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Four Steps for Communicating Challenges With Your Coparent

A dad hugs his daughter while her mother looks on behind them.

Our experts offer these four practical steps for bridging the gap between coparents when differences arise.

No one has had the exact same experiences you’ve had or sees the world exactly as you do. Sometimes we see these differences most when it comes to parenting. Here are four steps for bridging the gap between coparents when differences arise:

  1. Name your feelings.
  2. Describe the situation without blaming.
  3. Ask for what you want or need and make a specific request.
  4. Reflect: Check in later when things are calm to set up next steps.

What Does This Look Like in Practice? Your coparent is working from home and presenting on a virtual meeting this morning. They need the house to be quiet while they prep their notes and focus on the presentation. You have a deadline this afternoon and need some focused time to finish your own work. While you care for the children during your coparent’s meeting, after the presentation, your coparent takes over. But the children come in frequently to give you a hug, show you something, or chat. Your coparent apologizes and says they miss you. You have not had a chance to make much progress on your deadline. Now there are only a few hours left in the work day.

  1. Name your feelings using an “I feel…when…” statement. I feel frustrated when I’m interrupted during my work time, while I’m on a deadline.
  2. Describe the situation calmly and objectively. I watched the kids and kept them quiet this morning during your presentation. This afternoon I really need to get this report done, but the kids are coming in every 15 minutes or so. Those interruptions really cut into my focus and I’m worried that I won’t have enough time to finish up.
  3. Ask for what you want or need. Make a specific request. I need your help to make sure the children stay out of the bedroom while I’m working on this report.
  4. Reflect: Check in later when things are calm to talk about next steps/changes to consider. [Later that day] It was tough to balance everything today. We each need uninterrupted time to focus on work. Can we talk about how we’ll handle the kids when they want the other parent who’s working?

In families, conflicts happen. But there are communication strategies that can help coparents navigate these difficult conversations to find a way—together—toward a solution.


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