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Overcoming negative communication patterns with your co-parent

One of the biggest challenges facing divorced spouses who have kids is how to transition from communicating as marital partners to communicating as co-parents. That can be difficult when the relationship has been seriously damaged by one or both spouses' bad behavior. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to summon any kind positive feelings toward one another.

However, divorced parents need to be able to communicate clearly and work together for their kids' well-being. That means recognizing the negative patterns that still exist in your communications and working to overcome them.

That requires being aware of what triggers you and what your impulse is when your ex hits a trigger point. This person knows you better than almost anyone. Whether they consciously intend to or not, they know how to get a rise out of you.

When your co-parent hits a trigger point, recognize that this is what it is, e.g., maybe that they think you spend too much time working, and ignore it rather than react to it. Eventually, your ex will realize they can't goad you as easily as they used to.

It's also essential to be aware of your impulses when your ex criticizes or challenges you. Do you get defensive or do you lash out? Stop and breathe before responding -- or don't respond at all if it's not necessary.

These negative communication habits didn't arise overnight. They probably built up over years of unhappiness. You can't expect to immediately put an end to them. However, awareness is an essential first step.

It may be best to minimize your communication and keep the communication you must have focused on your kids. Don't stray into other issues or rehash the past. When something goes wrong -- and inevitability it will -- focus on finding a solution rather than blaming the other person.

Sometimes, therapy can help you recognize the behaviors that are keeping you from building a strong co-parenting relationship. It can also help you develop positive ways to deal with a difficult ex. Some divorced parents even go to therapy together to learn how to navigate their new relationship and become the parents their kids need them to be.

Changes in the parenting plan can be necessary. More detail and greater clarity can help minimize misunderstandings and keep the need for communication to a minimum. Your family law attorney can help.

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