1. Whenever possible, communicate in writing. Writing gives you the opportunity to clarify your thoughts and express yourself clearly. Also, in the event of a misunderstanding, everyone can go back and look at what is written. E-mails and faxes have the advantage of having a date and time embedded as well.
2. Stick to child-focused issues and keep your communication informative, not emotional.
3. Keep your communication clear. Use bullet points or numbers rather than paragraphs.
4. If an item requires a response, indicate when the response is necessary. Also state what action will be taken in the event the other parent does not respond. For example: Our son’s class trip is on (date) and the cost is ($X). The permission slip is due on (date). Please let me know by (date) if this is OK with you. If I don’t hear from you, I will sign the permission slip and you and I will split the cost.
5. Do not use your communication as an opportunity to re-hash your feelings about the subjects you are writing about. Remember – this is business communication about your children.
6. Divide your writing into sections such as “old business,” “new business” and “FYI.”
7. Respond to communication from your child’s other parent as you would like to have them respond to you. Be prompt and businesslike.
8. Use e-mail (and all written communication) courteously. Do not write entirely in capital letters. Do not use boldface type. Do not use extremely large type. Do not use exclamation points. Stay away from sarcasm. No name-calling or bad language at any time.
9. Take the initiative so neither parent becomes the “communication liaison.” Children’s schools, day care providers, extracurricular activity providers, etc. should have contact information for both parents. Each parent should receive notices from these sources. If that is not happening, the parent who is not receiving the information can provide their contact information and get on the distribution list.
10. Look into online programs such as OurFamilyWizard and ShareKids for calendaring and communication. These programs are designed especially for divorced parents.
How can divorced parents find the strength to “take the high road” time after time and communicate calmly and effectively with their child’s other parent? Always remember that a child’s wellbeing depends on what their parents do and how they do it. It takes work to compartmentalize emotions and put the needs of children first, but it is possible and it is important. Successful communication strategies and techniques are great additions to the post-divorce parenting toolkit.