This month, I want to share the rules of co-parent communication that we teach twice a month in our Advanced Issues in Co-Parenting Workshop for the Gwinnett County courts. If you don’t know about this workshop, you can access info about it HERE. Please share these with your clients and ask them to not use their communication with their ex to build their court cases. Instead, make a separate file for all of their vents, arguments, and defenses that will assist their attorney. But when communicating with their co-parent directly, follow these rules to keep it kind for the sake of their kids!
Ten Rules for Co-Parent Communication
1. Watch your tone (pretend your child is behind your shoulder, reading everything you are about to write to the other parent. Would it make your child proud?)
2. Avoid emotional and sarcastic language. It is not productive.
3. Stick to the facts to reduce assumptions.
4. Use bullet points so you are not tempted to write long paragraphs that the other parent won’t likely be inspired to read.
5. Avoid using absolutes (every time, you always, I never…). They are rarely true and only serve to fuel the fire.
6. Don’t bring up the past. Most likely, the other parent will interpret it much differently.
7. Take a period of time before responding to the other parent’s communication (unless it is an emergency) to check your emotions and choose your words wisely.
8. Ask someone to help you If you have trouble being business-like (a spouse, friend, family member, or professional). If you were writing a critical letter to your boss, you would likely do this. Don’t treat your co-parent relationship as if it doesn’t matter. How YOU manage it is critical to your child’s health and welfare.
9. Do your part. You can’t make the other parent follow the rules, so do what you can on your end so that you are not disrespecting the co-parent relationship. If you avoid or attack, you put yourself at risk. Engage respectfully, even if you have to fake it.
10. Limit communication to only the business of the children if you have a difficult co-parent. Then live your life as joyfully as you can. Divorce should simply be a painful chapter in your children’s lives. It shouldn’t define their whole childhood or your entire life. Put it in perspective and move on.
Words/Phrases to Avoid (considered fighting words):
- You should…
- You need to…
- Per the court order…
- When we were married,…
- What were you thinking?
- With all due respect…
- Every time, you never, I always…
- Any phrase or words that are used to teach, instruct or scold
Words/Phrases to Use (to neutralize toxicity or inspire good communication):
- I am concerned…
- What do think about…
- Can I get your opinion on…
- Thank you for letting me know
- I’ll take that into consideration
- Johnny said…, but that doesn’t sound like something you would say
- I doubt this is true, but I heard…
- This is what I am trying in my home
- Any phrase or words that gives the other parent the benefit of the doubt
Thank you for promoting kindness in a world full of hatred and animosity!
Diane C. Dierks, LMFT, CFLE