Effective communication between parents after a divorce is essential to a smooth transition for the children involved. Feelings of anger, betrayal and sadness can disrupt the communication process, making major parenting decisions difficult and leaving children stuck in the middle. A plan for effective communication between divorced parents will not ease any residual negative feelings, but it can make the coping process easier for everyone involved.
A co-parenting class offers advice for parents on handling parental responsibilities after a divorce or separation. Divorced parents will learn strategies for establishing a working relationship so the children remain the focus. A co-parenting class may help divorced parents learn to communicate about the needs of their children in a positive manner. This may be particularly effective when the divorce is occurring so communication begins on a positive note. A co-parenting class may also be helpful for divorced parents who are struggling with communication and balancing the responsibilities of parenthood.
Holding a conversation with a former spouse, even pertaining to the children, can be difficult for many people. A communication notebook allows divorced parents to communicate important information about the children without the need to discuss the events at length. Use a three-ring binder to create a communication notebook. Print blank calendar pages to place in the notebook. Create other forms for illnesses, achievements, upcoming events, doctor’s appointments and other important events. Blank pages will also work if you prefer to make quick notes. The communication notebook should travel with the children. Important information about the children is written in the notebook so both parents have an understanding of the events surrounding the children. The notes in the communication notebook should stick to facts to avoid disagreements or blame.
Documenting communication with a former spouse, particularly regarding children, is an effective practice for divorced parents. This documentation can be useful if a disagreement arises down the road. Divorced parents need a clear plan for raising children and dividing responsibilities. Documentation can establish this plan and can be useful for both parents. If problems arise, the documentation will also be useful in court situations.
Email as a communication tool is growing in popularity. Divorced parents may choose email to avoid interacting in person or over the phone. Email may allow divorced parents to avoid awkward interactions, but it can also lead to misunderstandings. Written words are easily misinterpreted by the recipient which may lead to hostility or arguments. People often make statements in an email that they wouldn’t say in person. An email conversation can quickly escalate because of the increased confidence one feels by typing the words instead of saying them. Email messages can be kept forever so the conversation can be relived many times.
However, email can be an effective communication tool for divorced parents if used correctly. Avoid using all capital letters as this generally signifies hostility or shouting. Choose your words carefully. When disagreeing through email, think about your message carefully. Never send an email to your former spouse when you are angry about the situation. If part of an email you receive from your ex offends you, clarify with him before jumping to conclusions. The statement may have been misinterpreted.
Focus on the Children
The children should remain the priority regardless of the reasons for divorce. Communication between divorced parents should focus on the children and their needs. Be prepared for disagreements on major parenting decisions. Divorced parents should establish guidelines for handling disagreements before they occur. While difficult, personal feelings toward a former spouse should remain out of the major parenting decisions and communications about the children.
Don’t Use the Children
Children should never be expected to serve a role in the communication process between divorced parents. It is unfair to ask children to get involved in debates between parents. Children will feel the need to take sides or smooth over disagreements between their parents. Asking children to handle communication between divorced parents also leaves room for misinterpretation, eventually leading to arguments. Regardless of personal feelings, divorced parents need to take the responsibility of communicating with each other.
Counseling and Mediation
A bitter divorce makes communication with a former spouse more difficult. Divorced parents may not be able to put their personal feelings aside even when children are involved. Individual counseling offers divorced parents the opportunity to address and manage their feelings toward each other. The counselor may also offer strategies for interacting with a former spouse.
Mediation is an alternative for divorced parents unable to communicate effectively to make parenting decisions for their children. A professional mediator is trained to facilitate communication that will result in decisions that are best for the children involved. Many mediators specialize in divorce and family situations. A mediator will remain neutral and not place blame in the situation, but instead help divorced parents come to an agreement on major decisions. Mediation may be particularly beneficial in the beginning stages of divorce to establish the groundwork for future communication and to work out custody and other arrangements.