not your pawn in whatever game you may be angrily playing with your former spouse. Try to encourage a good relationship with their mom or dad after the separation and build up the time your children spend with them in order to a level where everyone’s happy. Initially it may be that the children just want to be in familiar surroundings for the majority of the time. Encourage and equip them to talk about how they feel and be aware not to manipulate or sway their thinking. Asking what they want is a good start, however sometimes they will have to be stretched out of their comfort zone (like they may just have to go and spend the weekend) for the long-term benefit of all their relationships.
- Give Yourself a Time Limit for Conversations
If you find that your tolerance level for being civil to your co-parent is limited, then make sure you only talk in short blocks of time. Practice conversations in under 10 minutes. If you feel yourself start to get anxious, then suggest that ‘we look at this again next week’. If you find you simply cannot communicate without anger and hostility, consult a professional Mediator or Divorce Coach.
- Get Comfortable With Not Finishing
Not all conversations about our children have to be determined right now. Try to plan ahead when negotiating access, holidays, saving for gifts, having your children be at their friend’s, parties, etc. Mention ahead of time that you’d like to take the children on a vacation, or you want to have them visit their Granny on her birthday. This will allow time for both parties to consider the benefits for the children and to consider what a compromise or re-negotiation might look like.
- Be Respectful
Challenging though it might be, talking to your co-parent with respect is the best way to begin to change things for the better. I know how hard this can be – especially in the early days; but it will get easier with practice and determination. You owe it to yourself and to your children and ultimately it will reduce anxiety and increase happiness all round.
How do you want to be remembered by your children? Think long and hard how you are going to communicate with your co-parent, because each and every day as a parent you are giving your child the foundation and example of how they should learn to communicate with others.
Summary: It’s all about the “Golden Rule.” Communicate with your co-parent as you would like that person to communicate with you. This does not mean to retaliate because you are treating them as they have treated you. Rather, be proactive and model for your co-parent they way you would like to be treated.