You are here

communication and boundaries - when to give a child a personal phone?

wineoclock's picture

What is the consensus regarding appropriate means of commuication with BM?

We are trying to establish boundaries with BM as she thinks she can just message/call at any time of the day as she doesn't work. DH has told BM that all correspondence regarding both of my SSs should be via email, but of course if there is an emergency, she should contact him directly on his phone. BM's response is that she does not know what is classed as an emergency - she cannot judge what is important and what is not important in order to establish whether the line of communciation should be email or whatsapp. BM has stated that she would like regular phone calls with DH to discuss child-related matters, as going back and forth through emails is "too long" for her and that she has other things to do during the day.  I just don't understand how someone cannot differentiate between important/urgent information versus information that can easily be delivered through email. Of course it is a judgement call, but as an adult - especially as a parent - surely you should be able to make judgement calls  based on the circumstances? 

For example, my DH called BM's phone to speak to both of his sons as per contact arrangemetns he can call every other day after the boys finish school. On one such occasion, BM didn't answer her phone as the youngest had an incident at school with a black eye. This was all she said. BM did not inform DH about the details and whether their son was ok,  I suggested he call the school directly if he was concerned.  

You're telling me that BM doesn't know what is classed as important information to be relayed to DH?

On another note, what does everyone think about the age in which children should be allowed to have a personal phone, particularly to contact the parent that they do not reside with? BM is the primary carer and DH only sees his children every other weekend on a sunday and sometimes during the school holidays. My SS is 11 and as we all know, children this age start to go through many physical and emotional changes as they go through puberty.  As a boy, he may not be comfortable talking to his mum about certain things. BM has refused for SS to continue having a personal phone as she feels that it is disruptive - she returned the phone to DH a month ago, after SS has been using this to communicate with DH for the last year. DH had given the phone to his eldest son as a means to communicate directly with DH without having to go through BM every time. Now it's been a year and SS is 11, BM has stated SS is using it to speak to his friends and play games on it which is disruptive. BM demands that DH speak to the children through her phone only. However BM is always listening in on their conversations on their video call. 

If there are strict parental controls on the phone, I don't see why my SS can't have a personal phone to be able to speak to DH freely. It feels like an act of control, as BM wants DH to have no choice bu to go through her to speak to the children.


ESMOD's picture

There is a balance.  BM can control what happens in her home.  But, she should be following court ordered communication allowances for your DH and the children. He can document those instances.. and if they appear to be regular problems.. then he can have his lawyer take this to court so she can be found in contempt.. the judge may tell her she has to allow kid to have phone if it is for communication only.

As far as knowing whether things are an emergency or not.. those emergencies are going to be rare.  

For example, the incident at school you describe, in my mind, is NOT an emergency.  The child had no life threatening injuries.  This is an issue that should be disclosed reasonably promptly.. but in the immediate heat of the issue.. the parent that has custody may be busy putting ice on the eye.. discussing the altercation... etc.. and since it is not a life threatening issue.. it is NOT an emergency.

What IS an emergency?

1.  A change in custody schedule issue request or need that is occuring within the next 12 to 24 hours.  

2.  An URGENT medical issue with the child that is requiring an ambulance trip to the hospital... may also include an urgent care visit.. but if the kid just has the flu.. it isn't necessarily urgent.. urgent.. emergency notification imho.  But broken limb.. need for surgery.. ER room visit.. those are emergencies.

3.  An urgent behavioral incident or issue.  This would need to be something extremely extreme.. the kid  SA assaulted the neighbor's daughter.  Child had tortured or killed an animal.  Child was throwing a tantrum and destroying the home... extreme and urgent behavioral issues.. not just that he refused to do his chores 2x in a row.

4.  The kid is missing.. run away.. abducted.

5.  Death of an immediate family member.. grandma.. grandpa.. sibling

Beyond that? I don't see why emails couldn't communicate just fine.. for "non urgent issues"

11 is on the edge of being old enough for a phone.. but if the kid is having issues controlling use.. then BM has the ability to not allow in her home.

Harry's picture

He should say e mail. Text and hang up.  If BM is old enough to have kids she knows what's a emergency is.  Going to Hospital,  at hospital, accident, bleeding, trouble at school.  
You are right BM whant to control your home and time.  You must stop it at all costs. 

wineoclock's picture

It's that simple! Why do people make things so complicated. If you wanted to have regular contact  with DH regarding the kids, then you shouldn't have let DH go in the first place!  

Why do BMs think they have the right to control the father of their children after divorce. Just because BM used to be his wife? Emphasis on used to be i.e past not present (and certainly not future).

Rags's picture

In either direction. An X is an X.  IMHO, once they get the X designation they do not matter. Even if they are the mother or father of someone elses children.

There is no mystical status to an X being a breeder. It is meremly basic biological function. Now, if they are quality parent and a reasonable X and the Xs can reasonably coparent, then the X may earn some level of tolerance and repsect. It is not granted eternally, it is earned every second, of every day, in every interface with their X and in every parenting action they take. If they go toxic, they lose status, respect, and relevance to their X.

IMHO of course.

Yesterdays's picture

BM has stated that she would like regular phone calls with DH to discuss child-related matters

^^^^one hundred percent NO!!!! No check in phone calls with BM

Do not agree to or take regular phone calls from bio mom. Phone calls are for emergencies as defined by other posters on here... Trips to the hospital, etc. I would personally use text with this woman. It's easy to ignore the ones that aren't important. It's quicker. Stick to purely professional and business like tone on the text and only reply to important ones that do with the kids. Don't get drawn into convos about how to raise the kids... Stick to pick up's and drop offs and logistics mostly.

As far as a personal cell phone.. Imo it's a bit young... I would get a pay as you go or one without data etc 

 I think cell phones for young kids can create an unhealthy addiction and I also feel like emails are too long and unnecessary. My own experience with emailing an ex is that the text becomes long and drawn out and becomes more accusatory rather than helpful.. Thats why I prefer very short and too the point text messages... Less "emotion". Less drama. Try to avoid emotions and drama by keeping things brief and professional. 

wineoclock's picture

Exactly, a pay as you go old brick phone with strictly no data - like an old nokia just to communicate with dad - I think that's a reasonable request. I'm glad everyone thinks phone contact with BM is unnecessary unless it's an emergency. Everything else regarding matters to do with the children can be written in an email.

You raised an important point about getting drawn into convos about how to raise the kids - this leads me to the next question on where do you draw the line? I think BM  wantss to raise her children with DH as they are "co-parenting". I don't think they are co-parenting as they both raise their kids differently. Where do you draw the line with co-parenting when DH only sees the children every other weekend? Making decisions about extra-currilcar activities for example, if BM wants her son to go for cricket or extra tuition classes, BM would likely argue that DH also has a duty to take his son for the classes. I just don't know how practical co-parenting really is, particulalry when DH and I don't live locally to his kids. What is the point in DH making decisions alongside BM when she would then expect his physical involvement. I have said to DH, you should definietley be there for your children, but you have to recognise that there are limitations to what you can physically do as as father while they are under 18 and you are not their primary carer

Yesterdays's picture

Bio mom sounds overly wordy and preachy when it comes to coparenting. Especially with wanting these scheduled parenting chat discussions over the phone. ((which I would not agree to)

I would be inclined to not get into child rearing type of conversations with her and stick to pure logistics only. Raise the child how you choose in your own home and apply your own parenting philosophies. Bio mom has her head in the sand a bit how she expects her ex to have these type of conversations with her... I just wouldn't get drawn into it with her.

With EOWE parenting and activities it really only matters if the activities are going to interfere with your time, then you would have to agree and discuss. Also do they split a budget for sports expenses? If so, they'd have to agree on that too. Our separation agreement outlines all of that 

wineoclock's picture

There is no court order unfortunately. The arrangements have been agreed through mediation which is not legally binding. 

DH pays child support and any expenses that would come from the days he see his children. The matter of expenses to do with extra curricular activities has not been discussed. But I believe as far as BM is concerned, if DH is taking the kids to a class outside of school, she would expect him to pay on the days that he see's the children.  It's always on her terms and that's what annoys me. This is the reason why I feel I would be better off disengaging so that I don't have to think about these things.

Winterglow's picture

If he's taking them to an activity that he decided on, fine. However, if it's something she signed the kid up for without his father's agreement she can dream on. He's under no obligation to pay for something that SHE wants on HIS time.

Felicity0224's picture

In this case, I agree with BM that a smart phone with a camera and access to the internet is a dangerous thing for a child. They are literally engineered to be addictive, and children are not developmentally ready to regulate themselves. There is a mountain of evidence showing how dangerous that is.

We had the opposite problem in our home. BM gave the kids iPhones so she could keep in constant contact with them and spy on our house. After a couple of weeks trying to decide how to handle it, we ultimately started confiscating the phones as soon as we picked them up from school on Monday, and gave them back when we dropped them off the following Monday. When they were at our house, they had a phone that made phone calls only.

It worked out great because they were so bored/uninterested in it that they rarely took it anywhere, which meant that at most they talked to BM for about 5 minutes in the evenings. Much less intrusive. We couldn't stop them from having iPhones at BM's house, and it did lead to issues with both of them as they got older. But we were able to maintain our rules/boundaries and still give them a way to contact their mom whenever they wanted. 

As for the communication between your DH and BM, unless you want to go back to court to try for an order that it only be via email, the only option is to train BM to communicate how you want her to. This may or may not be effective, but I would just not respond at all to any phone calls or messages that aren't via email. Don't answer when she calls. If it's an emergency, she can leave a voicemail and DH can call her back. But other than that, just grey rock her. Hopefully she'll eventually get the picture or get bored.

wineoclock's picture

I agree smart phones are a slippery slope. No smart phones, only a brick phone that enables phone contact between DH and his sons. This means we can eliminate using BM's phone for indirect contact with the kids.

BM just needs additional support from DH as she doesn't want to rely on her own support network, which would encompass her own family, friends and potentially long-term boyfriend? 

Yesterdays's picture

Oh well that's bio moms fault if she can't find her own support network. She shouldn't rely on your partner for the emotional support she is seeking 

Yesterdays's picture

We had the opposite problem as well... Huggggge issues with the step kids and social media and uninterrupted online screen time. It was horrible for the kids and led to many, many, problems. Very serious ones. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

Yep and giving the kid a phone won't stop BM. She isn't acting this way out of necessity, so even if there's a way to communicate without going through BM, BM won't change. Until DH stops catering to her, anyway. Text is fine for communication. Even emergencies. DH will get the message that SS is in the hospital just as easily through text as with a call, probably easier since you can miss a call but not a text. If the text has info that warrants a call, DH can call. If BM is too dumb to tell what's an emergency and what isn't, her little squirrel brain can just text and DH can choose what to respond to. 

Rags's picture

However, the other Parent can take that phone anytime they wish when the kid is with them.

IMHO the solution is to rip the throat out of the manipulative parent in court. Any time they do not answer the phone per the CO'd call time, CONTEMPT MOTION.

Any denial of visitation or communication with the Skids per the CO that the CP interferes with... CONTEMPT MOTION. Any deviation from the CO at all... CONTEMPT MOTION.

The toxic parent needs the lesson and the Skids need to see the other parent defending their visitation and confidently keeping the toxic parent in line.

IMHO of course.

As for a phone for my SKid.. he got one in 8th grade. So about 14yo.  For the only reason that it was a convenience for his mom and me.  We were the CP household. We did all pick up and drop offs for sports, school, kid gatherings, etc.......  SS having a phone made all of that much simpler for his mom and me.

It also would have benefited the SpermClan as they could have called him directly, though other than his immediately younger half sister, no one ever called him. We verified it on every phone bill so we knew who he was talking too, when, and for how long.  Not one call from the SpermIdiot, SpermGrandHag... ever.

Once the novelty wore off, SS and his half sister pretty much stopped calling each other.

Lillywy00's picture

When kids can handle the phone ... As long as they are well behaved then I think kids these days are around 10-12 (maybe sooner) getting phones

When my kiddo was with her dad I used to only call her between 8am - 8pm then if I needed anything earlier or later I'd text. 

But I really didn't want to be clinging to her remotely and encouraged her to keep in touch but also put the phone down and interact with her dads side of the family

This is what I expect out of the step kids too. If I/my kid could survive with these boundaries, so can they. 

Now if someone is hurt/emergency then I'll call anytime 

Winterglow's picture

If BM refuses to use email for non-urgent information, I suggest your DH tells her that if she won't that he'll have no choice but to take her to court to impose Our Family Wizard as the means of communication for everything, that the court will see all communications AND that she'll have to pay for it. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

He should take her to court anyway. With no court order, BM is more able to bully him. 

Thumper's picture

Why was there mediation and who ordered it. ---Mediation is not something x's say "hey , what ya doing to day? Wanna spend a few days AND 1k each, on mediation??? You know, for the fun of it?

I'd look into that one if I were you.

The worst thing to do is NOT to have a court order.  Granted very few high conflict bm's follow court orders. As of right now, life is flying by the seat of BM's pants. 


Edit to add- about cell phone. Our kids did not get cells until they could contribute to paying for them. Our bm tried to pull the cell phone bs--dh said NOPE not in our house. Our Judge did not blink an eye about that either. Our home, our rules.  Oh, by the way, bm does NOT have our cell phone numbers---never had it and never will.  Other ways to contact people in an emergency. 


wineoclock's picture

I'm intrigued that you are able to get by without exchanging phone numbers with BM. How does this work in practice? I would like to implement something similar if possible! 

Rags's picture

contact information for you.

If she already has your cell# and e-mail... block her. Respond to nothing from her and make zero contact with her.  Except in court.  Your SO can be the sole interface with his X.

I was fully engaged in defending my SS and my marriage but my interface with the SpermClan was as the big stick. I said very few words but when I spoke, they crawled back under the slime covered rock they resided under at the bottom of their shallow and polluted gene pool.  By the time I stepped in, DW had already shredded them and their mouth piece, SpermGrandHag, was reduced to a shreeking banshee in appoplexy. My statement was the final clarity session that if they wanted to continue their crap they would be doing so  in court.

wineoclock's picture

In the UK, they will not allow you to proceed to court without trying mediation first. It is supposedly a chraper route than going to court and not as traumatic for the kids. BM demanded mediation as she did not agree to DH's proposal of a change in contact arrangements. DH could not continue to have overnight contact which had been taking place at his mother's house (where DH lived) until we got married. After our marriage, DH moved iinto my 1 bedroom rental property as a temporary measure while he looks for a more suitable/bigger place so that can accommodate his kids for overnight stays EOW.


Rags's picture

for his visitation.  Make their visits with your DH happen in your 1Br flat a camping adventure. Pallettes on the floor, or AeroBeds, etc...

Adjust when you have a more spaceous home.

Some of the countries  where I have lived and worked, families of half a dozen or more live in a 50M^2 1br flat.

IMHO you and DH need to partner to get BM put and kept in her place.