Q. My ex will not allow our children to call me or text me when they are with him. He doesn’t know that our 10-year-old sneaks calls late at night and my oldest texts me from high school. This can’t be good ex-etiquette. What do you suggest?
A. Of course it’s not good ex-etiquette, the kids should be able to contact both of you any time they want. They have two homes, why should there be restrictions from contacting either one? But, in dad’s defense, if you were calling multiple times a day and disrupting their time together, I’m not surprised he’s monitoring calls. Forbidding calls and texts, however, is going about it the wrong way and sets dad up for failure. Preventing interaction causes anxiety and makes the kids worry. Plus, you tell any kid they can’t do something and all of a sudden, that’s the only thing they want to do. So, after everyone’s gone to bed, your 10-year-old sneaks a desperate call to mommy and when there’s a break between classes your high-schooler is texting how miserable she is. Meanwhile, you’re a nervous wreck because you can’t talk to the kids and everyone resents dad.
So, let’s take a breath and look at how this all should be handled:
- Kids should have open access to both parents.
- Parents should have open access to the children when they are with the other parent BUT unless there is an emergency, touching base more than once a day may interfere with the children’s time with their other parent. If you must talk to your child every day, assign a time that does not disrupt the other parents’ evening, say 7pm after dinner, and keep the call light.
- Even though the kids have phones, do not ask them to pass on information to the other parent. “Tell your dad you will be late” or “Tell your mom I’ll get her check to her next week” may send the other parent into a tizzy - and it’s not fair to ask you kids to pass on information that you know will anger their other parent. You’ve put your child right in the middle. PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL THE OTHER PARENT YOURSELF. then pass on what you and their other parent have decided–as a united front. That’s good ex-etiquette.
- If you must ground your child - and we all know that taking the phone away is a great way to get their attention - do not ground them from their other parent. (See first bullet point!) A very effective way to ground your child from the phone is to establish a “phone place.” When they are grounded, they stay home and that’s where the phone stays. If you allow their friends to come over, that’s where their friend’s phone stays as well, as long as they are in your home. If mom or dad calls, they may answer it. If friends call, they may not…
Bottom line, parents who ground their children from talking to the other parent have lost sight of how to properly co-parent. When there’s a problem, the FIRST person you call is the other parent. He or she should be your biggest ally. If they are not, you’ve both failed. Fix it! Go to co-parenting classes.
Posted by CoParenting