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finishguy902's avatar

Should I force visitation or try to do things that create a desire to come visit me?

Asked by finishguy902 (49 points ) February 21st, 2013

I have 2 girls 7 & 8 I am trying to decide if I want to force visitation on them or grant them not wanting to see me. I have been making an effort to see them more the last year. I felt this desire to see me was mutual. I wasn’t getting returned phone calls from mom to allow this to happen. Waiting 4 weeks for this call (the last time), I started a court case to help eliminate the confusion of when to see the girls. Then the girls expressed their hatred (I know it’s a strong word, but it’s on paper) for me and have said they don’t want to go with me and hate that I am forcing this issue on them. My desires were never to force them to love me, I just felt they weren’t being allowed to and felt I would give them the opportunity. Do I force them or can I rebuild a relationship through doing things like, letters (every letter I write they have to at least write their name on paper and send it to me) and letting them know that I am here when they want to come visit hoping that they will decide to come in the future.

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26 Answers

janbb's avatar

Unless you have done something horrendous to them, it sounds like their mother is poisoning them against you. I think the best way for you to have a positive effect on them is to demand your visitation rights and be a presence in their lives. I have a close friend who has not seen his kids in seven years and grieves for them.. I am sorry you are going through this but I would encourage you to work on being an active parent. Children need both their parents ideally.

wundayatta's avatar

It is better to do things with sweetness than sourness. You want your kids to want to visit you. If you force them to visit you, they will do so resentfully.

Is there a reason why they might hate you? I would think about that. Because that is what you have to undo before you will be able to have a good time with them.

If the only reason they hate you is because of the mother and what the mother says, that’s hard. But you still want to woo them away from her. There is no reason to force them. You won’t have any luck forcing them. There is no point in it. It will take longer to woo them, but will be worth it in the long run. Assuming there is no reason for them to hate you, this is the best course of action for the long run.

Seek's avatar

My heart goes out to you. Truly, it does.

Obviously, I don’t know the whole situation, but here’s my two cents:

If the children are being fed “bad Daddy” stories, and that is making them not want to see you, than forcing “visits” is not going to help.

You should continue sending letters. Send cards, small gifts, draw pictures if they can’t read yet. Stay active. If the only way you can get through to them is to write letters, than do it. And offer to take your daughters on dates – not to be a Disneyland Daddy, but to take interest in their lives. Do they have dance lessons? Go watch them practice. Be at their recitals. Do they like arts and crafts? Offer to take them to a pottery-painting studio. Try one-on-one time with each girl, doing what each likes.

The split with mom is all about you and mom. It’s really, really hard to be a “divorced kid”, especially when the parents are using you as a pawn in their own fight. The girls are people, themselves, and deserve to be treated as such.

YARNLADY's avatar

I believe you could try family counseling that would include you and your daughters. This would allow them to express why they have these feelings.

JLeslie's avatar

Assuming you have done nothing horrible, I think this is such a sad situation. I really am sorry to hear this. It has to be very painful to think your daughters dread visiting you. Were you never married to the mom? Is that why you don’t have any sort of legal visitation or custody at this point?

They are at an age where they probably dread being away from their mom or their home, so if they don’t have a bedroom set up for them at your house with their things they don’t have any ownership over the space. But, I have no I idea if that is the case, or if they do indeed have their own room with their own things, etc. We really are missing a lot of details, and I hate to assume anything.

For now I would send cards, gifts on their birthdays, and if their mom is not supporting the idea of the girls seeing you, then eventually yes I would probably go to court after trying a more passive appraoch for a while. If the girls’ mom is poisoning them against you, or is known to do hateful things, what I would say is, eventually as the girls get older they will have her number on their own. At minimum if they know you have always tried for a relationship, then they know you are available when they get more frustrated with their mother. But, that could take until age 14 (or never, of course I don’t have a crystal ball) which is a long time away.

If their mom does bad mouth you then going to court risks her ramping up her negativity. Daddy is making me go to court. Daddy is trying to force you to go to his house. At the same time, that is what court is for, to get what is fair.

If your requests are reasonable in court there is a chance the judge will put the mom in her place a little verbally. The judge might also order family counseling, which @YARNLADY suggested, which would be a great idea with or without a court order. Or, even just the girls in counseling for a few sessions to learn exactly why they don’t want to be with you. Then at least you can address any specific fears or irrational ideas they might have about it. Guessng what they are thinking is tricky. I would guess they want to please their mom, and don’t want her to feel they are choosing you over her, so they say what they believe she wants to hear.

Judi's avatar

I’m with YARNLADY. Even if they don’t want to have counseling with you at first, for their sake they need to be in counseling to help sort out their feelings. A counselor will be on THEIR side and will help them work through the dysfunctional relationship you have with their mother which is thrust upon them.
I don’t think you should walk away from them. You may want to ask them if they would feel better having short visits at their house with their mother present. Anything to communicate that you are not willing to throw your relationship away. They are way to valuable.

DigitalBlue's avatar

You have a right to see your children, but more importantly your children have a right to have you in their lives.
Children naturally love their parents unless that parent has done something (abuse, neglect) to compromise that love, or, if the other parent is poisoning their minds against you. Children are loyal, they want to please their parents. If they believe that it makes their mother happy to hate you, because mom does, then they will be more inclined to do that. It’s much easier to do when they don’t have to look you or reality in the eye.

As someone who has been in this situation, I say fight for your kids. Loving your children has never and will never be the wrong choice. They deserve to have their father, and from what I’ve seen, down the line they will be glad that you fought for them.

SamandMax's avatar

Yarnlady is right. Unless there is a really good reason as to why they hate you, then that needs addressing now, not at some point in the distant future. Your kids are important to you, and you are right to express your concerns openly – even in a forum where only opinions can be given on the subject of your kids and how you should go about dealing with this particular issue – but if you think on this for too long, then you are already delaying what should have been done in the first place and risk finding that there’s no point in the counselling because the kids could easily end up being extremely fixed in their opinions of you. Really fixed, deep rooted opinions formed in the minds of others can be very slow to change when it comes to something as significant as a person’s relationship with their parent (be it Mother or Father). Deal with it now, not later.
If your Mother is poisoning the minds of your children, then it really should be resolved as quickly as possible.

There is nothing worse you can do than to be an estranged parent. I speak from the experience gained as a child to an estranged Father.

finishguy902's avatar

My time with them has been limited. I drove long haul, living situations (roommates) that I didn’t want them to be a part of, animosity between me and mom, money to come visit them all started the distance. That has been translated to me not being there when they needed me and I don’t care about them.
I’m told there are three things that they are having nightmares and getting sick about.
First is: we went to a secured kids play place. While they went to play I took the pizza box out to the car. In less than 5 minutes the younger one had gotten hit in the head. So now the older one feels that she needs to protect her younger sister.
Second: I was holding the younger one standing next to a duck pond feeding the ducks. I jokingly leaned forward and said don’t fall in. She is traumatized by this act and is now having nightmares that she was going to drown and couldn’t get out of the pond.
Third: We went to my sister’s house. She has a small dog that gets excited about his ball. They wanted to play ball and three grown adults were teaching them about how to get the ball from him. Nobody was hurt but there were dog teeth in contact with their hands while they took the ball. This has now made them scared of dogs. I must say that we had to stop the playing because everybody was getting too excited. We also let them shoot a BB gun with a scope and one got a little bump on the eye from it. There was no skin broke and no bruising just a very uncomfortable bump. “I am a very irresponsible father and should have not let my kids engage in such a dangerous thing.”
Again there where three adults there and at no time did we feel that they were scared or did’t want to engage in the activity.
I am not for or against guns. I do however think that it is important for them to know and understand how to use them properly. I took the excitement and interest they had to teach them how dangerous they are, what they can do and what they should do if I wasn’t there. Knowing, I know a lot of people that have these around the house. First event was 3 years ago the second and third were 2 years ago.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@finishguy902 do you have court ordered visitation with your children? If you don’t, file for it. If you do, enforce it.

Your kids do not hate you. They are confused.

YARNLADY's avatar

It sounds like you could benefit from some parenting classes on early childhood development with emphasis on age appropriate activities. When you don’t experience their development on a daily basis, it can be difficult to know what stage they are in.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with with @YARNLADY that you might want to take a class or read up on childhood development. Also, I think girls tend to me much more sensitive then men realize. Sure some girls are more so, or less so, than others, but I know when I was little joking about me getting hurt, or putting me in a position where I felt something bad might happen was really disturbing and made me not only very upset, but angry also. I did not trust people who would do such a thing. It was not funny; not funny at all. I didn’t want to be thrown into the pool, or held under water, or be tickled so hard it hurt, or be near a dog that might bite me, etc. I really had very little tolerance for feeling unsafe and I think many children feel this way, especially girls.

Little kids should not be left alone in a public place, so my guess is when your daughter was hurt, her mother was not only upset she was hurt, but also upset she could have been kidnapped, and if she voiced any of it she might have scared the girls more.

I think it’s great that you opened up to us about some of the things you might have done that led to this situation. Parenting is difficult. Sometimes it is very hard to know what is right and sometimes it is nearly impossible to know how a child will react to things.

janbb's avatar

From your description, it does sound like you’ve made some errors in judgment when caring for your daughters and they made have good reasons to be reluctant to spend time with you, I would amend my answer above and suggest either some family counseling or at the least, that you be willing to apologize to them for the things that hurt them and ask how you can spend time with them more comfortably.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I have to say this, just to keep perspective, all parents make judgment errors. We don’t take children’s parents away from them because they leaned over a duck pond and spooked their kid.

Anyone who has ever dealt with a parent that is alienating children knows that they will pick and choose any excuse that they can come up with to point out what a horrible parent the other is. A kid doesn’t get bonked on the head by their sibling and decide they don’t want to see their father anymore.

janbb's avatar

@DigitalBlue The truth is that none of us really know what is going on in that family or in the children’s minds so that anything that can help foster honest communication can’t hurt. But I agree with you that the father certainly should still have access to his children.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@janbb no, I agree. I just feel like that needs to be put in perspective, perhaps for OP, because he seems to feel like it’s normal or even possible that his kids really don’t want to see him, or hate him, because of these incidents… and that simply isn’t logical.

trailsillustrated's avatar

This happened to me. When my kids were a little older than yours. It was never them, it was the other parent and grandparents ‘feeding’ them hate stories. Force them to see you if you have to. Once you are alone, they will be more themselves. Kids always, always love their parents. My kids are 17 now and are VERY resentful of the way they were played. Good luck, and keep on trying. Never talk bad about your ex or show that you are angry about what is happening. It will swing around your way, I promise. PS be really careful and devote all your attention your kids when they are with you. Just so you know, I had a drug party at my residence in which a person overdosed and died. My kids were in the house. That is how I lost my kids. It’s all in the distant past now, but your kids are still really young. Start now, making a plan to be the best dad you can be. That way you won’t lose all the years I did. Good luck to you.

YARNLADY's avatar

As far as doing things, when my grandchildren visit me, every weekend, I just let them play with the toys I have provided, and they enjoy watching videos on the computer. We don’t really do anything.

finishguy902's avatar

Thank you all for the input!
As far as the parenting things that happened. I cannot discredit the bad feelings that have come from them. I must clarify that the public place is a highly secured play place. Kids are checked in and out with the parent at the door, there is only one way in and out, all that come together, leave together. (Similar to Chuck E Cheese’s) I would never leave my kids unattended in a public place. The gun thing was done with resistance from the adults and even then was only allowed because of their persistence and curiosity. Again, I can’t stress how limited their contact with the gun was.
I feel like we could go on for days on parenting mistakes that we make. I can also point my fingers at equally bad things that have happened in moms care. I have spent lots of time telling them that I am sorry.
More importantly I feel that I have apologized to them and they have accepted it. We have had several times when they have expressed their love and desire to spend time with me through actions and words (unsolicited & heartfelt). That is why I started the court case. This is when they started to hate me because I was not listening to them and FORCING them to love me.
SO:
Force visitation: They hate, resent me for making them come see me. but they do get to see who I really am.
Drop case: Establishes trust, listening to them, allows them to decide. Hopefully builds a relationship on desire.
I would say that I would rather the second option. I’m just not sure how to do that or if it will work with the” bad daddy talks” from the time that she has to spend with them. Keep in mind that she has a master’s degree in child psychology. Either way it will be work on my part.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh Lord. Child psychology. What made her choose that specialization?

You are in a difficult spot for sure. If you drop the case you can always revive it. You can see how it goes. But, if they say they hate you, then I doubt that is just about not wanting to be forced to visit you. Don’t get me wrong, kids say they hate a parent all the time. I am not overthinking the word hate, believe me.

I iwsh I had great advice, I don’t but please let us know how it goes. And, stick around futher I think you will like it.

Welcome.

janbb's avatar

@finishguy902 Do you know why they hate it that you started the court case?

finishguy902's avatar

I’m being told that it took away their choice to see me and I am forcing them to love me.

janbb's avatar

Hmm – an interesting perspective for 7 and 8 year olds! Maybe you can talk to them about giving them more right to say no on occasion to a visit or just how you want the insurance that you will be part of their lives but that love is freely given – not forced.

Maybe they are upset that you are creating conflict with their mom.

finishguy902's avatar

I offered this option to them it went from the next visit to forever.

DigitalBlue's avatar

You aren’t forcing them to love you.
You’re being their father.
They don’t have to love you (although I believe that they do, I believe that children naturally love their parents and want to love their parents).
You still have a right to parent them and they still have a right to have a relationship with their father.
At 7 and 8 years old they aren’t able to make life changing decisions, including cutting a parent (who, for the purpose of this discussion is not a danger to their well being) out of their lives.
I can’t imagine a child that would prefer one parent to be gone entirely compared to two parents loving them, when there are two parents who do love them.

JLeslie's avatar

I realized that what I wrote about them hating you having to do with more than tye court case might seem like I mean you did something awful I don’t mean that at all. I mean Ithink someine else is influencing them, most likely their mom, maybe a school friend or grandparent. I think for some reason the whole thing is blown up to being bigger than it is in their minds.

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