By Lisa Cossey, MSW, LCSW, Youth First, Inc.
In a perfect world, all marriages would have the “happily ever after” promised in fairy tales. Unfortunately, in the real world, some marriages end in divorce. For families in this situation, the divorce may end the marriage, but it does not end the need for interaction to continue raising children together.
Some couples have no issues co-parenting beyond divorce. Others have great challenges. For couples who are struggling, there are several things to consider when determining the best ways to communicate with each other.
First, and most importantly, it is helpful to remember to love your child more than you may dislike your former spouse. As young children grow, there are birthday parties, holidays, graduations, weddings, and the birth of children of their own someday. On all of these occasions, you will most likely have to interact with your former spouse, so why not set a good foundation for communication.
In addition to making your life smoother, parents who communicate and interact well with one another set a good example of teamwork and collaboration. It is also helpful to remember you are modeling appropriate communication and behavior for your children; therefore, respectful interactions are key.
Keep your communication focused on the children and set a matter-of-fact tone utilizing appropriate language. Make requests of your former spouse rather than demands. In addition to being respectful to one another in front of the children, make sure you are being respectful when the other parent is not around.
Negativity or complaining does no good, as it only hurts children. The two parents may no longer love each other, but the children love both parents. Placing them in the middle, listening to negatives about either parent, will only cause more harm and hurt for the child. Avoid making your child the messenger. This only puts unnecessary stress and pressure on the child.
If communicating in person is something that cannot be managed, e-mail or texting are other options to consider. Remember to keep the tone professional here as well and stick to the topic that needs to be addressed. If you receive an emotional or heated e-mail or text, give yourself a calming period prior to responding. Wait at least an hour, if not more, before responding. This time allows you to compose your thoughts and rationally respond.
For those parents who absolutely cannot communicate without a breakdown occurring, there are resources available to make necessary communication with each other easier and tolerable. There are specific websites, such as ourfamilywizard.com and cozi.com, which cater to divorced families and their interactions. At cozi.com, families can create their own family calendars to manage visitation, scheduling of events, and communication between the parents.
Healthy marriages and family life are what we all strive for. However, for those whom “happily ever after” did not work out, consider these options when communicating and building your family life post-divorce.