9 Communication Techniques for Successful Coparenting and Reducing Conflict
Learn the how and why of effective communication for coparenting
Planning for divorce with children is often complicated.
Raising children in separate households could ignite feelings of competition, frustration, and hostility between parents.
Most divorced or separated parents go against a steep learning curve when entering the world of co-parenting. Communication generally tops the list of challenges they face.
This article discusses techniques co-parents could use to communicate with each other successfully.
Children are often casualties in battles between co-parents
Researchers found that contentious parenting poses a greater risk of harm to children than the divorce itself.
Parents who attempt to unjustifiably stop the other parent from seeing the children or make false allegations are not just hurting the other parent - they are hurting their own kids and sometimes irreversibly.
Attempting to alienate a child from the other parent through any means just because a parent is bitter over a breakup is, by itself, a form of child abuse.
If you flip that script and can have an amicable divorce, you mitigate that risk of harm to the children by a large degree. You allow the children to cope with the breakup and maintain a continuing and stability in their lives.
Follow co-parenting principles
Actors Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen split in 2017 when their daughter was three years old.
In a 2018 interview, Bilson described "trying to figure out" co-parenting and explained that there is not "any right way, necessarily" to do so.
Fast forward to a 2021 interview, Bilson advised that "communication is key" and that "as long as you put the kid first, everything will be okay."
Bilson found that prioritizing her daughter and maintaining open communication with Christensen improved their co-parenting situation.
To Bilson's advice, we add the following suggestions below.
1. Practice a cooperative approach
The prefix "co" means together. Co-parenting requires parents to cooperate for their child's benefit.
Relationship history and personalities considered, sharing parenting responsibility with a former partner could come with more chaos than collaboration.
A co-parent has the choice to engage with or react to the other parent's behavior.
For instance, a parent could choose to be compassionate towards their child when dealing with an offensive co-parent.
A thoughtful parent might walk away from a rude comment instead of lashing out after considering their child's feelings who is also in the room.
Overall, a co-parent should refrain from harsh, demanding, or excessive communication.
Polite language, "I feel" statements, and concise messages are ideal in co-parenting contexts.
A co-parent could motivate themselves to maintain a business-like tone by remembering that a judge could one day read their message.
2. Refrain from disrespecting each other
A co-parent may feel tempted to blame, criticize, or disparage their former partner.
A parent prioritizes their child's happiness by refusing to give in to this temptation around their child or on social media.
Badmouthing a co-parent could hurt their child's self-esteem and emotional security.
For instance, a child could infer that they are partially "stupid" or "worthless" after hearing their parent describe the donor of half of their DNA this way.
A co-parent's insults might make their child feel like they have to choose sides between two people they love.
This position may exacerbate a child's sense of powerlessness from having no control over their parent's breakup.
No one likes to hear their loved one insulted, especially a child overhearing one parent vilifying the other parent.
Instead, a parent should process their frustrations with a therapist or other trusted adult away from the child.
3. Provide necessary parenting information
Exchanging accurate and complete information regarding the child could reduce conflict between co-parents and protect the child's best interest.
If applicable, co-parents should communicate parental information in compliance with the Court's orders.
Failing to supply essential parenting information could place a child's well-being at risk.
Consider a co-parent who fails to inform the other parent about a bicycle accident where the helmet-less child hit her head.
Although the child walked away from the accident, she began experiencing concussion-related symptoms the next day while in the other parent's care.
The child's sudden confusion and nausea delayed the other parent from seeking urgent medical attention after they dismissed it as a tummy ache.
Ultimately, the co-parents' inability to communicate about their child's health compromised her concussion recovery.
When in doubt, a co-parent should exchange information they expect the other parent to share.
4. Make an effort to stay on the same page
A parent makes countless decisions to protect their child's welfare regularly.
Ideally, both parents discipline consistently and raise the child similarly, such as enforcing the same bedtimes and chores.
This scenario is not always a reality.
Attempting to micromanage a co-parent's daily parenting is not an efficient use of a parent's time and energy.
A co-parent should prioritize major decisions, such as a child's education, and adhering to the parenting arrangement or custody order.
Co-parents that struggle to agree on significant decisions and stick to a parenting plan may need to consult with a family law attorney, therapist, or mediator for guidance.
5. Explore co-parenting communication options
Today's co-parents can pick from a variety of communication methods, such as:
- Sending text messages
- Speaking in-person
- Making phone calls
- Sharing an online calendar
- Using a co-parenting app
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to co-parenting communication.
Co-parents may need trial and error to discover which communication strategy works best for them.
Keep in mind that what works could vary by situation.
Consider a hypothetical example where co-parents cannot speak to one another without bringing up the past and making personal attacks.
These co-parents are better off communicating through a co-parenting app than by phone call or in person.
Co-parenting apps, such as OurFamilyWizard and TalkingParents, could minimize conflict by streamlining communication.
Additionally, the printable, timestamped, and secure messages make involving attorneys and other professionals easier.
6. Consult with an experienced child custody attorney
This may surprise you, but a child custody lawyer can help you with co-parenting techniques.
That is because experienced child custody lawyers live this topic on a regular basis. Consult with an experienced lawyer and ask custody related questions about co-parenting. You may be surprised how much you learn.
That lawyer can also educate you on child custody laws in your State. Do not underestimate the benefit of this knowledge. Knowing what the court may do if something goes wrong is an incentive to keep things right.
7. Utilize co-parenting templates
Pre-planned topics and responses could minimize the frequency and length of contact between co-parents.
Divorced co-parents could use their child custody arrangement as a guide for creating a template and communication schedule.
For instance, co-parents that share joint legal custody could use a running document to communicate decisions related to the child's well-being.
This shared document could include dated notes on school assignments, doctor appointments, child care, and religious activities.
These quick updates reduce unnecessary interaction while allowing both parents to be involved.
8. Seek professional support
Access to efficient communication methods does not mean much for combative co-parents.
In some cases, successful communication with a co-parent is not possible.
A parent in these circumstances should seek professional help.
An experienced family attorney could help a parent file an emergency child custody request against an abusive co-parent that poses a threat of immediate harm to their child.
A mental health professional such as a therapist could counsel co-parents together in a session or help implement a parallel parenting plan in a high-conflict family.
Additionally, a therapist could work with a parent individually to strengthen coping skills and self-care practices.
A self-motivated mother or father could navigate co-parenting by reading books like Mom's House, Dad's House: Making Two Homes for Your Child by Isolina Ricci, Ph. D.
Ultimately, a child reaps the rewards of healthy and emotionally mature parents.
Protect your child's happiness
Author Jan Blaustone once said, "The best security blanket a child can have is parents who respect each other."
This security blanket may cost your bitterness, convenience, and pride but yield a safe and nurturing environment for your child.
Remember why you co-parent and how your successful communication efforts directly influence your child's life during hectic times.
We hope you enjoyed this article.