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Five ways to Improve Your Coparenting Communication

Five ways to Improve Your Coparenting Communication

Meeting the Challenge of Shared Parental Rights and Responsibilities:

According to a recent study by the National Institute of Health, one of the most commonly reported causes of divorce is “conflict and arguing” between couples. In another study of 886 divorcing parents in Hennepin County, Minnesota, the two most common reasons given for seeking a divorce were “growing apart” (55%) and “not able to talk together” (53%).

When a divorce is finally granted, however, the court will usually issue a shared parental rights order. By law, this order requires parents to communicate regarding their children’s welfare and important decisions such as those involving education, medical issues, religious issues and activities.[1]

A logical parent might ask: “If our poor communication was one of the key reasons we got divorced, how in the world can we be expected to communicate and make decisions together about our kids?”

Kids First was created, in part, to address this question and to give divorcing and separating parents new skills to co-parent. Why? We know that parents who are excluded from decision making are more likely to have negative feelings towards the other parent which of course will have a detrimental impact on the children who are exposed to parental conflict or lack of communication.

I have had the privilege of teaching these skills to hundreds of parents over the course of my 20 years as a Kids First facilitator. Here are five ways to help develop a workable co-parenting relationship:

  1. Practice effective communication skills. Invite your co-parenting partner into a conversation. Discuss your concern from your own perspective, knowing that there may be different perspectives on the issue. Keep the door open for reaching compromise. Be open to new ways to solve the problem. Let your co-parenting partner know you have heard him or her, even if you disagree. Remember, a B minus solution that both parents can agree on is better than an A plus solution that only one parent agrees to.
  2. Control your emotions. It would be highly unusual for anyone not to have strong feelings and emotions when disagreements arise about children’s issues. Sometimes, these emotions are heightened by unresolved feelings or issues surrounding the divorce or separation. Be aware when you are getting angry, and find some ways to deal with that, such as breathing or taking a break. Politely disengage from the conversation if it gets too heated: “This isn’t working, I’m hanging up now.” Keep the door open for further conversations-perhaps in a public place.
  3. Schedule a regular co-parenting phone call to discuss the coparenting issues described above. During your call, stick to an agenda, have your calendars and other child related information at hand. Start the call by making sure it is still a good time to talk. Share something positive about your kids.
  4. Treat your co-parenting partner with respect. Make sure to include your co-parenting partner with any child-related decision making. Say positive things about your co-parenting partner to your kids. Be respectful of your co-parenting partner’s time and don’t undermine his or her parenting style, even if you disagree with it. Say thank you when you are treated well and apologize when you make a mistake.
  5. Maintain appropriate boundaries. Keeping boundaries can help you control your reactions to anything that does not further the co-parenting goal. Don’t engage in any blaming, insulting or unproductive communication that has been directed towards you. Outside of the shared decision-making points, there will be many things you can’t control at the other parent’s house. Don’t micromanage the other parent.

Of course, co-parenting is a journey that requires vigilance, persistence, and patience. My own parents divorced when I was a teenager and although they had disagreements, they maintained a positive relationship and kept the conflict away from me and my brothers. The bottom line: Your children will benefit when you develop better communication habits that allow you to make decisions together with your child’s other parent.


DAVID C. WEBB, Esq., is a lawyer and mediator specializing in family, special education and civil rights matters. He has been a Kids First Facilitator since 2002 and has facilitated conflict resolution workshops in Israel and Ireland and at the Seeds of Peace International Camp. David is a Co-Recipient of the 2010 Cleaves Award from the Maine Bar Association for his work with high conflict divorcing parents.

[1] Of course, Parents should not communicate with each other in the event that a protection from abuse order has been issued by the court or if other potential domestic violence issues exist between the parents.

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