How Do I Speak with my Spouse about our Children?
Peaceful, consistent and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting or joint custody – even though it may seem absolutely impossible. It all begins with your mindset. Think about communication with your ex as having the highest purpose: your child’s well being. Before contact with your ex, ask yourself how your talk will affect your child, and resolve to conduct yourself with class. Make your child the focal point of every discussion you have with your ex-partner.
No matter what, communication with your ex is going to be a tough task. Remember that it isn’t necessary to meet in person – speaking over the phone or exchanging emails is fine for the majority of conversations. The goal is conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you. Whether talking via email, phone or in person, the following methods can help you initiate and maintain effective communication:
- Set a business-like tone. Approach the relationship with your ex as a business partnership where your “business” is your children’s healthy adjustment and well-being. Speak or write to your ex as you would a colleague – with cordiality, respect and neutrality. Relax and talk slowly.
- Make requests. Instead of making statements, which can be misinterpreted as demands, try framing as much as you can as requests. Requests can begin “Would you be willing to…?” or “Can we try…?”
- Listen. Communicating with maturity starts with listening. Even if you end up disagreeing with the other parent, you should at least be able to convey to him or her that you’ve understood his or her point of view. And listening does not signify approval, so you won’t lose anything by allowing your ex to voice his or her opinions.
- Show restraint. Keep in mind that communicating with one another is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s entire childhood – if not longer. You can train yourself to not overreact to your ex, and over time you can become numb to the buttons he or she tries to push.
- Commit to meeting/talking consistently. Frequent communication with your ex will convey the message to your children that you and their other parent are a united front. This may be extremely difficult in the early stages of your divorce or separation.
- Keep conversations kid-focused. You can control the content of your communication. Never let a discussion with your ex-partner be about your needs or his/her needs; it should always be about your child’s needs.