As a family lawyer I am often asked about what to do if a preschool child does not want to visit one of their parents after a separation or divorce. The custodial parent may often ask if they should limit the amount of time the child spends with the non-custodial parent as a result of the refusal to visit.
Children of preschool age refusing to visit one of their parents is not uncommon with separating and divorcing parents. Preschool aged children may refuse to see the non-custodial parent in order to appease the custodial parent. They may also be anxious about being separated from the parent who does the majority of caretaking. However, it is important to note that one of the most emotionally challenging events for a child in divorce or separation is when one parent leaves the child’s life. Therefore, preschool aged children should be encouraged to spend time with both their parents. Preschool children are too young to determine their own emotional needs.
Even if a young child does not want to visit his or her parent, this should not be the decision of a young child. Both parents should encourage the visitation and explore with the child the reasons why he or she does not want to visit.
It is important that both parents form a united front and are on the same page on encouraging the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent. Instead of using the child’s behaviour to form a wedge between the parents that will reduce the amount of time the child spends with one parent, both parents should work as a team to assist the child through these troubling times and encourage as much parenting time with both parents as possible for the better long-term development of the child.
This applies to young children. Once children become teenagers, the courts are more likely to respect the wishes of the child and are reluctant to force a teenager to spend time with the non-custodial parent against their wishes. You can find resources for children of all ages on our page “resources for helping children deal with divorce and separation.”
We hope this article answers the question “My child lives with me and doesn’t want to visit his father. What should I do? ” Should you have any questions or require mediation services in developing a parenting plan that has your child’s interests at heart, please contact us at 604-449-7779.