By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Parenting after divorce is always challenging, especially when your children act out. One big issue is handling children if they resist visitation with their other parent. Many factors come into play when this occurs.
Here are some questions to ask yourself which can help you determine the source of the problem. They’ll also help you understand the reasons why your children are resisting post-divorce contact with their other parent.
For simplification purposes, I’m using Dad as the example. However, this happens to fathers and mothers alike depending on their prior and post-divorce relationships.
Questions for parental self-reflection
- Are the kids feeling guilty or disloyal when leaving your presence? This can easily influence their feelings toward spending time with their Dad.
- Have they been privy to information, slurs or other comments that make them dislike their Dad? Do they hear you complain about him to family or friends? Are they being raised in an environment hostile towards Dad?
- Has Dad been mistreating them or disciplining them in a different way than you do? Is the contrast between you two dramatic or extreme?
- Are you sending mixed-messages to your kids about their Dad? Are you co-parenting respectfully with one another – or exposing the kids to conflict and tension?
- Was their relationship or communication with Dad weak or limited prior to the divorce? It’s hard to establish a more positive relationship after divorce in families where Dad was absent or emotionally unavailable.
- Are they holding Dad responsible for the divorce or its outcome? Children, especially as they grow older, can develop strong judgments about their life and blaming one parent is often the outcome.
Take a deeper dive into the issues for greater insight
Any one of these situations can influence a child’s decision regarding custody visitation. This must be addressed effectively. In many cases the parents can resolve the problem by discussing the issues together. Or they can enlist the guidance of a therapist, mediator or divorce coach.
As mentioned above, give serious thought to these experiences: Could you be showing signs of depression or neediness? Are you talking about missing your kids so much that they are afraid to leave you? This creates a guilt mind-set in the home. Your kids take on the parenting role and feel guilty loving or wanting to be with Dad. If this is the case, you are doing them an injustice and robbing them of the joys of having two parents to love.
I strongly suggest your sitting down with your kids to find out what their feelings are. Have they been comfortable in both homes? Are the rules in each home too different or even conflicting? Have outside issues such as getting to school on time, bullying neighbors or other challenges affecting their well-being? Is a new love interest affecting the living equation? Are your children afraid of spending time alone with one parent? And if so, why?
How Therapists & Coaches Can Make A Valuable Difference
These are complex and highly charged issues. Again, seeking the advice of a professional counselor or divorce coach can be useful for both parents. It’s especially helpful in uncovering the motivation behind your children’s behavior or anxieties.
Keep in mind that kids will often tell a child-psychologist “secrets” they’re not comfortable telling either of their parents. Listen to your children without judgment or lecturing. That only puts them on the defensive and stops the flow of communication. See if a family meeting to resolve issues together will work. When everyone contributes to and agrees on new rules they are more likely to be followed.
While visitation issues are certainly a legal matter, it’s essential that parents be pro-active in non-legal ways as well. It’s much easier and saner to handle situations related to your children within the family. That means avoid giving up your power to judges and courts, whenever possible.
Get the help you need from caring professionals who embrace the child-centered divorce philosophy. Be sure to address all issues as soon as you are aware of them. Your children will appreciate your care and loving attention – and thank you when they are grown.
Children do best when having healthy relationships with both parents. So be attentive to seeing the world from their perspective and responding proactively. Everyone in the family will benefit and visitation issues can be resolved more harmoniously.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous ebooks, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. To learn more about her valuable resources or schedule a coaching session, visit: https://www.childcentereddivorce.com.
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All rights reserved: Rosalind Sedacca