Ex-etiquette: Getting older children of divorce to make time for Dad
Q uestion: My husband's kids are teenagers, and sometimes it's difficult to get them to come see us.
My husband tries to be understanding, but the truth is, he's heartbroken each time they cancel.
Sometimes, he has something planned, and they call the night before. Father's Day is around the corner, and I want to make sure they will be here. What's good ex-etiquette?
Answer: Sounds like your husband has fallen into the trap many non-custodial parents fall into — they don't want to force their teenager to do anything, so they act understanding when their kids cancel.
Many have told me, “I remember how it was when I was a kid. I didn't want to go see my dad/mom, either.” That doesn't make it right. Kids have a right to have a relationship with both parents, and it's both parents' responsibility to reinforce that relationship.
If a child doesn't want to see the other parent, first you must assess if the child is in danger. If he's not safe, then it's understandable why he would not want to go, and that has to be explored.
If it's just that he would rather play with his pals, that's when it's the custodial parent's responsibility to put their own anger and resentment aside (Ex-Etiquette rule No. 5, Don't be spiteful. Ex-etiquette rule No. 6, Don't hold grudges) and reinforce the child's time with the other parent. (It's the child's time, not the parent's time ...)
Parents often ask me, “Are you saying I should make my child go?” To that, I usually ask the following questions:
1. What do you say to your child when they say they don't want to go to school or do their homework? Parents usually tell me, “I make them do it.”
2. What do you say to your child when they say they don't want to clean their room? Parents usually say, “I make them do it.”
3. What do you say to your child when they tell you they don't want to go to church or synagogue, or eat their dinner? Parents say, “I make them do it.”
Hopefully, I've made my point.
The answer that would support the child's time with Dad is “Honey, this is your time with your father. He looks forward to seeing you.” And don't end it with, “I'll give you a cookie if you go.” Or, “I know, honey, you'll be home soon.” That's a quick way to undermine.
It's in the best interest of your child to have a relationship with both Mom and Dad.
In terms of what Dad should say to the kids if they tell him they don't want to come see him — remember, barring an safety issues — “I look forward to seeing you this weekend. It's Father's Day, and we have something really great planned!” No, “OK, if that's what you want to do.” To a teenager, that translates to “He doesn't care anyway.” Stay away from guilt trips like, “But I miss you so much.” They backfire.
Keep it positive.
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. Reach her at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lopsided loss to Eagles shows Steelers have issues aplenty
- Harrison’s 5 RBIs help Pirates pound Brewers
- Steelers notebook: Keisel always hoped to return
- Mother Nature takes a swat at Western Pa. stink bugs
- Sandusky cover-up case unusually shrouded
- Records: Steelers RB Bell admitted smoking pot before traffic stop but denied being high
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Sanchez makes 1st start at first base with Indy
- Hero Franklin Regional security guard out of work
- Time on the bench gets Snider back into Pirates lineup
- Pitt football team rallies around its youth
- Roundup: Keurig strikes deal with Kraft on coffee brands; more