A child’s typical reaction to parents during separation

1. Attempting to play one parent against the other

  • Happens to all age groups
  • Parents communicating helps to stop this behaviour
  • Parents having similar rules helps to stop this behaviour
  • The stakes go up as children get olderTrying to tell each parent what they want to hear

2. Trying to tell parents what they want to hear

  • Child wants to say the same thing to both parents
  • Child tries to please both parents
  • Child has a fear of hurting both parents
  • Parents need to check the information that the child gives them

3. Taking on too much responsibility

  • Children cannot assume adult roles
  • Final decisions must be made by parents
  • Children’s wishes can be considered

The difficult reaction…what to do if your child rejects you?

Think about why they are reacting the way they are:

  • It is just normal behaviour? Teenagers often wish to spend time with their friends and have their own space. If this is the case, try not to
    take it personally.

Is it something that you are doing and that you can do differently? E.g. if you have a new partner, try and still spend time with your child alone and take the relationship at a pace that they are comfortable with:

  • Try and stick to agreed arrangements so that they know that they can trust and rely upon you.
  • Do they blame you for the breakdown? Keep reassuring them that you love them and that will not change.

Is it something that the other parent is doing consciously or subconsciously?

  • Don’t give up on your child – however painful the rejection is.
  • Try and keep some line of communication going (i.e. letters, cards, emails) whilst being respectful of their wishes.
  • Reassure them that you love them and that you are there for them.
  • Keep in touch with the school.
  • Encourage your family to stay in touch with them.
  • Continue to stick to agreed arrangements and follow through with what you say you will do.
  • Do not blame the child, particularly if the other parent is involved. This may be a very stressful situation for the child.
  • Do not criticise the other parent but you can say things like ‘it’s ok to love both parents’, ‘this is an issue between your mum and dad and
    you don’t need to take sides’.
  • Ultimately, if the relationship with you child does not improve, or gets worse, then it may be appropriate to take legal advice.