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ladyleader

Dealing with Single Parents

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This is my first year as a den leader (Tigers) and am experiencing communication problems with separated parents. Parents that are not on a unified front for their cubscout are particularly hard to deal with. I recently found out that one of my scouts is moving and both the mother and father are supportive of their scout's activities and events, however, the one parent hadn't informed the other that they were moving out of the area. The parent asked me about the transfer process and I assumed that the other parent was on the same page and told him of the transfer process. Apparently, the two parents blew up at each other at a scouting event and blamed me for letting the cat out of the bag.

 

I'm seriously considering stepping down as leader if I've got to put up with this "he said-she said" situations. Do I just pick one parent to deal with and assume that the parents are communicating? Help.

 

Thanks

 

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Wow, that stinks that they are mad at you.

 

Don't quit over this. You could not have known that it was a big secret unless the one that mentioned it first told you it was.

 

If the lad is moving, you won't have to deal with this particular family anymore anyhow. Dealing with separated parents can be tricky, but it isn't always as bad as this. There are many parents who truly do work together for their son. Just this month, I was pleased to see one of my Webelos walk into the B&G Banquet with his real dad. Then shortly after that, his stepdad and his mom came in and they all sat together for the evening.

 

Jo

 

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I'd take it up with the Committee Chairman or the Cubmaster (if you don't know your committee chairman or he's not easily accessible) and have them take care of the situation at this point. One family's internal problems shouldn't be costing the pack a committed volunteer.

 

As for down the road, I'd personally go with whomever has primary custody, is coming to the meetings, etc. If it's a case of shared custody, then perhaps a small meeting is in order to discuss how to handle things and to make it clear that you are not there to be a scapegoat.

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Thanks for the advice. I agree that I should not be led to be the scapegoat. I've got 8 boys and 1/3 live in 2 households. These parents have equal shared custody. We've only got one month left (our unit does not frequently meet over the summer). So starting in September, I'll be frank with the parents and tell them I will not be notifying 6 extra households of the den's calendar. The parent that shows up at the den meetings will be the primary contact in my book.

 

On the other hand, I believe I must be more descreet in my dealings with the "other parent". I'll be honest, with so much on my mind between scouting, church, volunteering at school, managing my family - I forget little things from time to time. I can't recall if the one parent told me not to tell the other parent. I do know that she was holding back the info from the scout, for whatever reason. All in all, the family will be moving on and I must too. Thanks.

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This is one reason I like email. Mom and Dad are both have the opportunity to be on my distibution list. Both get the same messages.

I have some married couples who I need to do this for as well. I've had instances when Mom forgot to tell Dad about something and Johny missed the activity

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If it were me, I would refuse to play into their "game." Those parents are using their son and their son's Den Leader as battlegrounds. Don't let them include you!

 

I would continue to communicate with all parents and wouldn't change a thing. If they have secrets, they will simply have to learn not to tell me. I'm not going to be subject to their manipulation.

 

- Oren

Scoutmaster

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I'm with Oren on this. I continue to contact all parents. If there is a calendar, one goes to both homes. I am very up-front with the parents and let them know if they have secrets, they shouldn't tell me, because I can't always remember what I should say to who. I refuse to "take sides", unless it is the Scout's. I am there primarily for the boy...

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I must agree with MaScout - in that I must be upfront and convey to the parents that I will email all parties regarding scouting activities and the like. However, I will not be a go=between and anything they don't want the other parent to know, shouldn't be said to me. 'Cause I can't remember who who/who not to convey scout informationn to.

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Contact info for all parties is VERY important. This year, as Tigers, they have a parent with them at all times. Starting next year, they are on their own.

 

You stated that the split families all have joint custody. That means that they will be spending time at each parents house. Unless there is scouting info at each house things will fall between the cracks & get lost and/or forgotten.

 

If you are on an outing, both parents will need to know the info on where their child is. Also, if something happens on an outing, you must know how to contact BOTH parents.

 

"notifying 6 extra households of the den's calendar" is exactly what you should do. The extra time or postage to email or snail mail newsletters, calendars, etc, will be well worth it. When you make up your info packet for the new scout year include with it a contact sheet showing info for EVERY household. That way the split families know that everyone is getting the same info & they will all be included on any calling tree.

 

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Over the years working with cub packs I noticed that these kinds of parental relationship problems seem to be worse with families of younger boys and not so bad with the families of older boys. Maybe by then the parents have come to some agreement on how to interact, or gotten past some of the rancor that tends to exist in divorce situations, I don't know.

 

Anyway in the meantime, I agree with Oren and MaScout. It is wrong to expect you to remember who said what, and whether or not you're "allowed" to share that information with others, etc.. I'd also encourage you to keep communications as open as possible with all interested parties. Our mailing list included aunts, uncles, foster parents, birth parents of kids in foster care, grandparents, etc.. Anybody who had a "stake" in the boy's involvement in cubs, in short. It was just easier than trying to figure out which adults to contact - which sometimes would have meant making judgment calls, based on limited information, and which might have been interpreted as judgments on who was the more involved/"better" parent or care giver.

 

Also a less personal form of communication is nice for these situations. Phone calls, let's face it, take time and can be an open door for one parent to complain/whine/whatever about the other even though you just don't want to hear it. Email and hard copies of news letters have a potential to cut down on this. And if people are prone to abusing the email contact by sending you a zillion messages with unwanted info in them, you might set up a specific scouts-only email account (with yahoo or whoever) and make sure to tell people you only use it to disseminate information and you don't check it frequently.

Hang in there.

 

Lisa'bob

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It is always so nice when parents put their kids best interest before the fact that their marrage didn't work. Have a boy in my troop whose parents work as a team. Dad drops him off at scouts. Mom picks him up. At our last COH they all sat together including the new wife and her kids.

I sure do have a lot of respect for those parents.

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I do have one cubscout whos parents are united in supporting his scouting journey. I have the utmost respect for these parents who put their scout first.

 

I do communicate mostly by email and then followup with phone calls when necessary. Some scout parents don't even check their email. The communication has been good thus far, because I eventually hunt them down and am frank with them in regards to their scout's achievements. I've got 8 boys and as of tonight, they will have completed all 5 achievements.

 

As far as newsletters - I just have trouble putting words to paper. I've got a palm pilot and use it's calendaring system to generate the monthly den calendar and I usually give it to the parents in the beginning of the month. However, the divorced parent that doesn't come to the den meeting, doesn't receive the calendar. A good point well taken that all parties should rcve info on their scout. I'll request emails, addresses and phone numbers of both parents. As stated in another post, I'll need this info especially at the Wolf level and up. Thanks for all your posts. You are all a wealth of info to me.

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I have found that when parents are separated or divorced, trying to keep both informed can lead to a great deal of problems if the parents are not in the same page as far as scouting is concerned. Having both on an email distribution list can be especially problematic.

 

If you find yourself in a situation where the parents can't agree, stay out of the middle. Use the parent that registered the boy in scouts as your point of contact (if you look at the boy's application only one parent is required to sign the boy up for scouts). When both parents are required to approve the boy's participation an event or activity, have that parent get the other parent's approval before allowing the boy to participate.

 

If the other parent questions what is going on, tell him or her that you're sorry but the parent that registered the boy in scouting is your point of contact. Be clear to both parents that you expect that the information you provide to the parent that registered the boy is being forwarded to the other parent. If that is not the case, it's up to them to work it out--through the courts if necessary.

 

I had a situation where one parent would try to sabatoge scouting opportunities for the boy just to get back at the other parent. Communicating only with the parent that registered the boy solved my problems. The other parent threatened to take me to court if I didn't comply with his or her request for information. I simply said that I understand you are divorced but I don't know the details of your custody arrangement but given that only one parent registered the boy, I was only obligated to that parent. However, I'd be happy to comply with any directions the courts would provide me. The parent stopped bothering and threatening me when he or she realized that I required more that his or her direction to comply.

 

You need to remember that communication with anyone who did not sign the boy's application about his activities could be a violation of his right to privacy.

 

Of course, it's a lot easier if the divorced or separated parents can put aside their differences for the benefit of their boy.(This message has been edited by MarkS)

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"You need to remember that communication with anyone who did not sign the boy's application about his activities could be a violation of his right to privacy."

 

You can't be serious.

 

So, do you communicate with ONLY the parent who signed the application in a 2 parent household? I REALLY doubt it.

 

These people are divorced, but unless there is a major problem (for which there will be court documents spelling out who can do what) , they both still have LEGAL responsibility for their children. It is enough that some split families play games with their kids in the middle, the Scout Leader should NOT be doing it too.

 

Give them both all info. What they do with it is up to them, not you.

 

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