Communicating on a regular basis with a former spouse/partner can be very difficult. How easy it is for written communication to be misunderstood, and devolve into conflict and hurt (intended or not!). Your knee-jerk reaction is to shoot back: defending, clarifying … reacting from your own upset, and now fueling a fire you wish would simply die out.
“Why does he/she DO THIS to me???”
Separating the reactivity and feelings related to a former intimate/marital relationship from the skills and communication needs as a co-parent – for a relationship that remains specifically to take good care of your children – is a skill, and requires diligence and maturity.
Children benefit when their parents can return to being just-loving-parents without the noise, confusion, conflict, and enmity related to the divorce/separation.
Email is a useful and common form of communication for co-parents. So, how do we ensure that we’re using email constructively? What email guidelines help co-parents stay focused on their goal: raising healthy, resilient, and resourceful kids? Let’s take a look:
- In your kids’ best interest: remember, you’re writing/speaking to your children’s other parent, not your ex-partner. No judgmental commentary, blaming, cajoling, threats or other irrelevant information.
- Pleasant tone (you’d use that very same tone to your boss).
- Appropriate word choice (this is not the time for four-letters or other expletives).
- Judiciously use ALL CAPS for highlighting and ease of reading—not for shouting at the reader.
- Be brief, informative, well-organized, constructive, and child-centered.
- Use the subject line of an email effectively.
- Emails generally should not exceed 250 words with the exception of transition emails, which may include additional overview information to help your co-parent come up-to-speed on pertinent child-related changes/news that transpired during your residential time.
- Be thoughtful about how many communications you send; repetitive emails (or texts) are intrusive and ineffective. Consider “banking” emails and agree to exchanging information once or twice weekly…just enough to be good co-parents.
- Respond in a timely manner to appropriate communications received, even if all you say is, “Got it. Will get back to you tomorrow” or whenever is appropriate and possible.
- Ignore unproductive emails. Think of any response to negative/unproductive/non child-centered communication as kindling on a fire that is destructive and needs to die-out. Don’t feed the fire.
You follow these guidelines for your children – not for your former partner.
Please remember that one half of your children’s hearts belong to their other parent and one half of their hearts belongs to you. When the two of you are at war with each other, negative about each other, or creating conflict or hurt with each other whether limited to email or openly at a school open-house – your children’s hearts suffer.