Divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster for everyone involved, particularly for children. Oftentimes, and for a variety of reasons, children end up feeling resistant about spending time with one parent versus the other. This can be a difficult situation to navigate, but there are steps you can take to get through it with as little conflict as possible. Remember to always put your child’s needs before your own, give your child time to adjust to the new family dynamic, and follow some of the tips below.
Factors that Cause Children to Become Resistant
- Level of conflict between parents: A child can become resistant if the parents are constantly arguing during every custody exchange. However, in this case, the child may be resistant to the conflict, and not one or both of the parents.
- Child’s age: Bonding is an extremely important process for children, but especially those under the age of five. If a child feels more attached to one parent, separation anxiety is normal, and there are things the other parent can do to create stability if the child feels upset or anxious. For example, encourage the child to bring a special security blanket along for the visit, or a favorite stuffed animal. Consistency helps to maintain some sense of normalcy.
- Alienation: This occurs when one parent tries to sabotage the child’s relationships with the other parent, causing the child to experience confusion, stress, and insecurity.
- Estrangement: When referring to custody issues, estrangement is when the parent the child is resisting has created an uncomfortable environment. For example, the child may have witnessed domestic violence, alcohol abuse, or mental illness, causing anxiety or resentment.
- Alignment: When a child feels more bonded with one parent than another, alignment can happen. This often occurs if the child has a similar personality to one parent, or shares more common interests. This typically happens naturally, and not deliberately.
- Enmeshment: This occurs when the relationship between the child and the preferred parent becomes unhealthy and the parent does not maintain appropriate boundaries.
How to Improve the Situation
While none of these suggestions are going to fix the problem overnight, they can help improve the relationship between the child and their parents. It is important to take things slow, remain committed to any financial obligations, and remind the child that they are loved unconditionally. Here are some helpful tips for parents facing this difficult situation.
- Self-reflection: The preferred parent must determine whether he or she is doing anything that is contributing to the child feeling resistant towards the other parent.
- Reconciliation therapy: This is an opportunity to provide a structured environment in which to encourage healing between the child and the rejected parent. When considering this therapy, the parent should consider the benefits versus the potential psychological harm the treatment could have on the child. This is often recommended as part of a court ordered process.
- Alter visitation schedule: If the preferred parent is behaving in a way that negatively affects the child’s relationship with the other parent, the court may find it necessary to alter visitation.
- Place child with third party. In extreme cases, the court may order that the child be removed from both parents if the situation is affecting the emotional well-being of the child.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Assist Families Facing Child Custody Issues
When you are faced with challenging child custody issues, including a child who may be resistant to spending time with you or your former spouse, the Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can help. We will work with you to develop an effective co-parenting plan that addresses the challenges you and your child are facing. For a confidential consultation, call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Hunt Valley, Pikesville, and Towson, and we serve clients throughout Maryland in Baltimore County, Harford County, Carroll County, and Howard County as well as the towns of Essex, Columbia, and Bel Air.