Co-parenting & Technology: Tips and pitfalls
Currently, technology plays a pivotal role in how one's co-parenting relationship is played out. Unfortunately, some couples have used it as a means of destruction to destroy each other and publicly display "their dirty laundry". This does not encourage a co-parenting relationship. Using technology to hurt your former spouse only ends up hurting your children...and yourself. Below are some tips and pitfalls to think about regarding co-parenting and technology.
Apps- Used to promote co-parenting!
As a Co-parenting Counselor, I am always looking for new apps and ways to help my families communicate. Recently, I was at a conference and learned about Family Wizard.
Family Wizard is helpful in terms of schedules, keeping up with finances, communicating, etc. I could even log in (with my client's permission) and see if my clients are being nice to each other.
Share custody and visitation schedules
Track child's expenses
Third party can track and participate in your messaging
third party can be grandparents, stepparents, family therapist
Kids can stay in the loop and informed
$99/parent for 1 year (child accounts and third party accounts are free)
Another app my clients have used is Cozi, an online family calendar that helps co-parents keep up with their child's schedule. These tools have promoted successful ways coparents can communicate about often frustrating issues like scheduling.
shared color coded family calendar
set reminders so no one misses an appt
organize meetings, practices, etc all in one place
easily track to-do lists
create a family journal of stories about your child for the other co-parent to enjoy
Facebook- Promote or destroy co-parenting?
Do not vent your sadness, rage or frustration on social media sites like Facebook. You may feel some momentary satisfaction when you write your status that either overtly or covertly puts your co-parent down, but ultimately you are hurting your child by harming your co-parenting relationship. Always stop and consider what your children or co-parent would think if they saw your post. Keeping your hurt or bitter feelings toward your co-parent private is taking the higher road, and the harder road. Often hurt co-parents feel justified in hurting the other co-parent publicly. When you slander the other parent in public it is a form of public alienation, which feels good when others don't like your co-parent. What doesn't feel good is hurting or embarrassing your child as well as your co-parent not wanting to cooperate with you because you "slandered them". Keep those feelings to yourself. Again I say- Let go and let God.
Keep your feelings to yourself
Before posting something think about what your child or coparent would think
Let go and let God
You can promote your co-parenting relationship by tagging your co-parent in pictures of your child on Facebook. Perhaps you have decided to "stay friends" with them not for the purpose of stalking them on Facebook, but because you are co-parents and what to encourage your relationship with your kids and each other. If you do find yourself continually being negatively affected by your co-parent in your feed, just "Unfollow" them. You will remain friends but they will not appear in your Facebook feed. This is the best of both worlds. You can move on with your life, but still maintain a co-parenting relationship when needed.
Texting- Promote or destroy co-parenting?
Trying to argue over text is very, very, VERY dangerous. DO. NOT. DO. IT. It is very tempting to have text fights. It can feel so good to finish your statements with "Whatever.", "Screw you.", or "You are such a...." at least for a little while this feels good. But this does nothing for your coparenting relationship. With texting understand that you will almost never interpret the text giving your former spouse the benefit of the doubt. You will most likely read the text in a negative tone rather than the possible intended positive tone. Text interpretations are dangerous! "Have a nice day." Could really mean have a nice day, but because an "!" wasn't used you interpret it as though they are saying it sarcastically. Someone should say, "Amen, Sister!"
Both of you have decided to get a divorce and no longer stay married, yet this conflict keeps you engaged. This kind of negative conflict pulls you farther away from the goal you should be ultimately pursuing- letting your co-parent go and moving forward with your life. This type of communication is dysfunctional. If you do not know how to communicate otherwise, I suggest the following:
have a friend read your texts before you send them
if in doubt don't send the text
if you find yourself writing and erasing, writing and erasing, writing and erasing- it is time to put your phone down walk away and choose to put your energy elsewhere
trying to stay negatively engaged just so you can stay engaged with your coparent is not helping your child and it is definitely not helping you. Let go. Let God.
Texting can be great for co-parenting! It definitely has its place. Its perfect for schedule changes, confirmations or "hope you are having a great day!". (Using an ! does make it more positive, right?) It is also great for "Our kid is so funny. He just....". Or how about at the school event you text this to your co-parent, "I'm sitting on the third row to the right. I saved you a seat." These kind of texts go a long way to encourage the kind of harmony your child needs to thrive after your divorce.
Keep your text short and to the point
Don't discuss important matters over text. Ask for a meeting to discuss face-to-face or over the phone.
Texts are perfect for schedule changes or confirmations
Emails and co-parenting
Emails that are written to hurt the other co-parent are not helpful. Keep your tone neutral and any emotional language out. Consider looking at my blog "How to communicate with your co-parent like a business partner". Another way to promote your relationship is to make sure you keep your co-parent in the loop with your child's teachers and forward any important extracurricular emails, so the co-parent can stay engaged with your child's life. This shows respect to your co-parent and your child, who wants both parents involved in their life.
Images and co-parenting
Share images of your family and promote your children with each other. When your children are with you, share pictures of what they are doing with you to the other co-parent. This is not a bragging point. This is a talking point for the other co-parent with the children, so the co-parent can say to your child "your mom/dad sent me a picture of you guys on the rollercoaster with her/him. It looked like you were having a blast!". If the other co-parent takes it as bragging, you will have to stop. If your co-parent appreciates it and sees it as a helpful way to stay connected to your kids, keep it up! Yeah mom or dad!
If you are frustrated in your co-parenting relationship and not sure how to move forward, co-parenting counseling with me can help! Please email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 205-538-3978 or go online to schedule an appointment.
Sara Dungan, M.Ed, LMFT, ALC, NCC, Certified Parenting Coordinator, Divorce and Family Mediator (Domestic Violence Trained) has her private practice called Sparrow Counseling in Birmingham, AL. She specializes in Parenting Coordination, Co-Parenting Counseling and Divorce and Family Mediation. Her passion is helping parents learn how to become successful coparents, so their children can thrive after their divorce. Contact Sara at email@example.com.
Sara is an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) under the supervision of H. Hobart (Bart) Grooms, M. Div, MEd, LPC-S, LMFT-S, Supervising Counselor.