What is a coParent to do when they can’t stand to be around their ex? Remember, it is important to try to make the mission child-centric. There are certain tactics a coParent can take, in order to achieve this mission.
Some couples are so locked into anger that they reach a roadblock and can’t go any further. These couples have such a negative view of one another that they avoid any contact. They refuse to communicate directly. Often these couples will say, “We can’t stand to be in the same room together.” They use others as messengers — attorneys, their children, teachers, and other family members. These ex-spouses see each other as the “bad guy” in the relationship. They don’t want their children to have contact with the other parent. They have such toxic communication that every sentence is peppered with contempt.
You may be thinking that this describes a couple in the first few months after divorce. Unfortunately, some coParents behave this way even years post-divorce. They may have tried counseling and mediation without success. The Parenting Coordinator may have to set up hands-off communication for these parents. Online calendars and communication programs are a no-contact way to handle the children’s schedule. Both mom and dad can put appointments on the calendar but do not need to speak with each other. The program can be set up so the Parenting Coordinator and attorneys can also view the calendar and see how parents are communicating with one another.
These road blocked parents can also use a journal to communicate information with each other. The journal is for facts only—not feelings. The child might carry the journal but does not write in it. Parents use the journal, either paper or electronic, to be sure important information is shared. “Parker had a fever of 101 last night. He took two Tylenol at 9 p.m. Temperature normal this morning.”
Another communication strategy is to use email. Just using email itself is usually not enough to solve the communication problems of road blocked parents, however. I generally begin with having both parents send me an email that is written to their ex. I review the email, edit it for hostile or provocative content, and send it back with “edits” or suggestions on rewording. Why? This helps parents learn how to communicate neutrally. Sometimes the communication has been negative for so long that the parents have to relearn how to communicate without name-calling and blaming.
Once the parents have relearned the basics of neutral email, they will send each other emails and also send me a copy so I can monitor their exchanges. This is to help avoid any relapses into angry communication. Eventually the parents learn to communicate facts, not feelings. They learn to solve problems, not create them.
I have worked with couples that started off road blocked and eventually learned to communicate with each other for the sake of their children. It can be a long and expensive process. Learning to talk with one another in healthy ways is much more efficient on so many levels — time, emotional energy, and money.
From COPARENTING AFTER DIVORCE: A GPS FOR HEALTHY KIDS by Debra K. Carter, PhD; Unhooked Books.