Bridging the divide

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Civil communication can be difficult at times for separated parents sharing responsibility for the upbringing of their youngsters, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro. 

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

Teenagers, in particular, can capitalise on this if it suits them and if they decide to play one parent off against the other. Manipulation is something children do quite well and teenagers can have it down to a fine art.

This is made a lot easier if parents also have their own manipulative agendas and, if this is the case, then disaster looms.

Whether you like it or not, where both parents are still involved in their child's upbringing, good communication is essential. This may be a tall order as an inability to communicate well with each other is often an underlying reason for separations in the first place.

Priority must always be given to what is best for the youngsters. In other words, while they might be attempting to use you, do not use them.

If you have a message for the other parent, deliver it yourself. This will ensure it gets there and gets there in full, will ensure it is not twisted deliberately, or because it's been misunderstood by the youngster, and allows the other parent to question or discuss it with you. Sometimes messages can be veiled threats, something no youngster should have to deliver.

While at times you may feel the need to vent your frustration about the other parent or their actions, this should not be to you child. Your feelings are your adult feelings and they should never be loaded on to the shoulders of your youngster, even if a teenager. Sometimes they can resent it, sometimes they can feel that they need to take shared responsibility for the mess you're all in, which is unfair, and sometimes it can backfire and turn the youngster away from you.

If you find you do need to have something out with the other parent, arrange a separate time away from the children, not in the driveway or on the doorstep. If the result is a change to the arrangements, let your children know that it's something that you've both agreed to and agree that both of you will present it this way to them.

Major communication issues can arise around contact time. The general rule should be to stick to arrangements but some flexibility is always needed. Personal arrangements change; opportunities for activities arise; things just crop up.

Discuss thoughtfully any unexpected blips or need for changes resulting from one-off opportunities or your teen's growing commitments. Agree in advance that priority will be given to what's in your youngster's best interest not yours. If this means a change to the schedule, so be it.


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