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Intentional Conversations

It is very important for parents who have divorced to continue to have intentional conversations with each other about the ongoing needs of the children.  You may have divorced as lovers, partners, spouses, however you have not divorced as parents.  Mom and Dad remain Mom and Dad long after the divorce.  In fact, Mom and Dad remain Mom and Dad for the rest of their lives.

Co- parents have good intentions however sometimes they let their emotions get in the way of discussing what is most important to them.  It is very easy when talking about the children, especially post divorce, to allow yourself to resurrect old conversations or arguments that were never resolved.  Unfortunately reliving those old arguments serve no purpose in co-parenting children post divorce.

Most co-parents enter conversations about the children when it’s the worst time to do so.  Conversations begin when one parent is upset at the other or at the children for something done or heard in regard to the other household.  And unfortunately some of those arguments end up taking place in front of the children at exchanges.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review called Difficult Conversations; Nine Common Mistakes, Sarah Green identifies mistakes that can lead to the failure of important and necessary conversations;

  1. Falling into combat mentality
  2. Trying to oversimplify the problem
  3. Not bringing enough respect to the conversation
  4. Lashing out or shutting down
  5. Reacting to thwarting ploys (crying, shouting, silence, threatening, lying, accusing, taking offense)
  6. Getting hooked
  7. Rehearsing
  8. Making assumptions about our counterparts intentions
  9. Losing sight of the goal

So how do co parents manage difficult conversations about the children? By being intentional about their conversations;  Here are 5 tips for having intentional conversations;

  1. Be goal specific.  Ask yourself, “What is the one goal I have for this conversation?” and stick to reaching that one goal. You don’t have to solve all of the co-parenting issues that are currently going on in one conversation.
  2.  Schedule a time for the conversation.  Not during exchanges, not while you or the other parent are at work and certainly, not where the children can hear and or witness the conversation.  Venues for the conversation can be in person at a neutral public location, can take place by phone or with the assistance of someone that specializes in co-parent communication.
  3. Keep the conversation brief.  Set a time limit.  Give yourselves fifteen to thirty minutes to discuss a topic and see if you can come to a resolution.  If not, agree to another time to revisit in a couple of days.
  4. One issue at a time; there is no need to try and cover every issue in one conversation.  Stay topic specific- if you started the conversation about transportation to soccer, keep the conversation on that topic
  5. End the conversation before it gets heated.  If you see that the conversation is not going well, end it before the argument starts and agree to revisit it within a day or two

The important thing to remember is that you didn’t come from the womb knowing how to be a good communicator.  It takes time, practice and failures to have successful conversations with your children’s other parent; Especially post divorce.  Seek professional help for you and your co-parent should you continue having difficulties with parenting conversations.  There are Parenting Coordinators, Parenting Facilitators, Co-Parenting Coaches, Therapists and/ or Social Workers in every state who specialize in post divorce co-parenting communication.

In addition, there are many books out there that speak to the subject of communication that will assist in co-parenting post divorce; Here are two suggested readings-  “Difficult Conversations; How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen“Crucial Conversations; Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High”  by  Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler



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