By the time you’re done with your divorce, you usually want to be done with your ex, too. Unfortunately, if you have kids together, talking to your ex is not optional. You’re going to have to talk to your ex about schedules, money, parenting issues, and more. What’s more, you’re going to have to talk to your ex until your kids are at least 18.
If you and your ex managed to make it through your divorce relatively amicably, talking to your ex about the kids may not be a problem. But, if your divorce was more contentious, you’d probably rather have a root canal without anesthetic than have to spend time talking to your ex about anything.
The good news is that, in time, most parents usually find a way to communicate with each other that is at least politely civilized. They may not be best friends, but at least they’re not screaming profanities at each other in the school parking lot.
Until you get to that point, though, how can you talk to your ex without starting a war or driving yourself to drink?
How to Talk to Your Ex About the Kids
While dealing with your ex about the kids, or anything else for that matter, may never make it to your top ten list of favorite things to do, there are some ways you can make it less miserable. Here are 10 tips for how to talk to your ex about the kids (without making yourself crazy!).
Limit Your Conversations to Kid Stuff.
Resist the urge to talk about anything that does not directly relate to the kids. That means that conversations about who your ex is dating or what s/he is doing when the kids aren’t around are strictly off limits. Your ex’s life is no longer your business. If your ex tries to ask you personal questions, have a firm, polite response ready. You could say,” Let’s just talk about the kids.” Or, “I’d rather not go there, okay?” (HINT: “It’s none of your damned business, you jerk” might get your point across, but it is NOT polite!)
Keep it Short.
Say what you have to say, then stop. Period. The less you ramble on, the lower the chances are that you will get sucked into having the same argument you had a thousand times while you were married (or some variation of it.) Also, the more you ramble, the easier it is to over-share things with your ex that are no longer his/her business.
Don’t Take Cheap Shots.
Rude remarks about your ex’s appearance, lifestyle, or finances will not help you build a good co-parenting relationship. Comments about your ex’s new significant other are also off limits. It doesn’t matter what your ex is doing or who s/he is sleeping with. If you want to make your life easier, and do what’s best for your kids, bite your tongue and only talk about your kids. (See Tip #1.)
Don’t Have Conversations When You’re Tired.
It’s tough enough to have a civilized conversation with your ex when you’re on top of your game. Talking with him/her when you’re tired or upset is only inviting disaster. That’s especially true if you’re talking about anything that is the least bit sensitive or controversial. Do your best to schedule conversations with your ex when you have the energy to think clearly and keep your emotions in check.
Set Your Boundaries in Advance.
It’s hard to think under pressure. If your ex has a tendency to walk into your home uninvited, or to push you to change your parenting schedule on a moment’s notice, think about how you want to respond before you actually have to do so. Take some time to decide what works for you, and what doesn’t. Set your boundaries and think of how you will respond when your ex tries to push them. Then, when you’re in the heat of the moment, you’ll be better able to stick to your guns.
Don’t Tell Your Ex How to Parent.
Unless your ex is doing something that is illegal or dangerous, s/he has a right to parent your kids the way s/he wants. It doesn’t matter that you don’t agree. (Sorry!) It doesn’t matter if your way is better. It doesn’t even matter if your kids like your way more. (Although, you might want to consider that your kids might be telling both you and your ex different things, depending upon what they think each of you wants to hear!) Both you and your ex have a right to parent in your own way. Trying to make your ex conform to your parenting style is only going to cause more friction between you.
Ditch the Blame.
Blame is a toxic emotion. Blaming your ex for every horrible thing that has ever happened (especially things that happened before you divorced) will not improve your relationship. It will not help you solve any issues you may have with your kids. (Although it could create a few issues if you’re not careful!) If you want to have a civilized relationship with your ex, and a much happier life yourself, ditch the blame and let go of your anger. Not only will dealing with your ex become way easier, but you’ll feel a lot better, too.
Treat Your Ex Like a Human.
No matter what your ex has or hasn’t done to you or the kids, s/he is still a human being. S/he is still your children’s other parent. Treating your ex like pond scum is not going to make your relationship better or your communication easier. If you want to make it easier to talk to your ex, try treating him/her with respect. Do it even if s/he doesn’t deserve it, and even if s/he still treats you like dirt. In the end, how you act isn’t about your ex anyway. It’s about you.
If You Can’t Have a Civilized Conversation, Use Text or Email.
Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, you and your ex just can’t have a normal conversation. Whenever you talk, you end up arguing. Whenever you see each other, your blood boils. If that’s the situation you’re in – stop talking to your ex face to face! Limit yourself to communicating via text or email. Not only will doing that encourage you to keep your conversations short, but it will also provide a “paper trail” of everything each of you says. That alone may help calm things down.
If Texts and Emails Don’t Work, Use an App.
There are a lot of parenting apps on the market these days that are amazing! Through these apps you can contact your ex in emails that can’t be deleted or changed after they’re sent. The apps also have calendars where you can keep your kids’ schedules. That will minimize the back-and-forth conversations about where the kids have to be on any given day and time. Some of the apps also allow you to keep track of your kids’ expenses, so that you minimize arguments over who paid for what or how much money you owe each other.
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