Walking Away From A Message
Open and honest communication in regards to parenting is vital when raising children in separate households. When communication breaks down, children will inevitably be the ones who suffer. Events are thrown into chaos, conflict sprouts from everyday conversations, children are used as messengers—these are all symptoms of when parents lose sight of the true purpose of co-parenting communication: raising happy and healthy children.
Despite the seeming obviousness of that true purpose, it’s not uncommon for parents to occasionally place conflict before their children’s well-being. Stress, disappointment, and frustration are just a few factors that can lead to these deviations into conflict-laden territory. Even if your communication is only put off-course for a short period of time, negativity can be infectious. Learning when to break the cycle of unproductive communication can be vital.
Messaging can be one of the deepest sources of communication conflict. Negative emotions are easily inserted into a format like messaging that doesn’t have clear limits on content. If you’re dreading hitting the reply button to intense messages from your co-parent, consider these three questions you can ask yourself before hitting send.
Is the message civil?
Messaging doesn’t have to be warm between co-parents. Being polite is sometimes the best that parents can hope for when communicating with their child’s other parent. But even if your messaging could be interpreted as distant, being respectful is a requirement that should never be abandoned and that's for the good of your co-parenting relationship as much as your own mental health.
When reading a message from your co-parent during a communication rough patch, assessing a baseline of civility can help when trying to decide how to respond. Messages between co-parents should never contain swearing, nor should co-parents take messaging as an opportunity to sling insults at each other. The conflict created between two parents in this way will simply serve as a distraction from the needs of their children.
Does the message relate to your children?
In particularly tough times in co-parenting relationships, parents may find themselves opening messages that have little or nothing to do with their children. Conducting a productive and civil co-parenting relationship will require co-parents to move beyond a sometimes significant amount of hurt from their pasts. If your co-parent is dredging up topics from the archives that no longer relate to the issues you face while co-parenting, sometimes the best course of action will be to simply disengage.
When going that route, however, parents will need to be honest about their own feelings about the topics being addressed. If a point of contention does, in fact, pertain to co-parenting communication, guilt or regret cannot be used as reasons to dismiss the other parent’s concerns. A conversation that makes you uncomfortable, possibly because it means addressing behavior that’s negatively affecting your co-parenting, should never be dismissed out of hand.
What’s the question?
Sometimes determining if a message requires a response is as simple as determining if it contains a question. Responding to a message without a clear request for information, when it is also laden with conflict-inciting language, can sometimes stir up more animosity than just letting the message lie.
Parents will have to use their own judgment when encountering messages that do ask a question but also contain inappropriate language. Overcoming the language that surrounds the actual question to provide only the details necessary can be difficult, requiring the parent receiving harsh messages to have a higher level of self-control. If possible, refusing to engage with the antagonizing language may help defuse the situation. At the very least, by excising the negativity of your co-parent’s message from your response, you won’t be miring yourself in that same negativity.
If messaging your co-parent becomes a serious source of anxiety and strife, do not hesitate to get the support of legal or mental health professionals. They may be able to provide you with advice for protecting yourself from emotionally abusive or manipulative communication from your co-parent.
Messaging platforms can be far from ideal for co-parenting relationships that experience any kind of conflict. In fact, relying on messaging alone can often exacerbate communication issues. When encountering messages that do more to antagonize than inspiring cooperation, asking yourself the preceding three questions can help you determine if responding to the message is the best course of action.
If you find yourself opening an inbox every morning that’s stuffed with inflaming messages from your co-parent, consider switching your communication to a platform that offers tools beyond email. Utilizing a shared calendar, an expense management system, and other specialized features can take the emotion out of your communication, effectively reducing conflict. Several tools offered on OurFamilyWizard reduce many of the opportunities for adding extraneous details that may incite conflict. Relying on messaging to communicate every detail about your children allows for every piece of information transforming into a long discussion. Instead, OurFamilyWizard offers tools that help contain communication between co-parents strictly to the necessary details. Find out for yourself how OurFamilyWizard could transform your co-parenting communication.