The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/21/07

While some may have cringed at reports that Alec Baldwin allegedly called his daughter a "rude, thoughtless, little pig" for not answering a phone call from her famous father, child psychologists said that famous divorced parents are not the only ones who make bad mistakes in dealing with their children.

Issues such as scheduling conflicts, bad feelings between the divorced parents, a troubled relationship between child and parent and even time zone differences often make communication difficult between children and noncustodial parents.

to try not to behave in ways that can further damage fractured relationships.

Dr. Betsy Gard, a child psychologist and president of the Georgia Psychological Association, offered some ideas on how to not lose your cool trying to stay in touch with children who live with a former partner:

Q: All divorced parents know that it is hard to stay in touch with children when they move back and forth from one parent’s home to the other. When a parent cannot reach his or her child, what can the parent do?

A: Try not to take it personally. If you do get angry, take a step back, and don’t react immediately. If you remain angry, talk to a trusted friend. Take some time.

Also, ask if this is acute or chronic. If it’s infrequent, you may not want to say anything. If you do, you may just want to say that you are disappointed, and then move on. But you do not want to put the child in the middle.

Q: What should a parent do if a child chronically misses calls?

A: You have to think through what’s going on. How recent was the divorce? How old is the child? How much is the child handling communications independently? Of course you can’t go flying off the handle; we all know that. It’s not constructive to the relationship.

Q: What happens, though, when a parent does say something hurtful — or even calls a child names?

A: If you do slip, you have to go back and ask the [forgiveness] of the child. You need to take responsibility and give a true and sincere apology. Make no excuses for yourself, and tell what you’re doing to work on your anger. You need to do that for the apology but also to model responsible behavior for your child.

SOURCE: Atlanta Journal-Constitution