Divided Custody: When Your Child Resists

Separation and divorce are hard enough on you and your family. It is especially tough if your child resists coming to see you when it is time for you to have custody. A child may resist going to visit a parent for a variety of reasons and it is good to get to the root of the problem if you can.

Here are a few things you can do to make a visit with you more inviting to your children.

  • Stay calm. Getting angry with your child because he doesn’t want to visit you is counterproductive. Be patient and get to the root of the problem. It may not be at all what you most suspect.
  • Spend quality time with your child. Engage with your children when they are with you. If you set them in front of the TV and ignore them you will be missing out on opportunities to create bonding experiences and life-long memories.
  • Establish routines for time with you. Routines create stability. They also help children to know what to expect which increases their sense of security.
  • Don’t be grumpy back. If your child is grumpy, spend some time trying to find out what is bothering your child. Be empathetic and supportive.
  • Give the child a space at your home to call his own.  If space allows, give the child a room to call his own. If the child must share a room, find some space in the house that is that child’s space.
  • Don’t demean your child.
  • Don’t badmouth the other parent. Expressing negative emotions about the other parent to your child only adds to your child’s grief.  It may actually drive the child away from you and is sure to cause psychological conflict in the child.
  • Cooperate and communicate with the other parent about co-parenting. The more you can work together to create consistent standards for the child the better.
  • Do not put the child in the position of being a go-between.  Communicate directly with your ex rather than putting the child in the middle.
  • Attend your child’s events.  Be there for sports, performances, award ceremonies, etc. even when it is not your day to have custody.
  • Don’t manipulate your children to side with you against their other parent.
  • Accept age related developmental changes. Teenagers may be more interested in spending time with their peers than either of their parents. Work with this reality to schedule your time with your child.
  • Identify and address conflicts.  If there are other children in your home, ask your resistant child if a conflict exists in this area. Guide your child through problem solving in their relationship with the other child. Take any actions you need to take as the adult in the family to help alleviate this conflict.

Most of the time parents and children are able to work through this resistance to visit with a parent. Parent child relationships can be very complex.  If the problem persists or escalates, seek professional guidance before problems become entrenched.

Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.

Colossians 3:20-21 NIV

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2 Comments on Divided Custody: When Your Child Resists

  1. sharon says:

    What about when the children are over 18, then what? My children only want to spend time with him but he says the only way that will happen is his new wife and her kids are there too. My kids only want their dad. He told them that if they wanted him to pay for their medical, dental and vision then they had to accept that his is married and her kids too. They don’t like her and don’t like her kids. They tell me one thing and tell him something else and when I tell him what they say on why they wont see him, they don’t say nothing about it and it makes me look like a liar and I’m crazy.

    • Renee Ettline says:

      Stepfamilies are complicated. If their dad would consider reading The Smart Stepfamily by Dr.Ron Deal I think he would find it helpful. The truth is that your children’s father has remarried. He may be more likely to carve out time alone with his children if they are willing to spend time with his new family and try to get along. Your adult children may also want to learn more about stepfamily dynamics. Counseling is another alternative.

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