The foundation of effective separate parenting after a divorce or break-up is business-like communication – which is without emotion, has certain norms of civility ad formality and tends to be concise and to the point.
Many parents mistakenly believe that effective separate parenting will come naturally; most are surprised to learn that like parenting in general, it is a trial and error process that evolves over time. Parents are often frustrated with their inability to communicate respectfully, cooperate and be flexible. The reality is that negative emotions and distrust make these seemingly simple behaviors feel impossible. The resulting conflict then spirals out of control and begins a self-perpetuating process.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid this all too common trap.
- Lower your expectations of each other and the separate parenting relationship in general. In the beginning, less is definitely more.
- In the early stages of separate parenting (especially during the divorce process) limit your special requests and favors and strictly adhere to the parenting agreements or court orders.
- Communicate in written form (via email) and use the feature which includes the content of the original email in the response.
- Limit the frequency of your communication to no more than once per day and no less than once per week.
- Remove emotion, criticism, judgment, blame and accusations from your communications.
- Remove “would have”, “should have” and “could have” from your communications.
- Use “I Statements” such as, “I need…” I would appreciate…” “I am concerned…” “I would prefer…” (instead of “you”).
- Use common courtesy such as “please”, “thank you” and praise positive behavior whenever possible.
- Respond only to those issues which are child-focused and require a response.
Respect clear boundaries between you and your former partner. Adopt a mind-set of separate or parallel parenting – which basically means live and let live.
- Do not enter the other’s residence without being invited (by the parent).
- Do not assume to know why the other parent thinks or acts in a certain manner.
- Do not interrogate the children about “goings on” at the other parent’s home.
- Do not impose your own opinions or preferences about parenting on the other parent.
Separate parenting is incredibly challenging even for the most cooperative parents. Be thoughtful in your efforts, follow these tips as much as possible, make remove for mistakes, seek outside assistance when needed and be patient. Real success is possible with hard work and a reasonable plan.