Q: I’ve been divorced for five years and with my current partner for four. I think it’s best for our children if my partner comes to parent-teacher conferences since she is very involved with the kids and helps me care for them during the 50 percent of the time that we have them. How would you advise going about this? I also want to know how to respond to e-mails that are very false.

A: Ideally, it is best that your new partner go to parent-teacher conferences if she is involved with the children, but if it’s too confrontational for your children’s mother, then your partner’s presence will do more harm than good. Plan two conferences until you can better work together.

The red flag isn’t that your ex doesn’t like your partner at the conferences — that’s just a symptom of the problem. It’s that your kids have gone back and forth between homes that are at such odds for more than four and a half years! Granted, it sounds like Mom is the one having trouble moving on, but when all is said and done, it doesn’t really matter who is having the most trouble adjusting — it’s still an issue for the kids caught in the middle.

This is when some say that the animosity between parents is understandable because of various reasons — possibly the parents’ relationship broke up because of an affair or domestic violence or drugs and alcohol problems. These are all very important reasons, but the fact remains the kids still have to deal with it until the parents take care of it. And, if issues like this arise, parents have to consider that before adopting a parenting plan that requires the children to question their allegiance every time they change homes.

If you can’t solve this problem yourself, get help. There are therapists that specialize in co-parenting counseling. It’s different from marriage counseling in that the goal is better communication and learning how to problem-solve even though you are no longer together.

Finally, if you’re not talking to your children’s mother you’re bound to both hear incorrect things from the kids who are possibly trying to prevent their parents from arguing or from protecting a parent who has been hurt or from playing their parents against each other to get more attention, fewer punishments, etc. The more you can problem-solve in front of the kids, the better adjusted they will be. A good response to false e-mails is, “What do you suggest, in the best interest of our children?” 

Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).  

— McClatchy-Tribune