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What do you do when children refuse visitation?

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It is the responsibility of both parents to ensure that your child(ren) comply with the scheduled parenting time. But forcing compliance is not the clear solution, especially long-term. From a child-centered divorce perspective, it is suggested you put your time and attention into understanding what's going on with your children if they are refusing to visit with one or the other of the parents.
This blog is a good insight into what to ask yourself and to work on with your co-parent and the child(ren). If you would like advice on children arrangements because you are separated or going through a divorce, contact a trusted and friendly member of our Family law team.
Ask yourself some serious and sobering questions:
  • What makes a child resist visitation with their other parent? 
  • Are they feeling guilty or disloyal when leaving one parent? 
  • Have they been privy to information, slurs or other comments that make them dislike the other parent? 
  • Has the other parent been mistreating them or disciplining them in a different way than the "preferred" parent? 
  • Was their relationship or communication with the other parent weak or limited prior to the divorce? 
  • Are they holding the other parent responsible for the divorce or its outcome?
Any one of these factors can influence a child's decision regarding visitation and needs to be addressed. In many cases the parents can resolve the problem by discussing the issues together or with the guidance of a therapist or mediator. 
Are you co-parenting respectfully with one another? 
Are you sending mixed-messages to your kids about their other parent? 
Could you be showing signs of depression or neediness or talking about missing the kids so much that they are afraid to leave you?   
In other cases it's essential to sit down with your kids to find out what their feelings are. 
  • Have they been comfortable in both homes? 
  • Are the rules in each home too different or even conflicting? 
  • Have outside issues such as getting to school on time, bullying neighbours or other challenges affecting their well-being? 
  • Are your children afraid of spending time alone with one parent? And if so, why?
Seeking the advice of a professional counsellor or divorce coach can be useful for parents in uncovering the motivation behind children's behaviour or anxieties. In addition, kids will often tell a child-psychologist "secrets" they're not comfortable telling Mum or Dad. Listen to your children without judgment or lecturing. That only puts them on the defensive and stops the flow of communication. See if a family meeting to resolve issues together will work. When everyone contributes to and agrees on new rules they are more likely to be followed.
While visitation issues are certainly a legal matter, it's essential that parents be pro-active in a non-legal ways as well. It's much easier and saner to handle issues related to your children within the family than by giving up your power to judges and courts, when avoidable. 
Get the help you need from caring professionals who embrace the child-centered divorce philosophy and address these issues as soon as possible. Your children will appreciate your care and loving attention. Hopefully, everyone in the family will benefit and visitation issues can be resolved harmoniously for all concerned.  
Blog from the resources of Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach.