Q: My son’s ex-wife thinks their son should get to stay with whichever parent he chooses to be with regardless of the parenting plan. I believe the plan should be followed to avoid putting the child in a power position that could lead to guilty feelings. Please advise.

A: Our first question to you is, “Why are you writing us instead of your son?” One of the biggest problems reported by divorced parents is the interference of former in-laws. Granted, after the breakup it’s not uncommon for grandparents to step in to help with child care, but this doesn’t mean you should weigh in with your opinion about how their dad navigates the established parenting plan. Even though you’re used to calling the shots, it’s time to let your son parent his own children.

We know you probably think you’re helping. Divorce makes people crazy and right after divorce all that stress makes it difficult to make decisions. So, Grandma and Grandpa step up and say, “Don’t worry, son, we’ll take care of everything.” But, the more your son and the children’s mother can make decisions together, the more secure their children will feel. If you’re running the show it will undermine your son’s efforts and probably cause friction between you and the children’s mother. Again, that will not help the kids’ adjustment. If there are two healthy parents here, do your best to stay in the background.

That said, you’re right. It’s not healthy for the children to call the shots, before or after their parents’ breakup. It places the kids right in the middle and asks them to choose sides. As kids get older, their parents’ importance lessens and most would rather hang with their friends. Let them make that choice and they may never develop a positive relationship with their other parent. A child has the right to have both parents in his or her life, and it’s good ex-etiquette to support the other parent’s effort to maintain a good relationship with the kids.

Finally, diverting from the established parenting plan can be confusing for both parents and children. If both parents agree to an occasional change, that’s fine, but when one wants to change and the other doesn’t, it’s best to stick with what’s already been agreed to. If you act as if nothing is written in stone, it will impact how secure your children feel with either parent. And if it ever comes to a disagreement for which the police are called, they will look to the court-ordered parenting plan as a basis for where the kids should be.

Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, are the authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents.” Reach them at:

eebonusfamilies.com

— McClatchy-Tribune