When divorcing parents are fighting each other, they can unintentionally (or intentionally) put their kids in the middle of conflicts. As a result, children can feel powerless and desperate to exert control over any aspect of their situation, including their placement schedule. When a child refuses to see a parent, it could be for different reasons such as expressing anger or responding to messages from their other parent. While this is a difficult situation, you have options when your child won’t see you.
Assess the Appropriateness of the Behavior
When children are small, they are very affected by disruptions to their structure and routine. If you have a younger kid who is having tantrums when it is time to transition to placement with you, his or her reaction may be developmentally appropriate. Your divorce changed everything they knew and depended upon and your son or daughter may be acting out their stress by refusing to visit. He or she may also be testing limits as part of their developmental stage. It will be up to you and the other parent to establish and maintain a new consistent routine for your child, which involves visitation. If his or her behavior continues, you may need to contact their pediatrician or a therapist and ask for guidance on how to support your child.
When older children refuse to visit a parent, it may be because they resent or blame them for the situation. Do what you can to communicate with your child and find out their reasons for refusing to see you. Even if your child appears to be pushing you away, it’s important to continue to try to reach them and understand his or her perspective. If you can’t get answers, it may be best to get in touch with a family therapist and schedule an appointment for both of you.
Although your child may have his or her own feelings about not seeing you, it could also be that the other parent is part of the problem. Parental alienation occurs when a parent deliberately tries to turn their child against the other parent. What may begin as the occasional negative comment can develop into a regular pattern of saying inappropriate and disparaging things about the other parent. The alienating parent may also make your child feel that he or she has to choose them over you or risk losing their love. When a parent puts their child in this position, it can cause extensive emotional damage.
Wisconsin law generally supports both parents having frequent contact with their child and considers the willingness of each to foster the other’s communication and connection with them. If one parent decides to interfere with the other’s relationship, the affected parent could return to court and ask for restrictions on the alienating parent’s contact with the child. If you suspect your child’s unwillingness to see you is due in part to the other parent’s influence, you may need to consult with a family law attorney to discuss returning to court.