Divorce: Is It OK to Talk to Your Children When They are With Your Ex

Q. “My ex-wife will not let me speak to the kids when they are with her. She does not want me to call the house. Is there anything I can do about this? It breaks my heart.”

A. This is a great question and raises a thorny issue that needs to be negotiated, particularly when your separation is still fresh. On the one hand it’s important for the children to feel they are connected and able to have a relationship with both mom and dad. But on the other hand, mom and dad are separated now and children and adults alike need to ease into that new reality.

It is not clear how old your children are and I am not sure how long your separation has been in place. In the absence of that, there could be factors in your ex-wife’s request that you not have contact with your children. So I’d love to offer you some tips now to get you started, but would encourage you to work with a parenting coordinator or counselor to discuss this issue further so you can come up with a plan that is just right for your family.

If you don’t have your children often, having a phone call or two from dad just to touch base with them can be ….

very reassuring. Even though they aren’t with you, they know the channels of communication, love and support don’t disappear even when they aren’t with you physically.

The guiding principle should be to do what is in the best interests of the children. In the days of cell phones, texting and Skype, there are many ways to still communicate with your children, and they may even request that.

See if you can be clear with your ex-wife about your need to communicate with your kids and to do so in a way that isn’t so persistent or involving that it won’t rob her of their time with her. In some cases, having the other parent in constant communication might be confusing for the children, or open the door to have the children play one parent off the other (yes, they sometimes do that!) Have a conversation with your ex-wife and apply Stephen Covey’s principle of “Seek to understand.” Do your best to separate out what’s important to your children versus what’s your own emotional homework about processing how you feel about your divorce. It could be really helpful to get some third party assistance so you can address any other issues that might be fueling her unwillingness to have you contact them.

© 2012 Carolyn B. Ellis

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4 thoughts on “Divorce: Is It OK to Talk to Your Children When They are With Your Ex

  1. This is a common issue that arises during family mediations. Co-parenting with an ex can be difficult and communication between the adults can be very difficult. A skilled family mediator can help parents find solutions problems like this by facilitating a productive and respectful conversation between the parents.

  2. For parenting conflicts to be prevented, it will certainly be important to make sure that important matters will be tackled during the mediation process to make sure that the children won’t have to deal with so much inconvenience right after the separation.

  3. This is really helpful advice for anyone stuck in that awkward situation after a divorce. Sometimes there is not much that can be done regarding this, I always tell my clients to just go with their gut and what feels right. It is different for each relationship and person.