Tips: communication for separated parents

Things may not always go smoothly when co-parenting with your ex-partner. It helps to be clear about what your most important goals are for the future. Here are two that you might want to consider:

  1. To commit to supporting your children in having a free and uncomplicated relationship with the other parent.
  2. To keep whatever feelings you have about each other separate from your co-parenting relationship.

These principles can serve as foundations for everything you do as co-parents. You may want to personalise them and add your own details, or use our free online parenting plan template to agree on some shared commitments.

Parents’ communication post-separation

Having blocks of time when you do not see your children means both of you will miss out on some of the things your children are doing. It’s important to remember that children notice if one parent isn’t aware of things that are important to them – things like a school project, a lost toy or a fall from a bike. It’s not realistic to expect to have a full report of everything that happens to the children, but you should try to aim for regular updates to keep everyone involved. When you are co-parenting, communication has to become a more deliberate and thoughtful exercise than it was before.

It's important for both parents to be a vital link between the children’s day-to-day life and their other parent. The more you pass on, the easier the transition will be for the children going between the two homes. It’s up to you to take an active interest in all aspects of the children’s lives. Don’t leave it all to your ex to keep you updated with the children’s news – ask how they are getting on, what they’ve been up to, and when the next parent’s evening is.

Children feel secure and cared for when parents communicate clearly. Don’t leave it to the children to pass on their news and never ask children to communicate with their other parent on your behalf.

You might find it impossible to imagine talking frequently and easily with your ex about the children. Some parents fall into conversation quite easily after separation but, for others, it can take years to feel OK. Take small steps and accept that it might take some time to get it right.

When communication is difficult

Communication can be difficult because:

  • You feel too anxious, angry, or upset to speak to the other parent.
  • You always end up arguing – it’s easier to not talk at all.
  • The other parent refuses to speak to you.
  • You feel the other parent is more powerful than you.
  • You simply don’t like the other parent.
  • You struggled to communicate even when you were together.
Why it’s worth the effort

If you don't find a way of communicating with your ex that works for you both, it's going to be hard on everyone – the children will miss out and you could end up dreading every conversation with your child’s other parent. Children's needs change as they grow older; your life will change too - it’s important that you can sit down together and talk about how these changes will affect you. You might find it helpful to complete an online Parenting Plan together. Keeping the dialogue open and developing some good will makes the difficult conversations that much easier. Mediation could be helpful in developing a dialogue. Furthermore, there is some helpful online training that you can do, by completing the Getting it Right for Children activity.