Once your divorce is finalized and you are living as separate parents, new issues are likely to arise such as ‘how often is reasonable to call my children when they are with my ex?’
For us that has been through a divorce this is likely to be a common topic of contention. It is one of the most mentioned complaints from my clients (along with non-returned clothes!)
Putting the divorce coach hat on, I invite you to consider your motives for the contact to ensure you do the best thing for your child. Do you really need to call or face time them when they spend every other weekend with the other parent?
Here are the important things to consider when deciding how often to speak to your children while away:
Your child: It can be hard to remember to put the needs of your child first with this one. It may be tempting to call every day however this is not always healthy for them. They do need to learn to enjoy being with your ex, it is therefore healthier to give your child the space to achieve this. If you speak to them every day, they may not learn to cope without you. If there is tension between the divorced parents, it might be even easier for the child to focus on one parent at the time. It is often harder for us than them. Kids are very resilient. The younger they are the faster they can adapt to new situations and as they will not know the difference. However, you do know your child better than anyone. You will know if they need to speak to you daily in which case then you must arrange to call them, so they do not feel abandoned by you. It can be a hard decision as you need to clear in your own mind that you are doing this for their best interests and not your own. Over a period of time, you can slowly reduce the calls as it will help them to settle in at your ex’s if you allow them uninterrupted time to do so.
The length of their time away from you: If your child is only away for one or two nights it can be good for them to not have contact with you. It allows them to settle quicker when they do not have constant reminders of what is happening with you. If they are away for a longer period, then it often works to leave them to settle for a while and call them when there are a few days left to go. This way if they do get upset speaking to you there is not long left before they are back with you. By having some contact, they are reassured that you are still there for them. I would avoid face time calls as it is very intrusive to the other parent.
Their age. When your child is less than 2 years old then they will not know that life for others is any different. If you play it right, they will grow up thinking that it is normal to spend time with each parent separately. This makes it easier for them to go between homes and they will not need to speak to you as often as they accept this is how it works. Set the precedent as early as you can. If your children are older, they may want to call you and it is good to be available to them within reason. However, work with your ex if you can on this as it can be difficult if your kids are constantly calling the other parent. You need to work together and come to an agreement that you both stick to. Firm boundaries from the start will help a child to settle even if they do not like them.
Your child’s emotional state of mind. If you child finds it hard to be away from you then you must try to offer them support without giving in to any manipulation. It is often worth seeking the advice of a professional if your child is very distressed about being away from you.
Your emotional state of mind. Resist calling your child to tell them you miss them if they are away for short stays. You want them to be happy at your ex’s without worrying about you. Often, I hear stories about parents who calls to tell the children about presents or surprises ready for them when they return. This will only unsettle the child and not focus on the time they have with the other parent. When you do speak with your child make sure you are upbeat and positive. Do not let make them feel they are missing out on anything by being away. However, it can be very upsetting for a parent when he/she has to go seven days without speaking to their child/children and the other parent does not allow the noncustodial parent to talk to them. Keep their best interests at heart, however hard it may be.
Remember divorce does not have to damage children in the process. It will very much depend on how you act as parents and role models for them. It is a big responsibility and one that must be taken seriously. Overall, you will feel better about yourself which will make your children feel more secure.