I know that “doing business” with your child or children’s other parent is not always a matter of convenience. We can’t always plan things out for times when we are feeling calm and neutral and well-rested. Still, if you are a single parent by divorce or separation, of if there is still another parent in your child’s life out there somewhere–there is a good chance that you will occasionally have to interact with each other and negotiate, and this can bring out our evil twin if we aren’t prepared…
Boy, do I know this one firsthand! If I have had a bad day, or am overly tired, or have a negative interaction with my children’s other parent fresh in my mind–it is really tough to stay calm, mellow, and Zen when it comes time to talk over business-y parenting stuff. Fortunately, I’ve got a few years under my belt and have learned a few things and seasoned over the years I’ve been a single parent. My number one rule? If I don’t feel up to it, and I can put it off (say, there isn’t an emergency, no cops are involved, or any such “big deal), I do. I don’t force myself to enter into discussions and negotiations with the other parent if I’m really not up to it and it is something that can be postponed.
Now, that said, getting myself in the right frame of mind is still the goal. Breathe, relax, and try to let go of anything that has happened in the past. Just because every other conversation has deteriorated into misunderstanding does NOT mean that this one has to. I really do think that changing the expectation can make a difference, I’m not just writing it to be funny. Expectations matter and if we go into a negotiation expecting it to go awry, it will. So, try assuming that you will be pleasant and the other parent will be pleasant and all will go well.
Additionally, have a firm agenda and stick to it. Don’t let yourself wander off track to talk about personal stuff. It took years before my ex-spouse and I could comfortably have the small talk and chat about how Aunt so-and-so was–it’s best to avoid that altogether until you’re ready and able. Stay focused on the task at hand. Get in, get talking, and get done with it. The more you linger, the more opportunity for trouble.
All in all, I think staying focused on the kid or kids is the best way to get your mind right for co-parenting discussions and negotiations. Try to put your own stuff aside and keep the child’s interest at the forefront of your mind and you’ll be ready for even the toughest talks with your ex.