What happens when a child does not want contact with one of their parents post a separation?
I have watched at a distance as this very scenario has unfolded right in front of me. The mother in this case, is not driving the child’s behaviour, but does struggle to know what the best way forward is. Do you force your child to spend time with the other parent when the child does not want to go! I have seen first-hand, this little girl stand her ground begging not to go with her dad, all while her dad is standing at the door waiting to leave with his little girl. The hurt is on everyone’s face and is very uncomfortable.
How must the father feel seeing his own daughter not wanting to come and spend the weekend with him? Is he that bad? What’s missing that makes her feel that she cannot spend time with him?
The answer lies in spending time, not money or anything else, just time with your children. I have learnt my own lessons from not engaging with my own kids to now know that what you must do above all, is listen to them. Kids are deeply affected by their surroundings. If they feel dad or mum are not supporting them they will eventually feel alienated and hence start to break down a once good relationship. What I have seen a number of single parents do is throw money at the situation. Providing the child with toys, gifts, clothes, etc. This approach may fix the short term issue, but does nothing to build a loving relationship. There is also the very real possibility of teaching your children that material things solve all issues, when in reality they do not. The mind does…
In many ways I feel compelled to talk directly to this particular father, yet I also feel like I would be crossing a boundary that is not mine to cross. Seeing how this little girl is affected is not easy to accept, yet she always comes back having had a good time and always speaking very highly of her father. This is very encouraging! Another thing we do need to be careful of is making assumptions about what goes on behind closed doors. Everyone’s an expert when you separate, everyone has their opinion to offer, and everyone has a list of you ‘should do’. Don’t be afraid if you are a mum or dad in a situation like this to use your own critical evaluation of the situation. You get one shot at raising these kids! Ask for help, there is no shame in putting your hand up.
Trying to counsel a child going through this is something I am finding my way through. Like most of us who are separated we are finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory with little experience of how to handle certain situations. Your gut will give you a general feel for what is right and wrong. Never tell any lies to a child in a situation like this, never undermine the other parent as it also shows blatant disrespect for their parent who they may very well love. If my kids ask me about something that they know their mum and I are having a disagreement about, I explain it by saying that ‘mums and dads do not always agree, and that is perfectly normal. What is important is that you know that mum and dad both love you and want the very best for you.’
In the case of this little girl not wanting to spend time with her dad, I need to find a way to engage with him to offer my support. It is also worth mentioning that in this case the mother has actually offered up options for the father to have more time with the child, both formally organised and informal like a random phone call or pizza dinner one night. Unfortunately this has never resulted in any real action. Guys and girls, stop making promises you cant keep. Remember, one shot!
I think it is important that we ‘support’ not ‘dictate’ when trying to help people understand the consequences of their actions. Clearly this guy loves his daughter, maybe he just needs a little help in finding better ways to build that loving bond every father and daughter should have.
Happy everyday people….