EXPERT Q&A

What’s the best approach to speaking with my ex-husband about his parenting style?

Co-parenting with an ex-partner can be challenging, especially if you and your partner have different parenting styles. Learn more from child development expert Shenley Seabrook about how to navigate important parenting conversations with an ex.

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Question

My ex-husband and I share custody of our three children—ages 7, 8, and 9. In our custody agreement, we’ve agreed to share our children weekly—he has the kids for one week, and I have them the following week, and so on. When my ex has our children, I speak with them every night. We talk about their days and I let them know that I love them before they go to sleep. However, when I have the kids, my children never hear from their dad. No phone calls, no Facetime, no texts. They have taken notice and are starting to ask questions about why he never calls. I’ve suggested nightly phone calls to him over the years, but nothing has changed. Is there anything else I can do to address this? I fear it’s hurting our children.

Answer

This is such an important question, and I can feel how hard it must be to see your children wondering why their dad doesn’t call. They must really miss him, and I hope this guidance can help you navigate conversations with him to address the issue.

First, co-parenting can be challenging, especially if the two parents are not on the same page. While Parenting Time Guidelines vary from state to state, most state guidelines include a clause related to consistent contact. Indiana, for example, requires that children have an opportunity to “develop and maintain an independent relationship with each parent” and to have “continuing care and guidance from each parent”. In order to provide continuing care and guidance, I agree that it’s good for communication to take place regardless of if the children are in your care that week. Regular phone contact during off weeks is important in order to maintain a positive parent/child relationship. This is especially true if the children are old enough to voice their disappointment that this contact is not taking place.

Perhaps you can remind the other parent of the specific guidelines for your state, then suggest some times the children are available for phone calls. You can also mention how happy the children seem when they do receive regular phone calls, texts, etc. during off weeks. If the other parent is insistent that these phone contacts cannot take place, you can suggest that mediation occur. Mediation is a way to resolve conflict or disputes by utilizing a neutral third-party individual to facilitate the discussion. Typically, this individual has experience with family court and custody issues and will be able to help guide the conversation so both parties feel heard and understood.

Finally, you can consider a Co-Parenting Agreement if you don’t have one already. A Co-Parenting Agreement is a document that is written out by both parents as a guide to how they plan to raise their children, including goals and rules about how they will contribute as a parent. Part of this agreement could be, for example, that each parent will contact the children by phone a minimum of three times per week during off weeks. This would encourage the other parent to contact the children more, while still allowing you to contact them nightly if you choose to do so.

It’s wonderful that you are serving as an advocate for your children and are listening when they express their needs. I do hope when your ex-partner realizes how important this is to your children, he will make time in his schedule to communicate with them during his off weeks.

We hope some of these tips work for you and your family, and remember, the CareNectar team is here for any additional questions.

Meet The Expert


Shenley Seabrook

Shenley Seabrook is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who works primarily with children and adolescents in a private practice setting. She is also a foster parent and lives with her husband and daughter in Indiana. Shenley recently wrote her first children’s book, We Have the Same Heart, which celebrates diversity, inclusion, and community service.