Let me ask you, do you believe in the power of words?
Your words have the power to transform your circumstances. Or keep you stuck. It all depends on how you choose to see things.
What if you saw things differently?
Recently, I’ve had many clients ask how to communicate messages clearly to their child’s other parent. They worry that their message is too emotional or unclear and they don’t want it to escalate into conflict or result in calls to lawyers and court dates. I have received so many calls and emails in fact, that I’m now starting a “Dear Anna” section in my blog and launching a hotline for parents who need immediate support or help on their urgent questions.
Written or verbal, it can be challenging to communicate effectively with our child’s other parent. I often hear things like, “Oh, I know how he/she thinks” or “He/she is giving me an order and I don’t like that” or “He/she will understand what I’m trying to say.”
Eh, not so.
What if, instead, you say “goodbye” to your closed mind and “hello” to an open heart? What if you shift your perspective to see things differently, so that you can say things differently? What if you pretend you are speaking to someone you don’t know, someone with whom there is no previous baggage?
Regardless of anything else, you are still parents with the goal of raising well-adjusted, resilient and resourceful children, from little ones to young adults, in a two-home family. Choose to see that and only that. Choose to focus on your child’s wellbeing.
This mindset will help you communicate messages with a pleasant tone and appropriate word choice, to keep it brief, informative, precise and well-organized. Most importantly, you’ll be staying in the present moment, on topic and contributing to an environment of collaboration.
The Root of Healthy Communication
Healthy communication originates from, and is guided by, respect and civility. (See back to imagining they are a stranger.) Now, that’s easier said than done, I know it and so do you. But easy or not, it is so worth the effort. What does respectful and civil communication look like in an email to achieve collaboration? Here are some tips:
- In an email or text, start with a subject line like “Updates” or “Transition”. Simple and to the point.
- Start your message with a simple, civil “Hello”.
- In the body of your message, convey necessary information, nothing else, use point form and subject topics. See below for an example of update between two co-parents.
Health: I gave Christine Tylenol every 4 hours this weekend she had a fever. Last dose was at 12:00 this morning. She seems over it and doing fine now.
Appts: I scheduled her next doctor apt on my time – no worries – in two weeks (specify the date) you are welcome to join us if you’d like
School: John has school pictures on Wednesday; just a reminder the flyer is in his backpack. He’ll need a separate check from you. I ordered the B grouping: my check in the envelope – so I’m covered.
Additional info: Both kids seem to be doing ok with getting up earlier with alarms. Hard to let go of summer sleep-ins.
Lastly, Sophia came home from hanging with Lisa, and they’ve both decided to become vegans – good luck with that. I’ll see the kids Friday after school. Thanks.
What can we learn from this?
When there is a lot of information to share, it can get confusing and messages can lack clarity. That’s when misunderstandings and conflict arise. Instead:
- Focus on being informative, brief, precise and conveying what is really required to be passed on to the other parent.
- Strive for clarity. Point form is so helpful for this!
- Stay in the present moment.
- Keep your wording civil and respectful.
In conveying information clearly, the other parent does not feel that he/she has been left out of their child’s life, and they have everything they need to ensure your shared child’s needs are met.
To see how this works in action check out my new Dear Anna case studies where you can find an example of emails I worked on recently with clients (names and places changed to protect privacy).
Anna seeks to inspire and elevate co-parents to live a harmonious co-parenting lifestyle. She shows co-parents how a positive mindset and simple acts of kindness can transform the future of the entire family.
Anna is an online Co-Parenting coach and a first-person advocate for Co-Parenting in Harmony. She is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner in Co-Parenting and a 2x international bestselling author of Co-Parenting in Harmony©: Creating A Ripple Effectand co-author of Co-Parenting in Harmony©: The Art of Putting Your Child’s Soul First. To learn more about Anna’s work, check out her e-book on how to co-parent in harmony with your ex-spouse or book a hotline call with her here.