What Formerly Married Parents Need to Discuss— And What They Shouldn’t
Divorce may sever legal ties, but divorced people often remain entangled. Especially divorced people sharing children.
They continue to talk to make decisions for the children. They continue to depend on each other to raise the children. They continue to know each other’s business. Necessary—but dangerous.
Especially when communication patterns that ruined their marriage threaten to ruin their divorce.
Successful divorces set boundaries. Especially around communication. If you find yourself interacting with a former spouse, a few do’s and don’ts can make your divorce more successful than your marriage:
Do talk openly about concrete expectations regarding the children. Schedules. Preferences for teachers. Bedtime routines. Homework. Being stupidly concrete helps you clearly share expectations and diffuse conflict.
Stupidly concrete includes carefully choosing words that clearly communicate what you want to say–and excludes messages you don’t mean.
“I’ll take care of the school supplies” becomes “I’ll take the second-grade list from the school and purchase everything on it.” This prevents a misunderstanding over not purchasing something the other parent considers a school supply (i.e. extra binders for the teacher) but which is not be on the list.
Do talk about future plans involving the children. Vacation schedules. Upcoming kids’ camps. Church retreats. The sooner you both know of opportunities, the more easily you can get on the same page in planning for them.
Do use third party websites if one-on-one conversing proves too volatile. Websites such as https://www.2houses.com/en/ or https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/provide a neutral, virtual meeting ground for exchanging necessary information. The sites offer areas to track finances, leave medical information (such as when to take the prescribed antibiotic), share updates from school, provide schedules, and even post photos.
Don’t use texting to avoid a hard conversation. If you start to text because you fear the reaction—don’t text. Man up (even if you are a woman) and call.
Texting is the absolute worst medium for difficult conversations. It virtually assures a fight. Calling shows respect for the other and opens the door for dialogue.
If you can’t make an appointment or need to clear a misunderstanding, call to explain why. This softens the impact of the difficulty. It also opens the door for you to ask what you can do to ease the impact on the other parent.
Consistently showing this level of honor for the other person builds trust–and creates more cooperative co-parenting.
Don’t try to fix your former spouse. The goal is to work together to the degree you can to parent your children.
To the extent parents agree on what happens in each home, you create security and easier lives for your children.
When parents disagree, the healthiest route is often to recognize, “They have their house; I have mine.” And, move on. Each parent should focus on what they can control—their own home with their children.
Don’t put the children in the middle.
Never ask children to carry a message. Interpret a behavior. Or, answer for another parent’s decision.
If you are concerned about interactions between the other parent and your child, first ask, “Does this bother me? Or, does it bother my child?”
If the behavior bothers you, then find a way to cope. Often by simply focusing on your own home and your own relationship with your children. Working hard to give your children the life you want for them ensures they get that life–at least when with you.
If the behavior bothers your child, you can best help the situation by equipping your child to address the issue with the other parent.
If your daughter complains, “Mommy yells a lot,” as Dad you can help her find ways to respectfully ask Mom to stop yelling.
If your son complains, “Daddy is always on the computer when we are there,” as Mom you can help him learn to respectfully ask Dad to spend more time with him—and even come up with ideas for what to do.
Post-divorce communication works best when parents are clear with each other and offer consistency to their children. For all the rest, parents create the most health by focusing the home they desire with their children. . .and letting the other parent do the same.
If you are contemplating divorce, The Resolution Center helps couples move through divorce while protecting children. If you would like more information, call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com for a free consultation.