Single parents resulting from a divorce know one thing for sure, communication can be a constant challenge. No matter how “business-like” you try to be, those pesky hurt feelings, emotions, and yes, anger, rise up on occasion. Also, sometimes as a parent we want things from our children–a hug, a call, an iloveyouverymuch– they may not feel ready to give at some given moment. Recently a parent asked me:
What to do say if you have the kids for the weekend and the child is supposed to call the other parent but he or she refuses? This can be tricky because you might not know if a situation has transpired between the other parent and child or say the child might just feel “busy” watching t.v. or playing a game.
- Gently remind the child that is time to call for a quick goodnight because mommy or daddy is waiting.
- At that point if the child refuses, I would not push the issue but suggest a call later the next day and see how the child responds.
- Soon after, I would then text, email or call the waiting parent and explain briefly the situation in a non-aggressive and gentle manner.
- The next day I would casually bring up the situation with the child and see if he or she wants to talk about anything that might be happening in their lives regarding the other parent.
I have always let my children call their father or other relative whenever they ask because I don’t feel limiting (or forcing calls) is fair to them. I also remember that we must act like responsible, respectful adults for our children. My life is my message, as Ghandi said. I would never want my ex to bar me from a call or visit (and I would never want the children to feel they were forced to call me. ) I realize when they are having fun with their dad they might not want to stop and call or they might forget. I do my best to understand.
Often children bear the burdens of the parents’ break up and they do not process or voice those feelings on our scheduled timeline. As children get older they want to attend activities and visit friends more than stay at home with the scheduled parent. Within reason, I try to accommodate changes in schedules. It becomes a balancing act of consideration, flexibility, and understanding for all those involved.
It is not always easy or fair. Frankly as a parent, it might hurt to feel slighted. Several helpful books on this topic include:
- Gary Neumann’s Divorce the Sandcastle Way and
- Elizabeth Marquardt’s Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce.
- Teenage as a second Language by Barbara Greenberg
These books can help the parents understand the child’s feelings and reactions. They also give some “scripts” or suggested ways of handling some sticky situations.
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