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Communication Breakdown: How to Avoid It

When a couple is having difficulty in their relationship and they begin the process of separation, communication which was often poor, frequently gets worse. That’s a real problem, particularly if the couple has children and needs to communicate and work together to co-parent. All the research tells us that children of divorced parents can do very well, but the parents must follow a few basic rules.

First, parents must never argue in front of their children. Overt conflict in front of children makes them anxious and upset.

Next it is most important never to put children in the middle of the parents. That means never telling the children anything negative about the other parent, so the children do not need to take sides. Ironically, if this occurs, it makes the children mad at both parents, as they are mad at the parent who is saying negative things about the other parent who they love, and also absorbing the information given, so they are mad at that parent as well. This leaves a child in the middle and upset.

Children want to know that their parents are okay and feel they are well taken care of. In order for this to happen, parents need to work on their communication and their behavior, particularly in front of their kids. This is not always easy, but can be rewarding.

A few techniques can help.

  • Listen to your co-parent. Try to hear what s/he is saying and don’t interrupt them.

  • Remember that even though you are both angry, your children are most important and you have responsibility for their well being.

  • Sometimes it’s so hard to let your children spend time alone with the other parent….remember that you both feel that way.

  • If you are upset and want to deal with an issue, plan a time that you can talk with one another when the kids are not around.

  • If one parent says “I can’t talk now,” respect that and find a better time. Mutual respect goes a long way.

  • Decide the best way to communicate, text, email, or call and don’t over use it. One or two communications a day is generally more than enough.

  • Keep your texts/emails to content or facts only….NO disparaging remarks. That will ensure a response. When a text is littered with anger, the content will be lost and your child’s needs will not be responded to.

A co-parenting relationship takes work, as any relationship does. It is important to remember that even if you are no longer spouses, you are parents forever. You’ll want to be able to share the milestones and celebrate the joys of your children, and sometimes that needs to happen together. A good co-parenting relationship is a challenge worth the work.

Written by Barbara Rothberg, DSW

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