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Son Refuses to See Dad




My seven year old is refusing to see his dad. Whenever it's his weekend, my son curls up in a ball, hides under the bed, holds onto the banister and cries his eyes out. I still make him go, but I am worried there is something going on there. What should I do?


There are many reasons why a child refuses to see a parent when it is that parent's turn to care for the child:

 -  The expectations from one home to the other can be very different and typically with greater expectations at the home child is refusing to attend. Greater expectations may not be the problem though. It may be the expectations in the first parent's home are inadequate;

 - The child may have concerns the for the parent left behind, worried perhaps that parent will be lonely, or worse may be at risk due to another relationship that parent has. So if the parent is depressed or at risk of being hurt from an abusive relationship, the child may feel a need to stay home to take care of that parent;

 - There may be better toys, games, computer or video game consoles at the preferred parent's home and thus the child is more attached to things than even either parent;

 - The child may be subject to poor parenting by the parent he is going with and as a result, the child is seeking to stay away.

 - It may be the child is receiving mixed messages about going with the other parent. This can come from either parent and so the child is simply not invested in going;

 - The one parent while superficially facilitating the child's time with the other parent, may at the same time be sabotaging the relationship between child and the other parent.

As you see from the above, the reasons a child may refuse time with a parent can vary greatly. Typically to get to the root of the problem though, both parents must be involved in counseling with a therapist who can assess the situation properly to best advise the parents. Asking the child directly rarely yields any meaningful results and more typically adds to the problem.


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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


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