In the first Blog of this Series, we wrote that there are two purposes of communication in a co-parenting relationship: information sharing and taking action. We also wrote that many separating and divorcing parents are often at odds with one another and have trouble with effective communication because they do not feel emotionally safe with one another. An alternative route to effective communication is to rely on information sharing procedures and rules of conduct. As long as CPP’s follow the procedures and rules, they can communicate in an emotionally safe manner. Because a functioning family requires some communication between separated parents, sharing information can be accomplished by establishing Procedures for a specific task. In this Blog, we will address the Information Sharing Procedures, and in Blog 3, we will address the Information Sharing Rules of Conduct.
Information Sharing Procedures
The procedures for sharing information come down to two questions: One, what information do parents need to share? and Two, how will they share that information?
The first question is a bit tricky because there is a mindset involved that is critical. A parent might think that the information that should be shared is what that parent thinks the other parent should know. However, that is simply not the case. Sharing information is for the purpose of both parents being informed with regard to what he and she thinks is important. Therefore, the information that should be shared is what the other parent wants to know, not what the parent sharing the information thinks should be shared.
This process begins by both parents making lists of the information for all four types of information (see below).
Information to be shared. The list of information to be shared is built by each parent putting on that list what he or she wants to know about the children when they are with the other parent or important information that the other parent has about the children. However, there is a subtle implication that can cause many parents a good deal of frustration. In might seem normal that a parent gives the CPP information that the parent thinks that the CPP should have (e.g., “I told you what I think you need to know!”). However, the purpose is for both parents to be informed with regard to the children, meaning that the information that the CPP wants is what should be on the list. Each parent puts on the list the information that each needs to feel informed.
Preparing this list of information can be frustrating. Some parents just want general information, while others want a lot of details. Since the purpose is to have all of the information wanted, if the parent just wants general information, that is what is shared. If the parent wants a lot of detail, that is what is shared.
It is important to have boundaries in the procedures.
The information to be shared is what is important about the children and the children’s lives- not about the private life of the parents. “Are you dating?” is an inappropriate and irrelevant question. “Will you let me know before you introduce the children to anyone you are dating?” is an appropriate and relevant question.
There are four types of information to be shared.
- Weekly general information. This is the weekly “business meeting” to share past information and plans for the week. Because the goal is to share general information in an emotionally safe manner, the most efficient way to do this is in a once a week telephone call. Emails and text messages can have some function in sharing some information, but not all information. A scheduled telephone call is the best way. Shortcuts, like emails and texts are not only inefficient, they are rarely successful. The following are common examples:
- What went on in the prior week
- What plans do the parents have with the children for the next week
- Information about school, activities and peers
- Routines, chores, and household expectations in each home
- Relationships between the siblings
- Health and well-being of the children
- Developmental steps for young children
- Anything that the children might have said about the other home that the other parent should know about
- Emergency information. This is when there is an emergency that requires immediate contact. A list of what each parent considers an emergency is necessary to be effective. A telephone call or text message can be the most efficient way to share emergency information.
- Transition information. When children go from one house to the other, the parent they are leaving might have some important information to share so that the other parent knows what is going on. A text message can be efficient, or spending a few minutes parents speaking at a transition, is even better.
- Paperwork. Both parents should have paperwork from the school, schedules for activities, medical records, and so on. There are many options, but one that is reasonably efficient is to have a parents’ folder in the child’s backpack into which copies of the paperwork can be placed and exchanged.
In the next Blog in this Series, we will present Information Sharing Rules of Conduct and how to make sharing information emotionally safe. A key overriding rule, however, is never use information sharing procedures to try to take action and/or solve a problem. Always set up a separate meeting for taking action and use the procedures in the Blog Series, “How to Become an Expert Problem Solver” on this site.