When a relationship breaks down there may be a temptation to say “That’s it!  I don’t want to speak to you again.”  Talking to your former partner might be just too painful – it’s just turning the knife in the wound, but in the long-term keeping the lines of communication open can reap massive benefits, especially where you have children together.

We see many couples with relationships that have come an end and it’s clear that the majority of disputes that we deal with are the result of poor communication – or, in some cases, no communication at all.  These are our tips to help you and your children minimise stress and achieve a better outcome for the family, even if you are now living separately:

  1. Keep a communication book.

This is a book that you use to record all the children’s updates, e.g. what homework they have, what books they’re reading, who they’re friends with, how they’re doing at school, any school events, etc.  When the children go to spend time with the other parent, the book goes too.  And both parents add information.

This avoids the ‘you didn’t tell me about …’ and keeps both parents in the picture about their children’s lives when they’re not with them and avoids misunderstandings via emails/texts that didn’t arrive or didn’t make sense to the receiver.

  1. Direct communication is best

Never use the children to pass messages to and from.  Children often forget or deliver only half a message, worse still they say only what they think that parent wants to hear.  Parents, best friends and others should not be asked to be messengers, if at all possible.  It’s not fair on them and you’ll always end up with their version of the message.

  1. Talk on neutral ground

If communication is still a challenge arrange to have a face-to-face meeting on neutral ground, maybe over a coffee.  If things are really sensitive you might want to consider involving a professional mediator who will help to diffuse the situation and keep the conversation focused on positive outcomes.

  1. See the other person’s viewpoint

It’s hard to do this, especially when either or both of you are feeling unfairly treated.  When you’re angry or hurt you’re likely to see anything your former partner says as having an agenda, where there may be none.

If you are able to step out of the situation and look at things objectively you’ll be able to respond more calmly and get to an agreement that works for both of you rather than one person coming off worse and spending months seething with resentment.  Remember that if that happens they’ll simply be looking to ‘get their own back’ and it will come back to bite you eventually!

  1. Keep the kids in the communication loop

No matter how young your children are they’ll know when there are issues between you.  The problems between you two aren’t their problems – or their responsibility so it’s important to reinforce that you both love them.  And never, ever let your anger with your former partner end up forming part of the communication with your kids.

Make sure the children know when they’re spending time with each parent – keep a calendar where they can see it.  Even when the children are not with you let them know you’re thinking about them, even if’s just saying ‘goodnight, sleep tight’ by text or on WhatsApp.

Some of these things may feel impossible in the early days, but making an effort will ensure that your family will survive the split without unnecessary emotional stress.  For your children, seeing their parents communicating can be of immeasurable value as they grow up and learn how to deal with their own relationships.