In researching for my book, I have talked to a lot of divorced parents to find out where the majority of the conflict in co-parenting arises. It seems the number one topic that is brought up is communication. Not just communication between the parents, but communication with the kids when they are with the other parent. It can be very upsetting for a parent when he/she has to go seven days without seeing his/her kids and the other parent doesn’t allow the noncustodial parent to talk to the children.
Due to the controversial nature of calling/texting the kids, it is often put in as a provision in the custody agreement. During mediation, the parents may agree on what they think is appropriate for calling and texting. While the custody agreement is in place so there is a baseline to work from, the goal is to work toward open communication between all parties.
I have discussed this with most of my divorced friends and everyone seems to think that talking to the kids once a day when they are with the other parent is pretty appropriate. However, there are some parents who choose not to allow that. They won’t have the kids return calls, won’t play messages for the kids and may even seek legal action to keep the other parent from contacting the kids.
While the parent prohibiting the contact is protecting his/her privacy, he/she is also causing anxiety for the children. Rather than knowing the other parent can’t contact them, the children go to bed each night thinking the other parent doesn’t care or has better things to do.
You can’t explain to a 10-year-old child that you can’t call them because mommy went to court to prohibit it. You can’t tell your teenage son that you aren’t allowed to text him about basketball tryouts or his big science test because his father had it put in the court order. While your anger may make you want to tell them, you know it is not in their best interests to possess that information.
My ex has always called at least twice a day for over nine years now. Although most would say that is excessive, it doesn’t bother me because I don’t have to speak to him anyway. With caller ID, I can see it is him and hand the phone to one of the kids. They enjoy their daily talks with him and when I have asked them about it they have said that it makes them feel good that dad wants to be a part of their lives even when they are not with him. If it makes them feel good, then why in the world would I fight it?
Some people may think over twice a day is excessive, but as far as I am concerned, he is their father and when we were married he got to talk to them even more than that. Why take that from either of them? I don’t even know how often he texts them because HE IS THEIR FATHER. If he wants to text them, then he can. And if I want to text them when they are with him, then I will. No matter who they are with, we are both still their parents.
Because of this open attitude we have about phone calls/texting, I can’t even begin to understand people who attempt to limit contact with the other parent without there being an abuse issue or an addiction problem. While there may be separate lives with the parents, there is only one life for the children. Just because they are with one parent and not the other does not mean that their other parent doesn’t exist for them during that time.
Following a divorce, children have many needs that only their parents can meet. It has been proven that kids need their parents to remain involved. If their parents do not remain involved, the kids will question their love. Good communication with your ex regarding the kids should be of the highest priority, but even more important is keeping the right mindset so that you can encourage the relationship between your kids and the other parent. Your children more than ever need you to put them first. Divorce is a time when parents inadvertently make a lot of parenting mistakes, so don’t purposely cause them more problems by sabotaging their relationship with the other parent. Read more from Valerie DeLoach at her blog, Life in a Blender.