Communication and Effective Co-Parenting
Communication is a key to success. This could not be truer in the context of co-parenting. Many of the challenges that co-parenting can present can be mitigated by embracing an open, honest, and civil channel of communication. Your kids look up to you, and they will drink up your words and actions like sponges. To provide the best environment and upbringing possible for your child, make sure you and the child’s other parent are on the same page.
Communication With Your Co-Parent
If you are in a situation that requires co-parenting the chances are fairly high that there may be tension and/or stress between you and your co-parent. Try to put any personal differences you may have aside and talk about any issues that may cause waves. Your child will be watching your interactions; do your best to be civil. If your child witnesses you (or your co-parent) speaking negatively about the other they will be more likely to harbor negative feelings and act out. Here are a few things to keep in mind when communicating with your co-parent:
- Talk to each other. If you don’t talk to each other it is nearly impossible to be on the same page. Stability and consistency are key in providing your child with the environment he or she needs.
- Don’t withhold information. Keeping something from your co-parent can harm your child. Maintaining open and honest channels of communication, on the other hand, fosters positive behavior by all parties.
- Make a schedule, agree to the terms, and stick to it. If something changes let your co-parent know as soon as possible. Kids thrive and are happier when they work on a schedule.
- Talk about expectations. If your child is spending time in more than one household and under the supervision of more than one parent, differences in lifestyle are inevitable. Talk to your co-parent about general expectations including, but not limited to, bed times, television viewing permission and habits, discipline techniques, diet, dedicated homework time, and going out with friends. While some variety in these facets of your child’s life is likely, huge differences in the rules you and your co-parent set forth can lead to problems down the road. Aiming for consistency can mitigate any problems and show your child that you are all on the same page.
- Do the communicating yourself. Don’t use your child as a messenger. Not only can details get lost in translation, but personally engaging yourself in the communication helps to keep you engaged in your family. You may no longer be in a relationship with your child’s other parent, but your family still exists.
- Frame complaints in your concern for the child. Try not to criticize your co-parent. Negativity will not foster a harmonious environment for your child. Rather, if you feel something your co-parent is doing is harmful to your child, tell them that.
Communicating With Your Child
While growing up and splitting time between two households is more common today, it can still be a stressful time for children. To make your child as comfortable and happy as possible, and to help them manage the situation, be sure to stay engaged. Here are a few things to keep in mind when communicating with your child:
- Communication is more than just speaking. Communication is a two-way street. Listen to what your child says and read their non-verbal cues. What they do and how they act can be just as telling as the words they use. Don’t just hear them when they speak; rather, listen to what they are telling you.
- Be Clear. Be clear about what you expect from them. Let them know that even though you and their other parent are not together you still have the same expectations. Let them know that you will always be there.
- Be Open. Remember that calendar and schedule you and your co-parent agreed on? Make sure your child can see and/or access it.
- Be Honest. Answer your child’s questions honestly, and encourage a dialogue.
- Encourage Communication With Your Co–Parent. Your child should not be pitted against your co-parent. Rather, they should have the opportunity to engage in a fruitful and beneficial relationship with both of you. Encourage frequent and honest communication with your co-parent, even if it hurts your feelings. There may be areas in which your child is more comfortable talking to your co-parent.
Establishing and maintaining open avenues of communication are vital to successful co-parenting. You child will see how you and your co-parent interact and communicate. They will see how you react to conversations and information about the other. They will not only hear the words you say but also read your body language and tone. Be aware and turn what could be a personally difficult situation into one that teaches your child about civility. Use this opportunity to set an example and be a positive role model.