Dear Dr. Jann: My children’s mother NEVER tells me anything. If the kids are sick, I don’t know until my next visit, which is every other weekend and each Wednesday night for dinner. I’d like to know how they are doing in school, but she won’t give me report cards or tell me when there is a student conference. She acts like the kids are only hers and I’m just there to send her a check. What can I do to get her to keep me informed?
Dr. Jann: Parents who are at odds often secretly feel that information is power. “I know more about the kids than you, so I’m the better parent.” The truth is, the more you share with their other parent, the better parent — and coParent — you are. When you don’t talk to each other, you are not putting the kids first.
If the kids are with mom the majority of the time, then she’s probably the one to take them to the doctor and dentist. Most parenting plans require the primary parent to inform the other parent of any appointment their child may have so he or she can attend the appointment as well. Say, you’re working and can’t attend — then the primary parent should keep you up to date of any changes in contact information for the professionals that treat your children — the follow-up is up to you.
Parents often complain that they are not informed about how their children are doing in school. All schools have a web site that announces special events, like Back to School Night or achievement awards ceremonies. Each year offer all your contact information, including email address, to your child’s teacher and check in periodically. Your child’s report card and attendance records can be easily forwarded via email. If you want to attend a parent/teacher conference, just ask. If you and mom are so estranged that you can’t go together, then set up one separately.
Ultimately, my wish for your children is that their parents put aside their differences and start working together — and this is to both you and your children’s mother: You make think you “win” when you withhold information, but the truth is, your children loose — so, that’s no win at all.