Article written by Lisa Brick
Do you break out in a sweat thinking about communicating with your ex? Resentment and hostility between parents is the norm after a contentious divorce. Communicating with your ex around custody schedules, medical issues, parenting approaches, and finances is loaded with emotion. Many of our clients, both male and female, break out in a sweat and experience their hearts pounding simply thinking about having to communicate with their ex let alone actually doing it. And now you have to co-parent together!
Thanks to the research and development over the last 15 years there are both desktop and mobile applications that allow you to co-parent without speaking to each other. Some of these applications not only allow you to post the children's schedule so you, their other parent, your child-care staff, and even your older children can clearly see who's to be at which house as well as who is responsible for what pick-up and drop-off for what scheduled event. Confusion can be eliminated when everyone at anytime can log on to see the schedule and their role in making it work. In addition, one of the programs rates the tone of your communications from neutral to antagonistic, giving you the opportunity to adjust how you are communicating so as not to be incendiary.
For example, if you are responding to your ex's text request to change a weekend and write "No I will not change a weekend so you can go away with that whore you've shacked up with" the program will warn you before you hit send so you can think twice. If you determine it would not benefit you or your children and may further damage relationships and make life harder for all involved you have the ability to change your response. "No, we already have plans for that weekend" or "No, I am not willing to accommodate any requests for changes for now" answers the request without aggravating the co-parenting relationship. Acting in this way, reflecting before sending, you have the capacity to let the anger out in a way that will not come back to bite you. It allows you a breather to reframe the written refusal in an emotionally neutral tone before it goes out and it's too late. Same response, "no", but with very different consequences.
Here are many of the features that these programs provide:
- Calendars with embedded tools to create parenting schedules, record upcoming events, and make requests for trades in parenting time. There is an area to enter details briefly entries, like "bathing suit, swimmies, goggles, and pool towel necessary" or "There are animals there. Pre-medicating with a non-drowsy antihistamine and packing the inhaler can prevent a possible breathing crisis."
- Calendars with a time-exchange tool allows a parent to propose a modification to the parenting-time schedule while offering another time in exchange. Parents can negotiate a swap through the application without the additional challenge of having to speak with one-another.
- Expense and payment tracking tools that allow parents to communicate about parenting costs in a neutral environment. This tool allows parents to enter specific details about what was spent and why as well as to attach virtual receipts.
- A banking app that allows for secure transfers between parents' banking accounts for parenting related costs such as child support or medical expenses. Each parent's account information is hidden and secure. Each step of the request and payment is tracked, allowing each parent to know when the reimbursement has reached his/her account.
- A section to record vital family information that both parents and caregivers have access to in one place, like medical insurance, medication details (blood type, allergies, emergency contact numbers, etc.), the children's social security numbers, etc. Information can be tagged so only certain individuals have access to it. In addition to vital information parents can add other useful and important information such as clothing sizes and emergency child care options. By having an "information bank" co-parents can avoid the necessity and aggravation of being repeatedly asked for the important information that now everyone has access to.
- A message board where important topics that co-parents need to discuss can be discussed. The message board provides a neutral format for co-parents to discuss topics that fall outside of the domain of the other features. An example of what might be discussed here is a bullying episode that occurred at school, how the school handled it, and a heads up to be aware of the child acting out in unusual ways because of it.
- An accountability tool that dates and timestamps all messages sent as well as when those messages were viewed. All messages are saved indefinitely and can not be edited. These messages can be included in a full record of co-parent messaging whenever needed.
There are a number of programs that provide some of these features. We at Journey Beyond Divorce have been communicating with Our Family Wizard, one of the oldest and most established of the co-parenting apps. Our Family Wizard has been developing and refining their program for the last 15 years. Their program includes all of the features above including support and a resource section. Their team of researchers and developers are constantly adding and refining the tools on their site so you'll always have an up to date platform for effective and streamlined communication. Additional programs to check out, programs we have not vetted yet but have some if not all of the features above, are: 2-Houses, Custody Junction, Kidganizer, and Skedi.
Wouldn't it be nice to communicate with your children's other parent without your heart pounding and breaking out in that clammy sweat. Contact us to find out more about how we help our clients stay cool and collected post divorce, even on the phone and during face-to-faces.