You’ve been reading books, magazine articles and blogs about healthy co-parenting during and after divorce. You know that parents should never use kids as messengers to relay information or requests to and from one another.
However, this is a habit that many parents slip into without realizing it. They may think that their “messages” are harmless. However, using the kids to relay any information to your co-parent can create stress for the kids. Let’s look at some examples of seemingly innocent ways you and/or your co-parent may be using your kids as messengers.
Sometimes, parents rely on their kids to communicate changes in plans for them. Maybe you ask your son to tell his dad you’ll be a few hours late picking him up from his weekend visit. If that doesn’t work for your ex’s schedule, he could direct his anger or frustration at your child.
He may feel justified in criticizing you in front of your child — something you’ve both been striving not to do. That information needs to come from you, even if it means a potential argument.
Sometimes, parents expect their kids to give them more information than they’re entitled to about their other parent. It’s good to ask your child how their time was at your co-parent’s home. Encourage them to share what they’d like to about what they did.
However, don’t use your child to get information on things that may not be any of your concern — or at least things that you should ask about yourself. For example, it’s fine to be curious about your ex’s new significant other. If you have concerns or want to meet this person who’s now in your child’s life, ask your co-parent yourself.
If you find yourself relying on your children to relay information because communication with your co-parent is unpleasant or combative (or if your co-parent is using your kids this way), find another way to communicate. Co-parenting apps offer myriad ways to share information without direct communication.
You may be able to seek changes to your parenting plan to detail how the two of you communicate or to add provisions that minimize your children’s role as messengers. However, ultimately, both parents need to agree that anything they have to say to their ex needs to come from them and not their kids.