What Should I Expect When Talking to My Child?

It is important to remain in contact with your child on a regular basis. As difficult as this may be to hear, you do not need to have daily contact with most children. You want to have daily contact, which is very different. However, the majority of divorced or separated parents contacts their children once a day. It is important to know that a child with a secure attachment will not need to speak with you daily. Yet, it is important for your child to know that you are thinking of him or her. Sometimes contacting your child is more about your own emotional needs rather than your child’s. Try not to turn a phone call or other communication into a stressful or a mandated obligation. It is far better to keep it brief and upbeat.

You may have language in your parenting plans about your legal right to contact.  Do not let your needs or your rights interfere with your child’s needs. Timing is important and young children are more likely to get upset and miss you if you call near bedtime.  On the other hand, for the older child, if it is part of the bedtime ritual, it may work well. Contacting your children prior to school is typically inconvenient for both your child and the other parent who is rushing to get them off to school. Experiment with different times and do not get upset when your child is distracted or busy.  Do not assume this is being done by the other parent.  Just call back tomorrow without making an issue out of it.

Using FaceTime and Skype

Young children may not understand the concept of FaceTime and Skype. Therefore, they may walk away from the screen. They will need to be shown how it works. Be aware of noises and visual items on the screen. These may distract your child. To insist upon all facetime calls is generally about you missing your child rather than meeting the needs of your child. The uniqueness of these forms of communication may lose their effectiveness unless you reside or travel out of town.

Reasonable length of communication with your child

To engage young child in communication on the phone can be a real task.  Parents often fall into the habit of asking questions-way too many boring questions simply to keep their child on the phone.  Instead tell your child something funny that happened to you. Limit how long you expect your child to remain on the phone with you. If your child brings something up then stay on the phone otherwise bring the call to a pleasant yet brief end. . Keeping your child talking to you is not your primary goal. It is not about what you want or need; it is about your child. Always let your child determine when to get off the phone.

Children typically sigh or get quiet when they are ready to hang up. Very young children will just put down the phone. Listen for pauses or any other indications that your child is finished with your call. You may be getting indirect signals that he or she wants to stop talking. When this happens, tell your child you love her, you will speak again soon, and then say good-bye. He or she may not come right out and say, “I want to hang up now,” because of concerns about hurting your feelings. When sending texts to the other child do not expect  an immediate answer.  They will get the “message” when they see that you took the time to send a text.

Another way to predict when to hang up is to imagine putting a bag of popcorn into the microwave. You must listen very very closely to determine when it stops popping. If you do not listen carefully, you will burn the popcorn. So if you listen very carefully to your child and note when he or she stops initiating conversation, you will know when you are at a good stopping point. Remember, just because your child wants to end the call, finish homework, or go back to playing does not mean he or she does not love you.

Ultimate goal

Keep in mind the purpose of your call. Remember it is not about your need for contact, nor is it about your parental rights. The reason you are calling or sending texts is to reassure your children that you are thinking of them and to let them know they are loved. This can be done in a very brief call or text. The goal of making contact is to leave your children with a smile rather than leaving them crying or rolling their eyes because the call was way too long.

Tip: Always let your child determine when to get off the phone.

 

 

 

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