The Missouri family courts are of the opinion that a child’s best interests are generally served when they have regular and continual contact with both parents. However, what happens when your child’s personal interest does not match with their best interests? How do you approach the problem of your child not wanting to visit your former spouse?
To begin, it is important to have a direct and respectful conversation about their responsibility to spend time with both parents. Find out if there is perhaps an underlying reason why they do not want to go. Maybe they are anxious about going to a new house or seeing their parents in new living arrangements. Just as this is not an easy transition for you, it is also hard on them. Let them know that even though many things are changing, that the love of both parents for your child is still as strong as ever.
As with many other times in a child’s life, discipline may be necessary. How do you punish your child for misbehavior? Do you take away a favorite electronic? Maybe extra chores around your house or restrictions from playing games are the answer. You may not be able to enforce these restrictions at your former spouse’s home but it is important to set these boundaries under your roof.
Finally, therapy may be in order, not just for your child, but perhaps together. A trained therapist can access the situation and provide guidance for this uncomfortable transition in your child’s life. They can offer advice on how to work through the pain and myriad of feelings both you and your child are experiencing.
So long as your child’s animosity towards visitation is not born of fear for their safety, the courts will expect you to enforce visitation. Your child may be acting out, but children often do that when facing change. Listen to what they have to say, try and be understanding, but firm.