If your child is with their other parent at the moment, you’re probably missing them. These days, it’s so easy just to pick up the phone and call your child, but is it always appropriate? How frequently should you call your child when they’re with the other parent?
Ultimately, how often a parent should call their child while coparenting it will depend on the relationship between the parents and the child(ren). It’s best to discuss this question with the other parent and caregiver(s) involved and to consider the child(ren)’s preferences. Each family is unique, so their communication frequency and patterns will look different from case to case.
And while each family is different, there are some broad guidelines that noncustodial parents should adhere to when calling their kids. Here, we’ll explore the impact of parental phone calls on children, the etiquette of noncustodial parent phone calls, and parenting in general.
How Does Parental Calling Affect Children?
Regarding communication with parents, it’s best for kids to have consistent patterns they can rely on. When children can predict when and how they will communicate with their parents – and when their expectations are met more often than not – children can relax and open up to their parents and/or caregivers.
To promote healthy relationships between parents and children, it’s essential to set reasonable expectations for communication. But, of course, this goes both ways: parents and kids should be able to anticipate and express the medium and frequency of communication they expect.
For instance, you might decide that texting is preferable to calling and that a “Good morning” text is something that you can send your child each day. Or, you may establish a routine where you call your kid before bed each evening.
No matter what form the communication takes, you should be consistent; this will help boost your child(ren)’s confidence in your relationship and build trust (source).
This confidence and trust are key ingredients to a healthy relationship between the parent and child. In addition, such a healthy relationship can positively impact other aspects of children’s lives and personalities.
Etiquette and Guidelines for Calling Kids
Noncustodial parents should follow a few key guidelines when they call their child(ren). First and foremost, they should only call or initiate a text message conversation once daily.
This shows respect for the time that the kid(s) spends with the other parent and respect for the child(ren)’s time and schedule, as well.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this guideline. For example, in situations where you need to ask for specific information – such as a pickup time or location – it’s alright to call or text. Or, if there is an emergency or urgent change in plans, it’s appropriate to communicate this as soon as possible.
Here are some other tips that can help you create and maintain effective and respectful communication with your child(ren), even when they’re not with you at the moment:
|If your child rejects the call or doesn’t call back within a day, you shouldn’t keep calling. Instead, try again the next day.|
|Don’t ask your kid for a full report of every minute spent with the other parent.|
|Don’t intercept calls from the other parent when your child is with you.|
|Give your kid privacy; let them take calls with the other parent in a separate room so that they can have unhindered and meaningful communication with their parents.|
|Never make your child feel guilty for wanting to call the other parent.|
|Don’t give your kid a “secret” cell phone to take to the other parent’s house; this puts the child in the middle of your dispute, and it is absolutely not healthy for the child.|
|Provide appropriate settings – like a quiet, distraction-free place – and reasonable times for your child to call the other parent.|
When the Other Parent Wants to Call
Sometimes, when you’re the one looking after your child(ren) at the moment, it can feel annoying or even rude when the other parent tries to call. However, even if their behavior seems obnoxious, it’s important to always allow reasonable contact with the kid(s).
If you are the custodial parent, outright refusing to let your kid(s) talk to the noncustodial parent – as long as they don’t pose any threat to the child(ren) – can damage your future custody hearings. Additionally, barring the other parent from the child(ren) can raise the issue of parental alienation.
“Parental alienation” occurs when one parent tries to convince or otherwise influence their child(ren) to reject the other parent (source). It can cause psychological harm to the child and cause more complications during the custody hearing process.
While it may be tempting to completely block the other parent’s calls and messages, this can lead to more long-term problems. First of all, it keeps the child(ren) out of the loop and removes them from parental interaction, which is crucial for their mental health.
Secondly, blocking the other parent – especially while the child is with you – sends the message that communicating with the other parent isn’t desirable or important.
This can set the child up for malfunctioning communication in the future. So, in the end, it’s healthier and better, in the long run, to tolerate calls and messages from the other parent while the kid is with you.
How Often Should a Noncustodial Parent Call?
In some instances, the custody order will mandate or limit the frequency of the noncustodial parent’s calls. For example, the court can order that the noncustodial call the kid(s) at certain intervals, or it can limit how often they can call the child(ren).
However, in most cases, it falls to the family to determine reasonable calling patterns independently.
So how can a family establish a healthy communication pattern? The first step in determining how often a noncustodial parent calls is looking at the existing relationship between that parent and their child(ren).
Is the parent frequently talking to and genuinely conversing with their kid(s)? If so, then daily phone calls would be a reasonable expectation for both the parent and the child(ren). If not, then calling less frequently would fit the relationship dynamics.
Another factor to consider is the age of the child(ren). Younger children tend to have short and sporadic conversations, which is true of phone calls too. So it could be better for younger kids to have a couple of short calls during the day.
For example, a quick call in the morning before school and a short conversation before bed could be a nice pattern for young kids.
For older children, conversations can be longer and can follow a logical flow. Plus, as kids grow up, they better understand their own expectations from the parent-child relationship. This means that the older they get, the more control they have in helping to establish communication patterns with their parents.
How Often Should a Father Call His Child?
As we mentioned earlier, the relationship between the father and child and the child’s age can impact how frequently he should call. Other factors, such as the reason for being separated from the child, also play a role.
For instance, if this is a case where the father is the child’s noncustodial parent, then it could be appropriate to call once every day. But, of course, you should always keep the child’s well-being at the forefront of these decisions and commit to respecting the child’s schedule and the time they’re spending with the other parent.
What about a case where the child is grown up and living away from home? In these instances, the adult child can clearly express their expectations about communication with their father. They can articulate how frequently they’d like their father to call them.
In every case, your first priority should be the physical and psychological health of the child. Make sure your calls and communication don’t interfere with school, schedule, or sleep.
Never keep your communication a “secret” from the other parent, and be open and honest with yourself, your child, and the other parent regarding expectations about communication with the family.
How Often Should a Mother Call Her Child?
Factors such as the child’s age, the custody agreement between the parents, and the quality of the family relationships can all impact how frequently a mother should reasonably call her child(ren).
For example, the communication patterns between a mother with noncustodial custody of a young child will look totally different from those between a mother and her college-age kid who studies in a different town.
Before establishing expectations and rhythms of communication, think about the child’s needs and the family as a whole.
No matter what your family situation looks like, the most important thing to prioritize is the well-being of your kid(s). Even though you may want to check on them every moment of every day, excessive contact can harm the child’s psychology and negatively impact the daily routines that keep them in a healthy rhythm.
Parenting is a unique, beautiful, and often challenging adventure. Humans have been parenting their young for millennia, and over the ages, several patterns have emerged that point to the most effective ways to raise healthy and happy children.
Of course, parenting is deeply rooted in culture, so effective parenting can look different for each family. Factors such as location, the parents’ age, religious beliefs, and the family experiences of the parents in their own childhoods will have a huge impact on how they raise their own children.
However, despite these family-to-family differences, there are several ways that you can promote a happy and healthy childhood for your kid(s). Parents can incorporate these general methods into their existing parenting styles; the tips work for all types of families!
Tips for Being an Effective Parent
The most effective thing you can do as a parent is to practice empathy. Remember, your child is just a tiny human with the same feelings and fears as you. So put yourself in your child’s shoes, and try to see things from their perspective.
For example, if your child is having a temper tantrum, it can be tempting to immediately reflect that anger and frustration back to the child. But at that moment, they need to feel heard and seen. So ask yourself why they’re upset, validate their feelings, let them know their behavior isn’t acceptable, and then work together to solve the problem.
Another effective perspective shift is to see things from the positive side. It’s easy to point out when kids misbehave or make mistakes. But you should spend just as much time and energy bringing attention to the good things that they do. Focus on encouraging your kid(s) to make good choices rather than always chastising them.
Finally, be open and flexible with your parenting style. There will probably be days when you feel you’re an ineffective – or even “bad” – parent. But the good news is that you can always try new methods for parenting!
You can experiment with different reactions and systems, and you can even try out different parenting styles. Remember, you are learning and growing alongside your child. Of course, you’ll make mistakes along the way, but those are just opportunities to learn and grow some more!
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
If you would like more information on how to help your child(ren) establish healthy patterns in academics, read How Can Parents Teach Their Children to Be Responsible for Their Own Learning?
If you’re wondering how often to call your child(ren) when they’re with their other parent, a good rule of thumb is once per day. Of course, this guideline has plenty of flexibility since every family is different. That’s why it’s important to establish consistent expectations and rhythms that work for you, your kid(s), and the other parent.
When planning how frequently you’ll call your child(ren), you should consider a few factors. For example, the age of the child(ren), the existing relationships between you and your child(ren), and the expectations of the other parent are all crucial points to consider while establishing a communication routine.