As Parents, How are Your Communication Skills?
This is the 2nd in a 6 part series on creating a happy and effective parenting team. Our first article was “Parents Working Together”.
Today we’ll be discussing “Communication Between Parents”.
Kids are naturally good at noticing and taking advantage of discrepancies. It is amazing how quickly even a two-year-old can pick up on the fact that his parents don’t agree about something.
It is essential that you and your parenting partner (from now on referred to as a “co-parent”) set aside some time every day (just a few minutes) to communicate about your kid’s needs and update each other.
Parent Communication Made Easy…
This communication is much easier these days when you can’t (or choose not to) see each other face-to-face. There are no excuses for lack of good communication when you have so many options at your disposal, such as: cell phones, good old-fashioned telephones, voicemail, email, text messages and instant messaging.
Nine year old Sophie spent one week with her dad and and stepmother and one week with her mother.
Before school reopened after summer break, Sophie wanted to go to her first sleepover party. Her dad had always been against sleepovers, and Sophie knew this. Her mom was more accepting of the idea.
Sophie had a good relationship with her stepmother, but Marie, Sophie’s mom, had limited contact and communication with her ex-husband and his new wife. Sophie’s dad and stepmother were receiving parent-training sessions from me during that time. Marie (Sophie’s mom) had chosen not to participate in any of the parenting sessions, although she had been invited. You get the picture.
Sophie was very upset to learn her dad wouldn’t allow her to go to the sleepover party. Sophie had succeeded in the past in using her step-mom to convince her dad to “bend the rules.”
Dad’s main concern was his lack of communication with Sophie’s mother and how it was impacting their daughter’s behavior and choices. In one session, Dad told me, “Sophie has lied to her mother by saying I’m going to allow her to go to the sleepover afterall.”
He learned about this lie because Marie had actually emailed Dad to thank him for being more flexible! (Although, she was reportedly surprised by his sudden change in policy.) That’s how he figured out what Sophie had done.
I suggested that Sophie’s dad use this opportunity to talk with Marie about how important it was that she had opened the door of communication. Based on some of my recommendations, together they prevented Sophie from making a potentially dangerous mistake – telling her parents a lie – that could have resulted in neither parent being aware of Sophie’s whereabouts for an entire night.
Sophie’s dad responded to Marie’s email with gratitude and concern. He modeled good communication and appreciated his ex’s diplomatic communication with him. He also suggested a couple of strategies that could help them (him and Marie) continue to communicate, without friction, regarding Sophie’s needs. As a result, they agreed to email each other every day with short updates and call once a week.
Sophie learned quickly that she could no longer manipulate the situation. She also had to face the consequences of lying to her parents and understood the danger she could have put herself in by not being honest about where she would have been spending the night.
Her parents (all three) decided that when Sophie earned the privilege (by showing more responsible behaviors for two months), they would allow her to have a sleepover with a couple of friends at her dad’s house.
Her dad learned to compromise and allowed Sophie to enjoy a sleepover, as long as it took place under his roof, with his supervision.
In this scenario, Sophie’s mother felt included and appreciated for opening the lines of communication. Sophie’s dad learned diplomatically to encourage and foster more communication with his ex (his co-parent). He also learned to compromise.
Sophie learned she could no longer take advantage of the lack of communication between her parents and that she could no longer “use” her stepmother to get her dad to bend the rules.
And more importantly, the parenting team established a new set of rules regarding communication that would keep Sophie safe as well as happy!
In our next article we’ll discuss Having Compatible Views with Your Parenting Partner,
I am available to do Parent Education Workshops, either Private or PTA Sponsored Classes. Contact me at 425-772-6698.