Communication Tips for Better Co-Parenting

As a parenting coordinator working in the Tallahassee area, I’ve worked with many families to resolve parenting disputes - whether that’s after a divorce or in an otherwise split household - through better communication.  Here are some guidelines for newly separated families, to reduce conflict and avoid arguments:

Parents Make Decisions

Only parents make major decisions about their children, not stepparents or grandparents. Major decisions are important, substantial decisions about a child – such as selecting the child’s school, having the child evaluated for ADHD, allowing the child to obtain their driver’s license, signing the child up for soccer, and certainly baptisms and piercings. These decisions are important and should only be made by the parents. 

Keep Children Out of It

Guess who also doesn’t make decisions? Your child! If your child wants to spend an additional night with you, tell your child, “Let us parents discuss it first.” Call and discuss it with the other parent, outside of earshot of the child. The same goes for all major decisions or decisions which would impact the other parent. Do not tell the child that the other parent should decide or is to blame if the decision is “no.” 

Never use your child as a means of communication between you and the other parent. It unfairly places the child in the middle of a strained relationship. Let them be a child and you be the adult. 

Keep a Professional Tone

When communicating with the other parent, take a professional tone that focuses on the child’s well-being. Do not dictate rules to the other parent. Instead, tell them what has worked/not worked in your home, or give them facts and ask them for feedback and insight, such as: “Suzy asked me if she could play soccer with the city team.  Practices would be Tuesday and Thursdays, from 5 – 7 pm. It’s $165, not including her equipment. Her coach is Michael Smith, who can be reached at 555-5555. What are your thoughts?” 

Focus on Facts

Keep communication brief and factual, without emotions and feelings. For example, “Suzy came home and complained she didn’t feel well. I took her temperature, it was 100, so I called her pediatrician and he said to take flu medicine and call if her fever persists another day.” Email with the other parent is not your therapy session – keep your emotions in check! Do not add unhelpful statements that are condescending, comparative, or hurtful, such as “its common sense” or “let me ask you in a different way so you can understand” or “like your mother did” or “you can deal with this on your time.” These statements make the receiving parent defensive and unresponsive.  

Create a Shared Calendar

Google calendar or similar apps allow you to easily coordinate with the other parent without a long, drawn-out discussion. Create a shared family calendar online that can be accessed by both parents which include sports games, doctor’s appointments, and family obligations. This will help everyone stay organized and avoid conflicts that arise from scheduling or communication issues.

Speak positively

Speaking positively about the other parent in front of your child can maintain a sense of normalcy for them and model healthy adult relationships. It shows them that, even though your marriage didn’t work out, ex-spouses can still be on good terms with one another and put what really matters – their children – ahead of their feelings.

Need help with your Florida parenting plan? Contact our office at (850) 694-1411 to schedule your initial consultation.

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