Because the kids have to go, or the law might come down on you. It’s his turn, right? He’s their father, no matter what, right?
I googled the term, “Kids don’t want to go to dad’s house” and found a cacophony of voices, some supportive, some vindictive, some plain old huh?
Here’s what I think will help these difficult situations:
- Don’t cry. Seriously. Accept your child’s declaration at face value. You have to be the brave, calm, resourceful one. Your kids need you to be that rock.
- Reflect their words back to them: “Hm, you don’t want to go to your dad’s house?” or some variation thereof. It lets your children know that you heard what they said and didn’t pass judgment or jump to conclusions
- Listen. Don’t immediately start arguing with them about why they have to go or commiserating with them on why it’s so horrible there. Just listen. When you get a kid to start talking about ‘why’, they often resolve the problem themselves
- Check your own behavior towards your ex–are your kids avoiding their dad because they think it hurts you, or because they know how much you dislike him? If you think you really do keep your thoughts to yourself (little pitchers, big ears, remember?) then…
- Listen to cues in your child’s diatribe and wait for an appropriate time to ask WHY they don’t want to go. Again, don’t go wildly jumping to conclusions or fishing for reasons. If they wrinkle their noses when they mention dad’s girlfriend, that can give you an opportunity to ask about her
- Does your ex trash talk YOU when your kids are over? If so, and if you can stomach a conversation with him, you might be able to gently remind him that you keep your opinions to yourself for the sake of the kids, and his words are hurting them; hell, it’s worth a shot
- You can give even your littlest ones some language to defend against harsh words, if your ex (or his girlfriend, or his mother…) is less than discrete around the kids. Even the littlest ones can say, “Please don’t say that, Daddy, it hurts my feelings,” or “I love you and mommy, please don’t say mean things.” Older kids, if they have the self-confidence, can directly request that he stop, and tell their father that it makes being with him absolutely uncomfortable, unpleasant, and unbearable. Could they ask for a ‘mom-free’ day from their father, and get him to stick to it?
Unless they are being abused, you don’t have much of a choice unless you want to give your ex ammunition in a custody dispute. Arrange that the kids can call you every day, and send them off with a note in their pockets that reminds them you’re always there for them.
And if you do suspect they are being abused? Call a lawyer experienced in this kind of case immediately, and do not let them go to their father’s house. Find a counseling group for kids of divorce. And be a strong mama bear for your kids: you are their best protector and advocate.
Just don’t way anything nasty about your ex to them, OK? If they ask why they aren’t going to dad’s house anymore, tell them you’re working with him to see if he can stop being so mean/saying mean things, etc., if you suspect the abuse is mental and/or physical. I’m not even going to go into the other kind of abuse. Just. Not. Now.