By Colette Fortin, Owner of Fairway Divorce Solutions Waterloo-Wellington
Technological advances have certainly changed the way we communicate in our relationships. The popularity of text messaging continues to explode. Take a look at these recent usage statistics:
Almost 100% of smartphone users text at least once a day,
Almost 70% of North Americans say they text more than talk on their smartphone (26 minutes texting vs. 21 minutes of calling),
89% of people always have their phone easily accessible,
82% of messages are read within 5 minutes, but only 1 in 4 emails are read.
While many social scientists wonder how these new methods of communication will affect future relationships and people’s abilities to relate to one another, it’s already having an impact on communication around divorce.
There’s no doubt that separation and divorce are now played out in the social media world. Status updates, relationship breakups, new relationships; personal lives are on full public display. Sometimes this social messaging can lead to the actual break up or shockingly, can be the way someone finds out that the relationship has ended. This certainly can be a negative aspect to social media. Finding out that a marriage is over by seeing the status change on Facebook certainly can set the stage for rocky post-separation communication.
The use of text messaging can be beneficial, particularly when communicating with your former spouse. But there may also be some downsides as well. Let’s look at some ‘best practices’ of text/email messaging when it comes to separation and divorce.
Ask yourself 3 key questions before you hit send
Using instant messaging to communicate with your children and your ex can be very effective. It also comes with some drawbacks. If you send a message from an emotional place, you cannot take it back. The result can be damaging to relationships. So many times we feel the need to respond
Limiting the face-to-face communication in high conflict situations
If communication tends to erupt into arguments, using text messaging can allow people to stick to the business at hand, without getting into the emotion. They can also choose ‘when’ to respond to messages. Where telephone conversations can sometimes lead to heated arguments; by using text messaging or email, one has a chance to think through their response, thus minimizing the escalation of conflict.
In the past, many arguments have been played out on the driveway or at the front door when parents drop off or pick up children. Now with many other sources of communications, there is little need to have this damaging dialogue in front of the children.
Managing your kids’ activities
Text messages and email are also making it easier for divorced parents to stay connected with the day-to-day happenings with their children. More and more parents are relying on regular text messages to update one another on schedules, drop offs, school events, homework, and even the helpful reminder that “today is the field trip and Jimmy needs to bring his skates to school”. These messages can be very effective in co-parenting through the years of their children’s busiest schedules.
Staying Connected to your kids
Let’s face it, our kids are more comfortable using more technology than we ever were, and this allows them to stay connected easier. Today’s family-bundled smartphone plans allow kids to stay connected to mom even when they are at dad’s house and vice versa. When one parent travels with children, technology allows them to stay better connected to their other parent. There is less risk of ‘losing’ touch when communication can happen anywhere. For example, using video chats can help younger children be close to their other parent when travelling and this can significantly reduce the stress of being away. Sending videos or posting pictures can also be effective ways for kids to stay in touch with parents if one parent travels a lot or lives far away. You may have missed the graduation because you live 3,000 miles away, but you don’t have to wait for the annual summer visit to catch up.
When used effectively, text messaging and other social media can actually improve post-separation/divorce communication. They certainly have given new meaning to our ability to ‘keep in touch’ while building our new separate lives apart.