Q. My ex moved 9 months ago. He doesn’t have furniture in the apartment — he only has a TV in the living room and a bed in his room. I told him that I should take a break and postpone the weekend with our daughters, 6 and 8, until he got the furniture. He refuses! Will they intervene if I call child protection services? What is good etiquette?
A. Good etiquette works with your child’s father, so he can keep seeing the girl on a regular basis without trying to penalize him for not having the lifestyle you approve. I can do it. If we’re based on a decision of what’s best for our kids, it’s to be with our dad — it doesn’t really make a difference to have a couch while you’re doing it.
When this happens, parents are forced to be creative in maintaining relationships with their children. Here are some examples my clients are thinking of out of the box …
A dad who didn’t have furniture turned the weekend into a movie night with his kids. They rented movies, bought pizza, bought popcorn, camped in front of the TV, and crashed with pillows and blankets. It was every Saturday to Sunday. The kids loved it. They didn’t care if they had a bed to sleep on. They had a father.
Another parent lost his job and lived in a camper while looking for a job. His son just thought he went camping with his dad every other week. They will go to different places, adventure, camp and fish. They did this until Dad got a new job and rented an apartment. The main goal I have always admired was not to disturb the time my dad and son spent together because of the hard times they had. And even better, the child’s mother helped the father keep seeing the child. Young children don’t really understand what “unemployment” means. They understand when they don’t see you. Mother and father felt that consistency was paramount.
We all want our kids to have their own room, beds and lots of toys, but sometimes that’s not possible. Will CPS intervene in any of the above cases? I doubt it. It is my experience that CPS intervenes without water, electricity and food. However, if the children are safe, clean and well-nourished, I don’t think CPS will be involved. Parents who do not approve the lifestyle of other parents when their children are safe, clean and well-nourished? We talk overnight on weekends. It didn’t even disrupt their schooling.
Finally, considering calling CPS is a danger signal to me. Call you instead. Talk to him about his plans, especially if this is temporary, putting the child first (good etiquette rule for parents # 1). That’s good etiquette.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Former Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation” and the founder of the Bonus Family at www.bonusfamilies.com.
Tell us about your daughter’s stay plans
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