I’ve worked with several families that bring in their child because he or she is not adjusting well to the parents’ divorce. Most often, the child is doing fine in reality and the parents are the ones who aren’t adjusting well! Just because the parents have divorced doesn’t mean they don’t have to get along. They actually have to get along better now than they ever have before – for the sake of the children! Here is a simple guideline for parents who are having a difficult time talking to each other about their co-parenting relationship. This is a practical alternative to talking and should be used when talking face to face or on the phone is impossible due to hostility and ongoing unresolved issues from the failed marriage.
The Co-Parenting Email
Suggested Use: Once a week, or prior-to and following a transition in custody
- Summary of life since the last transition:
- What’s been going well with each child?
- What’s been challenging for each child?
- School Issues:
- What projects are coming up?
- What are latest concerns regarding grades, school behavior, attitude issues, etc.
- Share database logins, communications with teachers, reports, etc.
- Activities and plans:
- What are the activities for each child currently?
- Coordinating logistics on which parent will be at which event for which child.
- Scheduling – Birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc. for the upcoming month, quarter, etc.
- Caretaking and health-
- What are their current needs?
- Address physical, emotional, spiritual, social health issues.
- Behavior –
- Discipline issues and how they are being handled.
- How each parent handles discipline differently (not wrong, just different), sharing “what works”, etc.
How to avoid the same old traps that got you in your marriage from ruining the co-parent relationship:
- STICK TO CO-PARENTING
- Respect the co-parent as this is in the best interest of your children.
- Stay in the present and future
- Keep away from bad memories & history
- No venting of emotions
- No “zingers” or deviations from agreed-upon agenda
- You cannot blame anyone else for your own choices, feelings, or thoughts. So don’t do it.
- Do NOT characterize or accuse each other of bad parenting. If you have concerns about what is going on at the other parent’s home. Address it in this way:
- I have heard/it’s been reported to me that ____________ is going on at your house. My concern about it is ________________.
- Respectfully consider each other’s concerns regarding the children.
- Stay away from accusing unless you have certain facts. STICK WITH THE FACTS and how they relate to co-parenting.
Source: The co-parenting survival guide: letting go of conflict after a difficult divorce
by Elizabeth S. Thayer, Elizabeth Thayer, Jeffrey Zimmerman