When parents divorce, it’s not uncommon for their children to regress and start displaying behaviors they’d outgrown. Separation anxiety can be one of these behaviors.
Your child may have already had some sleepovers with friends or weekend trips with their soccer team or scout troop, so you know they’re able to be away from you without experiencing undue fear or stress. However, when it comes time to spend the night or the weekend with their other parent, they display disturbing signs of separation anxiety. They may cry, lash out in anger or simply refuse to go.
If you’re the parent with primary custody, you may be torn. You don’t want your child to be in distress. Perhaps, deep down, you believe you’re the better parent and you understand why your child doesn’t want to spend the night in another home. However, assuming that your co-parent poses no danger to your child emotionally or physically, it’s your obligation to abide by the custody and visitation schedule toi which you’ve agreed.
Talking to your child about their feelings is essential. Find out precisely why they’re fearful of or upset. If they don’t want to be away from you, arrange with your co-parent to keep in touch with your child via phone, text or Skype.
If they don’t want to be away from their favorite toys or even their new superhero sheets, work with your co-parent to provide these things in their home. Consistency between households is particularly important for young children. Maybe they have a favorite meal that your co-parent can make for them. If they’re at your co-parent’s home for more than a day or two, ask if it can be arranged for them to spend a little time with a favorite aunt, cousin or best friend during the visit.
It’s best when co-parents work together to ease their children’s separation anxiety. Don’t assume that your co-parent is turning your child against you if yours is the house where the kids don’t want to go. Also, don’t assume your ex is doing something to make your child unhappy. They may just be distressed that they no longer spend time with their parents together.
It’s your job to ease them through this period. If things don’t seem to be getting better and you believe a modification to your parenting plan is necessary for your child’s well-being, talk with your family law attorney.