Getting on the same page with your ex when it comes to parenting can be tricky. When your relationship has historically been contentious, it may seem impossible to even find the same page. Regardless of your feelings toward each other, I bet you can agree that what’s best for your child is what’s most important to both of you. So check your emotional baggage at the gate, and read on for tips to navigate this tricky terrain.
If you’re like most people, you may recognize that doing the same old thing isn’t working, but you continue to fall back into these patterns. Contrary to popular belief, the definition of insanity is not doing the same thing over and again expecting a different result. It is simply human nature. Even when we recognize that what we’re doing isn’t working, we are more likely to employ those same strategies. However, when you notice you and your ex falling back into old, unhealthy patterns of communication, such as these:
- stonewalling or ignoring
- jumping to conclusions
- discounting the positive
It may be time to set some ground rules for communicating important information about your child. This will not only ease both your stress levels and prepare the floor for more effective co-parenting, your child will drastically benefit from having both parents on the same page.
For starters, take a look at your calendar and identify a few times out of your typical week that will be the best for you to speak with your child’s other parent. Ensure that your child will not be able to overhear your conversations. It might be a good idea to set aside time afterwards, too, to decompress, as these conversations might be stressful at times. Plan a half hour or 15 minutes, if you can swing it, to do some self-care after the call or sit-down: do some yoga, go for a run or walk, take a shower, weed the garden, read a book, whatever works for you and will be accessible. Then compare these times with your co-parent, and do your best to make a time work. It’s unlikely that your schedules will magically align, but remember, this is for the great benefit of your child, and eventually, your overall stress-level.
Once you have the time set aside for regular meetings, decide on ground rules for how you will conduct yourselves. These rules can be anything that will help the meeting run smoothly, but make it work for both of you. Here are some suggestions for conducting an effective co-parenting meeting:
- Keep a professional tone. Eliminate emotionally-charged language and tone of voice.
- Stay focused on the here-and-now. Back-tracking through years of history will not change the past. Stick to the facts and work together to identify solutions whenever possible – which brings me to my next point,
- Practice being non-judgmental. Be open and curious to the other’s viewpoint. You might find your exchanges becoming less defensive and more productive.
- Set a time and stick to it. An hour? 30 minutes? Whatever time you decide together to hold your meetings, stick to it. Set a timer if you need to. Enforcing a time will encourage you both to skip the drama and focus on your child’s needs.
- Agree to disagree. It’s going to happen. If you can’t come to a solution on a particular point, agree to table it for future discussion. The more you argue, the less productive your conversation will be and the potential for damage increases. Don’t resist moving onto another topic if you find yourselves sliding into blame or defensiveness. Come back to it later. Say so before moving on, though, so that your co-parent can follow along. Something like, “I don’t think we’re going to solve this right now. Can we come back to it later?” is direct and invites a team decision.
Finally, when one of you breaks these ground rules, which is bound to happen even in the best of times, gently point it out. For instance, “I hear what you’re saying. However, we agreed not to rehash the past. Can we stick to what’s going on today and not blame each other?” If you can’t stick to the rules, agree to end the conversation there, and set another time to discuss it when you can both be in a better mindset to keep the focus solution-oriented toward your child’s best interests.