FACTS FOR FAMILIES: Five ways to refine your co-parental communication | Health, Medicine and Fitness


CHERI BURCHAM Family Life Educator

Having experienced being a child with divorced parents, I wanted to share this article written by Eastern Illinois University graduate, Kayli Worthey.

Kaylie shares that: growing up, my family had my half-sisters every other weekend, but the co-parenting relationship never took a break. I witness many different conversations between co-parents on many different topics like schooling, child support, drama, and even discipline.

While the conversations were often filled with conflict, there was also supportive and healthy communication. While communication and co-parenting go hand-in-hand, it is not always simple. Communicating with a fellow co-parent can often be difficult, but it is essential when parenting a child together.

For those co-parents who struggle with communication, here are five tips to refine your co-parental communication:

1. Use “I” Statements

Co-parenting can be frustrating, especially communicating calmly and effectively. One co-parent may feel blamed and become offended during a conversation, causing either parent to shut down or blow up. Using “I” statements is one potential solution to avoid this issue.

For example, instead of saying “You are always late picking up Ava from school. You are letting her down.”, try saying “I’m worried about Ava feeling let down when she is not picked up from school on time. Do you have any ideas about how we can fix this issue and make her feel better?” “I” statements are usually more effective than commanding or judgmental statements.

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Setting boundaries within a co-parenting relationship might sound easier than it is to do, but it is well worth the effort. Boundaries can include how often you talk to your co-parent, the time of day you will respond, and even the topics discussed. The amount and strictness of boundaries is unique to every co-parenting relationship. However, if conflict is common, create topic boundaries like your previous relationship, new relationship, and anything controversial.

Whether the communication is through a phone call, email, or text message, communication does need to happen on a regular basis between co-parents. You do not have to talk every day, but you need to talk more than once a month. Be consistent in communicating with your co-parent about your children and schedule changes. This will help reduce miscommunication and help the co-parenting team stay on the same page. Find a consistent time that works best for both co-parents to check-in and discuss important matters.

4. Practice Active-Listening

Active listening is a good way to improve your communication with your co-parent. To practice active listening give your full attention to your co-parent, focus on what they are saying, make eye contact and stop other things you are doing, and reflect or repeat back what they are saying and what they may be feeling to make sure you understand. It can be tempting to brush off our co-parents’ issues, especially if you struggle to get along or disagree. But you would hope your co-parent would be listening to your perspective in order to make headway on the issue rather than just trying to debate too.

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5. Take a Breath (or two)

Often during arguments with a co-parent, one may start to get overwhelmed, frustrated, and even angry. However, it is important to not react with those same feelings as reactive responses that can damage working relationships and even create more conflict. If you are faced with a situation that is very heated, it is okay to step back and take a deep breath (or two) before responding. Your best responses and interactions will not be reactive. Think of the situation as if you were arguing with a co-worker and be professional in your reactions and responses.

For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at https://extension.illinois.edu/ccdms , call us at 217-345-7034 or contact Cheri Burcham at cburcham@illinois. edu Also visit the Family Files Blog at https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/family-files

Cheri Burcham is the Family Life Educator at the U of I Extension.

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