This is the next post in my series discussing various issues that come up when two co-parents need to maintain a custody schedule. My previous post stressed the importance of maintaining a set custody schedule. In this post, I will discuss different tools and rules a family can utilize in order to communicate effectively.
Communicating with a co-parent can be difficult when a relationship is hostile
When two partners separate, it is not unusual for the relationship to have deteriorated to a point that any communication is difficult. If parents can maintain a cordial relationship, and even spend time together on occasion for the sake of the children, that is fantastic. However, for many parents, particularly newly separated ones, this goal is unrealistic. In the event that a relationship is hostile, parents must be able to find a way to communicate without the interaction devolving into old discussions. Once a family has a set custody schedule, and the court has made a decision on custody, parents can follow a few ground rules when interacting with one another.
- Avoid personal discussions. It can be natural to be curious about your ex, particularly if your child is going to be spending time in an environment that is unfamiliar to you. Unless you have a legitimate reason to believe your child is unsafe, allow your co-parent to have privacy. No good will come from asking about your former partner’s work, family, new dating relationships, hobbies, etc. Keep the focus of all discussions on the kids, and change the subject or cut the conversation short if it veers off course.
- Do not nag. Your co-parent’s home may have different rules than yours. Many couples break up because they have different philosophies and outlooks on parenting. Learn to choose your battles and accept that you do not have control over what goes on in your co-parent’s home. Reminding your former partner about children’s bedtimes, homework, chores, schedules, etc. will not lead to a productive conversation. Make sure that they have any important information necessary and try to have faith that they are a competent parent.
- Keep them in the loop. Both parents should always be informed regarding their children’s medical issues, disciplinary issues at school, changes in behavior, or changes in schedule. Do not set up another parent to fail; if your child has an important meeting or event coming up, make sure that the co-parent is aware of it.
- Keep pickups and drop offs short. Exchange any information necessary, but do not linger. It will take time, but it is important that both parents can learn to see their relationship as more of a business partnership with a common goal. Minimizing the amount of time you interact will decrease the chances of an argument.
These “simple” rules are not easy to put into practice. Families are nuanced and situations arise that test the patience of the best of us. Divorce coaching sessions can assist in helping a parent gain perspective and attempt to view specific issues objectively. When a parent finds themselves frustrated, it is often helpful to talk to a third party.
Families who struggle to communicate may find it beneficial to use a specialized app
For any family with children, an organized calendar is important. For parents who share custody, utilizing a shared calendar is a must. Co-parents should use one calendar in which both parents can see whose home the kids will be at on any given day, when and where pickups and dropoffs are scheduled, and any important events, meetings, or appointments the children have. If a parent has a work schedule that changes frequently, and it is relevant for the other parent to know their schedule, that should also be on the calendar. If a parent is going out of town, this should be on the calendar. If a parent has a date, socializing, or doing anything unnecessary for the other parent to know about, this should not be on the calendar.
Many court mediators and family therapists recommend specialized apps for families who particularly struggle to communicate. Apps such as Our Family Wizard can be used as a central hub for all necessary information. Our Family Wizard provides a space for both parents to share calendars, can track child expenses, can share photos, can upload medical information, and update emergency contacts. The app also has specialized messaging that cannot be edited or deleted, and the calendar has a formal feature that allows parents to “request” changes to the custody schedule that can be accepted or denied. This app and other apps like it can be especially useful for parents who need to communicate but struggle to have face to face discussions.
Whether you have a very friendly relationship with your ex, or you struggle to have face to face discussions, it is important that co-parents communicate important information. Ensuring that the entire family is on the same page is what prevents problems further down the road. As a divorce coach, Lindsey Sharp can help offer solutions and be a sounding board when life is frustrating. Call Lindsey today to see if divorce coaching sessions are right for you.