Communication between the separated father and the mother of the child
As a separated father, if you want to call your offspring on the phone or plan the next reunion, you usually have to go through the mother. From a certain age or rather developmental stage of your child you can of course contact your child directly without any problems. But until then - up to an estimated age of around 15 years - the path inevitably leads through the mother.
I am aware that it is not always about the birth mother of the child, with whom you may have to deal as a separated father. Nevertheless, I will limit my contribution to this constellation because it is the typical case. This article applies accordingly to all other cases.
There are many other reasons that you may need to communicate with the mother of your child. For example, it can be about financial issues or parenting issues. Or maybe you want to find out about your child's development, school performance, or other news.
As you may know yourself or can imagine, this may work very easily, reliably and without any problems. If this is the case with you, I congratulate you very warmly and hope for you that it will stay that way for a long time. You can then safely skip this article.
The other extreme would be that communication with the mother does not work at all, or in other words, there is no communication. If that is the case with you, I am very sorry. To be honest, I don't know what advice I could give you. But I hope that you can cope with the situation to some extent and maybe even have active support.
The focus of this article lies between the two extremes: Communication with the mother works - more or less - sometimes like this, sometimes like that - more badly than right. I just assume that it works like that in most cases. It shouldn't matter in this article who has the buck, because it usually takes at least two.
Successful communication as a link to the child
What do I mean by communication that works more or less? First of all, I think of the frequency or even more of the regularity. As a separated father, you hang on the mother's information drip. The mother notices everything that happens with the child. She experiences all joys and sorrows up close, is involved in the vast majority of topics and has first-hand information.
I sense what one or the other mother may be thinking now: I don't notice anything from my child, he / she doesn't tell me, locks himself in his room or is only rarely at home. But this is typical behavior during puberty and will not be the focus of this article. Until puberty, however, it is undoubtedly the case that the mother knows pretty much about all the child's concerns.
And the father? The separation means that he is literally cut off from this flow of information. And if there is no regular communication between mother and father, then the danger of alienation between father and child increases dramatically. The father doesn't notice anything anymore, has no idea and at some point is completely left out.
Regular communication with the mother is therefore absolutely necessary - at least with small children - in order to stay on board as a father. Otherwise it can happen that at some point as a father you will not even be able to choose a birthday present for your child because you have no idea what the daughter or son is excited about. And that is really bitter!
So first of all I would mention the regularity of communication. But is regular communication enough on its own to get and maintain an insight as comprehensive as possible into the life of your own child as a separated father?
The very fact that I am asking this question suggests the answer: no. It is not enough to communicate regularly; the quality of communication is also important. By this I mean the objectivity, completeness and correctness of the information or messages.
There is a very high risk that one-sided, incomplete or incorrect reports will create a picture that has nothing to do with the child's actual life situation. It also doesn't matter whether this happens consciously - connected with an intention - or unconsciously. Either way, the damage to the father-child relationship is enormous.
And before an outcry goes through the ranks of the mothers at this point, who may have the impression that I would pass the buck on them: Fathers are responsible for taking serious interest, listening carefully and asking the right questions. I would put it this way: Fathers have the obligation to collect and mothers the obligation to bring. Only if both do their job conscientiously, everything will be fine.
Hurdles and traps
In addition to the regularity, there is also the quality of communication. Sounds simple enough: Talk to each other on the phone every week and talk sensibly. If it weren't for those stupid emotions that keep interfering and make everything so complicated. But why actually?
Why? Because you not only communicate with each other as a mother and father, but also as an ex-husband, ex-lover, ex-partner, ex-boyfriend, ex-roommate or ex-confidante. As a father and mother you would probably get along well, but the others also get involved, either individually or in the worst case all together.
This little prefix "ex" is closely related to hurt, disappointment, frustration, sadness, anger and hatred. It can happen that the communication between father and mother drifts into the same corner again and again, so that the actual reason for the call is completely forgotten and ultimately no exchange is possible except for mutual blame. No wonder if under such circumstances the next contact takes many days or weeks.
That is fatal of course if it is actually about the adolescent capers of the daughter, but in the end it is only beating and punching with the emotional club. I don't need to explicitly mention that it is primarily the child and his or her well-being that are left behind. And the fact that the father-child relationship also suffers massively as a result, because the mother becomes an insurmountable hurdle, is also understandable. But what to do?
It is worth a try
My experience is that in the first place your own basic attitude has to be checked and possibly readjusted: What is my real motivation? Is it really just about finding out how my child is doing or when the next meeting is possible? Or is this just the pretext to really give my ex-wife a good telling-off? This is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but I hope it becomes clear what I mean.
And it is also important to highlight this motivation right at the beginning of the communication. It should be clear to both father and mother why the phone call is taking place or why the e-mail is being written. Nothing is more burdensome than speculating all the time about what the other actually wants, and constantly being prepared for worse.
This motivation gives communication a framework in which one can hopefully move around in a relaxed and safe manner. And if father and mother manage to stick with the matter and then politely end the conversation, it will give them courage for the next contact.
I would bring the concept of conversation hygiene into play here: Communication free from attacks, injuries, lawsuits and other trivialities. Communication that serves the best interests of the child and the parent-child relationship.
And even if a careless word is uttered by mistake, it does not have to lead to the opposite side picking up the ball. In order not to lose sight of the actual occasion, and for the good of the child, it is quite helpful and also permissible to simply ignore some things.
I admit it takes a lot of practice and an absolute desire to communicate sensibly and constructively with one another. And despite all the good intentions, it won't work every time. But even from failure - with a little good will - you can learn a lot for the next attempt!