I don’t think there is a single person on earth who is always an expert communicator. This seems especially true when emotions are charged. To successfully co-parent you should always strive to communicate well. In fact, the family law act requires you to do so.
Speaking in a way which is aggressive, hostile, antagonistic and hurtful toward the other parent can raise fears for them, and for the children.
In simple terms, good communication is about talking free from heightened conflict. You can, of course, disagree on issues, but those disagreements should never be hostile or angry. And they should never be conversations held within the presence of children.
Usually when communication goes wrong, it is due to misunderstandings. And that’s not unreasonable. You have a problem which the other may or may not know about or see in the same light.
I always recommend asking questions into to be clear.
I often say……
“If you can’t find the answer, you need to ask better questions”
These questions are not just for your coparent; it will help you to ask questions of yourself.
Before you are ready to discuss a sensitive issue, it is beneficial to consider the problem as a whole.
The following questions are a tool I have often used with clients to work through disputes. It helps define clearly what the problem is in order for you to articulate your concerns better.
You can practice answering this with a past issue, or just consider each question separately.
- What is the problem? (Amy was late for school again)
- What are the issues this is causing? (Amy feels embarrassed she’s not there on time)
- What is your suggested solution? (Setting a phone alarm 15 minutes before it’s time to leave)
- What benefits will this bring? (Amy won’t feel anxious about running late)
Getting familiar with these four questions (in bold) will help you with almost every dispute you face, including in work. Think about the issues you’ve identified and what your solutions will be. When you cushion the problem with the benefits it will bring, it makes it more palatable for the other person to digest. This makes it far more likely they will be receptive.
You then need to approach your coparent with this problem.
“There is something I’d like to talk to you about. Hopefully it won’t take long. When would it be a good time? “
Listen to their response. You may be approaching them at a difficult time. If it’s not urgent, try and work in with them.
*This is an extract from the Parenting After Separation Course