Most people understand that divorce takes a toll on the finances and emotions of a family. However, some may not realize the burden a divorce can place on communication between family members, includ ing communication between former spouses and between parents and children. By following a few simple tips, everyone can improve communication and help redefine and heal relationships after a divorce.
Communication between former spouses
Continuing to have civil communication with a former spouse can be challenging for some. However, if children are involved, civil communication is essential to co-parenting effectively and to children's emotional health and relationships with their parents. In general, flexibility and cooperation should be common themes in communication among co-parenting former spouses.
During divorce proceedings, co-parenting former spouses need to set up expectations and boundaries for communication and compromise when there is disagreement on how frequently communication should occur. It may be helpful to schedule communication on a regular basis through email, by phone or in person.
Co-parenting former spouses can nip arguments about visitation in the bud by discussing changes in a visitation schedule or logistics ahead of time. For example, if one spouse knows he or she will not be able to pick the kids up as usual, that spouse should call or email the other parent to arrange an alternate plan.
If there is acrimony between former spouses, it may be helpful to think of the partnership as a business relationship, rather than a personal one. In this case, the business is raising children while modeling how responsible adults handle difficult situations. With this in mind, parents should never use their children as their messengers or otherwise put children in the middle of adult problems.
Lastly, never argue with an ex-spouse or put down a former spouse in front of children. Remember that children love both their parents and hearing put-downs about either of them has a negative emotional impact.
Communication between parents and children
Once co-parenting former spouses have established a plan for communication between each other, it is time to consider how each will effectively communicate with their children after divorce. Divorce divides a household in two, and often one parent will not have consistent, daily contact with his or her children anymore. This unique situation requires extra effort be put towards effective communication.
Immediately following a divorce, both parents must remember that children often speak more with their actions than with their words to communicate their emotions. Anger, sadness and hurt feelings often show up in behavior rather than words. Parents should look out for changes in children's behavior and use these changes as a way to start a conversation with their children.
When talking with kids, get on their level and encourage sharing by being attentive and available to children. Refrain from including other people in a conversation with a child unless the child wants to include them. This reinforces that a parent is a safe person in which to confide.
Children can become upset about something that can seem trivial or silly to adults. In these cases, it is important that parents do not giggle or dismiss a child's feelings. Instead, try to match the level of seriousness the child is taking with the issue.
Remember that healthy communication between a parent and child leads to healthy communication throughout a child's life and into adulthood.
When they decide to co-parent, former spouses are making a decision to come together as a team to raise their children. Though it may be difficult, co-parenting often leads to happier children who feel supported and loved. To learn more about successful co-parenting and how to effectively communicate following divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney.