Tip: for children to feel “not in the middle” and able to have authentic, comfortable experiences with each of their parents, they need to feel they have the space to do that without interruption.
Navigating phone calls, facetime, and check-ins for your child to connect with their other parent while with you – can be challenging. It’s also an important aspect of two-home parenting. Use these tips as some helpful guidance in setting you and your child up for a less-stressed experience during phone calls and check-ins.
- For younger children: Set your child up in a comfortable, quiet, private space with their communication device (phone, computer, etc.). Allow them to have privacy, so they don’t feel “watched” or as if they have to monitor what they say to the other parent because you are close by. If they are in their room, you can leave the door open, but just let them know, “I am going to give you some special time with your dad/mom right now”). Then TRY and not interrupt them – it is their time with their other parent.
- For younger and middle school age: Structure the calls with specific days and times, so everyone knows when they will happen. Children thrive on predictability, structure, routine, and consistency – create this plan with their other parent.
- For older children: when they have their own cell phone, be respectful of your co-parent’s residential time – texting and phone calls out of the blue can cause disruption.
- For older children: allowing them some choice and freedom in when and how to contact you is helpful -remember children feel safety and security in their home and finding a routine and rhythm – allow them to have this in both of their homes rather than thinking it’s tied to you talking with them.
- Allow your children time to connect without interruptions. This is really important – if you are struggling with attention being drawn away from you as a parent and given to their other parent on a phone call, this would be a great topic to explore with yourself or with a trusted friend or counselor – parent self-awareness is critical in allowing our children to navigate their relationships with both parents freely.
- If you have multiple children, you can have them take turns talking to their other parent or talk all at once, and it’s what your children prefer.
- Try and make this a priority – let your children know you honor that they have another parent, and that relationship is important. If you need to change the time/day, do this well ahead of time, so everyone is prepared.
- Be respectful of mealtimes, routines, and activities in the residential parents’ home.
- Have your child use the bathroom, have a snack, finish activities or homework before the call – so their time with their other parent is respected and prioritized.
- Consider children may need more connection with each parent directly after a separation, divorce, adjustment, or restructuring – they may be grieving their family changing.
- Children need to feel secure, so when parents show disappointment if their child doesn’t call or rejection if their child wants to get off the phone- this can create shame in children and keep them from feeling regulated in their secure space. Learn to self-regulate and manage your own big emotions when your connection to your children is not what you hoped for. It’s not personal.
For Both Parents to Remember:
- Think of ways you can allow your child to settle into their experience and connection with their parent on the phone, without worrying about you, how you feel, if you feel connected to, etc. This takes your child OUT OF THE MIDDLE and allows them to just be a kid and not worry about pleasing a parent or navigating their parent’s feelings.
- Try and remember that the amount of calling or length of connection is not a measure of how much your children love and care for you. Understanding that some calls may be longer, and some very short check-ins are very typical for children. Kids are concrete and very “in the moment,” so this can often feel challenging when you are the parent on the other end of the phone and your child is “busy” doing something else.
- BOTH parents can be helpful – as the parent on the phone can practice empathy and try and understand their child’s perspective and what their CHILD needs at that moment (calls are not a time for parents to get their emotional needs met from kids). Parents support kids, not the other way around.
- If you are the parent who is the “on parenting time” parent- then you can be supportive by following the above steps and making sure your child’s relationship and the connection with their other parent- are prioritized for THEM.
Remember, phone calls and connecting with their other parent is about your CHILD, not about the adults. It’s a time for your child to check in on their relationship with their other parent and maybe just share some fun or challenging things from their time away. Can it be inconvenient for the residential parent… absolutely… AND it’s important.
Need more support on navigating communication across two homes? Check out our Parenting from Two Homes Course at www.parentteam.com and get some ideas and a strategic PLAN for navigating this!