What can I do if my Child is refusing to see the other Parent?
In Family Mediation, when discussing matters pertaining to child arrangements, a common question that arises is: “What can I do if my child is refusing to see the other parent?”
Separation or Divorce can be challenging for children. When parents separate, children may experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, confusion, and fear. They may feel like their world has been turned upside down, and they may struggle to adjust to changes in their living situation and routine.
In this blog, we will address this question and touch on how to support children through these difficult emotions and help them navigate the changes that come when parents separate.
If parents are not careful, the process of separation can also lead to alienation between the child and one or both parents. This can happen in a few different ways.
For example, if one parent talks negatively about the other parent in front of the child, or tries to turn the child against the other parent, the child may begin to feel alienated from that parent. Alternatively, if one parent is not involved in the child’s life after the separation, the child may feel abandoned and rejected.
When a child is refusing to see the other parent, it can be a very difficult situation for everyone involved. You have a responsibility to manage the situation as appropriately and positively as you can.
Is anything a parent can legally do if this happens?
The answer is, that it very much depends on the age of the child and the circumstances. There is no definitive answer. Let’s take a look at the ages below as a guide. Remember that each child and each situation is different, so these are by no means set in stone.
0-5 years – unless there are issues around safety, the court will usually consider it is in a child’s best interest to see both their parents and will want to encourage this.
5-9 years – the court will want to see both parents working together to encourage the child to see both their parents. As the child gets older, their thoughts and wishes are taken more into account.
10-16 years – at this age, the thoughts and wishes of the child will be the primary concern of the court.
16+ years – a court will only hear a case in extreme circumstances. The wishes of a child will remain paramount in such a situation.
So if you cannot resolve the situation through the family courts, what can you do?
Here are some steps you can take if you find yourself in this situation:
- Talk to your child
Try to understand why your child is refusing to see the other parent. Listen to their concerns and validate their feelings.
It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your child.
- Talk to the other parent
Try to have a calm and constructive conversation with the other parent to find out if there are any issues that need to be addressed.
Co-Parenting is not without its challenges, but it is important to work together to find a solution that is in the best interests of your child.
- Seek professional help
Consider seeking help through one of the following processes:
- Family Mediation or more specifically Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM). This invites the Child/Children to be involved in the process to have their voices heard when decisions are made about them.
- Family Counseling. Counseling provides a space for you to address the situation and work towards resolving the issues and moving forward.
- Encourage the relationship
In some cases, children may feel like they have to choose sides between their parents, which can be very distressing. Encourage your child to maintain a relationship with the other parent. This could include setting up phone calls, video chats, or visits with a neutral third-party present.
To minimise the risk of alienation, it is important for parents to communicate openly and honestly with their children, and to avoid putting them in the middle of any conflicts or disputes. Parents should also make an effort to maintain a positive relationship with their children, even if they are no longer living together.
By working together to support their children’s emotional and practical needs, parents can help minimise the negative effects that their separation or divorce may have on their children.
Remember that every situation is unique, and it’s important to approach the situation with compassion and understanding. Keep the best interests of your child/children in mind and work together with the other parent to find a solution that works for everyone involved.
If your child refuses to see the other parent, keep lines of communication open, so that they know they can contact them at any time in the future. Keep encouraging them and work with the other parent as best you can. After all, fostering a healthy relationship with both parents is important for your child/children.
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