Across the country, divorce statistics are close to 50%, and here in New Mexico, the figures can be around two percentage points higher on average. Some locations such as Santa Fe are even higher – perhaps because of the city’s popularity as a destination for retirement or artistic self-expression.
Whatever the reasons, and there are many possibilities, divorce can be a painful and challenging process. Many of us who’ve gone through this ordeal simply can’t wait to start moving on and feeling better. But when there’s a child involved, we also have to face the reality that in most situations, our ex will still have a part to play in many key decisions and events.
The added responsibilities of co-parenting after a divorce can range from uncomfortable to seemingly impossible. But for the sake of your child, it’s essential that both parents step up to the plate. Here’s how effective communication with your former partner is the key to making things work for your child.
Establish a framework for the relationship
Some people manage to settle fairly quickly into an amicable relationship. That may not be how things work out with you and your former partner, though. You don’t have to be friends, but you have to be able to maintain a certain level of civility and respect in your interactions.
It helps if both of you can agree on a common framework to make this relationship work. You can think of it in impersonal terms, as a business. You both have a common goal – you want what’s best for your child. Kids need structure and support in their lives, and while many people ideally provide that in the framework of a happy marriage, many of us here in New Mexico have to face reality and make things work despite divorce. Find that common ground so you both can move forward and carry out your duties.
Manage your conflicts
Whatever the nature of the differences or disagreements that led to the divorce, there’s always a chance that further conflicts could flare up along those lines. And as you and your ex adjust to the new role of co-parenting, there will be rough patches to smooth out. Child support payments might not come on time, last-minute changes to one parent’s schedule can throw a wrench in the other’s visitation hours, and so on. These additional complications can put a strain even on your best intentions to be good co-parents.
It’s important to have some kind of system for conflict management. You may be comfortable making such arrangements on your own, or consulting with professionals such as your Santa Fe divorce attorney or therapist. Make sure to never enter into potentially volatile discussions while in the presence of your child.
You and your ex won’t always agree on matters – it may have been one factor leading to the divorce, after all. But it’s important to understand that disagreements will come up and you must always be able to talk about it directly with each other. This doesn’t have to be face to face – you can use email, messaging apps, or other resources to make sure each of you is getting the necessary messages across.
Whatever you do, don’t put the burden of delivering messages on your child, simply because you’re uncomfortable or unwilling to talk to your partner – it can have a lasting psychological effect on them and lead to unwanted behaviors such as delinquency or substance abuse.
Remember that your marriage may have ended, but not your roles as parents. Embracing that will help lay the foundations for effective communication and ensure your child gets the support they deserve.