Last week, I wrote about what to communicate about with your ex. You can read that here. This week, the focus is not on what to communicate about, but how to communicate, especially when your ex refuses to communicate with you.
First, decide on a method.
If you don’t know me, you wouldn’t know that I always recommend keeping communication in writing. That’s not to say that I think it should be silent during pick-ups and drop-offs or at kid’s events. It simply means that when it comes to decision-making for your children, keeping it in writing protects both of you. The downside of communicating in writing is there’s room for misinterpretation, but I discuss how to avoid this and how to overcome it in the Co-Parenting Course.
If you have an ex who refuses to put things in writing, it may be harder, but not impossible to overcome. In an effort to keep co-parenting moving forward, and to show your willingness to compromise; it may be ok to discuss these decisions in person or over the phone as long as you document it afterwards. Sending a text or an email letting the other person know that you simply want to recap your conversation keeps everything in writing. Let them know that this is what you got out of the conversation and would love to know if they are on the same page as you.
Filter out what’s not needed.
Once you’re communicating, hopefully in writing, you may get messages filled with attacks, accusations, and/or demands. At that point, it becomes your job to look for anything worth responding to. If you get a 2 page email and 1 ½ of those pages are attacks on you as a person and you as a parent, unless it has to do with the safety of your children, it’s not worth jumping into that cycle. Pull out what needs to be taken care of and let the rest go. Here’s an example of how this works:
You never do his homework. All you care about is having fun with him. You’ve never been responsible and you clearly never will be. I’m tired of having to clean up your messes. If you would just do his homework with him on your nights, his grades wouldn’t be what they are and we wouldn’t have to have another parent/teacher conference.
There’s a lot going on there. Hopefully this doesn’t look familiar to you, but if it does, it’s your job to find what’s worth responding to: grades. You then get to respond in a positive way rather than jumping into a cycle of attacking each other.
When it comes to YOUR communication:
Make it brief
Make it positive
Listen to their side (filtering out the negative)
Be willing to compromise
Timelines and making them work
There’s nothing more peaceful or more frustrating than silence from an ex. You do not need to contact or discuss everything with them, but there are times when you need an answer and may not be getting one. In these cases, you can still be positive and give a timeline. For example, if your child is asking to sign up for an extracurricular activity, but you’re dealing with an ex who refuses to reply to you, a message like:
“Hey, (child) wants to get signed up for soccer and I wasn’t sure if they talked to you about it. Here’s the link to the team info, everything you need to know is in there. I’m ok with (child) participating in this as long as grades stay up. Are you ok with participation? I know it may take time to go through the information, so I’ll give until (day) and if I don’t hear, I’ll assume you are on board with it. Thanks.”
Not only is this a positive message, but it ensures you’re not waiting for an answer from someone who does not always answer.
Communication is the toughest issue that co-parents deal with. Comment below with your communication issues.