5 Strategies to Improve Co-Parenting Communication

Mother and kids sharing bonding moment together at home concept of co-parenting communication

After a divorce or break-up it can be hard to talk to your ex-spouse or partner. However, your children are depending on you both to work together for their best interests. At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, we offer some strategies and co-parenting communication guidelines that can help you keep the peace and stay out of court.

1. Keep Co-Parent Communication Focused on the Children

Once your romantic relationship is over, you should adjust your communication to focus solely on your children. You no longer need to know all the details of your ex’s life. While open communication can be helpful, pressing one another for unnecessary details will only create resentment. To improve co-parenting communication, make sure that every contact is focused on your children and their needs. If a message isn’t related to a custody decision, parenting time exchange, or medical or educational issue, ask yourself whether you need to send it at all.

2. Avoid Emotionally Charged Communication Whenever Possible

When you and your ex were a couple, you likely pushed one another’s buttons, escalating arguments with emotionally charged language and blame. This kind of communication works directly against the goals of co-parenting. If either parent feels angry, threatened, or upset, you will not be able to work together to meet your kids’ needs. You want both parents to come to co-parenting conversations with a cool head, able to consider your options and weigh your choices without unnecessary emotional turmoil.

To do this, avoid emotionally charged co-parent communication whenever possible. If you feel yourself growing emotional, tell your co-parent you will respond to them in an hour, or a day, after you have had a chance to cool down. This will give everyone a chance to cool off and come at the problem from a different perspective.

3. Treat your Co-Parent like a Business Partner

Even though your romantic relationship is over, you still need to work with your co-parent in the joint venture of raising healthy children. To do this, you need to change the way you think about your ex, treating them like a business partner or coworker. This means following certain co-parenting communication guidelines:

  • Keep communications short – don’t combine multiple issues into one email or text message.
  • Focus on the future – don’t dig up past history or problems.
  • Be direct – clearly state your position and your reasons.
  • Be proactive – If you know there are issues that may create conflict, address them early.
  • Avoid personal matters – don’t bring up new romantic partners or personal issues that are not relevant to the issue at hand.
  • Ask specific questions – Don’t force your co-parent to guess what you need from them.

By following these guidelines you can increase your chances of co-parenting success, and avoid starting new fights about old problems.

4. Choose the Right Method for Co-Parent Communication

Cell phones, social media, and other technology make it easier than ever before to communicate with your co-parent. Choosing the right medium for a conversation can make all the difference in how that communication plays out.

  • Shared calendars: These help both parents identify scheduling conflicts early, and avoid miscommunication about school deadlines, doctors’ appointments, or your children’s schedules.
  • Text messages: These can be great for short updates and time-sensitive messages, such as when traffic delays a parenting time exchange.
  • Social Media: Because of the public nature of social media platforms, they are almost never the best way to communicate with your co-parent. One exception may be in sharing photos of your children (as long as both parents agree ahead of time). Many social media platforms also offer private instant messaging apps, which can serve the same purpose as text messages.
  • Email: This provides a longer-form medium where you can lay out your reasoning, share more information, and express your position in a thoughtful and coherent manner. It also allows for reasonable delays between responses, so each parent can consider, research, and respond to the issues presented.
  • Journals or Notes: If your child has school assignments, medical treatments, or other issues that require continuous tracking, you may want to handle that through a shared journal or notebook that travels with the child. These notes should not be used to resolve conflict, but they can be useful if either parent may need information about what happened while the child was with the other parent.
  • Phone calls: If you had a high-conflict relationship with your ex, phone calls can be an invitation to reignite those feelings. However, sometimes, a short conversation about scheduling or disciplinary issues can avoid lengthy back-and-forth communication and resolve disputes faster than other forms of communication.
  • Mediation: If your co-parenting communication breaks down, working with a formal or informal mediator can help you move beyond the conflict and find a resolution that works for your family. You can hire a mediator to facilitate your conversation, or work with a mutual friend, religious leader, or trusted third party.

You should never enlist your children to pass information to your co-parent. Even older children and teenagers should not be put in the middle of co-parenting decisions. Instead, communicate with your co-parent directly, or through your attorney if necessary. Putting children in the middle will only increase their stress and run the risk of miscommunication or a child putting their own spin on your message.

5. Consider a Co-Parenting Class or Family Counselor

If you and your co-parent have difficulty talking about your children, consider working with a professional to improve your communication skills. A co-parenting class can teach both parents tools to communicate effectively. A family counselor can work with co-parents to tailor their messages in a way that the other parent can understand and respond to, without emotionality or increased conflict. Even a short class or counseling period can drastically reduce family conflict and teach co-parenting communication strategies that will carry far into the future.

At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, we know how important good communication is to successful co-parenting. Our Maryland divorce lawyers are trained in collaborative divorce, mediation, and litigation strategies. We can help you resolve co-parenting disputes, and teach you tools to handle future conflicts effectively. To talk to a collaborative divorce attorney or schedule a mediation, contact us today to schedule a confidential office consultation.

Categories: Custody