Stop calling your kids all the time when they’re with their dad

Do you talk to your kids every day when they are with their dad? Why? Or why not? How does this fit into your co-parenting rules and boundaries? Is it harder to co-parent with a difficult ex?

My kids are halfway through a 2.5 week trip to Europe with their dad, visiting his family there. This is by far the longest we've been away from each other, and I was worried they would miss me — and me them. So far, so good. It sounds like a lot of days at the beach with their little cousins and family dinners of chicken, potatoes and other Greek food. I can easily envision them in the home I visited many times during my marriage, eating the awesome home Greek cooking of my ex's stepmom and enjoying the Mediterranean sun.

Despite my initial plans to call every few days, we have spoken only twice. On Thursday I had fun telling them that our cat caught a mouse (and laid it at the foot of my chair in the dining room), hearing from Lucas about the airplane ride, and getting silly with Helena, surmising what kind of bathing suit our cat would wear at the beach (Would it be a bikini, or a tankini? Duh – a CATkini!). But — true parenting confession here — I only really started to miss them when I hung up the phone. Until then — and mostly since — I have been enjoying my kid-free time, meeting up with friends, accomplishing work and household tasks that otherwise went unattended to, and spending time with someone new I'm dating (more on that later this week, ladies).

[29 rules for better co-parenting]

I realized: If frequent calls and check-ins make me miss my kids, it probably makes them miss me and home. So if they're having a great time focused on their environs in Greece, why would I want to refocus them to their mom and New York life — especially if they're not asking for me?

Setting healthy co-parenting guidelines

Having a hard time adjusting to time away from your kids? Online therapy can help. Instead of stalking your kids when they're with their dad, you can communicate via video, phone or text with a counselor. Rates are very affordable. Check out BetterHelp now >>

Which, I will admit, they are not. And that hurts. But that is my problem. So I told my ex that unless they ask to call, we will keep calls infrequent.

As with any relationship, it is healthy that the kids and I get a break from each other and miss one another. Missing and longing are a healthy part of life. If we deny our kids that, we rob them of the ability to learn patience, memory (which studies find is collectively challenged thanks to Google), story telling and the satisfaction of seeing someone after missing them.

Communication guidelines for different co-parenting schedules

A divorced friend shares 50-50 custody with her ex who expects pictures and  updates every few hours when the kids are with her — and nightly Facetime. She enjoys the occasional cute pic in return, but sees no point in the dozens of mundane images of her offspring the dad sends every week — especially since there is rarely a time when the kids go more than two or three days without seeing either parent. “It feels intrusive and controlling, but he says he misses them so much — so how can I deny him?” she complained.

That's the thing: he misses them. No one asked what is good for the kids. These parents make it about them, and what they are missing out on. The kids just want to live their lives, be engaged in the people and activities around them and not be interrupted by forced reportage to the absent parent – especially if they can get that parent up-to-date on their shenanigans within 48 hours.

I understand that a lot is lost when you do not see your kids every day. But that is the price that is paid for the luxury of divorce. You don't have to be married to the other party, but you also get to spend less time with your children.

But I do not think that loss is so horrific. If it were, people would stop getting divorced in such high numbers. In fact, the idea that you do not know your kids or otherwise are an inferior parent because they do not hear your voice every single day before they turn 18 is a product of the over-parenting trend that stems from the elevation of mother to saint-like status. It puts too much pressure on parents to be intimately involved in every aspect of their kids' lives. Every day.

[Why you don't have to tell your ex that your kids met your new boyfriend]

Which is where a caveat is in order: In instances when one parent lives afar, or is on an extended trip that requires they be apart from the kid for weeks on end, well then of course calls and video chats are wonderful tools for staying connected. In fact, we rely on video chat to stay close some family and friends who live in other parts of the country.

Co-parenting tips and successful co-parenting strategies

While the amazing technology that allows us connect with the world via stream-of-conscious sharing of tweets and posts, researchers increasingly find that technology that connects us also makes us anxious and depressed. In fact, I suggest that the same mentality that compels us to share our every thought on Facebook and Twitter is the same one that drives us to be in constant contact with our kids.

All this connectivity has proven to shorten our attention spans, heighten anxiety and weaken relationships. Even a few years ago phone calls were expensive (who remembers a mass of relatives piling on a single phone line to talk over each other to a far-away relative in effort to save on long distant charges?) and the idea of instant sharing of pictures and video chats was the stuff of fantasy.

And yet we survived. Even thrived. And kids of divorce still bonded with both parents, and divorce wasn't so bad that it deterred people from divorcing en masse. Not to romanticize divorce of years of yore, but we stand to learn from ways our parents messed that up, but also see what worked. Which is that kids don't need their parents as much as we may think they do.

Instead of impulsively jumping on text or a call to your kids or their other parent when you are apart, here are some guidelines for healthy co-parenting — and parenting!

Co-parenting schedules

Set a time sharing or custody schedule and stick to it. Whether you are on a 50-50 shared parenting schedule, or the old-fashioned every-other-weekend-with-dad routine, get it in writing, submit it to the courts if you must, create a shared Google calendar, print out that calendar so everyone in your household can see and follow it — then stick to it! 

Co-parenting agreement

Create a co-parenting agreement, which outlines not just the schedule, but how to manage schedule changes, medical, education and religious decisions, modes of communication, and financial matters.

Include a clause about contact with the other parent during parenting time. Limit this to once daily for very young children, and less frequently as children get older.

This should also include a clause that each parent makes the day-to-day decisions for the child during their parenting time.

Co-parenting apps

If Google Calendar does not work for you, consider one of the many co-parenting apps. These include:

  • Our Family Wizard
  • 2Houses
  • Coparently
  • Cozi
  • TalkingParents

Co-parenting classes

Many judges now require both parenting and co-parenting classes for families making their way through the court system. Almost all local courts will connect you with a local, in-person co-parenting class, or you can find an online co-parenting course to take by yourself, or in collaboration with your kids' other parent.

Typically these classes are affordable and last a few hours.

Co-parenting therapy

Just as there is couples therapy, many divorced or separated parents chose to go to ongoing therapy to ensure open communication about the children and the whole family's wellbeing. You may chose to go to co-parenting counseling weekly for six months during and after a breakup, or ongoing monthly until the children are grown.

A local therapist may be found through your attorney, or a referral from a trusted friend or health care worker. Or, online therapy may be more convenient, affordable, and allow you to enjoy the benefits of counseling by conducting the text, phone or video sessions in a different location from your ex!

Best online therapy sites—pros and cons and cost

Time apart as a divorced family makes for better conversations and stories

I pick my kids up at the airport in a few days after three weeks apart — them in Crete with their dad, me in Copenhagen where I've been hanging out, working and having a pretty amazing time. I was so sad for the first days apart, and have missed them so much. As I wrote here, their dad and I agreed that I wouldn't speak to them often since I realized last year that constant communication only makes us all miss each other, and prevents them and their dad from getting into their own groove.

We did chat on the phone a couple of times, and I was struck by what interested, curious children I have. When I told Lucas, 5, that I had spent the day touring my city by bike, exploring the neighborhoods and many canals, he asked: “Did you go over any draw bridges?” Is that a great question or what?

And after I told Helena, 7, about my day full of museums, food shopping and dinner with a new friend, she asked: “But what are you doing TECHNICALLY?” which, it turns out, meant, What kind of coffee pot did I use to make my morning brew? What did the restaurant look like? What did I wear that day? What do Danish people wear? What did my friend do for work? What did we eat?

[I don't live for my kids, and that is my greatest gift to them]

I am so proud at what the curious minds of my kids, and appreciate how this time apart can bring us closer, since we will have so much to talk about when we see each other Friday, and how good it will feel to squeeze the crap out of them when I see them, and wake up in the morning when they will cuddle into me in the bed, and we fall into our old routines again.

But in the long view of divorced families, we are constantly re-discovering each other and stitching together two lives that our kids must straddle. It is often an exhausting exercise to re-acquaint ourselves with our children (and vice versa) and constantly re-establish routines — one of the struggles of single motherhood.

The upside is that I see this creating children who are fantastic conversationalists. Through the details of my life outside of mothering them, my kids see me as a person with a full life, and not just a mom. While there is indeed a sweet and deep intimacy that comes with the constant (unrelenting, grinding) care of children, a life of fulltime motherhood simply is not mine. This is my life, and it is your life too. And the details of it can be pretty sweet.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

43 Comments

  1. K on August 27, 2019 at 7:05 am

    I am on a 50/50 schedule with my almost 8 year old daughter. I call one time a day just to say hi. However of late my ex (because she doesn’t have her own phone) likes to spend some of that time yelling and berating me (mind you we’ve been apart for 4 years, he just has issues). He doesn’t typically call her but sometimes if she has a special day or whatever I have her call him. Like for example recently she got her ears pierced and I had her call him because she was really excited about it. I am thinking I should let her lead the calls but she has said “I wanted to call you Mommy and Daddy said no.” I know it’s a tricky issue but my theory is kids should call the other parent literally as much as they want and it shouldn’t be denied.

  2. Christina Justus on July 23, 2019 at 1:41 am

    The problem we have is I disagree with the parent’s time off. I’m sorry but since I gave birth I do not have time off. I disagree with people will get divorced and think all of the sudden their time without the kids is some sort of time clock where they no longer have to parent. I have a 16 year old. What if she’s been drinking and doesn’t want to drive. I don’t have to answer the call because it’s not my night? What if she’s in a situation with a boy and because I wouldn’t answer she stays and gets raped. You think it’s an appropriate boundary to not answer your phone on a night “off”. Since I gave birth I’ve not had a night off of parenting and never will I. I’m not a helicopter parent by any means. But if a child needs to call a parent regardless of divorce married etc. a parent needs to answer that call. Every time

    • Shey on August 14, 2019 at 11:24 pm

      I’m pretty sure an exception is made in an urgent situation. But, on the other hand if the child is spending time with the other parent, they will probably call that parent first anyway since that parent knows what’s going on with the child and their activities while in their care.
      You’re being super dramatic and missing the point of this article entirely. I feel sorry for your ex.

    • Jacqueline Mccredden on August 25, 2019 at 5:00 am

      I dont believe at any stage did the author of the article say she wouldnt answer the phone. She was talking about her own need to phone and putting the brakes on that. YOU SHOULD RE READ THE ARTICLE

  3. Chris Carol on June 30, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Wow this article hot a nerve for lots of us! Great advice! Yesterday bio mom called or texted my stepson 19 times and that was a good day. We’re hoping the judge will give us more control over this when we’re in court, yet again, next week. It’s exhausting, it makes him anxious and he’s more of an emotional support for get than a child.

  4. Elizabeth on May 29, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    I wish I could send this article to my husband’s ex, but, honestly, it wouldn’t get through to her. While my stepchildren’s mother has finally limited her daily calls to one or two, she bombards the kids with text messages all day when they’re with their dad. If they don’t respond to her texts in what she deems a timely manner, she starts calling them…and calling them…and calling them…until one of the kids picks up the phone. I’ll never forget the day my stepdaughter and I had gone out to run errands. When we got home my stepson told my stepdaughter to “Call mom right now. She’s been trying to reach you.” Why? Mom just had to tell my stepdaughter she had gotten her a t-shirt. I suspect a reasonable individual could have waited until the nightly bedtime call to relay this less than emergent information. But, no, this woman could not control herself, so much so that she demands to know “Why aren’t you responding to me?” Then the back-to-back calls begin until my stepson answers my stepdaughter’s phone. It’s so absurd, and it’s not normal, nor is this love. I’ve heard my stepchildren apologize to their mom for not immediately calling her to say good night as soon as they walk through the door after literally just seeing her at dance practice. This kind of parental behavior is not about maintaining a connection with one’s children. It’s about, in this case, mom’s control, or lack thereof. Making one’s child feel guilty about and the need to apologize for not phoning right away is emotional abuse. If you find you’re doing this to your children after examining your own habits, you need to seek psychological help – and so do your kids because you’re hurting them.

    • Jessica on June 23, 2019 at 10:40 pm

      Omg! Irs a relief someone else is going through the same thing! I just got home from a dance recital and my stepdaughter cried and cried. The mom has to constantly bombard her 7 year old with phone calls of I love you and I miss you. She is selfish and insecure. Has to get comfort from her daughter bc her life sucks. What happened to putting her child’s happiness and wellbeing first? This only began after I got mad that she gave her 7 year old a cell phone with unlimited access to YouTube. She blamed me for not allowing her daughter to talk to her. Complete bs bc she always got to talk to her daughter twice a day, and whenever she called. Now her daughter cannot live in the present and engage in any activity bc her mom ruins it? Let our children watch naked and inappropriate videos. Really?!? I told her that she didn’t need a cell phone bc a 7 year old should always be with an adult. Which is what she thought she could be sneaky about. . Leaving her own daughter with her boyfriends boys who her daughter calls bad?!? Also whom get in trouble at school?!? Now Dad is fed up too bc he feels like he has no say in her parenting and she acts like she doesn’t love him. All feeding into her moms insecurity. Loyalty and comfort for her mom. She wins. Daughter will turn out to be a slutty teenage mom with no ambition or direction. Great role model. Break the birds wings if it means the bird will stay with you in the nest.

  5. Lauren on March 6, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    We have primary custody of my 10 yo step-son. His mother who has every other weekend and and a 4 hour evening visit every other week used to call and text non-stop. She would have her son so upset because she ‘missed him so much’ and ‘didn’t know what she was going to do with out him’ because ‘he was her best friend’ that we finally had a modification made to the parenting plan that he calls her twice a week at a scheduled time and she is only allowed to contact us if there is an emergency when he is with her or she can not pick him up for her visit. He can call her any other time he wants, but most days we have to force the schedule. We encourage him to talk to her but also let him know that if he doesn’t want to talk he has to the right to tell her in a respectful way and get off the phone.

    Understand this woman lost full custody of her other child to her parents and the judge put into writing that we were very gracious in the time we allowed her to see her son. We understand the importance of his mother in his life, but not to the point that it disrupts our life, our family time, and his mental health. We do not call or disrupt her time with him and expect the same in return.

    It’s simple, put the child’s needs before your anger with your ex and your need to know every detail of what they are doing with the other parent. If you don’t want to be a part time parent then don’t get divorce. Kudos to the few people who can successfully co-parent. It’s a win-win. Understand that a child loves both parents and they are not emotionally able to handle the games and guilt. And they are children, most of them would rather be doing anything else than talking to their parents – whether on the phone or in person. It’s about boundaries. Some parents need them, others don’t.

  6. Kelmag on February 8, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    I share 50/5O with my sons dad. It’s so hard but from the beginning it was established by the court we each get one every other day phone call. I think this works well it’s not so intrusive for the other parent and the child gets autonomy by not having to be in constant contact with the non custodial parent everyday. I think it’s good for kids to know Mom or Dad is thinking about them and touching base. Sometimes my son doesn’t really want to talk usually when he’s in the middle of playing so I just say I love you and get off the phone. Other days he wants to talk for 20 min. Same with his dad. I’m sad tonight because my son should have found out what part he has in the school play and he said he would call me to let me know but he didn’t . I am not going to call him even though it’s killing me.

  7. GH3 on January 23, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    I’m currently in this situation. My ex wife and I have 50/50. 2 and 2 and then alternating weekends. My ex is insisting on calling every day and keeps telling our 7 year old that he can call her at any time. The child’s desires to call tend to pop up only when he is not getting his way. I offered her a 10a time-slot on Saturday mornings, during the period I have the child from Wednesday – Sunday. I reluctantly agreed to every day at 6p after she threw a fit in a therapy session. These calls often leave my child upset and missing her…emotions that really only come up after the call.

    My position is…if it’s an emergency…fine….but my time is my time and her time is her time. Im perfectly content catching up on his doings 2 or 3 days down the road.

  8. Brad on December 6, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    My X and I used to call every few days as we have a 2,2,3 schedule, it wasn’t intrusive at all and I didn’t mind it. Since she got remarried to a total control freak, he has limited my communication with not only my kids but with her as a co-parent. We can’t discuss anything without him being on the email or reading the texts. She has totally changed. So every night I dread the phone call from 6-8 that is guaranteed to happen on my watch. The kids are 9 and 11 now and don’t need a nightly call, especially after 5 days with her and finally on my watch. But yet, it will always happen. It’s in the decree so the only way I can change it is to go back to court. But over a phone call? $2500-5K? Does anybody have any advice for me?

  9. Carol on July 6, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    My daughter’s ex remarried a woman who has been trying to alienate her from her children. She has shared custody but kids live with wealthy dad and new wife. When She has her kids, stepmom calls and texts the children multiple times a day asking what they have eaten, what they are doing, etc. After they take these calls they act moody with her. She’s had to engage in a custody battle because her parenting time was severely cut back once girlfriend/now wife entered the picture. It’s amazing the control they have over my grandkids. My daughter is a wonderful mother but she is being marginalized by ex and new wife. I can only hope that the court system will resolve these issues. A Forensic investigation has been ordered to sort out what’s been going on. Her ex and new wife interrogate the children when they return from
    My daughter’s. I’ve noticed that my granddaughter is having an unhealthy relationship with food now. Stepmom is very controlling about what food they can eat and when. Ex is blind to her controlling and jealous behavior. As their grandmother I feel I’m also being critiqued after a visit. The children are 8 (girl) and 10 (boy). They are so brainwashed by their dad and new wife that they believe everything their dad and stepmom tell them.

  10. Peaceofmind on March 12, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    I’m watching this be used and abused daily and it is blatantly obvious this is not for the Children’s well being, it was never done for 5 months prior to Dad meeting a new partner and Mum would vanish for days with no idea where she was, let alone get a phone call ( it was great and quiet and the children were happier and more settled on visits) . Then New partner comes along , (not meeting the children) and Mum becomes angry nasty tries to remove Dad from children’s lives after 10 years even thou he was left holding the babies for most of that, Mum causes havoc meaning court has to intervene and now awarded 50/50 but Mum won’t leave Dad to have alone time with his children anymore rings at nights even if seen in the mornings, ( even though New partner still hasn’t meet the children). The phone calls disrupt the evening and Dad feels obliged to have to do them but they are no more than a way to monitor what and where Dad is. This is in no way regarding the children, this is ownership, interference and part of an extensive list of control issues, the eldest of 9 is being severely harmed mentally because of the interrogation they have to go through after Dads visits and they are alone with that having to struggle with that in tears , in a house with not one person to help them. When all they want to do is be happy and share happy times but this isn’t possible, so going to Dads is a much needed break from the Q&A screaming and forced answers they have to give. All of which didn’t happen for 5 months prior. It is the most heart wrenching thing i have ever witnessed how a childhood can be dismantled and taken from a child so young, So I honestly think that Contact via phones and texts arrangements should be advised when handed down 50/50 in court as to how best it benefits the children, if 2 adults cant decide how best a child can have visitation that is in the child’s best interest over the parents own needs then i don’t think they can decide whats best for their child regarding their own interaction as one or both are being selfish. If a child has been cared for by a Dad for 10 years more so than a Mother or visa versa Then i think its very sad that he/she should have to stand by while they are all monitored in phone calls in a situation that once he/she was left in to cope with alone or in the middle of a relationship warzone which was 100 times harder. It has to be about the children and their choices but its obvious any parent with control issues is going to say to the child make sure you ask to call me……..so there it is – no way out for the children, there is no peace. While adults can walk away spend time alone, the children are with either parent all the time and so on constant alert, it doesn’t leave them. Where as they should be allowed to relax and not be reminded that a parent is alone in another house, its not their guilt to carry. Children will always take the fall when in the middle of bad relationships and selfish characters. One parent “has to” try to give them a safe zone and if that means shutting the phone off then that is what should be done, the catch is they then buy them a mobile but nothing says you have to let that into your home. Just think truthfully to yourself what do your children want its time for less selfishness and more respect for young people who need to learn their own value and place in this world not have parents who insist on stamping who they are into theirs, that is not a hard thing to do without force just have fun, laugh a lot, smile and enjoy time when you are with them, give them time, listen and rejoice all that they are nothing forms love more than that.

  11. TJ on January 12, 2018 at 10:28 am

    What about the girlfriend texting and commenting daily on the kids phones and social media?

  12. Angela Harrower on January 10, 2018 at 5:28 am

    I completely disagree. These days all the power is mistakenly given to the children to decide whats best. Children are children and don’t always know what they want. It is a parents job to decide what is best for the child. In a normal relationship kids would get to see both parents at bedtime. Just because you are divorced, doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t talk to their kids every night and should stay out of their childs lives when they are at the other parents. I do not have a problem with my ex calling at a suitable time before bed. It’s about being reasonable and rationale. A 5 min call once a day b4 bedtime is acceptable or a longer phone call every 3 days makes sense to me too. Whatever you choose to do, show respect to the other party and be reasonable as to the frequency, duration and time you call.

    • Chad on April 26, 2018 at 1:11 am

      I totally agree, i am a single father and I share 50/50 custody of my daughter with my soon to be ex. During the 5 days my (I’ll just call her ex) has our daughter, my daughters phone is completely shut off for those five days. I myself do not care if my ex calls anytime during my five days, I know my daughter loves her mother and I and loves a 1 min. quick goodnight. My ex I think feels that she is losing control, feeling that “it’s my time!” which I understand a little but it is just a phone call every other day. It’s just weird that when you get a divorce anyone in the world can call your child except for you

  13. Katherine on January 7, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I am the parent that prefers a 5 minute call at the end of the day to say goodnight and go over what my child did for the day. I also encourage dad to do the same (which he doesn’t). It’s absurd to me that just because we live in an age when divorce and 50/50 custody are common that you have to expect the kids to only communicate with the parent they are currently with. I gave birth to my child with the parenting intention of being in their life every day, not just half the week. I didn’t sign on for (and neither did my child) being separated for lengthy periods of time. It’s not the sign of an overbearing parent to want to say goodnight, it’s quite the opposite. The parent the refuses communication or expects none should be considered the overbearing one. If you married and had a child with someone, you clearly didn’t find it overbearing for both parents to say their nightly “I love you” each night. If you sat in your study and avoided the bed time routine when you live with a child, you’d be considered a bad parent. And yet we ask parents to bow out and wait their turn until your own visitation when two parents live separately. We expect our kids to fit their parents in nice smooth little boxes and god forbid those boxes mix. Well I’m not of that camp. I think parents need to put their boxes aside and show the child that was made by these two adult humans that they can be adults and create a routine where kids don’t feel pressured to choose. If a 5 minute call at the end of the day “disrupts” your routine, perhaps need to put your big kid panties on and build a routine that shows they child they are thought of daily by parents on both houses. It’s not disruptive and it can be done successfully without either parent feeling like an jerk for loving or missing their child.

    • Lisa on September 9, 2018 at 10:41 pm

      I completely agree with this. I didn’t ask for the divorce; the divorce was forced upon me and my two children who, at the time, were only one and three. They are now 10 and 12. Our divorce was final in 2011, and since October 2012, their dad has not accepted phone calls from me to the kids. I then bought them their own cell phones, and he still won’t let the kids communicate with me. Anyone and everyone but me! I finally took him to court last week, and I got phone access (10 minutes/day) and unlimited text. Of course, he finds way around that, by taking their phones for disciplinary reasons, etc.

      Again, we didn’t ask for this life. Why should we be forced to live a life based upon the decision of ONE person if this four-person family? It’s so unfair it makes me sick.

  14. AJ on December 14, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I am in the divorce process with my ex, our son is 3 and he is just getting used to being away from us. My ex called 3 times a day at first then once now its once a week and my son is so sad that he doesn’t hear from him every day. I let him know he can call anytime he wants but he wants his daddy to call him. When my ex has our son, I message once a day for him to let me know if there is a good time for me and my daughter to say hi or good night. I try to always make it short not to invade on the time. Usually just saying good night I love you and have soo much fun with daddy. Then i leave it at that. It never bothers me that my ex called 1-3 times a day. This is new for our son and he enjoys knowing that we both love him and are always there for him. Being from a divorced family myself I would have much rather my dad called daily rather than weekly. Now as he gets older and more used to the situation or becomes a pre-teen/teen I understand the constant talking is not as important but for young children they are still trying to figure out where they belong and the best answer to me is in both parents lives.

    • Katherine on January 7, 2018 at 11:33 pm

      100% agree! This is exactly what I aim to do, but we often met with discord because dad doesn’t ever call when my son is at our house and he gets upset if we try to set up a call when my son is st his house. When so was growing up my dad infrequently and eventually I grew to not want a relationship because it became overwhelming to continually update him on lengthy periods between calls. I think parents need to remember that the adults divorced each other, not the children.

  15. GINA on April 24, 2017 at 9:44 am

    Guilty! I share 50/50 and I miss them so much when they leave with dad. I wish I could talk to the. Everyday but dad restricts it and I feel it makes my need and want to speak to them even more. It’s been 7 years and I still cry at times From missing them so much, I don’t know what to do. Dad limits and controls when I can speak to them as he’s still bitter from the divorce. I do find solace in the fact that I know the kids dont need to speak to me or want to make the effort, but it’s me. I’m going through this now which is why I came across this website.

    • Joanne on October 3, 2017 at 10:24 am

      You need to let go. You can’t put your emotional needs into your children. Find something you enjoy doing and take care of yourself

  16. Bri on March 28, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I believe if the children want to speak with either parent they will ask, why push our needs on them.

  17. shannon on February 13, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Great article.
    You show great judgment and rationality. Kids don’t need their mom every second of every day. Dad’s are super parents too and time alone with either parents is very important.

    thanks for sharing!

  18. chris on January 2, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Im going through the same thing. I lead by actions. I call my kids once a week , if they call me great but I let them live and be kids. Mom on other hand calls at 6am to make sure up for school. Like I’m a flake. Plus she’s 15. Every thought question that pops into my ex’s head is immediately texted or she calls. Its bottom so bad the my daughter says mom stresses her out, constantly reminds her over and over, and my daughter loves soccer well soccer mom it is. My ex is so involved and opinionated that it will be 10 days haven’t spoken to my daughter and I pick her up and say hey hows soccer… . she snaps my head off and says in sick of talking soccer. Im like hold up here. Now my daughter tunes me out and others she feels their just babbling and I figured out every aspect of her life is Q and A by mom that my daughter is on edge of cliff on ever aspect of life that there’s no room for me and her to chill and talk she’s had shits of every and any topic. It shows cause she snaps quick and like acts like I and her have talked about many times and we never spoke about once. The last thing is her fear. She literally will cry and turn ghost white if she thinks mom will get upset or mom won’t like that. Im really scared and definitely starting her in counciling(she is scared mom will find out and went tell her and went let me tell . its weird but since divorce she dies whatever she needs to appease her mom. Me I don’t get call in ten days she freaks if she knows she was supposed to call or ?? Her mom. She never disappoints.
    One thing never ever bad mouth the mom or dad to your kids. Always speak nicely about. If you do badmouth your slicing your own throat. They will love you for not adding to stress .
    Ive thought of all this over xmas break and I’m trying to figure out my next move and how to go about.
    Ps. Mom is a yeller, screamer and when she’s not happy kniwone in house is either. Her energy vampiring and yelling is what I couldn’t take and dissolved marriage. Im sure they are going through hell. Lastly. Most things they talk about are done in a Q and A fashion and it like interrogation style. My ex never just has fun on phone or goofy. Its all about what ya got to do where ya got to go and sew of 10 millionth reminders.
    Im pissed scared and I see the changes in my daughter and can feel her energy. And its not good vibes any more.

  19. Step-mom on October 14, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I am a new step-mom of a wonderful 14 year old step-daughter. Thanks to the horrible court system we have, my husband and I only get visitation every other weekend (recently we added Tuesday nights after soccer practice). Her mother is very insecure and a total control freak. She constantly texts our step-daughter during OUR visitation and she calls 10 times a day wanting to know what we are doing and freaks out if we are at movies or when our daughter doesn’t immediately respond. This has to stop! On top of that this woman doesn’t allow the daughter to even speak with me (she calls her a backstabber and a traitor), my husband rarely gets a response when he calls or texts – likely due to restrictions placed on the daughter and mom has Family Base track every single text and call our 14 year old engages in. I am afraid our daughter is going to rebel. She is a really good kid and mature, but she’s already complaining about her mom’s craziness. It’s not my place to deal with this situation but does anyone have a tip?

    • Rebecca on May 30, 2018 at 10:06 am

      I’m a step-mom to 3 kids, 17yo SD, 14yo SS, 8yo SS.

      Overall, you have to be able to put things into realistic perspective. It is not your visitation with your SD. It is your husband’s. Likely, you and dad have no control over how invasive mom is unless you have a direct conversation with her that you believe her contacting her daughter several times per day seems like checking up & feels invasive/disruptive to your activity. If mom is high conflict, anything you do or say to mom will be an eruption. Any tension between you and mom…means you lose footing with SD. The step-mom always loses…even if the conflict was entirely created or made up by mom.

      You can’t really control what mom does, even when it’s to the child’s detriment.

      It’ll be best to empower your SD to handle it herself, between her and her mom. More than likely, she is already handling it or preparing to. It’s important to let your illusion of control dissipate. Mom is mom.

      These situations are *TOUGH* and taxing. The step-mom & step-daughter between 13 & 18yo is documented as one of the most difficult relationships. Hang in there. I do recommend reading Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin.

      • Monica Samano on July 24, 2018 at 12:51 am

        Great advise! Stepmonster is a must read for all stepmoms. And kudos to the author of this article for such insight and maturity.

        • Monica Samano on July 24, 2018 at 12:53 am

          *advice

    • Helpplease on July 18, 2018 at 8:55 pm

      How did you end up dealing with this? In a very similar situation but only difference is the child is 3. Any advice is so helpful!

  20. Jenn on December 28, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Sounds like someone is enjoying her “single mom” status a little too much!
    Since when are nightly phone calls with your child misconstrued as invasive and poorly motivated?
    Of course it’s hard to hear that your child is missing you. There is no denying that. But, does that mean we should silence their voices by not allowing them a platform (the telephone) to express their emotions to us?
    My hunch is that *single wealthy mommy* has a hard time hearing those words from her child (as any parent does!) and would much rather adopt an “out of sight out of mind” mentality. This not only makes *her life* easier, but less guilt ridden to boot! Just some food for thought.

    • kristen on July 8, 2016 at 11:21 am

      This is what I was thinking too. I call my kids everyday, if the are playing and don’t want to talk then i tell them i love them and let them play. If they ask me to call later i do. If they dont ill call the next day.

    • shannon on February 13, 2017 at 10:19 am

      Jenn .. you’re kind of being a jerk. This article is realistic and rational. Stop being so judgie.

      • HawkGirl21 on April 9, 2017 at 1:38 am

        As the wife of a divorced dad who only sees his kids every other weekend, I can tell you that my stepchildren find it disruptive when their mother insists on talking to them on the weekends they are with their dad. They feel bad because she misses them and sometimes feel like they can’t do what they want with dad because she is constantly weighing in on what they should and shouldn’t be doing when they are with their dad. I think divorced parents do need to realize that they don’t control everything in their children’s lives anymore and should consider if their actions are really for the benefit of their kids or just for the benefit of themselves. It’s easy to argue that everything you do is for the benefit of the children, but that’s rarely the reality.

        • Matt on May 22, 2017 at 3:34 pm

          dead on! i checked my kids ipod touches this weekend and my 10 year old is getting I Love You Hunny Bunny from his mom, which is fine, but it ends up being a 20 minute text conversation of “are you having fun” “are you bored” “where’s your brother” and my youngest replied “mom, don’t text me, he’s beside me” ..pisses me off, he?

          • Matt on May 22, 2017 at 3:35 pm

            not too mention that they are with me not her, and i have them on extended visitation, and every single day there is a chain message from her. I get it, you miss them, but let them be kids and enjoy themselves with their dad. Get a life too!

            She blocks them from talking to me and getting messages when they are with her.

        • Ohdear16 on July 18, 2018 at 8:52 pm

          Hey, how do you deal with this? Do you know anything about the implications of such phone calls? My husband has a three year old daughter. Her mother insists on calling atleast once a day. The child hates it. She runs away, becomes anxious and unsettled. Her mother also dictates who she can be friends with– down to who us her best friend. She also tells the child she should not listen to me. Should the phone calls continue or? If you have advice I’d love to hear it!

          • Mary on November 3, 2018 at 6:32 pm

            You guys have it easy. Try over 20 calls a day, wanting to FaceTime even after seeing our child an hour previously. I have been very fair and taken the lead by our child. He sees his dad 3x a week, even though dad lives five minutes up the road. I never text or ring when he’s seeing dad. When they are on holiday our son will ring. I drop the odd text,because I’m aware this is their time. I on the other hand don’t get the same respect. If we plan days out,dad will ring and ring and ring. He undermines me all the time,but the worst thing is our son sees it,hears it and makes his own mind up. I on the other hand don’t say anything, because I simply just want to be the best parent I can be. I try and understand things from my exes viewpoint and know he’s struggling. As parents, step parents,etc shouldn’t we all just try and make it as easy as we can. Slagging the ex off or the partners ex off says more about you than that other person. We don’t all deal with things in ways we perhaps should. And stop listening to your partners description of their exes,who said what etc…..it will never be close to the truth…….fact!
            Parents miss their kids…..give them a break ,cause some posts I’ve read sound nothing more than bashing the other parent. At the end of the day, we should all want a happy kid.

    • Joanne on October 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Actually even psychologists have said that calling during a routine time like bedtime isnt ideal for children. They do not NEED to talk to you, you are disrupting time with their other parent, they are being taken care of so not hearing you say goodnight is not the end of the world. They are with their parent they don’t need to be checked up on, if their is a problem or emergency the other parent will contact you.

    • Dave on May 2, 2018 at 3:59 pm

      She said that the parent should chill on calling excessively, but The child can call when needing or wanting to. That’s the way I read it.
      single-mommy sounds like a dream compared to…

  21. Christine on August 18, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    As both a divorced kid and now parent this makes so much sense. The kids call when they need and want to. I did have to get my oldest a cell phone before I would have preferred so that they could keep in touch. (Ex isn’t very good with money and is often with out a phone.) As a kid it was easier for me to compartmentalize my time and not really contact the other parent.

  22. DarthW on August 18, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    As for your divorced friend whose ex “expects pictures and updates every few hours when the kids are with her — and nightly Facetime.” whom she can’t seem to set boundaries with, good luck with a serious relationship. If she’s dating, and hoping for something serious, good effin’ luck. Only the most beta of “Poindexters” in a serious relationship with a single mom would be OK with that BALONEY. If her ex needs that much communication “about the kids” my suspicion would be that the ex still gets into mommy’s pants during her in between relationship times, or even more – not that he’s that interested in the kiddos. And the fact that single mommy fails to set boundaries with him is a huge red flag to begin with.

    In my “nice guy” days I was understanding that chatting about the kids periodically is expected with a single mom and their ex. Too much contact with exes whilst the kids are with them is absolutely not healthy for a single mom’s ongoing relationship with Poindexter. Gets the new beau wondering if it’s “just the kids” that she’s calling/texting/twittering so much, and in my experience too much communication is seldom regarding just the kids.

    And women are even worse with the jealousy, so it goes both ways.

    Thank the stars I don’t deal with that anymore, but a Poindexter reading this might find the info helpful.

  23. Emma on August 18, 2014 at 8:01 am

    I will add that every week or two my ex will call to say hi to the kids – or they ask to speak with him. I don’t find this intrusive or weird (he’s very respectful about it), and we share occasional pics that are especially cute or special (I recently sent him images of Helena meeting her new cousin). I’m talking about parents who seem to want to replicate the intimacy with our kids that comes with daily care. That simply does not happen with divorce.

Leave a Comment