As a separated parent, one of your biggest challenges will be to put aside your feelings about your ex to focus on your child.
This is not an easy thing to do. It can take a long time to adjust to the end of a romantic relationship. When you have children together, you’ll need to renegotiate the terms of your relationship entirely. You're no longer partners, but you will still need to work together to raise the children.
Although your conversations may be focused more on practicalities, it’s still important to share the positives of being parents. Look for opportunities to talk about your children's successes and try to appreciate what their other parent does for them – staying positive can help you keep the dialogue open.
If your ex is making communication difficult it is easy for bad feelings and behaviour to escalate. While you may not be able to control your ex’s behaviour, you do have power over your own, and can at least try to be a positive influence. Your ex may just be going through a tough patch. Keep sticking to your goal of focusing on the children's needs and stay patient, and you'll stand a better chance of getting through it without doing too much damage to your co-parenting relationship.
Try to agree to keep the co-parenting conversations separate from all other discussions, for example, about the house or money. These are important issues so you will need to make sure they are being dealt with somewhere else.
If face-to-face conversation is too hard for the moment, you might find using text or email easier. Just bear in mind that tone of voice and body language can affect how people respond to communication. The absence of these cues means that messages can be misinterpreted, so pay attention to how you phrase things, and give your ex the benefit of the doubt.
If you need to raise something difficult, let the other parent know you would like to talk and then agree a convenient time and place. Set an agenda so there are no surprises and you can both be prepared. Agreeing to meet in a public place can ensure you both behave civilly, and it also takes you out of the children’s environment.
To keep your communication at its most effective, consider having regular meetings to review:
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.