Q: Anticipating a conversation with my son's father makes my stomach queasy. So much so that I recently suggested he pick our son up at my mother's house. Is that good ex-etiquette?
A: That's not a bad idea if your relationship is so volatile that you can't interact politely in front of your child, but it's not the answer for long-term co-parenting. As your child grows, there will be times that you have to speak to your ex — from planning everyday activities to facing a surprise illness. There are ways to interact with your ex and still respect yourself.
You may have heard, "approach interaction with an ex like a business meeting." Come prepared. During your presentation describe your action plan, complete with possible solutions, and at the end, ask for questions. If there are any, listen carefully, assess the situation and answer the questions to the best of your ability.
If you really want to problem-solve with an ex, you have to begin by checking yourself — and be honest. (Ex-etiquette for parents rule 8, "Be honest and straightforward.") If you're contributing to the problem, stop it. Many admit that they are contributing but blame their behavior on how they were treated in the past. If you really want to get along with your ex, you have to let the past go. (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule 5, "Don't be spiteful." Rule 6, "Don't hold grudges.")
Good communication doesn't just happen. You have to mentally set the stage. This means that before you meet your ex, try to visualize what you want to happen — not what you think will happen or what has happened in the past. See yourself getting along, even if you secretly think it's a fantasy. Your heart rate will drop, your breathing will relax and you will be able to set the stage for solution-based problem-solving.
Try to solve one problem at a time, and agree what that issue is before you meet. Have the meeting in a neutral place. Do not have your child around if you are trying to solve a problem that involves him. And, finally, come to agreement, then present the final solution to him as a united front.