All healthy communication originates from and is guided by respect and civility. Wow, so much easier said than done.
We know it; you know it. That is the most important lighthouse in each and every communication with your former spouse—your children’s other 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. 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 coParent 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, coParenting exists with any parenting arrangement, regardless of its formal designation. In whatever way each parent is involved in raising the child, the parents coParent. Most effective coParenting 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/