One of the great tragedies of divorce is the damage and pain that lingers for years like a summer thunderstorm rolling around the night sky. For those divorced with school aged children talking to your children's other parent can be a very difficult and enduring problem.
There will be numerous occasions on which you have to speak, everything from weekend visits to the choice of the next school. Here are some strategies that may help you cope with getting a functional communication channel working for you and most importantly for your children.
Your children's wellbeing is most important
Regardless of what you may now feel about your children's other parent, they love both of you. Children of divorced parents still need a mum and a dad. If it's the dad who has moved away then work hard to foster a good relationship with him and encourage them to spend time with him to a level which is best for all the family.
Stay with the present and the future
If communications are strained, especially after an acrimonious divorce then it is vital to keep the conversation to the purely factual and functional. Letting the issues and arguments of the past relationship reappear now will only create more hurt and difficulty for both of you.
A conversation about this is not best done whilst collecting your children from their other parent. Working through your feelings about your former spouse in a constructive and forward focused way should be done slowly and gently in your own time.
Limit the time for these conversations, especially at first
You may find that your tolerance level for being civil to your former spouse is limited. Keep it cool and don't go over that limit. Keep the conversation agenda short enough to be achievable within that time. ‘Do diaries' in less than 10 minutes and if you get anxious then suggest that ‘we can talk about this next week.'
Pace your conversations and be sensitive to reactions
Many discussions about your children cannot be concluded in just one conversation. Planning ahead when talking about family events, holidays or upcoming children's parties can smooth the path to an arrangement that suits everyone. There is little more frustrating than one parent saying "Oh, didn't I tell you the kids are with their grandparents this weekend?" especially when you've postponed a hot date because you thought they were spending it with you.
Obviously you know your children's other parent very well, so well that you know what tone of voice, what turn of phrase can annoy or irritate. Steer clear of these; the temptation to wind him/her up is to be seriously avoided. It will achieve a moment of satisfaction but only make things more difficult in the future. Being sensitive to how far the issue can be resolved in one conversation is vital. Closing a conversation with a measure of agreement is much better than forcing it on and risking ending up with no agreement.