My Child Refuses to Be with Me. Rejection | CA Law

My Child Refuses to Be with Me. What Can I Do?

After parents divorce or separate, their child may say they don’t want to spend time with one of their parents. Their behavior may be verbal, “I don’t want to go to Dad’s house this weekend,” or nonverbal: dragging their feet when it is time to leave Dad’s home to be with Mom. A child’s refusal to spend time with one parent can happen at just about any age. It can be short-lived, for a few weeks, or it can go on for months or even years.

If you are the “rejected parent,” you may feel sad, confused, anxious and perhaps angry. You may even doubt your ability to be a good parent to your child.

Parent rejection happens for a variety of reasons:

  • Your child may blame you for the divorce and be angry with you.
  • Your child may feel they need to take sides.
  • Your ex may be bad-mouthing you, and your child may consequently believe that you are a bad person.
  • Your child may feel unwelcome or unsafe in your home.

What can you do?

First of all, it’s important to address the situation as soon as it starts, before it becomes ingrained in your child’s behavior. It’s also important act logically and with empathy toward your child, rather than let your hurt feelings dominate your actions.

Following are some possible remedies:

Work with Your Ex
If you and your ex are on good terms, enlist their help. Ensuring that you have a good relationship with your child will help everyone involved, including your ex. Most parents understand that children need a positive relationship with both parents. Talk with your ex about the situation, and see if they can determine the source of your child’s reluctance to be with you and can help you address it.

Talk honestly with your child
Try to find out the source of their reluctance. If they are angry with you about the divorce, let them know that you will always be there for them, even if Mom and Dad are no longer living together in the same house. Never, never talk negatively about your ex. If your child does not feel at home in your household, create a space that they can call their own. Respect their privacy when they are with you and knock on their bedroom door before entering. Patience and understanding will win out over anger.

Find ways to show you care
Find ways to be together that will bring pleasure to your child. Offer to take them to a favorite park, sporting event, concert or movie. Offer to play catch or basketball. Even if they refuse your suggestion, don’t get discouraged. Write a note letting your child know how much you love them. Say you will always be there for them, regardless of their feelings.

Find ways to show you care
Find ways to be together that will bring pleasure to your child. Offer to take them to a favorite park, sporting event, concert or movie. Offer to play catch or basketball. Even if they refuse your suggestion, don’t get discouraged. Write a note letting your child know how much you love them. Say you will always be there for them, regardless of their feelings.

Be civil and friendly with your ex-spouse
When your child sees that you are getting along with your ex, they will feel less of a need to choose sides.

Get support from others
A skilled outside party may be able to find the root of the trouble, when you can’t. Family counseling may help you, your child and your spouse get through this difficult time more easily. You may also want to seek counseling individually, to learn how you can most positively address the situation. Others who know your child, such as grandparents and family friends, may be able to talk with him or her on your behalf.

If your child is in school, school counselors should be appraised and may have advice to share. If you belong to a religious community, you can receive support there as well.

With patience, understanding and love from both parents, children can get through this difficult time.

Attorney Christina Sherman is a Marin County CA family law attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues.

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