When your children are staying with their other parent, there will probably be times when you need or want to have a phone conversation with them. You may be wondering what the best way to do this is so that you can ensure they have a good experience.
Making a phone call to your child when they are at their other parent's home can be anxiety-provoking with a challenging co-parent. Creating respectful communication boundaries, can honor your co-parent’s time, but also make sure that you are able to speak with your child.
Here are 6 tips for making phone calls between child-parent when kids are at the other home:
1.Keep them brief and age-appropriate attention span
Phone calls are meant for you to connect with your child so you don’t have to go for long bouts without being able to speak with them. While you have a parental right to speak with your child, we also want to be respectful of their time with their other parent.
We typically recommend keeping calls between around 15-20 minutes and 30 minutes max. But, again this depends on the age of the child, their environment, and the temperament of your co-parent.
Average Attention spans of children:
2 years: 4-6 minutes
4 years: 8-12 minutes
6 years: 12-18 minutes
8 years: 16-24 minutes
10 years: 20-30 minutes
12 years: 24-36 minutes
Keep in mind if the children are young the call will need to be over facetime and interactive. This may require the parent to read to them, allow them to show toys they are playing with, etc. Most young children have very short attention spans and cannot be bothered with long phone calls.
2.Request for privacy
Children have a right to ask for a private phone conversation with you even while they are in the home of your co-parent. Eavesdropping is inappropriate and inconsiderate of the child-parent relationship. This is also the same for when the kids are at your home and the role is reversed.
Privacy can also vary depending on your parenting agreement, custody arrangements, and if a parent is under supervision. In the case where abuse is severe enough to have impacted the rights of the parent, then it's recommended hiring a neutral party who can monitor calls.
3.Don’t question the kids about everything they do with their co-parent
When the kids are spending time with their co-parent, their time should be honored and respected. We don’t want to question them about every last detail that has gone on during their stay at their parent’s home. General questions are fine, but interrogating children makes them uncomfortable and creates distrust and anxiety for the child. Even if the child doesn’t speak up they will show you through their body language.
In cases where you suspect your child is being neglected or abused when with your co-parent, try to look for clues or get creative with your questions so your child is not aware of what is going on. We can assist you with this so you can keep the children out of the middle.
4.Refrain from asking them questions about your co-parent
Make the conversations with you and your child strictly about your relationship. Worrying about what your co-parent is up to is no longer your business and vice versa. Ask them about toys they are playing with, books they are reading, how school is, or any other activities they may have engaged in.
5.Don’t shove in their face everything they missed while not with you
If your co-parent is bragging to the kids or you happen to tell the kids everything you did while being away from them, this can make kids feel like they aren’t important and they are missing out. This can really affect a child’s self-esteem and cause them to feel depressed.
Children may internalize it as:
“I am not lovable”
“Wow, guess they don’t care since they didn’t wait for me”
“I must be not worth getting invited”
“They don’t want to spend time with me”
6.Schedule consistent times to reduce communication with co-parent
Scheduling consistent call times can be difficult with a challenging personality type. They will want the freedom to call when they choose, but this doesn’t benefit the children and can only make your life feel like chaos. When creating call schedules, this will depend on the parenting time, how often a parent is wanting to call, and the kid’s activities. Sometimes this can be a negotiation process until both parents can reach an agreement.
If you don’t have co-parenting communication boundaries in your parenting agreement, please set up a consultation here.