How to Get on the Same Page as Your Co-Parent
Kids adjusting to two homes during divorce can be hard. Co-parents can learn how to get on the same page as their co-parent. If co-parents can prioritize time for a family business meeting, they will reduce the negative effects on their kids.
Setting up a specific time for weekly check-ins to discuss issues, challenges or scheduling needs can help set co-parents up for success.
Step 1: Are you both in a good headspace?
Check in before you even start the conversation. Check in with them verbally, or by reading the non-verbal cues and energy of your co-parent. Try your best to ask clarifying questions to understand where they are. If you sense and confirm one of you is on edge and not emotionally available, respect these emotions and plan to reschedule. It’s not helpful to try to have a potentially difficult conversation if either of you is feeling stressed, and anxious.
It’s important that you both honor your headspace and the mental stability of your co-parent. If you or your co-parent are struggling with your mental or emotional wellbeing, please check out our Online co-parenting course, Parenting From Two Homes. Our first module in that course is all about getting you in a grounded place mentally and emotionally. We provide you with ways to find support and help you identify what sorts of things and people will be helpful to you in this really vulnerable time.
Step 2: Set a scheduled day and time to discuss.
It’s not helpful to spring topics on to your co-parent. When a topic needs to be discussed, acknowledge the topic and then set a time to talk about it. This is important for a few reasons.
- It allows both parties to collect their thoughts and likely have a more productive conversation
- Having time to constructively consider the topic provides more opportunity for logical decisions and lessens the emotional reactions
- This lessens the likelihood of one of the parties feeling “attacked.”
- This also increases the likelihood your co-parent wont spring topics on you either.
Step 3: Set Communication Guidelines.
It’s important to have communication guidelines before you begin your family business meetings. Think of these guidelines as “guardrails” on a highway. These guardrails keep you on track and help you to stay in your lane. Staying in your lane helps you from veering off into dangerous and unhelpful territory. Your kids need you to talk and plan for THEM. Using the guardrails to help from keeping you or your co-parent from getting stuck in past.
When creating guidelines consider stating what you WANT each of you to respect and honor in your co-parenting relationship. It is better to avoid telling each other what you DON’T want. Our brains work better when we are told what TO do, instead of what NOT to do. For example: instead of framing a guideline as: “we agree not to go overtime in our meetings”. Frame this as: “We agree to honor our time for meetings and stick with it.” We typically recommend each parent come up with 2-3 guidelines that are important for them. Once you have each come up with your ideal guidelines share them with each other. Confirm you are in agreement with the guidelines each of you have laid out and and clarify anything that may feel unclear.
When setting your communication guidelines it’s important to remember the shift from communicating as spouses or partners to communicating solely as parents, can be a hard shift. With a plan and some support, you are bound to feel more equipped.
Step 4: Set an agenda.
Setting an agenda can feel a little transactional but it allows for both parties to know what topics to expect will be discussed. Creating an agenda is a great way to limit getting stuck. When you have an outline for the meeting you are more focused and effective in communication. These meetings are likely some of the most important opportunities you will have to discuss needs and concerns about your children. Staying on track and redirecting each other if you veer off the agenda or forget the guidelines is important. When this happens redirect with respect. And remember, like Brene Brown says, “clear is kind.”
Step 5: Lead with logic.
When it comes to family business meetings lead with facts and recognize the topics being discussed are for the BENEFIT of the kid! If it is helpful to remember the acronym BIFF (Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm) it may keep you in the right mindset and your communications on point.
Step 6: Make sure that each party is heard.
Each party needs the opportunity to be heard and to feel respected. You won’t always agree on things, but it is helpful to validate each other’s perspective. By validating someone’s perspective it doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with them. It means you are willing to recognize where they are coming from. It might sound something like this, “I hear you are really upset I am not in agreement to enroll Johnny in traveling hockey this year. I know that must be really hard to hear. My concern is there is a lot of transition for everyone this year and it may end up being more overwhelming for everyone. Could we agree to explore this option next year?”
At a family business meeting, each co-parent should have a goal when it comes to the topic being discussed.
It is necessary that both parties feel heard and respected and that their reasoning is considered. If you still can’t reach an agreement, then be sure to check out our Tips: When You and Your Co-parent don’t Agree blog post or check out our Online Course, Parenting From Two Homes. In module 6 we talk all about some go-to methods for helping resolve conflict when you and your co-parent just can’t see eye to eye.
Helpful tips and reminders of How to Get on the Same Page as Your Co-Parent
Tip: In the midst of separation or divorce – co-parents may need more frequent business meetings. As families adjust and transition into new patterns and routines you may reduce the frequency of the family business meetings to quarterly or twice a year. If you meet twice a year then consider meeting in the summer in order to plan for the school year. Then you can have your second meting in the winter to plan for the spring and summer schedules. Being proactive when it comes to schedules and adjustments is a HUGE help for EVERYONE.
TIP: “Instead of YOU – Try I” Consider using “I statements.” When we use “I feel” – instead of “You did ____” – people are less likely to be on the defensive and more likely to hear you. When using “I,” you are taking responsibility, oftentimes taking people off of the defense and keeping them present and able to engage in a productive conversation.
TIP: Reward yourselves. “family business meeting” can be tough, so recognize that every conversation is not going to be easy. That is why setting a reward or incentive after your agenda is wrapped up is important. Set your incentive ahead of time so you have something to look forward to. Some parents head out with a good friend, get outside for a break, go out for a favorite meal. Even the simple act of just recognizing and “naming it” (“that was really hard and we got through it, We stuck with it for our kids”) and recognize these conversations take courage, persistence, dedication, and grit.
If you need more help check out our Parenting from Two Homes Course!