First, take a deep breath. Your concern about how best to have this conversation shows that you are thoughtful and want to do what is best for your kids.
Courageous co-parenting begins the moment you raise the issue of divorce, and your approach can positively or negatively affect your ability to co-parent in the future.
Decided or Considering
The first question to ask yourself is whether to include your spouse in this decision.
Determine whether you have made the decision (“I want a divorce”) or you are considering it and want your spouse’s input (“Let’s talk—I may want a divorce, but I’m open to hearing how you feel”).
Courageously search within yourself to know what is right for you. Gaining clarity will allow you to approach your spouse honestly and authentically. A supportive therapist or counselor can help.
Mediation or Litigation
You both must decide how best to complete your divorce in mediation or litigation. Research your options to make an informed decision about how best to protect your kids from the potential harm of divorce. Let your spouse know that you prefer a healthier process in divorce mediation.
7 Tips for Talking about Divorce
- Place. Choose a private place, away from your children, for a productive conversation about divorce. How to tell your children is a mutual decision that will come later.
- Time. Choose a time when you are both most likely to be rested, calm, and able to give your full attention.
- Phones. Turn off phones to convey respect as you begin to build a foundation for healthy, courageous co-parenting.
- Empathize. Consider what you will say, and think about how your spouse will likely feel hearing it. It is normal if your spouse initially displays some resistance. Be mindful not to go on the defensive—allow your spouse to feel and vent.
- Focus. Staying on topic reduces conflict by avoiding conversations around past issues.
- Tone. It is incredibly powerful to speak in a low, soft voice and at a slow pace. When necessary, take a moment and gather your thoughts and allow your spouse to do the same.
- Safety. Determine whether you are safe having the conversation in person. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to develop a plan if you have concerns.
Careful and thoughtful preparation will allow you to establish a mindful and healthy foundation for courageous co-parenting.
Courageous Co-Parenting is Raising Arizona Kids’s monthly column for separating or divorced parents to learn conflict resolution skills, strategies, and attitudes for healthy co-parenting. These concepts apply to all parents. Please feel free to share the column with your co-parent.