You’re still with me? Awesome!!!! Thank you for hanging in there. I appreciate you.
Today’s topic – communication. What to communicate to your co-parenting counterpart, what not to communicate, and when.
It’s a pretty broad subject, but you and I both know the quality of your communication is the key to either finding yourself on a mostly happy, successful co-parenting path or being locked in eternal battle with your ex. I think we established in the previous post that it is not good for anyone to battle your way through your offspring’s childhood.
Tell you what, I’ll suggest some “ideal situations” and you make of them what works for you, in your unique situation.
Here we go.
Things TO communicate – any noticeable changes in your child’s day, such as longer days at school, a fight with another kiddo, brilliant achievements in class, areas of struggle, and what you are doing to help. If you two can both discuss each situation and agree on a strategy, you each get a gold star. Remember – there is no winner or loser between you, so it’s ‘eyes on the prize’ – both of you need to focus on what will help your child.
Parenting skills such as boundaries, rules and bedtimes etc. Ohhhhh boy, this can be really tricky for parents when they live together, let alone when they are apart and maybe not too thrilled with each other. This one is a lot trickier than it may first sound.
Communication is HUGE here. You are both going to have to check egos and hidden agendas at the door and sit down for a discussion. Take as many breaks as you need to prevent discussion from turning into dispute. Do not communicate the other person’s failings to them, this is not the time or place.
Step 1: Make just one agenda – the one for topics of discussion.
If you start it, give your ex the opportunity to add to it. Nothing should be on the list unless it is directly and immediately about your child. Send the list back and forth between you until you are both happy that your concerns are on there.
Step 2: Keep to the agenda. Both of you have copies, both make notes. You could have this meeting via Zoom if that works for both of you. You could even record the meeting if you feel it is necessary or wise to do so. If you do record, ensure the other party consents before you hit “record,” and receives a copy of the recording afterwards. Transparency is a CYA strategy that will keep you both in good shape.
Step 3: Any areas of disagreement should have both sets of opinions noted, and then agree to return to this in the near future. That could be later in the meeting if it’s likely to work for you. It might be a different meeting. Worst case, you bring it to a mediator if you cannot find any common ground between you.
Step 4: Write up the items you have both agreed to. Be detailed. Send a copy to your co-parent. Note any disagreements (see step 3). Invite them to correct any mistakes. Both of you sign the agreed upon document. This gives each of you clear, recorded and written expectations for co-parenting your child.
Set a schedule for revisiting this discussion – say in six months? Whatever works for both of you. It might be a quick re-visit. The purpose is mostly to keep things on track, update whatever has changed, and revisit items not yet fully addressed.
Ideally, you will be able to talk with each other about any unforeseen situations as they arise. A weekly check in would be optimal, but I do appreciate this may be aiming for the stars in some cases.
Having a common approach to parenting whenever possible will make life easier. See, when you are both on Team Kiddo, he’s going to realize pretty quickly he cannot play one parent off the other. It provides consistency for her and creates certainty in how things are going to be moving forward. In BOTH homes.
It is actually easier for both of the parents as well, given that setting and keeping boundaries is key to helping your child know what is expected of them and what is not acceptable. Boundaries are a crucial part of behavior management for kids and adults alike. There is comfort and security in knowing where the lines are drawn.
Follow through belongs in a category all of its own.
When you say you will do something, make sure you follow through. Really.
Only say what you mean and always mean what you say.
Try very hard not to threaten something that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do, as this teaches junior that you do not mean what you say. This is not a ‘good look’ on you.
The same thing goes for promises. Don’t promise the moon if you don’t have a lasso strong enough to pull it in and give it to him. It’s not fair and teaches the child that a) parents lie, b) lying is okay. That being the case, why would junior listen to you? Junior has learned that you don’t mean what you say and that he can do the same thing. You are the person she looks up to, she’s learning all you teach. It makes sense, right? I’m pretty sure you don’t want that to be the lesson learned.
Special note for special kids:
If your child is in therapy of any kind, please do communicate with the therapist both together and / or separately from your co-parenting counterpart. You both need to be up to speed on what’s going on, what works, what doesn’t and what’s next. If there is anything to follow up with at home – and there should be – your child will do better if you are both on the same page. Heck, you might even be able to share some resources with each other.
Final note for today –
You child is not impressed by who has the tidiest home, who gives them the most toys or any other “who can p** the farthest” competition, so please put that temptation aside and give your child the best of you – your attention and focus.
You’ve got this my friend. I believe in you.
Go get ’em!