5 Communication Tips for Effective Co-Parenting After Separation

May 19, 2023

Going through separation and divorce is such a challenging time for parents. There are so many big changes to navigate, not to mention learning how to co-parent with your Ex. All of this while feeling uncertain about the future can be a lot to process.

We understand that co-parenting can be difficult, especially when communication with your Ex may be strained or non-existent. But as challenging as it may be, you will have to find your way to working with your Ex to parent your children.  One of the first biggest hurdles to overcome as you learn to co-parent is learning how to effectively communicate with your Ex about your children. This will be the secret ingredient to preserving your own sanity, keeping conflicts to a minimal and building a healthy and positive family dynamic for your children.

We know that clear and respectful communication is not always easy, especially when emotions are high, and past hurts may still be raw. But with the right mindset and approach, you can learn the communication skills that will help you to co-parent successfully with your Ex.

5 Communication Tips

Here are some communication tips to help you build an effective co-parenting partnership with your Ex:

1. Listen Actively

Active listening is crucial for effective communication. It shows respect, empathy, and a willingness to understand your Ex’s point of view. It is very easy to fall into the trap of listening to the other person to respond or to be formulating your response while they are still talking. It’s okay, we all fall into this trap.  So how can you practice active listening?

Give your full attention to your Ex when they are talking, use appropriate eye-contact and focus on what they are saying. Avoid interrupting your Ex when they are talking and allow them to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Even if you don’t agree with what they are saying, acknowledging their feelings can go a long way in diffusing tension and building trust.

In an ideal world, you would both take turns sharing your thoughts without interruption and acknowledge each other’s feelings and concerns.  Sometimes, this won’t happen because emotions may be running high or the issue you are both discussing is polarising.  In these moments, give yourself some grace and repeat to yourself “I am to respond NOT react.”  When you feel things may be getting off track, take a moment to reflect and repeat back what your Ex has said or is feeling to show that you understand their perspective.  You could use a script similar to this example to get the discussion back on track:

I can see that you’re feeling frustrated about our child’s schedule. Can you tell me more about your concerns?”

2. Communicate Calmly and Respectfully

It’s easy to fall into the trap of old unhelpful communication habits or raising your voice when you’re feeling frustrated or upset. Lord knows, your Ex will know how to push your buttons! However, it’s important to communicate calmly and respectfully when dealing with your Ex. You do not have the same level of trust between you to give grace or the benefit of the doubt to each other if you are not showing up as your best self, so you need to be more mindful of your communications.

Maintaining a calm and respectful tone can prevent conflicts from escalating and create a more conducive environment for productive discussions that are focused on your children and the issue or concern that needs to be resolved. It also gives you control over how you show up. Only you get to decide what kind of co-parent you want to be…how you want to engage, react, respond, and move forward.

My Nan gave me a hot tip when I was first admitted as a lawyer. She said to me “When someone gets louder, aggressive or bullish, you speak quieter. Start speaking slowly, calmly and softly.” At first, I thought this would just open me up to being completely overpowered, but you know what 16 years later, I am here to tell you that it works. For some reason, once you start speaking softly, the other person starts to focus on what you’re saying and in doing so, they bring themselves into check.

Here is an example to get you and your Ex on track to communicate calmly and respectfully:

I understand we may have differences, but let’s approach this discussion calmly and respectfully. Why don’t you start by sharing with me your thoughts on XYZ and then I can share my thoughts. I know we both want what’s best for our children so we will be able to figure out the next steps.”

3. Consider Implementing a Communication Framework

If face-to-face communication is difficult, consider using alternative methods such as email, text messages, or a co-parenting app. These methods can be useful in communicating your thoughts and feelings clearly while allowing you to avoid confrontational situations. It can also serve as a record of your communications, which can be helpful in resolving disputes or misunderstandings.

We also recommend having a clear communication framework in place which sets out:

  • the method for your communications on both urgent and non-urgent issues;
  • timeframes for a response
  • clarity on what you will make decisions together; and
  • what will be the process to resolve disputes if you cannot reach an agreement.

A couple of great tools for co-parenting communications are Talking Parents and Our Family Wizard.

One you and your Ex have agreed to a communication framework stick to it and commit to consistently communicating with your Ex about your children, any schedule changes or to discuss important issues. This will help you and your Ex stay on the same page.

4. Avoid Blaming and Accusing

When communicating with your Ex, it’s important to avoid blaming language or rehashing past relationship issues or grievances. This will be unhelpful and will only result in one or both of you becoming triggered and the communication becoming unproductive.  Instead, focus on finding solutions and moving forward positively.

Using “I” statements during the conversation is one potential strategy you can adopt to avoid blaming, judgement or commanding statements. For example:

  • Instead of saying “You never prioritise our children’s needs. You are always putting yourself first.” Try saying “I feel concerned when I perceive that our children’s needs may not be receiving the attention they deserve. Can we discuss how we can work together to address this?”
  • Instead of saying “You’re always late for pick-ups and drop-offs! You clearly don’t care about our children’s schedules!” Try saying “I feel concerned and it creates challenges for our children’s schedules when there are delays during pick-ups and drop-offs. Can we find a way to ensure better punctuality and consistency?”

5. Focus on Finding Common Ground

Focus on finding common ground with your Ex. Remember that you both want what’s best for your children, and your children love each of you. Focusing on common goals and interests can help you to refocus conversations in times of conflict or disagreement. This will help you to ensure that communications are child-focused and are centred on the specific issue or topic you and your Ex need to discuss or make a decision on about your children.

Here is an examples of how to refocus the conversation:

We both want what’s best for our children. Let’s refocus our conversation on our children’s wellbeing. Right now, we need to discuss their education options and make a decision together.”

Mastering the art of keeping the conversations child-focused and staying on the topic will help you and your Ex to create a healthy, structured and collaborative co-parenting partnership that meets your children’s needs.

Effective communication with your co-parent is critical to building a collaborative co-parenting partnership that meets your children’s needs and helps them to feel supported. While it may be challenging, with the right approach and mindset, you can develop the communication skills that will guide you in establishing and maintaining a successful co-parenting partnership.

With the examples and prompts outlined in this blog, you can lay a foundation for effective and respectful interactions with your Ex and control how you engage, respond, react and move forward. You can choose to show up as the parent and person that you want to embody in your next chapter. 

At Bespoke Family Lawyers, we’re here to provide support and guidance to help you navigate co-parenting and how you and your family moves forward. If you’re struggling with co-parenting or communication with your Ex, reach out to us to get guidance about your situation and the tools you need to create a supportive environment for your children and family to thrive.

Our expert team of family lawyers would love to help you to move toward the life and future you want to build with clarity and confidenceBook your Strategic Planning Session today or download our helpful free resources.


This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or any other professional advice.

Feeling unsure where to start?

Let us guide you through what’s involved in untangling your relationship and give you the tools to set yourself up to move forward.

Feeling unsure where to start?

Let us guide you through what’s involved in untangling your relationship and give you the tools to set yourself up to move forward.

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