￼Co-Parenting 101: Developing Great Communication with Your Ex-Spouse
Developing Great Communication with Ex-Spouse!
Learning to interact positively with your ex-spouse can have a profound impact on the kids you share and your newly blended family. And regular communication is an essential element of co-parenting. But what happens when co-parenting success is hindered by an uncooperative ex, bitterness, or day-to-day frustrations?
In this article, we will help you develop communication strategies for interacting positively with your ex-spouse.
Why Good Communication with Your Ex-Spouse Matters
If you’re reading this, you’re likely in one of two places. Either your communication with your ex-spouse is fairly good but you’d like it to be better, or you’re in disunity with your ex and you’re experiencing complete dysfunction. Maybe you don’t see eye-to-eye on anything and you have to rely completely on the legal system to make decisions when it comes to co-parenting. Whichever place you find yourself in, we believe wholeheartedly that establishing trust in communication is key.
Developing successful communication with an ex-spouse takes discipline. Even if your divorce was amicable, regular communication may be uncomfortable. Maybe you’ve even gotten to a point where you’re okay with that. We encourage you not to settle for the status quo, but instead, develop communication habits that will ultimately help your child thrive. Of course, we’re not saying you have to be best friends with your ex. But solid communication with them will help your children transition more easily into blended family life.
Our kids look to us for stability, and when biological parents aren’t speaking or are constantly at each other’s throats, it can create feelings of insecurity. We all want our children to understand that everything is going to be okay and lessen any sense of chaos they might be feeling.
Regular Communication: How Often is Healthy?
Frequent communication leaves less room for confusion. It means we won’t have to go back later and ask, “Who’s picking up Johnny?” or “Which one of us is paying for Jenna’s new cheer uniform?”
You may be wondering what regular communication looks like. How often is healthy? Of course, “regular” communication will look different for everyone. What’s healthy for you will be based on what you and your new spouse find most effective and manageable.
Depending on the age of your kids, more or less time spent communicating with your ex will be required. If your kids are younger (in elementary or even middle school), you may need to communicate very frequently. In those early years, there’s always something going on at school, some accidental scratch, a rash, or some other unexpected health concern. It’s essential that we make our ex-spouse aware of these kinds of things soon after they happen. And we definitely want to make sure they’re informed on any school events or special days that our children may want or need them to be a part of. In this case, communication may need to happen twice a week or even every other day. Whatever the established schedule of communication, it’s important to stick to the plan.
As our kids get older, their schedules change and so can our frequency of communication with their biological mom or dad. Our son is an older teenager and does a lot of his own communication. However, as his parents, we make it a point to communicate the more difficult things. Later, we’ll explain why we don’t recommend having your children be the deliverer of any tough news.
Creating Intentionality and Boundaries in Communication
It may not always be pleasant to spend time interacting with your ex-spouse, but it’s a huge opportunity for both blended families to thrive. Intentionality in your communication will also help build trust with your ex-spouse and a feeling of teamwork as co-parents.
Here are a few ways you can become more intentional in your communication with your ex:
● Schedule Quarterly or Semi-Annual Meetings
As the kids’ and adults’ schedules change, things can get more complex. It’s vital to keep everyone on the same page and alert one another of any big, upcoming events that will impact both of your families.
A meeting every three months to discuss events and changes in seasonal schedules can be extremely helpful. It’s an opportunity for both families to discuss things like vacations, practice for the driver’s test, or anything else that will inevitably affect everyone.
Look at the season you’re in and give one another enough notice to plan and prepare accordingly. An ex-spouse may have to take time off from work or save financially so they can attend an event. Give them enough time to do so by making them aware as soon as possible. This will mean less opportunity for the enemy to sew any seeds of discontent with confusion or disruption. Giving your ex-spouse and his or her family the courtesy of timely communication is not only honoring them but God as well.
● Use Technology as a Tool or a Buffer
When relations with your ex-spouse are strained, using an app to help facilitate communication can be a lifesaver. Even if your relationship with your ex-spouse is great, a shared digital calendar can be a huge asset to both families. Being able to see upcoming vacations or sporting events will help everyone get a jump on their schedules.
There are also text-based communication apps that allow multiple people to participate in a conversation thread. A few of the tools we recommend are MyFamilyWizard.com and TheFamilyCore.com. These digital tools will allow you to share anything from needed financial info to doctor’s receipts.
If you have an ex-spouse who’s averse to digital communication, we recommend doing your part anyway. Let them know that you’ll be logging into the app to share information and that you’ll use it to update them regularly. Utilizing technology this way can be especially useful in highly contentious relationships where having a record of communication is important.
Be diligent and stay the course, even if it doesn’t seem to be wanted or appreciated. God will see your desire to do right by your children and He will bless your obedience.
● Our Children are Not Middlemen
We mentioned earlier that our teenage son communicates some things to his biological dad now that we wouldn’t have asked him to do a child. But we never ever ask him to bear the burden of harder conversations.
Our kids are meant to be kids — even if they’re older. It’s not their job to carry the weight of adult conversations or to be the messenger of information that may be difficult for their parents (biological or step) to hear. Don’t make your kids be the messenger of news that may be a trigger for your ex-spouse. It’s not fair, and it’s not their job.
God entrusted parents with the task of rearing their children. That means the responsibility of navigating divorce and blended family communication falls to the adults, not the kids — even if they’re older kids.
Great Communication is Possible with God
For a lot of biological parents, there is a fear that comes with not having their children with them 24/7. Look at your communication with that parent as an olive branch. It’s an opportunity to ease their fears and build ever-growing levels of trust.
Decide today to be intentional about your communication with your ex-spouse. Your blended family will be better for it, and your relationship with your ex-spouse and their family will feel less adversarial.
With God’s help, the feeling of being a part of a co-parenting team can develop. But it takes work and prayer. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is use our quiet time with the Lord to talk about the challenges with our ex-spouse, but praying for your ex means praying for your child and your own heart. God will be faithful to heal wounds as you stay diligent in communicating well with your ex-spouse.
Developing Great Communication with your Ex-Spouse is Quite Easy!
Scott and Vanessa Martindale
Founders of Blended Kingdom Families