Divorced and separated parents frequently struggle with issues around communication with each other. Your child’s other parent is often the only other person who is interested in all the details of your child’s life.
Though these communications were often handled casually when you were together, the interactions change after the relationship ends. Some parents complain that their former spouse is constantly calling and texting. They want to know about their children, but don’t want to deal with their ex on such a regular basis. Other parents deplore the arguments that inevitably occur whenever they speak to each other. Still others object to the fact that their former spouse does not communicate with them about the children and feel as though they are being shut out of their children’s lives.
We recommend parents use a structured weekly email format for all parenting-related communication that is not urgent or time sensitive. The structure conveys the important details of the child’s life, while controlling the frequency of communication. This email exchange usually occurs on a custody transition day and is initiated by the parent who has had the children in their care (Parent A). The following format is used:
“FYI: Jacob didn’t sleep well last night. I think he might be coming down with a cold. Samantha has been having difficulty with her social studies homework.
RR (Response Required): Jacob’s next field trip falls during your custody week. I would like to attend if you are not planning on going. Please let me know.”
Parent B then sends an email (within 24 hours) that addresses the RRs and then follow the same format:
“Responses to RR: I am planning on attending Jacob’s field trip.
FYI: The children will be meeting my boyfriend’s children this week. Just wanted to give you a heads up as we agreed to.
RR: Have you given Jacob any cold medicine? If so, what?”
Parent A replies, but only to the RR’s:
“No cold medicine given.”
This structure keeps the communication down to three emails in a week, eliminating a never ending back and forth exchange. Some people keep a running list of things they would normally text but will wait to include in their weekly email. Others have to set a reminder on their phone to even initiate the email. Some have an objective friend or family member review the email before sending it to ensure that it does not sound hostile. It is important to take whatever measures are needed to reach the goal of functional co-parenting communication.
This is not something that you are doing for your ex, or even for yourself, it is something you are doing for your children.
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