Divorce is never an easy thing for anyone involved, particularly the kids. But the best-case scenario is one in which both exes put their children first, doing everything they can to stay civil and keep the lines of communication open. Often, this involves finding ways to connect with the children when they're with the ex. Often, it's a delicate balance between loving and hovering.
"When kids are able to have frequent contact between households, they do better," advises Christina McGhee, MSW, a divorce coach and author of Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents Can Raise Happy and Secure Kids. "Emerging research shows that it's the ability to have warm and close contact with both parents, even if the parents aren't close, that benefits children. It's a reassurance for kids to know they're still important to Mom and Dad."
The key to staying in touch with children during the times they stay with the other parent, says McGhee, is to be flexible. "Life wasn't scheduled and structured when you were together," she tells Romper. "That's part of being a family, and it doesn't change when you split up."
Whether you prefer to touch base with your kids in a high- or low-tech fashion, it's crucial to do it with respect and good judgment. "You need to keep it appropriate on both ends," says McGhee. "We go back to the golden rule: Would you want the ex to do the same thing with you that you are with them? Are you role-modeling that kind of responsibility?"
When you're making a communication plan, do it as a family, advised Very Well Family, and keep the kids' feelings in mind. For example, during overnight visits, it may be best not to call if it only triggers homesickness.
McGhee, who also runs the Divorce and Children website, cites two additional rules for successful connection: Don't spend your time asking your kids about the other parent ("Kids shouldn't feel like spies, and they don't want to be grilled"), and don't dwell on the separation. "Parents say, 'I miss you, I can't wait till you get back' with the best of intentions, but sometimes that backfires," she explains. "A lot of kids pick up on that and think they have to be the emotionally responsive ones. Do everything you can to be supportive, and let them know you're going to be okay."