Coparenting Tips for Improving Communication from the expert authors of Overcoming the Alienation Crisis: 33 Coparenting Solutions. For more information about OCB Publications go here.
When should I ask my coparent for an in-person meeting to talk about a problem?
Most of the coparenting information that needs to be shared is factual and can be communicated by email or text such as these examples:
- “When is the special school activity?”
- “Where is the game being played?”
- “The kids need new sporting equipment.”
- “The doctor said it is only a cold and she needs to rest at home from school for a day or two.”
- “The kids were in the car when the coparent had an accident, but no one was injured.”
A phone call is needed if the child has a medical crisis, such as a trip to the emergency room or involvement in an auto accident in which someone is injured. The death of a grandparent and funeral plans may require phone contact. Discussing how to introduce a new significant other to the children needs an in-person, often professionally supported conversation.
More complex parenting issues likely need to be talked about in detail. For example, the parents will likely need to meet in person if a child is sexually self-stimulating in a way that alarms a parent, the child is suspended from school, or a teacher writes that the child is failing a course. Coparenting issues like these involve high emotions and complex behavior patterns. An Escalated Coparent may hurl challenging questions, with a tone of judgment and blame: “Who is responsible for the problem?”; “What steps were taken to prevent the problem from occurring?”; “Has a parent failed in their duty to monitor the child?” It’s also easy for an Escalated Coparent to make demeaning statements such as, “You’ve never been any good at choosing to sit with them to do homework rather than working on your own computer.” An Escalated Coparent may take unilateral action, that is, respond to the problem without reaching out to their coparent. They may call child protective services, or they may arrange a private meeting with the coparent counselor or the child’s counselor, rather than requesting a conjoint meeting.
The Neutral Coparent responds in a straightforward, matter-of-fact fashion. Asking for a coparenting business meeting may be best because it signals that an important matter needs to be addressed in a business- like manner with a protocol to be followed. The initiating parent asks to schedule a meeting and provides their available dates and times. The initiating parent identifies the issues they want to discuss so that their coparent can be prepared and not feel ambushed. If you are concerned that talking directly with the coparent will end up in a conversation in which you are attacked, blamed, and frustrated, it is probably best to have a third party involved as a conversational manager, or perhaps a qualified professional who can contribute ideas to the discussion.