Are your children refusing to budge when it’s time for custody drop off or pick up? Transitioning between two households can be stressful for kids adjusting to their parents’ divorce. Before you jump to conclusions, take time to explore what might be contributing to your children’s reactions and what you can do to help your kids get through this difficult time.
12 Reasons Why Your Kids Might Resist Being With Your Ex…That Don’t Mean Your Ex Is A Bad Parent
- They blame your ex for the divorce.
- They feel pressure from you, or even their siblings, to take sides.
- They’re used to spending the majority of their time with you and get separation anxiety when they go to your ex’s house.
- They want to spend time with you because your ex is the disciplinarian and you’re the “fun one.”
- They don’t like your ex’s new neighborhood.
- They feel responsible for your happiness, and guilty when they go to your ex’s home.
- They prefer being with their same-sex parent. They prefer being with their opposite-sex parent.
- They don’t like your ex’s new significant other.
- They feel bored at your ex’s house.
- They don’t feel comfortable talking to your ex about the reasons why they resist visitation.
- They’re teenagers and you’ve got the party house, the extra car, and no curfew.
- They want to pit you and your ex against each other to get what they want.
6 Ways To Help Kids Work Through Parenting Time Resistance
Your job as a divorced parent is to support your kids’ relationship with your ex, and vice versa. No matter what you think of your former spouse, children have a right to love both parents. Obstructing their bond with your ex can be damaging to your children and their ability to form healthy relationships with others. Unless there are legitimate reasons – abuse, neglect, addiction — why your children shouldn’t spend time with your former spouse, you should find ways to problem-solve the visitation issue.
- Explore your children’s resistance. Find out what’s really behind “I don’t want to go to mom’s/dad’s house.” Ask your kids to give you a list of reasons. If your child says your ex is “too strict,” find out what “too strict” is: age-appropriate chores, table manners, and set bedtimes are good for children, and you should encourage them to follow your ex’s house rules. You might also consider duplicating some of the rules in your house for consistency. However, if your child says something that makes you concerned, it’s appropriate to open a discussion with your ex in a non-judgmental, non-blaming manner.
- Get your ex’s perspective. Your ex may tell you things your child conveniently omitted. For instance, your child isn’t following household rules, and your ex is enforcing reasonable consequences. Kids often triangulate the other parent to get their way, so it’s crucial that you get the full story, not just your child’s colorful version. It’s also important that you back up your co-parent so your kids learn that they can’t split the two of you.
- Examine your own behavior. Are you letting your negative feelings for your ex bleed over onto your kids? Do you impart your own separation anxiety when it’s your co-parent’s visitation time? Do you interrogate your children upon their return and act hurt if they say they had a great time? Your kids are studying your behavior and moods and may feel responsible for your happiness. Taking care of parents is an unfair emotional burden for kids. If you’re hostile or anxious around your ex, or even when you talk about your ex, own your part in the problem. Therapy can help you work through your feelings towards your co-parent and manage your divorce more effectively so your kids don’t have to manage it for you.
- Don’t tell your kids they “have” to go. Understanding the timeshare arrangement lessens kids’ anxiety. Knowing all the legal implications behind the arrangement will just increase anxiety and possibly, resistance. Don’t put the burden of custody on family court, i.e., “you don’t have a choice, we have to follow the custody order.” Remember that you’re the parent; your kids don’t have to like the rules in order to follow them. Tell them you and your co-parent feel that the current visitation schedule is best, and encourage them to go. On the other hand, sometimes custody orders should be modified to meet children’s needs as they grow, as long as those needs are appropriate.
- Find creative solutions. Ideally, you and your ex would team up to brainstorm solutions. But even if your ex won’t cooperate, you can talk to your child about ways to make parenting time more enjoyable. If your child gets homesick, would Skype make him feel more connected to you than a phone call? Is your child relying on your ex to schedule playdates instead of asking directly? If your children are older, would they enjoy mealtime more if they got to plan and prepare the meals? If your kids feel that they have some control over what they do at your ex’s house, they might feel better about spending time there.
- Empower your children. You don’t want your kids to get in the habit of running to you to solve their problems. Instead, validate their concern and encourage them to speak to your ex directly. If they’re nervous about how to do this, role-play with them. Helping them find and use their voice appropriately is part of your job as a parent.
Of course, if you believe that your kids aren’t safe at your ex’s house, then you need to call the police and/or contact your attorney. But remember: you do not have the right to unilaterally alter the visitation schedule as you see fit. If you do anything to obstruct visitation, you could face legal consequences.
In most situations, children should be able to live in both parents’ homes. Do what you can to make transitions run smoother. If your ex isn’t cooperative, do what you can do. No matter how much you loathe your ex, don’t jump on the bandwagon when your child complains about visitation. Kids are mercurial and one day, they might complain about you!
In certain circumstances, child custody modifications are appropriate in situations where there has been a breakdown in a parent-child relationship. Have questions about how what changes to your custody or parenting agreement could be warranted? We can help. To speak with a family law attorney, please contact us or call: 888-888-0919. Take the first step towards securing your child’s future.