Q. My ex and I are always at odds when it comes to time with our child. She constantly plans things on my time and it makes it difficult to get my son to come over. Now with this coronavirus emergency, the schools are closed and she has him "sheltered in place" saying it's dangerous for him to come over to my home. I need help! What's good ex-etiquette?
A. Actually, your child is the one who needs help -- and if you and mom approached it from THAT point of view, you would have no reason to write. True co-parenting is not my time/your time, nor is it arbitrary decision-making. Co-parenting is putting your heads together and making a decision together in the best interest of your child.
There has been no other time that I can think of in recent history when it has been more important for parents, together or not, to work together and manipulating a situation -- in this case, messing with your child's time with the other parent will not help your ability to problem-solve together in the future.
I understand that parents get caught up in their own self-interests. A breakup does not bring out the best in us, but parents now have the perfect opportunity to model cooperation, respect and, as I've already said, their ability to put aside their own differences to protect the people they love. What better way to teach our kids positive values than to model them, particularly in a time of crisis? If your MO has been ongoing arguments and putting up roadblocks to positive problem-solving, consider this time a wakeup call. There is a saying, "When you know better, you do better." We can all do better.
Here's an easy "do better" for co-parents: Answer the phone. If he or she texts, return the text. Make sure your called ID says, "Sara's Mom" or "Nolan's Dad" or your co-parent's first name. A derogatory caller ID name that your child can read each time their other parent calls is emotionally abusive and forces your children to take sides.
Facilitate time with the other parent. Set aside a time for FaceTime or Messenger calls so that your child has ongoing communication with their other parent. Although we often hear about the negative aspects of social media, virtual communication may be all that is available to some of our loved ones, particularly those who live alone. Use it!
If it is decided that a child should not go back and forth between homes, when this is over, look for ways for the child to spend a little extra time getting to know their other parent again. There is often a formal court-ordered parenting plan that lays the groundwork for your child's time with each parent. These plans do not have to be followed to the letter if BOTH parents agree to deviate from the schedule. Put yourself in the other parent and your child's shoes (Ex-etiquette for parents rule No. 7, "Use empathy when problem-solving.") Should the schedule be temporarily adjusted? If so, do it.
Look for ways to help, not hinder. That's good ex-etiquette.
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(c)2020 Jann Blackstone
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.