When the Kids Say..No, I don’t want to go

One day, your child doesn’t want to go and visit with the ex.  They want to be in their own bed over the weekend, surrounded by their own toys, games and stuffed animals.  They don’t want to leave the dog, the house or their life.  They don’t like it there, don’t have fun and don’t want to go.

This is not an uncommon occurrence, and for all you divorcees, you will hear it at least once in your life.  So, what do you do?  When my kids first said they didn’t want to go and visit their father, I told them they had no choice.  First, it was ordered by a court that they go.  Second, even though they might not have as much fun over there, he would be sad if he didn’t see them.

An argument ensued.  Do you know what it is like to argue with a toddler?  It is a tough argument to win.  But, they went, and to this day, they still go, even though they still tell me that they don’t want to go.  And, I still tell them the same thing.  They HAVE to go.  It is not a choice.

I know some divorced parents that have given their children that choice on whether they want to go or not.  I do not believe that a child has the capability to make such an important decision.  And, of course, the decision for the child always turns out to be not to go, because the parent that has more custody has told them they don’t want them to go either.

And, then there is the other side of the coin.  Is it okay to tell your kids that you don’t want them to go?  That you are lonely when they are gone?  NO.  Under no circumstances is that okay to do.  You are lonely, and of course you don’t want them to go, but to put that burden of guilt for leaving is not fair to your children.

Think of them, and what is best for them.  It is always best to have a relationship with both parents, which is why more and more courts are giving joint physical custody and usually give joint custodial rights.  And it always best to send them off feeling good about leaving mommy or daddy knowing that their parent is okay!

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Lee Brochstein About Lee Brochstein

Lee Brochstein is a certified professional divorce coach, blogger, a well-known author and a nationally known expert from her appearances on television and radio talk shows. She enjoys alliteration, Mad Men, Big Bang, mixed breeds, vanilla lattes, red wine and her kids when they aren’t killing each other. Follow her on twitter and Facebook.

  • Dwmatty

    Although your article is geared towards the moms of kids who don’t want to go, I had similar experiences from the other side. My youngest daughter who is now grown, did not want to come visit me after I remarried. She was 15 at the time. She was perfectly happy visiting prior to the marriage when it was just me, but after, she did not want to spend time with me and my “new” family. She would call her mom from my place and beg and plead in tears for her mom to come get her. She had no issues with me, but with the people she believed had replaced her. It was a trying time for a while, but she slowly accepted that she had to spend time with us. It’s behind us now, but not a pleasant memory.

    • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com PostDivorceCoach

      I want to THANK YOU for sharing! I also want to thank you for being my very first comment!!

  • http://www.icouldbefake.com Penny

    I have always given my children the choice.

    I also think it depends on the divorce situation itself too.

    My situation is different I guess. In that… I’m the one pushing for the visits, pushing for the phone calls, the kids want to visit, but my ex doesn’t care to see them. I absolutely agree that children should have a relationship with both parents. But that is not always possible.

    Some days when the kids want to go, I want to tell them he doesn’t want to see them, but I don’t do that because I don’t want to hurt them. They will figure it out in their own time.

    I have gotten to the point where I stop making excuses though… like oh he’s just busy, etc. Now I don’t say anything except I’m sorry. What else can I say?

    My kids are slowly starting to see it though. They have stopped calling and leaving him messages, they’ve stopped emailing him. That is their choice, I won’t force them to do it, just the same as I am done trying to force HIM to call and write.

    It’s hard being a parent, and even harder when you divorce.

    • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com PostDivorceCoach

      Penny – Thank you for commenting! I think that your situation is more rare than not. On the one hand, you are lucky your kids WANT to go and unlucky the father does not care. And, you are unlucky that they have to live through that disappointment. It is so tough to be the parent…in both cases…when the child wants to go and when the child doesn’t want to go. It is interesting to see your perspective and I appreciate your sharing it with us.


  • josie

    My son is 15 and he tends to vote with his feet. He’s not driving yet, but he and his friends are perfectly capable of catching a bus to one another’s homes or downtown to practice music together, catch a movie, take in a music festival, share a meal, or just hang out and watch TV. I’ve noticed that when he’s staying at my ex’s, he’s often only there to sleep and takes off all day to do different activities, especially during cross-country season, when there are plenty of competitions. Sometimes I even get a call late on Friday or Saturday night asking me to pick him up downtown because he can’t reach anybody at his dad’s house. Our other child is younger, and not so footloose and fancy-free, but I can see it coming. She’s already told me that she doesn’t enjoy being at her dad’s house, and that his girlfriend is “mean.” The ex is doing a great job at alienating his children and making them feel unimportant. But I never say a word.

    • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com/about/ Lee Block

      Good for you for keeping quiet. That is the hardest thing to do. In the end, this will bite you ex where it hurts and he will lose his kids. And, when he is old and alone, he will wonder what he did wrong. Hopefully he can fix this one before it is too late!

    • http://www.freelancewritingdreams.com Samantha Gluck

      It hurts me reading this because I know how it must hurt your son deep inside that his father is blind to the beautiful blessing he has right under his nose. I’m glad that you aren’t speaking out against your ex in a bitter way. Sounds like you’re a loving mother. Keep up the good work. I’ll pray for you, Josie, and for your son. 

  • Asdfasdf

    After my divorse I think to leave them completely. They are 9, 11, 13 now.
    They live with mother. It is ok finally. 

  • lovebeingamom

    speaking from experience, it is NOT always best for children to spend a lot of time with both parents. sorry, that is 100% wrong. and in such cases, joint decision making is the very worst decision for the children and the parents. my ex is selfish and self serving, tells our daughter very bad things about me and tries to block every decision since we separated in 2001. he tells our child that she would be better off away from me, her mother. he tells her that her religion is bad and weird and people will make fun of her if she practices it (same religion as he is but he’s not practicing). he takes me to court over things he makes up. to the tune of almost $100, 000. his lawyer is free (a friend from childhood). i have had to borrow thousands of dollars to merely defend my right to have a say in the decision making process. even though i have physical custody, he fights with me over everything. he can’t discuss anything for whatever reason. it is his way or see you in court.

    he is living with someone now who has an 8 year old special needs son. our daughter comes home after a weekend with them and recounts the ways that “daddy is mean to joey because he still wears diapers to bed” and so many more things i could go on forever. my life is spent on damage control. yet my ex walks the fine line on prove-able vs. not prove-able offenses.

    there is no easy answer to this. he is her father and has rights. but he does not deserve them all. our daughter dreads going to stay over for the weekend with them. my ex tries threatens her that if she doesn’t start having playdates at HIS house with her school friends (who live a half hour away) he will refuse to bring her to birthday parties etc. he knows she is embarrassed by him for so many reasons and would rather die than have friends over his house. he is emotionally instable and she knows it. she comes home feeling guilty because he asks her, point blank, “is it becuase you are embarrassed of me that you don’t want your friends over?” and she cries because that is the reason but she lies and tells him no, i just don’t have any close enough friends daddy. but she feels so badly for lying to spare his feelings.

    these are just a few things going on with my ex. the more our daughter is arond him, the more she dreads going the next time. she starts to get anxiety the day after she comes back from a vacation with him, knowing she has to go again next summer. NEXT SUMMER! she already fears a vacation a year away… i could go on and on and on.

    but my point is that he has issues. they may not be overt, and he got away with being diagnosed as simply needing “anger management” from the forensic report (never got it). but joint custody in this case DOES NOT WORK!

    some parents are harmful, emotionally to their kids. and when the stable parent is not around to do damage control, it is very, very traumatic and potentially damaging for a child.

    so please don’t say it is always better that a child has access to both parents across the board. and joint decision making is only workable when BOTH PARENTS CAN COMPROMISE! how many divorced parents of small children do YOU think can compromise for what is in the best interest of their child? 1%, maybe????? you are kidding yourself if you think it’s better that way and parents just need to learn how to behave better. if they could do that, they wouldn’t be divorced.

  • FamilyLegalSystemFailsKids

    I was just reprimanded by a Judge for telling my two-year-old that he did not have a choice but to go with his father. My son continually does not want to go and pitches a fit the entire drive to the exchange location, but I continually exchanged him on the required visits (I did not exchange outside the court ordered schedule due to this problem and the Judge was not happy with that either). The Judge said I was adding to the problem and needed to reply, ‘Your father loves you and wants to spend time with you’. I am sure a rational individual can understand that does not go over well with a toddler, and now he replies, “No Dada Love”.

    You can’t win for losing in these court systems.

  • zach

    I’m a victim of a divorce and to be honest, it got me hard at the time. Now, I really couldn’t care too much about it. I’m 16 and learning more about myself as the days go by. Over the past several months, I realize I cannot stand my father. I don’t want to report anything quite yet, but if I would like to go to my moms without him knowing is that okay? Chances are I’ll end up doing it anyways, and he will send me to military school, pull me from sports, and probably physically punish me as well. Ignoring all of that, do I have the right to go to my mom’s if I have an intense hatred for my revolving door of a father?