How to have a quality co-parenting relationship? Communication tips

This entry is a continuation of the post on April 30, 2014, regarding both parents having a quality co-parenting relationship.

Let’s discuss communication options. In co-parent relationships where there is high conflict, I recommend a simple formula for communication. Brief. Informative. Friendly. Firm. BIFF. This model is from Bill Eddy ( This formula applies to both verbal and written communication. Long, defensive, and accusatory emails will not likely get you what you want nor will they help your children. Expecting the other person to know what you need or want also does not usually work. Here’s an example of a non-BIFF email.
“I can’t believe that you sent our daughter to school without her homework done AGAIN. Can’t you ever get this right? What is so hard about sitting down with her to go through her homework from that day and ensuring she does it? Clearly you need to improve your parenting or she is going to fail grade three! This reminds me of all the times you shirked your duties with our older son as well. I’m sure you’ve got lots of time to spend with your new spouse and step-children, how about giving the same attention to your own daughter…[this goes on for a page of venting]”

Now, here’s the BIFF version.
“I’m concerned about our daughter’s school performance. Her last report card said that she was frequently missing assignments and the teacher called me last week to say she missed another two assignments. I’d like to talk about how we can support her together to get her homework done. I know you’re also interested in her doing well at school. I’d like to share the responsibility for helping her with her homework with you. What do you think about that?”

The Best Interests of the Child

The new Family Law Act in BC refers to the “best interests of the child” as the ONLY consideration when the courts and parents are making plans for children.  Section 37 (2) defines the child’s best interests as:

(a) the child’s health and emotional well-being;

(b) the child’s views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them;

(c) the nature and strength of the relationships between the child and significant persons in the child’s life;

(d) the history of the child’s care;

(e) the child’s need for stability, given the child’s age and stage of development;

(f) the ability of each person who is a guardian or seeks guardianship of the child, or who has or seeks parental responsibilities, parenting time or contact with the child, to exercise his or her responsibilities;

(g) the impact of any family violence on the child’s safety, security or well-being, whether the family violence is directed toward the child or another family member;

(h) whether the actions of a person responsible for family violence indicate that the person may be impaired in his or her ability to care for the child and meet the child’s needs;

(i) the appropriateness of an arrangement that would require the child’s guardians to cooperate on issues affecting the child, including whether requiring cooperation would increase any risks to the safety, security or well-being of the child or other family members;

(j) any civil or criminal proceeding relevant to the child’s safety, security or well-being.”

Click on the link below for more information regarding what the court will consider when determining the best interests of children.

As a mediator, when I am working with parents, I support them to look at their children’s needs and find ways where both of them can be involved and ensure their children’s best interests are met.  This is possible even if parents have different views about what is in their child’s best interest.  All children want a close, positive relationship with their parents (even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it).  Mediation can assist parents to develop a productive co-parenting relationship for the sake of their kids.


Back to School Doesn’t Have to be Complicated or Conflictual

A new school year is starting and this often means new parenting plans for divorced parents who are co-parenting.  This is an opportunity to build on what has worked for both of you in the past and let go of arrangements that haven’t worked.  Take a moment to consider how last year worked.  What did you like?  What did you wish was different?  How did your children respond to the plan?  What did they say they wish was different?  Use the new school year as a chance to become more collaborative in your relationship with the other parent.

Here are some questions for both of you to consider.

1)      Are there other easier ways to increase the parenting time that each of you spends with your children? 

This could include attend school or extracurricular events together if you haven’t in the past.  Maybe a change in the transportation arrangements would allow each of you more valuable conversation with the children.

Try alternating roles.  If one of you typically manages the medical and dental appointments, try switching this arrangement for one year and see how it works.

2)      What is your favorite activity to do with your children?  What are your children’s favorite activities with each of you?

Ensure that both of you have an opportunity to spend time with your kids doing these activities on a regular basis.  Remember, that your kids need both of you.  They will be happy and healthy if each of you can support them to have a close relationship with the other parent.

3) What has changed this year?  Are the school schedules different?  Is someone attending a new school?  Maybe one parent has a different job and can now pick up the children earlier?

 Take advantage of any changes to improve the parenting plan to increase the benefit to your children.

3)      Evaluate the number of structured activities that your children have.  Consider if you can reduce these to allow for more unstructured play and time with each of you.

Check out this link for more info.

As adults, we often forget how to play.  If you have forgotten, redevelop this skill by sitting on the floor with your children, and/or joining their favorite game.  Letting a child direct his or her play with you will help build a strong connection between you.  If you start with 30-60 minutes a few times a week, you may be surprised at how much this improves your child’s openness to you.

4)      If you and the other parent aren’t ready to have this kind of conversation alone, consider hiring a family mediator to help you tweak or improve the current parenting plan for the benefit of your kids and yourselves.

See The Benefits of Mediation on this website.

How divorce mediation helps


Here’s another description of how divorce mediation saves time, money, and emotional energy.