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What to do when children don’t want to go to another parent


When you are in divorce, it is tough sometimes to deal with your kids emotions.  For example, your child might show an  aversion to spending time with the other parent; this is not an unusual reaction for a child when the parents are divorcing.

You are faced with difficult choices: if you instruct your child to spend time with their other parent against their will, they may end up repressing their feelings in unhealthy ways which may lead to serious problems including even a depression. On the other hand, simply allowing your child to follow their impulse may lead to having everyone involved being uncomfortable, resentful and bitter. How do you handle all of this?

While you want to acknowledge your child’s feelings, you also won’t want to keep them from developing their relationship with your ex-partner. How do you have this resolved?

There are three constructive ways to approach this situation.

First, give your child space to express their feelings, encouraging them to speak up about the anger and hurt they are experiencing. Assure them that their feelings are legitimate. If your child is not comfortable speaking with you about their feelings, encourage them to find an alternative emotional outlet, such as drawing or writing a journal, if they are old enough.

Second, it’s crucial that you teach your child – by example – the lesson of forgiveness toward the other parent, letting your child see that past wrongs can be forgiven, and wounds can heal. While it may seem to you that your child’s reaction derives from their own pain, it’s important to acknowledge that they may be playing out the anger and hurt that they sense in you. Examine your own behavior and set a tone that fosters mutual respect, cooperation, and forgiveness.

Finally, divorce mediation or parenting coordination could be a huge help. It may be worth bringing in a family mediator or a parent coordinator to help both of you to communicate with your child in a productive and efficient way. These people may help you foster a healthy communication between your child and the other parent.

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