When your Child Refuses Visitation

It happens more than often that a child refuses to visit his other parent. By law, parents have to comply with the agreed (or sometimes ordered) visitation schedules as laid out in the parenting plan. Legally, the children even do not have a say in this.

But in daily practice, it happens quite often that a chid refuses to visit his other parent when it is time to do so. Simply saying that they have to, does not make them change their mind.

Being responsible parents, we have to motivate our children of divorce to visit their other parent. All children have the right to spend time and to build and maintain a solid relationship with both of their parents. They need to have both their mother and their father in their lives. They benefit from those relationships as both parents have different views, different habits, different knowledge, preferences and different ways of raising their off-spring.

So, what if our child refuses to visit their other parent?

You as a parent can be in a different positions:

  • Your child refuses to visit your ex-partner or
  • Your child refuses to visit you

We have to find out why, of course. How to do that and how to define your plan of action depends upon which situation you are in.

When your child refuses to visit you.

To start with, you are in a delicate situation. Your child might be at an emotional distance that won't be easy to bridge. If you confront your child directly by asking why he or she does not want to visit you, it won't help. So, usually it is better to take a different approach.

First of all, look at yourself carefully:

  • How do you behave when dealing with your ex-partner?
  • Do you argue and fight or do you respect and listen to each other?
  • Are you aggressive and reproachfully?
  • Do you have a child-focused relationship with your ex-partner?
  • Do you come on time to pick up and bring away your child?
  • How much quality time do you spend with your child each week?
  • Do you do things together often? How often do you go out to discover new things together?
  • Do you support and participate in your child's games, plays, sports, favourite past-time and hobbies?
  • Or are you focusing on your work, on your new partner or on your own hobbies all the time?
  • How much time are you on your phone or on social media when your child is around?
  • What about your new partner? Is he or she nice to your child? Does your child like her or him?
  • Does your child has its own private place at your home?
  • How child friendly is your place? Are there other children to play with?

Think about what you can improve and take immediate action. Communicate your changes and improvements to your ex-partner and to your child. See how they react and listen to their suggestions.

If your ex-partner is of good will, understands the importance for the child of visiting and spending quality time with the other parent, your ex-partner will have contacted you. If he or she did not do that, she or he might have a different position.

The next step is to talk to your ex. Remember, as explained on many other places on our web site, it is important to build a new relationship with your ex-partner after your divorce. The relationship should be entirely based on the parenting of your children. It is best practice to not discuss other aspects of your new life with your ex.

As you do this from the start, chances are that you avoid getting into the situation that your child does not want to visit one of you anymore. And if the situation arises, it is much easier to deal with.

But if the relationship with your ex-partner is not good, it is more difficult to resolve this unwanted situation. The best approach is to work together with your ex-partner. Talk to each other and find out what is bothering the kid by asking your ex. Ask your ex to ask your child.

Unfortunately, in many cases, one of the parents feeds the child with negative information about the other parent. Unknowingly or knowingly. A parent that often talks in a negative way and judges the behavior of the other parent, might cause their child to not wanting to visit their other parent any more.

Of course there are valid reasons to keep your child away from your ex-partner, like violence, alcohol or drug abuse and ongoing criminal behavior. But a different lifestyle, different opinions, a different cultural background or a different religion is no reason to keep a child away from the other parent.

So, get in touch with your ex-partner and find out what is going on. Focus on the well-being of your child. Avoid blaming and fighting as it will drive you apart. Listen to each other without judgement.

Find out what is bothering your child and agree on a common approach to change the attitude of your child.

When your child refuses to visit the other parent.

Find out why. Ask yourself first what might be bothering your child.

  • How often do you talk about your ex to your child? And to other people?
  • Do you talk in a negative way?
  • How do you talk to your ex-partner? Where do you talk about?
  • Is your child present when you talk to your ex-partner?
  • Do you and your ex-partner respect each other (also the differences) or do you play the blame game?
  • Your negative attitude and behavior consciously and unconsciously influences the opinion and attitude of your child towards his other parent.

    Be honest to yourself and acknowledge your mistakes. Take action to improve your behavior and your attitude. Accept things and people as they are and stop judging. You cannot change other people. The only person you can change is yourself.

    Next, team-up with your ex, as described above.

    Finally, talk to your child about visitation times, about your ex-partner and explain again why your child should visit and relate with your ex.

    If you want to improve the relationship with your ex-partner and to improve your parenting skills, sign up for our FREE coaching program on the home page.

    By Reinier Bloem
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