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Co-Parenting Communication: Rebuild Trust With Your Ex

10 Ways to Disarm the Defensiveness and Get Along

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Do you still argue with your ex every time you see one another? Before you dismiss your co-parenting communication style as hopeless, remember the reason why you're trying to work together: your kids. They deserve to have a relationship with your ex, regardless of how you feel about him (or her) and your previous relationship. With that in mind, begin using the following strategies to disarm your ex's defensiveness and pave the way for smoother, more open communication:

1. Keep a Promise

If you've made specific promises about spending time with your children, communicating, or helping your ex with a certain task, do everything you can to keep your word. Doing so sends a message to your children that you love them and consider them to be worth your time. If there's a valid reason why you can't keep a promise, speak with your ex openly and honestly about it. Come to an agreement on the matter so that your children are not left with unmet expectations.

2. Be Consistent

This seems like a small matter, but it's a huge part of building trust with your ex and your children. Being consistent means speaking respectfully to your ex, maintaining your child care schedule, and not allowing your co-parenting communication to be ruled by your emotions. Remember, you're the adults. It's your responsibility to show your children what it looks like when adults disagree, but continue to work together for the good of a common purpose. In this case, that common purpose is caring for your children.

3. Be Considerate

Again, this is a rather simple tip, but it's one that's often neglected between co-parents. Being considerate includes letting your ex know about school functions, being flexible with your schedules, and recognizing that — regardless of the circumstances that led you to this point — learning to work together and put your kids first requires sacrifice, which isn't easy for either of you.

4. Keep Trying

Even though this is difficult, don't give up. Your continued effort to be civil with your ex benefits your children. It lowers their stress level and allows them to be confident in their perception of the future. And with time, communication between you will get easier. Put your trust in that while you continue to make the effort on behalf of your children.

5. Listen

Listen twice as much as you speak. This sounds backwards, but allowing your ex to feel 'heard' can subconsciously enable him or her to actually take in your point of view and help you come to a mutual understanding. Also, remember that listening doesn't signify your approval, so let go of the fear that you'll lose control of the situation by allowing your ex to voice his or her opinions. On the contrary, learning to listen to one another without interrupting or automatically discounting the other person's point of view is a key ingredient to successful co-parenting communication.

6. Show Restraint

Train yourself not to overreact to your ex. This is especially important in front of your children. Realize that communicating with one another is going to be necessary for the length of your children's entire childhood — if not longer. Teach yourself to be numb to those buttons he or she is trying to push, and over time your ex will be forced to communicate in a more effective manner.

7. Ask His or Her Opinion

This is a simple technique that can effectively jump-start positive communications between you. Take an issue that you don't feel strongly about, and ask for your ex's input. Allowing him or her to participate in the decision making process on behalf of your children shows your ex that you trust his or her judgment and value his or her contribution.

8. Affirm Your Ex's Relationship With Your Kids

Take a moment to tell your ex how important his or her relationship with the children really is. What does it mean to them? What does it mean to you, witnessing the development of their bond and connection? This may be something you've already thought about but never said out loud. Doing that now will tear down years of defensiveness and anger.

9. Visualize a Positive Future

Visualization can be a powerful tool in creating the future you want for your children and yourself. Instead of focusing all your energy on what hasn't worked in the past, create an image in your mind of what it might look like collaborate with your ex as equals. Imagine a future where you can co-parent effectively, communicate clearly, and put the pain of your shared past behind you.

10. Apologize

Only use this strategy if you do, indeed, have something you need to apologize for. If you do, make the effort to genuinely apologize for the hurt and pain your actions have caused. Don't assume that something that happened a long time ago no longer needs to be addressed. It's amazing how powerful this one final step can be in transforming your co-parenting communication toward healthy collaboration. Ultimately, you want to move away from being adversaries and toward working together as equals to raise your children.

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