Communication Protocols

Communication Protocols

In many ways parenting living separately is similar to parenting living together. The ability of parents to communicate effectively is a vital element for successful coparenting. This is especially important for parents who live in separate households. The following ideas can help you you communicate in a constructive manner.

  1. Communication Guidelines
    1. Direct, open communication between parents regarding the children is best.
    2. Be respectful, courteous and responsive.
    3. Focus on the present and future, not the past.
    4. Address one issue at a time.
    5. Make requests, not demands.
    6. Avoid becoming polarized over who is “right” and who is “wrong”.
    7. Listen to, acknowledge and try to understand the other person’s perspective, even though you may not agree.
  2. If you have a concern, issue or decision to discuss, call the other parent. If the parent is not able to talk at that time, schedule a specific time to talk within a mutually agreed upon period of time.
  3. If either parent leaves a voice mail message or sends an e-mail to the other, s/he should clearly state the issue that needs to be discussed and the time frame within which a response is needed.
  4. If either parent leaves a voice mail message or sends an e-mail to the other, the latter parent should respond within a mutually agreed upon period of time.
  5. When one parent makes a request of the other, the latter parent should make every effort to accommodate that request. If you do, you are more likely to get a favorable response when you make a request.
  6. It is important to acknowledge each other for listening to one’s needs and concerns and for responding favorably to any requests.
  7. If the children raise an issue with one parent about the other, encouraged them to talk directly with that other parent. When appropriate, keep each other informed of any such issues.
  8. If the children make statements that raise concerns for either parent, address this with the other parent, being careful not to respond as though what the children said is accurate.
  9. Keep each other informed about significant events in one’s life (job, relationship, house, etc.) of which the children will be aware and/or by which they are effected. It is reassuring to children to know that their parents are communicating with each other.

How to Have a Competent Divorce

How to Have a Competent Divorce


Does the term “competent divorce” sound like an oxymoron? Like “legal brief” or “jumbo shrimp”? We define a competent divorce as one in which the parents communicate and cooperate in a business-like way for the sake of their children.

The following elements are needed in order to have a competent divorce

  • Parents put the children’s needs ahead of their own
  • Parents keep the children out of the middle
  • Parents make sure there is no interruption in parenting
  • Parents work cooperatively
  • Parents relate to each other in a business-like way.

Most everyone has had the experience of successfully doing business with someone they don’t like. The skills and strategies that one uses in order to do so include: 1) sticking to the business at hand; 2) taking one issue at a time; 3) focusing on the present and future, not the past; 4) leaving out the emotions and 5) listening carefully. Even if you don’t particularly like the children’s other parent, you still have to do business together. While you are no longer together as mates, you are partners in the parenting of your children and will be for the rest of your lives. By utilizing the skills and strategies described above, you can maintain at least a business-like relationship with each other.

We encourage you to think about what YOU can do to help create a competent divorce with your children’s other parent.

How To Keep Children Out of The Middle

How To Keep Children Out of The Middle

Research and common sense have come to the same conclusion: Ongoing parental conflict is harmful to children. The impact is even greater when the children are caught in the middle of their parents’ battles. Here are some simple things you can do to help keep your children out of the middle.

Don’t discuss any issues pertaining to the children in front of them or if they are within hearing distance of either parent.

Do discuss child-related issues directly with the other parent and when children are not present and out of earshot.

Don’t ask them to carry or relay messages, verbal or written.

Do talk directly to one another, without using the children to relay messages.

Don’t ask them to play “detective,” meaning don’t use them as a source of information about the other parent’s personal life.

Do obtain information about one another from sources other than the children.

Don’t ask them to keep secrets from the other parent.

Do encourage children to speak freely to both parents.

Don’t respond to their reports of disparaging remarks about you by the other parent to any extent. The less you say, the less you participate in putting them in the middle.

Do resist the urge to respond to their reports of disparaging remarks that the other parent has made about you. Less is more. The less you say the more you help them stay out of the middle.

Don’t discuss any financial or legal matters related to your divorce with the children nor have them read any related documents.

Do keep all discussions of financial and legal matters between adults.

Telling Your Children

 Telling Your Children

Many parents who are in the process of separation and divorce struggle with the questions of how, when and what to say to their children. Here are some guidelines to assist you.
Generally it is best if parents can sit together with their children to tell them about the decision to divorce.   This demonstrates that, while you will no longer be husband and wife, you will still be parents together. Also, everyone is a part of the initial conversation at the same time and, hopefully, hears the same things.
On the other hand, if parents cannot have this conversation together with their children in a manner that meets the children’s needs for assurance and empathy, it is probably better if each parent speaks with the children separately.
Either way,this conversation is an opportunity to support and reassure your children during a difficult time. It is not a time for mutual blaming, finger pointing, rehashing past perceived wrongs done to a parent, or addressing adult issues.
Children need to hear that this is not their fault and that they will continue to be loved and cared for by both of you. While you are divorcing each other, you are not divorcing them. It is important to reassure them that this is an adult solution to an adult problem. They didn’t cause this to happen and they can’t fix it. It is also important to acknowledge and normalize children’s feelings and reactions to this news.
Parents must also realize that this is probably the first of many conversations they will have with their children about this decision. As children grow and mature and reach milestones in their own lives, they will ask questions they may not have asked when they first heard the news. It is best if parents can view these questions as opportunities to help children understand the situation more fully.
Parents frequently ask what is and is not appropriate to tell their children. Our overall view is that “less is more”. The less you tell them, the more they are prevented from undo stress. It is best not to give them the adult details about the reasons for the divorce. This potentially places children in an untenable position of being a parent’s peer or confidante and might make them feel as if they need to side with one parent against the other parent. It is best to give them an age appropriate, general explanation, which can then be expanded upon over time.
It is best if parents frame their explanation in such a way that takes into account the children’s ages, level of cognitive development, and prior exposure to parental disagreements. A younger child such as a two-year old may not understand the word ‘divorce.’ However, he/she can understand that mommy and daddy will be living in two houses—mommy’s house and daddy’s house. A slightly older child, say a five year old, may have friends whose parents are divorced. Parents can say that this is called being divorced and that he/she will spend time at each parent’s home. Younger children may also benefit from having a color-coded calendar at each parent’s home, which visually delineates the child’s time with each parent. Older children of about seven or eight certainly will have heard the word ‘divorce’ and will likely have friends whose parents are divorced. This will make the conversation easier and more difficult at the same time. Easier because the child has a cognitive and experiential understanding of divorce; more difficult because the child better understands the implications of this decision on his or her life.
There is no ideal time to have the initial conversation. Certainly, you want to have it prior to any physical separation. There are two opposing considerations to take into account in deciding about the timing.  On one hand, the earlier the better. On the other hand, it can be helpful to wait until you have more details to give them about when they will see each parent, and what is and is not going to change for them.
In the end, parents want to make sure they go about the process of telling their children about the decision to divorce in a manner which is sensitive to their needs and feelings and minimizes their level of distress and worry.