Sound familiar? I hear this comment on a regular basis. It seems counter intuitive to ask that a couple going through a divorce, sometimes a contested and harsh divorce, do the unthinkable – talk to one another. But that’s exactly what I ask of my clients. You see, communication between a couple with children is not about the couple. It’s all about the child. It’s about stability. It’s about working together for the sake of the child.
Children need to see a unified front. They need to know that the parents talk to each other and work together to raise them, even after divorce.. They need to know that parents cannot be played one against the other, particularly after the separation. Children are quick learners and can sense when it’s time to work Mom against Dad to get those concert tickets or the right to drive the car. Believe it or not, it starts much earlier than that. Children are observers. A child can begin to see patterns from a very young age and will learn that Mom will respond quickly, for example, if the child screams long enough but Dad will not. They can see when they don’t have success with one parent for a particular issue that they may get a different result if they approach the other
Children need stability. They need to know that mom and dad BOTH care and love them, even when they live in different houses or in different states. They need to know that the divorce is not their fault and that they are not going to be wrapped up in the fighting. They need to know that the parents talk to each other and work together to raise them to provide a strong support system in place for them. Children need to know that they have two parents that love them and that despite their own differences, they will always be there, together, to love, support and help them through life.
That’s why I tell my clients that you need to talk to the other parent. You don’t have to be best friends. You should be able to communicate enough to find out how the child is doing in school and any issues or adjustment problems at home.
So what about the new friend, significant other or spouse? As painful as it may be, you need to get to know that new spouse. Why? Your child will spend time around him or her. You need to at least know a small amount about the person and you should speak to him or her enough to do pickups or drop offs for visitation. That allows you to observe your child in the person’s presence and more importantly, for the child to see that the two of you are friendly enough and that you communicate. That provides both the unified front and the stability that I mentioned earlier.
Communication during divorce may not be easy in the beginning. It will get easier as time goes by and the wounds begin to heal. Always keep your children in the forefront of your mind and that will help you talk to the other parent when necessary.
Need advice on a divorce or other related issue? Contact me and we can sit down and go through your issues personally to see what works.