Jennifer L. Neeley
Co-parenting children with an ex-partner or ex-spouse poses many challenges. When high conflict exists between parents, cooperative co-parenting may not be possible. If you find yourself frequently experiencing conflict with your co-parent, there are things you can do to help improve the relationship.
“Reciprocity” or the act of taking and giving mutually, and in-kind, has been found to greatly influence co-parenting relationships. In other words, the degree to which two parents are able to reciprocate acts or gestures with one another, increases their success as co-parents.
One way you can demonstrate reciprocity to the other parent is by helping to establish a consistent and regular telephone contact routine. By setting a time frame and encouraging children to talk to the other parent, you are communicating your willingness to act in support of the other’s parent-child relationship. If your co-parent is able to return the favor, in-kind, greater trust and cooperation may soon follow. Reciprocity is a trust-building act, when done correctly. Of course, having a successful cooperative co-parenting relationship is ultimately in the best interests of your children as it will aid in their development into adults.
Following are ten guidelines you can use to help establish a telephone contact routine with your co-parent.
1. Telephone contact should be short (about 5 to 7 minutes) and limited to one call per day. If your child is young, the parent without the child should initiate the call.
2. If the child misses the call, the child can return the call, if possible. The parent should not continue to call if the child misses the first call.
3. Have a consistent and regular routine, but be flexible and choose appropriate times. For some families such a time is after dinner but before bed time.
4. Once you agree on a time, be sure to call regularly and consistently at that agreed upon time.
5. If you know you will be a few minutes late, notify your co-parent to make sure the later time will work for everyone.
6. Parents should facilitate telephone/FaceTime and help younger children with equipment.
7. However, parents should not monitor or intercept phone calls.
8. Parents should allow children reasonable privacy when speaking to the other parent.
9. Remember the goal is always to do what is in the best interest of your children. This means you probably should encourage your children to talk to the other parent.
10. A simple encouragement is all that is necessary. Something like, "Brush your teeth, get in your jammies, and be ready for your dad when he calls."
Feel free to think of additional ways you can demonstrate reciprocity to your coparent. Your child’s future mental health and well-being will benefit from these efforts.