Parents often struggle with the decisions they make every day when raising children. They contemplate and consider the ramifications of each decision to ensure they are making the best one, the right one. So what happens when parents separate and divorce and parenting out of one household quickly changes to “co-parenting” out of two households?
Whether parents work tirelessly to compromise and reach a parenting agreement or have to fight it out in the courtroom, the end result is often the same – an Order is entered that ultimately sets out a parenting plan that is determined to be in the best interest of the children. Big Question: What happens when your child says, “YOU CAN’T MAKE ME GO TO MOM’S HOUSE!” or “I AM NOT GOING TO DAD’S HOUSE!”. Even where there is not physical abuse or other domestic violence, or abuse of drugs or alcohol, your child suddenly (or over time) refuses to spend time with the other parent. The child may have overhead a parent say negative comments about the other parent. The child may be naturally aligned with one parent based on their age and gender at the time. Regardless, that child takes a hard and firm stance, digs his feet in the sand and refuses to go. Now what?
There are usually two choices: 1) support your child’s position and don’t force him to go or 2) tell your child there is no choice and, as his parent, you encourage and, if necessary, force him to go and spend time with the other parent. While the former choice is the easy way out, it may be the choice that will cause more problems down the road. The latter choice, while clearly the more difficult, is most likely and more often the right choice to make. We teach our children the difficult lessons that in turn teach positive morals and values and, outside of extenuating circumstances, allowing a child to make the choice to not see one parent is not a healthy choice or one that is in that child’s best interest.
The Right Choice is Often the Hardest
Just as we parents teach our children to “eat their broccoli,” to respect their elders, to give back to the community and to help a friend in need, we too must ensure that they spend time with the other parent. Children should not be shouldered with the responsibility of making that decision or feeling like the decision is theirs to make. Emotions run high during the divorce process not only for both parents but also for children. Often, regardless of age, children are forced to navigate tumultuous times, based on circumstances completely out of their control, while they are also likely going through the daily pressures of childhood, adolescence, or puberty. Parents must make the right decision even when they express resistance. As is often said, “decisions are hard to make, especially when it’s a choice between what you want and what is right.”