Hack #1: In weekly e-mails, use HEART
Post divorce, many parents can find it difficult to communicate. Lingering anger and raw emotion can remain a roadblock, even when it comes to discussing the children you both love. While going through her divorce and co-parenting with her ex afterward, Monique Honaman made it her mantra to “always take the high road,” and found a strategy that worked for her:
“It’s often easier, and much less emotional to correspond using email. I encourage both parents to agree to use email when discussing the children and encourage a weekly email to summarize any new and/or important information that the other parent needs to know. By categorizing it into 5 sections, all important information is covered, questions can be answered, and no parent can accuse the other of keeping them in the dark about the kids.”
To do this, Monique encourages people to use HEART, which stands for Health, Education, Activities, Religion, Talk.
“Using HEART, an email may provide an H update on the child’s visit to the doctor that week and a reminder that an antibiotic needs to be taken before bedtime; an E update on the fact that the child has a big math test to study for; an A update that baseball practice starts this week every evening and cleats needs to be purchased, an R update that the Sunday School picnic is this weekend and after school confirmation class is Wednesday night, and a T update for anything else that has happened this week that the other parent needs to know about (e.g, bullying at school, tears over the divorce, best friend got mad, not invited to a party, etc.).
“Using HEART, parents can avoid blame, anger, emotion, and simply focus on ensuring that they are co-parenting their children to the best of their abilities.”
Monique Honaman is the author of The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce and The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view. Learn more at www.highroadlesstraffic.com.
Hack #2: Question yourself
Rosalind Sedacca is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a divorce and parenting coach and author of several books and programs on divorce and parenting issues. As you navigate the often choppy waters of co-parenting, she encourages you to ask yourself two questions when things get difficult:
Do I love my kids more than I dislike my ex? “It’s your responsibility to be a role model for your children. Keep that in mind for every decision you make,” says Rosalind.
Would I still be making the same parenting decision if we were still married? “If you’re changing your behavior to get back at or hurt your co-parent, your children pay the price,” Rosalind reminds.
Learn more about Rosalind Sedacca and browse her e-books, podcast and other resources at www.childcentereddivorce.com.
Hack #3: Commit to your kids with the help of a pro
Jennifer Beeston and her ex engaged in an unpleasant divorce, but remained committed to raising their son. They sought help to get past the anger and to focus on co-parenting their son the best way possible – and the results paid off.
“I was divorced 5 years ago and the divorce was less then pretty. Now my ex and I co-parent together better than we did when we were married. Initially after the divorce we went to co-parenting sessions for about 6 months. It was a great place for us to vent and work through the anger so that we could move past the hurt of the divorce and onto what is important which is providing the best life possible for our son. Those 6 months were the best investment I ever made. We now support each other and provide a united front to our son which has helped him stay a happy kid. A good co-parenting counselor can make all the difference in the world,” said Jennifer.
Hack #4: Compartmentalize your communication
Barbara Winter, PhD, has been practicing psychology for 30 years and specializes in divorce recovery. She is also a parenting coordinator. When advising a client on co-parenting in a non-friendly, non-cooperative post-separation/divorce situation, she suggests that parents:
Set up a dedicated e-mail box for your ex. This helps to compartmentalize things. You can open the e-mail account or folder when you are in the right place to take it in and craft a healthy, useful and productive response vs a reactive impulsive response that could be potentially destructive. It also provides an email trail since it should ever be needed for court and/or to simply scroll back for any misread and/or misinterpreted clarification.
Use text messages only for urgent issues. This should be defined by you and your ex, because these days “urgent” might be defined as anything that needs action within, say, 3-5 hours. But this is also a function of how often you and your ex check your phones. “Urgent” might be: Johnny forgot his cleats at home. Can you please swing by the school before 2 and drop them in the front office?
Stick to the facts. Use friendly, factual language that is direct, without extraneous emotional tone or distractions.
Learn more about Dr. Barbara Winter and her work at www.drbarbarawinter.com.
Hack #5: Stay “app-y” with the help of tech tools
This handy list of tools from ivemovedon.com will help you automate child support, organize custody visits between mom, dad and other family members, track expenses and maintain a database of contacts important in your child’s life (from the pediatrician to the softball coach to their best friend’s parents and more).
For more co-parenting advice and divorce tips, follow Erin Levine on Twitter at @HelloDivorce.