Unfortunately, separation and divorce happen. When there are children involved, divorcing parents can’t and shouldn’t just move on. Both parents’ continued cooperation and a healthy co-parenting partnership is best for children.  Maintaining civil conversations after a divorce, especially for the sake of your children, can be challenging. Here are some suggestions that might help.

Communication Strategies

  1. Focus on the children – Keep the conversation centered on your children’s needs and well-being. Avoid bringing up past grievances or using the conversation as an opportunity to attack your ex.
  2. Stick to facts – Avoid emotionally charged language and accusations. Instead, focus on stating facts and proposing solutions to specific issues.
  3. Listen actively – Truly listen to your ex’s perspective without interrupting or judging. Acknowledge their concerns and try to understand their point of view.
  4. Use “I” statements – Speak from your own perspective and feelings, using “I” statements like “I feel concerned about…” instead of accusatory “you” statements.
  5. Choose the right time and place – Avoid discussing sensitive topics when stressed, tired, or in front of the children. Choose a neutral location for communication, like email or text, if phone calls tend to escalate.

Be careful! Email and text messages can be easily misunderstood. Take care to maintain a respectful tone. Avoid sarcastic and negative language.  Double-check for typos, grammatical errors, and factual mistakes before sending.

Setting Boundaries

  1. Establish ground rules – Agree on communication guidelines, like avoiding certain topics or disrespectful language.
  2. Respect boundaries – If the conversation becomes heated, take a break and resume it later when you’ve both calmed down.
  3. Maintain separate lives – Respect each other’s privacy and avoid getting involved in their new relationships.
  4. Don’t co-parent through your children – Avoid using your children to relay messages or get information from your ex. Communicate directly with each other.

Communicating About Household Rules

Creating household rules for children after a divorce is crucial for providing stability and security during a challenging time. Here are some tips to help you navigate this process:

Collaboration is Key

  • Work with your ex-partner – If possible, create the rules together to ensure consistency across both households. Discuss your individual expectations and find common ground.
  • Consider a mediator – If working directly with your ex is difficult, consider involving a neutral third party, like a mediator or therapist, to facilitate communication and agreement.

Focus on the Child’s Needs

  • Age-appropriate and understandable – Tailor the rules to your child’s age and developmental level. Ensure they clearly understand them and why they exist.
  • Emphasize respect and responsibility – Frame the rules positively, focusing on mutual respect, responsibility, and healthy living.
  • Address core values – Align the rules with your shared values as parents, focusing on important aspects like kindness, honesty, safety, and responsibility.

Consistency is Vital

  • Similar rules in both homes – As much as possible, strive for consistent rules and expectations across both households. This reduces confusion and provides stability for your child.
  • Clear consequences – Establish clear and age-appropriate consequences for breaking the rules. Ensure both parents enforce them consistently.
  • Open communication – Encourage open communication with your child. Listen to their concerns and provide explanations for the rules.

Flexibility and Support

  • Allow for some variation – While consistency is important, allow for some flexibility based on individual circumstances and situations.
  • Address emotional needs – Acknowledge that your child may be struggling emotionally. Provide support and reassurance, and be empathetic to their feelings.
  • Celebrate successes – Celebrate your child’s efforts to follow the rules and make positive choices.

Additional Tips

  • Involve your child – Consider involving your child in creating the rules, giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility.
  • Review and adjust as needed – Over time, you may need to review and adjust the rules as your child grows and matures.
  • Seek professional help – If you’re struggling, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor specializing in co-parenting or divorce.
  • Focus on the future – Remember that you are on the same team, working together to raise your children.
  • Prioritize your children’s well-being – Even if you can’t be friends, be civil and respectful for the sake of your children.

Remember, there will be good days and bad days. Be patient, consistent, and focused on creating a healthy environment for your children to thrive in.

Transforming from a couple relationship to a co-parent team

After a separation, parents need to transform their former partnership into a parenting team around their child. It’s important for the child that each parent takes care of them – plays, cooks, shouts, reads bedtime stories and picks them up after basketball practice – but also how the parents interact with each other. This actually plays an unexpectedly large role for the child.

At the same time as you build your own new homes and family lives, you also need to build a structure that carries the child between the parents, through a sustainable network of communication and collaboration. A parenting team helps the child put their world together and creates a feeling that they are parents together, no matter where they live. Even though parents will experience new relationships, get mad at each other and sometimes only communicate through email, they will continue to be parents together.

For the child, what has happened in your relationship is less important than you being its parents.

Malin Bergström, child psychologist and researcher

Guidance from the Holy Scriptures

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. – Philippians 2:3-4 NLT

To see the value of a strong family in a child’s life please read our report on “The Long-term Consequences of Growing Up Without a Father.”

 Join

We invite you to join this new and growing community of fathers, Fathering Strong. To register, go to www.fatheringstrong.com, download the free app, and turn on the notifications. Explore the many resources, engage in conversations with other fathers, and share your story.

Your financial contributions allow us to serve fathers at no cost. Please consider donating. Fathering Strong is powered by Urban Light Ministries, Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 in Springfield, Ohio. Our mission is to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to the Heavenly Father.  Go to www.fatheringstrong.com to donate. To learn more about Urban Light Ministries’ history, work, and mission, explore www.urbanlight.org.