No matter what happened between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, your children should not be caught in the middle of your divorce. However, it seems that most children find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place attempting to figure out whether or not Mommy will be okay with them still loving Daddy, if Daddy is still going to be a part of their lives and if the whole divorce is their fault entirely. There is simply no way to predict how your child will react to your divorce, but if you notice that your child seems to be rejecting their other parent, it’s time to step in and start dealing with this issue before it becomes a much bigger problem.
Stop saying anything negative, derogatory or mean about your ex to your children, advises Peter J. Favaro, Ph.D. and education professional at Education.com. You may not like your ex very much, but your kids’ opinion of their father should not be tainted by yours. Whether he is a great dad who just couldn’t be a great husband or a complete jerk who makes a mess out of everything, your opinion should be just that: yours. Saying negative things about their father, true or not, in front of them will only make their rejection stronger and more apparent. Let them form their own opinions of their father throughout the course of their lives and do not speak ill of him in front of them. Keep in mind that you don’t want him saying negative things to your children about you when you are not around and have the same courtesy.
Listen to your child’s feelings and take them seriously, advises Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and mother. While you do not want your child to reject his other parent, you still need to listen to your child when he tells you how he is feeling. If your son rejects his father because he thinks his dad doesn’t love him anymore, don’t tell him that he’s being ridiculous and diminish his feeling. Instead, tell him that his dad does love him and that this doesn't change just because he can’t see him every single day.
Keep your problems to yourself, advises Peter J. Favaro. While this may at first seem exactly like keeping your negative comments to yourself, it is vastly different. Talking about how much you hate your child’s father in front of her is one thing, but informing her that he wasn’t faithful, that he doesn’t pay his child support or that he’s living with the woman he cheated with is a completely different thing. If your marriage did not work out because of infidelity, that is not your child’s business. Additionally, your child may reject her father because she is angry at him for cheating on you or for not paying child support on time; it may make her feel that he doesn’t love her.
Encourage your child to spend time with his other parent and do not let him out of it. According to Peter Favaro, it could make the rejection situation worse if you let your child avoid his other parent for a few days or a few weeks. Instead, tell your child that you understand he doesn’t want to see his father, but that he needs to see him so that they can work through their differences and get their relationship on track. Do not allow him to skip phone calls or visitation, for it may only make the situation worse.
Encourage involvement from your child’s other parent, advises Dr. Laura Markham. This might mean that you skip a softball game or a cheerleading competition so that her dad can go cheer her on and be a part of her extracurricular activities or that you work on co-parenting amicably so that you can attend these events at the same time without causing any awkwardness.