Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: How to Communicate with a Reasonable Co-Parent
Parents often say they cannot "communicate" with their co-parent. Reasonable communication is always possible as long as everyone's main goal is to communicate reasonably. This is often overlooked because parents forget the reason why co-parenting communication is important: it is the basis for solving problems concerning children.
Instead, parents get sidetracked into using communication about the children to hurt or punish the co-parent. Reasonable communication often produces reasonable communication, but when it is impossible you might want to go to page 34 and read about communicating with an unreasonable co-parent. This advice applies to parents who can communicate reasonably or who see that there is potential for reasonable communication.
In every communication there is a message and there is "noise." Think about trying to listen to a good song on a radio that has static or background noise behind it. Together, the message and the noise represents a "package" of communication. Effective co-parenting communications seek to make that package as effective as possible by increasing the quality of the "song" and decreasing the presence of the "noise."
Reasonable communication is:
Direct and to the point
Without barbs or surprises
Reasonable Versus Unreasonable Communication
The following communication is a great example of reasonable communication: "Can we please set aside some time so that you can give me some information on how our son is doing in school?" This is a direct communication. It asks a single question. It has an element of polite speech in it ("please"). It is considerate of the fact that the co-parent who is being asked for information might not be able to talk at that moment. It does not imply anything about the competence of the co-parent who has the information. It uses the respectful characterization "our son," so that no one's sense of belongingness regarding the child is threatened. It is an effective "package."
Now let's take the same subject of communication and wrap it in a very different package: "Your new job is obviously interfering with your ability to manage my son's schoolwork. He told me he failed a spelling test this week. Since you do not care whether I'm involved in this process I am going to have to get my lawyer to write a letter to the school so that I can have access to his grades."
This is a complicated and negative communication. It may seem that the main goal is to inquire about a child's schoolwork, but it is actually to harass the co-parent on the other end of the communication, express the belief that he is incompetent, and threaten future communication through lawyers.
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