If the two of you are going to be effective partners in parenting after the divorce, success or failure will hinge on how well you can communicate with each other. Although much of this depends on the effort each of you put forth towards maintaining the civility, here are some helpful tips to get you started on the right track:
- No mind-reading
Don’t expect your ex to read your thoughts, and don’t presume to know his. Always ask what the other person is thinking and feeling. Not only will you learn more about their position this way, but showing an honest interest in their feelings is a gesture of empathy that will help them feel valued and respected. This will reap rewards in the long run.
- Use emotionally neutral language
Always make statements based on your own concerns and feelings: “I feel . . . It bothers me that … It makes me concerned when…” while avoiding accusatory “You” statements: “You always … Why can’t you just …”
- Avoid attempts to claim moral authority
Present your gripes or concerns as opinions, not as absolute truth: “I may be overreacting, but I just can’t get over how much it bothers me that such and such is going on. I know you don’t consider this to be a big deal, but it would really be important to me if you could address this, just for my peace of mind.”
By presenting your gripes in terms of what bothers you rather than what should or shouldn’t be considered proper parenting, you can avoid a lot of the wrangling about trying to prove who is “right” and who’s “wrong.” And if you can agree ahead of time to show consideration for what the other parent feels – even if you don’t agree that their concerns are legitimate or just – then you can save yourselves a lot of arguments while still being considerate toward each other’s needs. The alternative is to spend a lot of time telling the other parent all about “what they are doing wrong.” You can probably imagine how this works out.
- Be open and flexible
Compromise. It’s a word you’ll have to get used to if you want to make this situation work. In order to compromise, you have to accept that things may not always happen precisely as you want, and the best way to be happy with compromise is to be open and flexible about your beliefs. The more rigid you are in your ideas about parenting, the more frustration you’ll experience.
- Pick your battles
It doesn’t make sense to get into an argument about every little aspect of parenting. Not only does this ensure more stress for both of you, but such nitpicking reduces your partner’s desire to work with you on the issues that really matter. So pick your battles wisely, and avoid the urge to bring up every little issue of contention that may rub you the wrong way.
* We also have more detailed information on general conflict resolution in our in the family section of our website. Divorced parents might find it useful to read through.