In the beginning stages you may have very strong feelings about the divorce and each other. When those feelings are overwhelming, avoid the temptation to share your perspective about the divorce or the other parent with your children. Remember children literally view themselves as half Mom and half Dad. Keep in mind your children deserves the opportunity to have a positive supportive and loving relationship with both of their parents.
While your relationship with your partner or spouse has ended, your role as Mom and Dad has not. For many parents, it is helpful especially in the early stages of separation or divorce, to handle issues with a business-like attitude. Avoid conversations that address old issues, personal information or encourage conflict. If you are having difficulty separating your emotions from the situation or person, ask yourself how you would handle a similar situation with a fellow co-worker. Sometimes it may be helpful to think about how you would want the situation handled if the roles were reversed.
Change your expectations
Following divorce, some parents try to control one another by resorting to manipulation, confrontation and bad mouthing. Don’t put energy into trying to control your ex or the situation. The most you can do is be the best parent you can be and strive to influence your children in a nurturing, supportive way.
Address the issues
Find some way to address your issues related to the divorce instead of hanging onto the anger and hurt. Dealing with your own feelings will also help you to be less reactive when issues arise involving your children or your ex. Remember, moving forward is important for both you and your children. If you are having difficulty doing so, find some help.
Address the other parent in a respectful manner
While you may not have a tremendous amount of respect for your ex-spouse as a person, you can talk with them respectfully as the parent of your children. When discussing issues or addressing disagreements, avoid making personal attacks including statements that judge, criticize or assign blame to one another.
Practice restraint and avoid reacting when angry
Try to listen to each other’s opinions and ideas before responding. If something said by the other parent stirs up strong feelings, try not to act on your immediate reaction. If necessary, ask to table the discussion and give yourself time to think things over.
Give the other parent notice regarding issues.
Rather than springing an issue or discussion on the other parent, it may be more helpful to let them know beforehand that you want to discuss something using a short voicemail or email. Whether contact is made by telephone or in person, before launching into a discussion consider asking, “Is this a good time to talk?” If not, ask to schedule a time that is mutually convenient.
Avoid using pick up or drop off times to discuss issues with the other parent.
While it may seem more convenient to discuss arrangements while exchanging the children, pick up and drop off times are often emotionally charged for both children and parents. If you have something you need to share or discuss, it may be best to make a phone call, write a short letter to hand to the other parent or ask to schedule a time when you can talk with them. If meeting face-to-face is necessary, consider holding discussions in a neutral setting. Meeting in a public place can sometimes be more productive for parents than sitting at the kitchen table. Places like a local coffee shop or restaurant may also reduce the likelihood that things will get heated or out of hand.
Do not have heated arguments or discussions in front of your children
Parent conflict is one of the most damaging aspects of divorce for children. Therefore, do not involve your children in an argument between the two of you. Also consider the best times to arrange telephone conversations with the other parent and make sure children will not be able to listen in.
Follow up all agreements or details of conversations in writing.
If you and the other parent have made a change in plans or come to an agreement involving the children, follow it up in writing. It is not uncommon for parents to walk away with different understandings of what was said or agreed. Written follow up will help minimize misunderstandings.