Some children find it hard to go from one parent’s home to the other, and they express these feelings through their behavior. There are many reasons children say they do not want to spend time with the other parent. Some reasons have to do with a child’s age and personality, while others react to how their parents get along. How a parent is reacting can also affect whether the child or teen wants to see the other parent. Toddlers, for example, may not understand what is happening at exchange time, and they may cry when they leave one parent.
Many kids fuss when they go back and forth between parents. This is a natural reaction, and most children calm down once they are distracted with a fun activity. Sometimes children just don’t want to stop doing what they are doing because they’re having fun. Other children may not have settled into a new environment, and they would rather stay in a home and a neighborhood that they know. Parents can help children adjust by understanding their feelings, but requiring that they spend time with the other parent, just as a parent the child is required to go to school.
Sometimes, family counseling can help parents and children deal with problems they are facing. Trained professionals may be able to take a fresh look and will see patterns and behaviors that parents cannot. For example, some children may have serious problems getting used to a parent’s new partner and his or her children. Children who are caught in the middle of their parents’ conflict may take sides and refuse to follow the parent or judge’s instructions about spending time with the other parent. In situations like this, professional help is usually necessary. If there are concerns that the children don’t want to go because they’re being abused or neglected, contact Child Protective Services.