Ex-etiquette: Dad’s role when ex-wife has surgery

Q: My children’s mother has to have surgery. I did not hear this from her, but from the children. Evidently, she has had serious back problems for a while, yet I had no idea. The kids tell me they will be staying with their grandmother for about a month while their mom is recuperating. We share equal custody. Shouldn’t I be asked to weigh in on this? What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: So many of the co-parents I work with begin with the attitude that sharing too much information will in someway make them vulnerable to a custody change. Their co-parent will use the information to go back to court and take the kids.

That’s when I ask them, “How does not being well justify a custody change?” The answer is usually, “I don’t know, but I know that they will use the information against me.”

Your co-parent is your ally in taking care of your children. If either of you is ill, it is your opportunity to demonstrate to your children that they continue to be safe. Your children must know that if either parent is ill, the other is there to fill in until they are well again. Yet, this attitude is so foreign to some co-parents, they don’t even consider that sharing information with the other home is something that they should do.

When parents are together, if there is a family crisis, the family usually sits down together and discusses their plan to go forward. They let the kids know that their parent will be in the hospital for a designated amount of time and what to expect. This is done to keep their children calm and answer any questions they might have.

But parents break up and this approach changes-because the parents’ attitude toward each other changes, not because of a change in the children’s attitude. They are still frightened; they still want to know the plan to go forward and when their lives will return to “normal.”

The whole concept behind bonus family living is to cultivate two loving homes that both support your children. If you do not, when one home is vulnerable, it undermines your children’s sense of security.

Granted, in this case, the grandparents have been asked to take up the slack. However, grandparents are not parents and the fact that they have been asked to fill in before the co-parent even knew there was an issue is an indicator that we have some fear-based information withholding in action. If the co-parent knew, they could be sensitive to the children’s concerns, guiding their worry to more productive thinking. Plus, the grandparents are probably concerned as well.

This is a time when that “village” we all hear it takes to raise children can spring into action and support each other. It doesn’t matter if the parents are “a couple.”

Granted, breakup animosity is something with which we all must cope when parents go their separate ways. Parents choose to maintain this attitude as their status quo-because of their feelings, not because of how their children feel. When co-parents remember to put their children first (Good Ex-etiquette for Parents Rule No. 1) they will reach out to one another because they both love their children and they realize their children need both of them-and grandparents, too. That’s good ex-etiquette

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This story was originally published March 5, 2024, 3:00 AM.

source: star-telegram

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