What do you recommend when the other parent tells your children not to tell you what goes on in their house?
Great question! You’re not alone in asking about this and it’s not an easy one to answer.
After divorce most parents want to keep their private lives private and don’t want the children sharing too many details about their visit time. Asking children to “spy” on their other parent puts the kids in an awkward situation. They feel guilty, pressured and confused, especially if Mom or Dad tells them not to share specific information.
This delicate subject needs to be addressed between both parents and agreed upon in advance. Children should be able to share something about activities or other innocent details regarding their time with their other parent. Asking not to say anything is unfair to the children who naturally want to talk about things they did. But you shouldn’t probe beyond the superficial with them. If you want to know exactly what Dad bought them for dinner and what time they went to bed, you should have that conversation with Dad.
For those who aren’t communicating easily via phone, try one of the online scheduling services designed for just this purpose. I like CoParently.com (coparently.com) because there’s a free trial and they offer state-of-the-art, very user-friendly services. Create some agreements in advance. Perhaps Mom and Dad need to share menus or venues they visited that week on the scheduling calendar or via email. Perhaps that information is not to be shared. Get help from a mediator or therapist if you need an intermediary in making agreements. Just keep the kids out of the conflict!
What if the other parent doesn’t let me call my kids while at the other home?
Children suffer when one parent doesn’t allow the kids to communicate with their other parent – whether it’s over night or for an extensive stay. Divorce forces children to be separated from one parent most times. It was not their choice. Insisting they have to no contact with the other parent punishes the children unnecessarily. Connection with parents creates security and a sense of comfort. Talking for just a few minutes on the phone, via test or computer provides that comfort. Denying your child time to maintain connection with either parent is hurtful and will be destructive long-term.
If your co-parent doesn’t want to cooperate in this regard, try to bring a therapist, divorce coach or other expert into the picture to mediate a resolution. You’ll find numerous articles on my www.ChildCenteredDivorce.com website as well as several other divorce and parenting websites and blogs encouraging both parents to keep communication with the children as easy and stress-free as possible. Sometimes, simply sending an article or two to your co-parent will open their minds to the importance of providing the children with ongoing contact with the other parent. If that doesn’t work, taking legal action may be necessary, but only as a last resort.
Always remind your children that you love and miss them when they are not with you. However, never “guilt” them into feeling emotional turmoil about leaving you to stay with their other parent. Encourage positive visits and remind them you look forward to seeing them again next time it’s your turn.
*** *** ***
Rosalind Sedacca is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of the internationally acclaimed guidebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! It can be found at //www.howdoitellthekids.com. Her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, free articles, free ezine and other valuable resources for parents are all available at //www.childcentereddivorce.com.