Part 1 – A situation going badly
The skills from the STOP section helped you prepare for difficult conversations. At this stage, TALK IT OUT, we take a look at how you can use these skills to help conversations go more smoothly.
You've just seen a situation going badly. Here are ways in which Emily and Jordan have been put in the middle:
Judge: when you criticise or blame your ex in front of your children, they may feel confused. Children cannot be expected to judge who is right and who is wrong – they don’t like having to choose and shouldn’t have to stick up for either of you.
Messenger: parents often use their children to pass on information about money or arrangements. Being a messenger between parents can make children feel caught in the middle.
Witness: seeing or hearing conflict between parents is very stressful for children. They may worry that if you can stop loving each other, you might stop loving them too.
Reward and punishment: spending time with either parent should never be treated as a reward or punishment. As long it’s safe, children do better when they continue to have a relationship with both parents.
When you need to talk something out, it can be helpful to keep things simple, focus on the most important point, and try to be polite.
Speaking for yourself
Does talking to your ex make you angry? Sometimes, it can feel like you're being blamed for everything: “You do this, you do that, you're a rubbish parent!”. You can’t change what gets said to you, but you can help keep things calm by voicing your own thoughts in a less confrontational way.
When you want to talk about how you feel, it can be helpful to phrase it in the form of an ‘I’ statement. This involves stating what you feel and what you need. Try filling in the gaps with something you’d like to tell your child’s other parent:
I feel _________ when you _________ because _________. What I need is _________.
Being clear and sticking to the rules
Do your discussions tend to move from a question about why your child hasn't done their homework to a shouting match about who is to blame for everything that's ever gone wrong? Keep things simple, and stick to one point at a time – you’re far more likely to be heard.