Respectful, timely, and adequate communication is one of the biggest challenges for a couple with children who quit being friends. Strong negative emotions play a role in every family breakup. Children need to be protected from those scary feelings. Yet children cannot wait for Mom and Dad to resolve their issues!
Children need to be carefully and thoughtfully parented AND co-parented through each step of the breakup process. Parents have no excuse to simply follow their heart, do what comes naturally, and give in to their desire to punish the other parent. Why no excuse? There are so many easily available sources of excellent information about what helps and what hurts children when families break apart.
The research is clear. Children need both parents to the greatest and fullest extent possible in order to achieve a successful transition from living unhappily in 1 home to living happily in 2 homes. Children must be protected from adult conflict. Children need parents who communicate respectfully and effectively with clear boundaries and clear expectations. Children need to hear the same message from Mom and Dad.
Parents who behave in ways that hurt their children or even have the potential to hurt their children have, at some level, made a decision that adult needs are important than those of the child.
Some guidelines for communication:
- Keep it brief and straightforward:
Noah has been invited to a birthday party during your parenting time on Saturday. How would you like to handle it?
Noah has been invited to a birthday party during your parenting time on Saturday so he will not be available to spend time with you.
- Keep it focused on co-parenting, not adult issues:
Samantha needs a tutor. Here are three names of people I have found that can do this. Please let me know if you have any ideas and let's see if we can narrow this down and make a choice by next Thursday.
Samantha needs a tutor. She always comes home from your house with homework untouched. I know that you just don't think her education is a priority. I do. I will pick a tutor and let you know the cost so you can pay your half.
- Respond promptly and respectfully
Within 12-24 hours: I received your request and I need a few days to think about it. I will get back to you by Saturday.
- If your coparent sends you an email, text, OFW post, or leaves a voicemail...acknowledge it!!
Thank you for the information. OR
I received your email and will reply tonight. OR
I'm not sure how I want to handle this but will let you know as soon as possible. OR
I am sick and tired of you sending me this crap that I don't need, am not interested in and can't even bear to read. Knock it off! OR
What is your problem? I don't need you to tell me how to parent. OR
Why are you always interfering with my parenting time? I don't care if s/he has an appointment for therapy/tutoring. This is my time!!
Children need to know that you love all of them, not just the part contributed by you. Children are reassured by seeing that Mom and Dad can take care of the kids even if they couldn't take care of each other. Don't put your children in a position of pressure, loyalty, conflict, and fear.
If you can't apply the information about positive co-parenting that is readily available, then get some help to figure out what is blocking your ability to put your children's healthy, safety and well being as the number one priority it needs to be, for their sake.