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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘My ex-wife tracks our teens by their phones, even when they're with me’

Advice by Meghan Leahy

Question: I am a divorced father of two teenage boys. They are good kids and I respect their privacy; I don’t track them by cellphone.

I believe in the golden rule of treating others how you’d want to be treated and I wouldn’t want anyone tracking my every move.

Their mom does track them. But what really irks me is that she tracks them even when they are staying with me; thus if I go somewhere with them, she is tracking me.

She’ll also send annoying texts. I’m single (she’s not) and I might be out on a Friday night, be on the way to get my kid and I’ll get a text like, “Isn’t it a little late for [name of son] to be at his girlfriend’s?” (girlfriend’s parents also home).

Isn’t this wrong, tracking the kids when I have custody? I have hinted to her that I think this is wrong but am afraid she’ll fly off the handle if I formally ask her to stop.

Answer: This is a sticky one. Teen boys, defensive ex, tracking gone amok – there are no easy answers in any of this.

I have a lot of respect for your trust and the importance of privacy, and it seems that your boys have risen to the occasion.

If you ask a million people for their opinions on this, you will get a million thoughts, so here are mine.

As a parent coach, I am going to advocate for preserving the peace at (almost) all costs.

I would like to give your ex the benefit of the doubt and hope that she isn’t as controlling and paranoid as she sounds, or that she has a past that explains this extreme control.

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In any case, you are on one end of the spectrum (no surveillance) and she is on the other end (total surveillance, even when they are with you).

You are probably not going to bring her to your side, so why don’t you do some careful listening.

Say to her: “I have noticed you are really worried about Tom and Jerry when they are out. Tell me more about that.”

Yes, you may bristle at even asking her opinion but, generally, humans relax a bit when they feel free to express their worries.

And, if you are truly ready to listen without judgment, you may find that you can empathize with her fears.

She may have some evidence that you didn’t know that could change your outlook. You don’t know until you ask.

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