At a training that I attended several years ago, cartoons were disseminated with the materials.  One cartoon depicted two parents sitting on a couch with their child facing them.  The child announced, “look, this has been fun, but it’s not working out for me.  I’d really like to start seeing other parents.”  Children, of course, don’t have the option to “see” other parents but parents have an obligation to become the best co-parents that they can be, despite the demise of the adult relationship.  Some adults accept this role and do a great job.  Others struggle for a variety of reasons.  The reality is that children whose parents make joint decisions and present a unified parental front fare much better in life.  These children can’t get away with too much negative behavior compared with children whose parents don’t communicate.  Effective co-parents serve as good role models for their children.  These children learn that good communication skills, empathy and listening prepare them for the world outside their family.

The foundation of good co-parenting starts with effective and productive communication.  It’s ok to disagree.  Parents do that all the time, even within intact families.  It is natural to want our opinions heard, considered and respected.  It is not acceptable to use threats or to call the other parent nasty names.  You wouldn’t do that to your boss or co-worker, so don’t do it to your co-parent.  Your co-parenting tone should be business like and brief.  Don’t let your important message get lost in the emotions of the old relationship.  Embrace a new way of communicating and break old habits.  Those old habits didn’t serve well before and they won’t in this new stage of life.  Written communication is not the perfect way to share information, but it is a place to start.  Better communication between parents allows more information to be exchanged and by extension, better decisions made for the  the people that parents care most about.

My intent is not to dispense legal advice through this service.  The purpose is to help you reframe your communication so that you and your co-parent can share information about your child or children and make good, effective decisions.   Please consult an attorney if you need legal advice. Also, this service is not expected to be used long term, unless you need it to be.  The goal is for me to assist you with improving your joint communication with each other so that you can launch it on your own.  You can always contact me for a “tune up” if you run into a stumbling block or are experiencing difficulty in crafting the right words to send to your co-parent.

Please see the below example of my work in a case in which I served as a co-parenting communication facilitator.

First, this Thursday is the best and only day to begin our overnight before we go back to co-parenting mediation again. We had ample time before but because you waited until the last minute, this is the optimum time for it to begin so that is what I am planning for this Thursday 10/03 as we agreed to do the overnight on a week that coincides with my weekend.

I need to address the concern that XXXXX rushed off the school bus on Thursday, again, “reporting”. Her report this time consisted of the night before (Wednesday) and your wife screaming at her because she didn’t have her cleats on. Apparently, there was commotion in the house and things were running late for soccer. Where were you, Dad? You say that you are the one bringing her to her activities but XXXXX says you in fact are not and when I showed up at her game this Saturday, also, you weren’t there.

According to XXXXX, your wife screamed at her to get into the car with her cleats because they were running late. XXXXX said she went out the door with her cleats in hand and your wife proceeded to scream at XXXXX “Why don’t you have your shoes on?! GET IN THE CAR!” Let me be clear here. If your wife is too stressed out or pregnant or cranky she better not be taking it out on my daughter. If she is running late and can’t handle the parental responsibility of XXXXX, by all means, I am MORE than capable and readily available to bring my daughter to her activities without being stressed out or screamed at. NOBODY is going to scream at my daughter and get away with it. Period. I am not giving the benefit of the doubt this time because more than once your wife has lost her cool and screamed at me in FRONT of XXXXX. We have had to have the police be called to intervene because of her irrational behavior in FRONT of XXXXX. Your wife and her losing her cool and hiding behind some excuse- “I’m just tired”- “I was just worried”- I just this, that, or the other is NO excuse for her loose cannon behavior. And it is a REPETITIVE pattern with her that CONCERNS me extremely. She doesn’t want a stepmother- she wants her mother and she has the right to that.

I am trying to schedule her for her ballet lessons however the lessons she fits into you have scheduled her for activities on the only days her level is having class. This is why you need to communicate with me before you sign her up for any other activities this year that impact us. I will continue to keep looking before it’s too late for the year.

My Response:

Your point is well taken that this week would be a good opportunity to begin the overnight on Thursday so that we can address any concerns in our meeting in October.  So here is what I would like you to say in paragraph one:

I received the email about beginning the Thursday overnight before we meet again the co-parenting mediators.  As I review the weekend schedule, this weekend is my weekend to parent XXXXX and it would be the only Thursday prior to our meeting with the mediator on October 15th.  In addition, I would like to solidify my plans for Thursday so can you provide me with a prompt response?

In the next paragraph, regarding the soccer/cleat issue, I appreciate that you are checking in with Dad on something that XXXXX told you.

However, the check in sounds more like threatening and does not open the door to a discussion.  I encouraged both of you to change some old behaviors and this would have been the paragraph in which to do so.  The below is a suggestion for sharing “XXXXX-related” information with Dad.

XXXXX shared a stressful situation with me.  She told me that there was some commotion before getting ready for soccer on Wednesday.  She didn’t have her shoes on and your wife yelled at her to get into the car.   She seemed upset.  My schedule will allow me to help out and if it will alleviate some time challenges, I am happy to do so.  If you don’t need me to transport XXXXX, is there anything else that I can do to help decrease the time crunch on Wednesday.

The rest of the content of the paragraph is not helpful and productive co-parenting communication.  Co-parenting emails should be brief and business like.

For the last paragraph, I suggest the following:

I am still working on finding the appropriate ballet class that won’t conflict with XXXXX’s currently scheduled activities.  Let’s talk about the winter activities soon so that I can select a ballet class.  Can we do that by the end of October (for example, or before the current activities finish)?  It looks like at her level, the class would take place on YYYYY day.  Do you have any further activities in mind?