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  • 3 Tips for Healthy Communication While Co-Parenting

    We’ve all heard some terrible divorce stories. Stories where the arguments are constant, money goes down the drain, and the kids feel the push and pull of their parents’ moods. Divorce is, of course, not just the end of a marriage but an adjustment to a new type of life., and this can bring up a chaos of feelings. Although you may have heard tons of other people’s experiences regarding separation and divorce, the good news is that you don’t have to fall victim to those patterns. You can feel your anger and loss, and you can also make better choices for your children.

    Being proactive as a coparent is key to making transitions as easy as possible for all family members. Remember, even though you choose to not be romantically linked to your ex-spouse, that does not mean you can avoid them. You will continue to parent together, be present for special occasions in your children’s lives, and share appropriate concerns as they continue developing and growing.

    Here are a few simple ways to keep things civil and maintain an open line of communication with the mother or father of your children:

    1. Be consistent with updates when the kids switch homes

    You are your children’s caregivers. Everything of importance that they have eaten, stated, or done on the day of hand off should be noted. Transitioning from one home to another can feel like a shock to the system (yes, even if they are familiar with everything in the homes). If you can minimize the guesswork and maximize the information sharing, this can help reduce anxiety for all parties. Keep it concise, relevant, and kind. Imagine doing a hand-off report the same way nurses do when one leaves their shift, and another one takes over your care. Here is an example of how brief the updates can be and how they can even be stated in front of the children.

    Example: Johnny had lots of pancakes this morning, so he is a bit fuller than usual. We had fun father and daddy time at the park, and he scratched his knee a bit when he fell on the playground. I cleaned the scratch, and he has a band aid on.  I think he might be ready for a nap as soon as you get home because he is already starting to get a little irritable, just giving you a heads up. Let me know if you need anything else.

    1. Reduce the blame game

    It is far too easy to point fingers and blame others when we still have feelings of anger towards an ex. Leftover resentment can fuel unnecessary arguments. And unnecessary arguments can impact the kids when their physical and emotional needs are not met due to having distracted and angry parents. Imagine the previous example that was provided where one parent was handing off their child to another parent. Now imagine that the mother in the situation, already feeling upset at due to previous resentments, starts blaming the father about the fact that now the child is tired, and she may not get quality time right away with the child. This can make the child upset and can leave the father feeling defeated or exasperated. This would also stop the flow of communication. A good way to reframe this could like the following example:

    Example: It sounds like you guys really did have a lot of fun! I had thought about taking Johnny to a park too, but that is probably too much for him right now, so thanks for the heads up. Next time we switch, I’ll let you know my agenda too he can get to know some of the parks on my side of town.

    1. Stick to the facts, and find solutions

    As our children grow and develop, they also bring in different and more complex stressors. We don’t always have the answers readily available for how to handle these changes. We don’t have a parenting manual with the perfect answers, and it is important to continue to keep an open mind and share ideas with an ex-spouse to collaborate on solutions. As our kids grow and push boundaries, it is important to not jump to conclusions. Making offhand or passive aggressive remarks to your ex-spouse about how they are doing things in their home will likely not lead to a solution. Keeping an open dialogue while sticking to the facts about child development can help you both work together rather than against each other. Here is an example of how a typical situation with a teenager can leave parents seeking answers.

    Example: Susie has limited social media access at both her parents’ homes, so her parents thought they had some control on her posts. However, Susie has recently gotten in trouble for making a troublesome video at school and posting it on her networks.  Sticking to the facts can look like both parents learning about teenage development and not rushing to punish, but rather to understand her behavior. Rather than speculating on which parent “dropped the ball”, it is important to still work as a united front. If Susie realizes her parents are communicating and both enforcing similar boundaries, it will give her consistency and will allow her to know what to expect. Yes, she may create a fuss over her lack of social media independence. But there is also a sense of safety in knowing that there is guidance.

    Teenagers are already pushing boundaries and may already be annoyed by you by default. If you don’t work together, they will notice it, and they may be quick to point out the discrepancy or take advantage of it in a way that can be unsafe for them. Sticking to the facts and finding solutions can create more physical and emotional safety for your children, at any age.


    Overall, finding ways to cope with residual feelings towards an ex-spouse can continue to help you heal and can continue to benefit your children. Leaving the past in the past, sticking to the fact, reducing blame, and sharing important information is essential to maintaining a healthy coparenting relationship. Many beautiful and respectful acquaintanceships have come up for parents who have learned how to navigate co-parenting.

    If you find that you have tried many of the tips here and there is still a lot of conflict and antagonism towards you, then you may be dealing with a more difficult coparenting situation. This type of situation may require more help from a professional to navigate coparenting in a way that feels as safe as possible