I am a fanatic about wearing a mask when my kids go out, but their dad doesn’t really care. My kids are 14, 10 and 5.

Then the kids come home and complain that they have to wear a mask at my house and it’s a fight every time. They are gravitating to dad’s house, and I’m desperate to know what to do.

I don’t know how to impress upon their father that he’s not being safe with the kids. What’s good ex-etiquette?

Unfortunately, you may have had this problem even if you still lived with their dad. I can’t count how many times parents have asked me to tell them who was right when they didn’t agree on something.

Safety is a classic example. Parents often disagree. Maybe one parent thinks it’s safe to take the child on the back of the motorcycle and the other parent thinks it’s crazy. It may have been an issue when the family lived together, but some compensation was made when the parents were a couple. But once that couple breaks up, it’s on.

In cases like that, there are actually laws that dictate “what is safe” but that differs from state to state, and parents still may not agree.

Wearing a mask is something else. There are requirements, in various places, like airplanes, stores or possibly school. Some believe that masks cause other problems; a mother of a 5-year-old told me her daughter touches her face far more when she wears a mask than when she doesn’t. A parent of a 16-year-old told me they thought it was their child’s decision.

Whether you agree or not, compromise is at the heart of any successful agreement. Therefore, when parents don’t agree I always try to guide them toward compromise, and that’s why I made, “Look for the compromise,” ex-etiquette for parents rule No. 10.

You may not see it, but fear that your kids may prefer dad’s may be at the root of you feeling desperate. Your kids deserve both parents, so rather than get into an argument, you and dad now have a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to your children how to properly problem solve.

They know you disagree. So, use this as a teachable moment. Demonstrate firsthand how to calmly negotiate during a stressful situation. Both of you might consider taking the time to do some research and let the kids see you doing that. Then, decide together when you truly feel a mask is necessary. There will be compromise and there will be areas in which you agree.

For example, both will most likely agree that wearing a mask around grandparents might be safer for the grandparents, since they are in a high-risk group and children may be asymptomatic.

But, more importantly, make sure during this process you aren’t badmouthing the other parent in front of the kids because you disagree. Openly discounting your concern or discounting dad’s stance will be more detrimental to your children than wearing or not wearing a mask.

The virus will not be with us forever. As a result, this mask controversy will be over, but diminishing your co-parent’s opinion in front of the children will leave lasting scars. Work together in the best interest of your children. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Blackstone is founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com, and may be contacted at dr.jann@exetiquette.com.


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