19 answers

My 3 Year Old Has Not Been Wanting to Go with Dad for Visits

This is a very emotional subject for me! My ex left without a word after my daughter was born (she was turning 4 months). He's been in her life since (lots of ups & downs). So, I would say she's done well with it cause she never knew us to live together. Now there are times when he comes to pick her up and she wants to keep giving me hugs & kisses. Friday it took her 45 min. to go with a compromise that he would bring her home and play outside with her. Today, less than a week later - it took an hour for her to go with him. However this time she kept saying she didn't want to go, or asked if her dad could cook her dinner or play with her at home. It's heartbreaking and I want to act fast so that she doesn't carry these conflicting emotions. I think therapy may help but currently can't afford it. Our current situation leaves me not being able to even talk with her dad, he's verbally abusive to say the least and I don't talk to her about it of course but maybe she senses his energy...don't know.

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Well usually when someone is verbally abusive to an adult they are the same with children. That may be why she does not want to go over there. That or there may be something about his place that she does not like. My son in law grew up not wanting to go to his dads because of the smell and his dads girlfriends. Needless to say, ask her questions, and lots of them. Get to the bottom of things.
W. M.

It is most likely just that she spends all of her time with you and is attached to you leaving her not wanting to leave you. Ask her why she doesnt want to go to Daddys house. I would not rule out any abusive behavior. You should find a way to take her to a child psychologist to see what they think. She should have a special toy or stuffed animal that she takes with her and you should take her and let her pick out one for you so she knows you arent alone either.

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Hi O.,

Your daughter is old enough to know what she wants and doesn't want. The sad part is, she doesn't want her Daddy. The sadder part is....Daddy can't seem to make her understand how much he loves her. What does that mean? Does that mean she's just more "secure" with Mommy? Does that mean that Daddy is verbally abusive to her, too? I don't know what it means actually, but her actions & emotions aren't lying.

In my opinion, if Daddy wants to be a GOOD Daddy, and "earn" her trust and security, then he should be staying at your house, as she asks. Once she's relaxed enogh in her own home to be with him "safely", then perhaps she'll be brave enough to want to go to the Zoo, or his house, which could be called her "other house", or wherever else outside of your home.

Tell your Ex that you don't want her to go through this anymore, and that you "feel bad" for him having to stand there waiting for her to go with him. Tell him for a couple of weeks, let's try to have him stay over at your house in HER comfort zone for regular 1 hour visits. Then go from there.

If he won't do that, then you will have to "prepare" your daughter for visits with Daddy. Doing so about 1 hour before Daddy gets there will hopefully help her in the moment it's time to go. Even though you KNOW your Ex, and probably don't want to say nice things about him, you will HAVE to for your daughter's sake. Daddy loves her. And by saying things like, "Daddy's coming to over so you can visit his house....you're so lucky!"....or whatever :O)

O., I hope something in my opinion can help you through such an emotional time. It was hard for me to "look past" the part where "he left when she was 4 months old"............and still try to give him a decent chance for a relationship with his daughter.

Good Luck!

~N. :o)

1 mom found this helpful

She's having separation anxieties. It's normal for her age and for the situation. it's only natural for children to want some normalcy. Wanting Daddy around more or separating from you to go see him is hard and that is normal too. It doesn't mean she doesn't love him or want to spend time with him, she just wants both of you. My daughter was two when her father and I separated, but she's a well adjusted young lady.
Therapy for you and her is the key. You should look into therapist who have what is known as "sliding fee scales". They base the fee on your income. It really will help you both deal with all the emotions that you are going through.

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Hi O., My heart goes out to you. My daughter has had the same problem with her son going to his dads. At first ex had him for more days, but she took him back to court and dad only gets him every other weekend. That helped a lot, as they say not more then one night per year of age to be away from the prefurred parent. Sounds like your daughter has a good vocabulary and can tell you what's going on while there. My grandson was getting sick with asthma, and just came back this past weekend with a trip to the hospital for breathing treatment and pnuemonia. Had to stay for 2 days. The respatory therapist said it is stress related, as it only happens when he is at his dads. Something we felt for a long time, but finally got an expert to confirm. Anyway, from other experience I have in past jobs, it would probably be easier if you made it a quick exit. As long as your ex says she quits crying right away after he leaves. If she crys for long periods of time after he departs with her I would say time for supervised visits only. Good luck, N.

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O., I agree with many of the opinions out there. There is a reason why your daughter doesn't want to leave with Dadyy. Maybe it is seperation anxiety (believe me, my kids have been in and out of it, and I have a stable relationship with my huband and kids), but it could also be that she is not comfortable with your ex. Since she is 3, she can tell you some of the things that is going on when she's with your ex. Like some have suggested, have him visit at your home, or another location where you are there so you can support your child and monitor both of there actions. I understand that this will be difficult for you since you can't stand your ex and he is abusive to you. Then have someone you trust monitor the visit.

Since he is verbally abusive to you, he could be verbally abusive to your daughter. If you or someone else that you trust is able to monitor the visit, than you can determine how he is treating your daughter. I highly suggest you get therapy for your child and support for you. Check around, I'm sure there are resources that can support you and your daughter, either for free or for an inexpensive cost. Someone suggested First 5. I'd also
Department of Social Services on Child Abuse Prevention website. It has several links for info and contacts. http://www.cdss.ca.gov/cdssweb/PG91.htm

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Dear O.,
I definitely had a terrible time with my ex and his abusive behavior. We won't get into all that right now.
But what I want to say is that your little girl can definitely pick up on the tension.
Contact your local health department because, unless with the budget cuts, they do have services that you can receive on a sliding scale, based on your ability to pay.
My ex made pick up and drop offs such a nightmare. He would show up at my house early...he always cried like an infant every time he brought my son home. Then my son would start crying hysterically. He told me one time, "See...he wants me more than you. He NEVER cries when he has to leave you. He only cries when he has to leave me." I said, "That's because I don't cry when he has to go. I tell him I love him, I'm okay, and I will be here waiting for him when he gets home."
What ultimately had to happen, and it was put in our court orders, was that the pick up and drop offs had to occur in a neutral and public place at an exact and specific time. The exchanges at my home were just too hard on my son. And, it was recognized that his father made it that way. It helped immensely. I left my husband before my son was 2 and he just turned 14. His father is still not allowed at my home. There was a brush with the emergency room and his dad brought us home in the early hours of the morning, but he dropped us off at the corner. My home is a safe place for my son. Having that boundary really helped him.
Dragging the exchanges out is not good. It's traumatizing. And if you meet in a neutral, public place, there is less chance for dragging it out. "I love you...I'll be waiting...here's a kiss" and you let the child go. My ex loved the drama, but he didn't like creating a scene in public so it worked very well.
I don't think you should rush to think that your daughter is being abused by her father because she doesn't want to go with him. He may be saying things that are very inappropriate. I know my ex did. He kept telling my son that it was my fault he had to share his parents because he never wanted a divorce so I had to deal with that. I'm a single mom and I didn't have money either. It sucks, I know. But, being the parent who is proactive about changing something that isn't working is the best thing. Please don't take this the wrong way, but letting a child cry for 45 minutes or an hour during an exchange is just not good. It needs to be kept short and on neutral ground and I think you'll see a big difference. Oh, and by the way...I requested that the exchanges happen in front of the police department. Which I was granted. So, my ex wasn't about to try anything or stick around longer than necessary.
If you've had an abusive relationship, then contact a women's resource center because they can definitely help you find your center.
I have suggested this book before, but I'll do it again.
"My Life Turned Upside Down But I Turned it Rightside Up" by Mary B. Field. It's written for children, but was recommended by my son's therapist to be read by his parents.
There are resources. Find them. And I can tell you that the courts are very sympathetic to fathers, even if they have unsavory pasts. You have to be the strong one. And you can be. Believe me, your daughter will benefit from it. My kids see me as the one they can count on.
I wish you the very best and feel free to write me privately if you'd like.
You can get you and your daughter through this. I've been there.

1 mom found this helpful

okay...giving outside advice here.....3 year olds start to pick up on what you do and say as well as your husband.....so...first lets start with you.....do you talk about your husband in front of your child with others....if you do...stop......if not...you know you have done your part to give a healthy relationship for your child and your ex......which means when she goes on the trips with the ex.....hey "may"...I say may, because it may be something totally different.....he may be saying things or giving out wrong vibes about you......and that means he is threatening the person your child is with 24/7, her security blanket, the person she looks up to.

If you cannot afford therapy...then maybe you should contact your divorce lawyer and see what avenues might be out there to help you.....and maybe it shoudl be the ex to take her to therapy since she is having the issue with him and not you....and hence he should pay for therapy....what does his insurance cover.....

I just started taking my daughter to therapy for her social anxiety and I really like her therapist....I do know that it is about90 bucks a pop for each hour/visit....

you might want to look into MediCal....and see what therapists take MediCal....that might be an option to.

I know you said that you and hubby are not on speaking terms but sounds like visits should start at your house and then once your daughter is comfortable with him then they can progress to going out of your home..

unfortunately..you need to take yourself out of the pic and look at your daughter....as much as you want to take your hair out and tell your ex where to stick it...it is hard to be the better person at times in this situation

If you are a member or involved in a church, talking to your minister will help and it's free....they may know of resources that don't cost as much....

hope that helps.....oh...also check with CASA....they are child advocates..and may have some free and or inexpensive avenues for you.....they were wonderful with my daughters when they were fostered/adopted with us..and they are all about the kids and not about the parents.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi O.,

Children are smart. They are intuitive and they definitely sense positive and negative energy. She knows something is wrong when you are upset, but she doesn't know how to handle it.
Have you asked her why she doesn't want to go with her dad? Talk with your daughter and see what is bothering her...It could be as simple as "he doesn't want to play this game with me" to something more serious. I am not saying or implying anything,but you mentioned your ex has been verbally abusive---if he is abusive---what would stop him from being verbally or even physically abusive to your daughter?

You as her mom needs to be able to communicate with her dad--- whatever it takes, you both are her parents and need to learn how to co-parent. If you are afraid of his abusive behavior or fear for your daughter's well-being-- go back to the judge ASAP and share your concerns. Don't force her to go with him. Get everything straightened out first. Good Luck~


1 mom found this helpful

Hi O.!

It has been my experience that kids do not just suddenly decide not to go for a visit with family or friends. You may want to take a deeper look at the problem & talk with your daughter (alone) about why she doesn't want to go with him. You say he is verbally abusive, maybe he says or does things she does not like. Counseling would be good too. Check with your HR people through your employer. Many companies have Employee Assistance Programs that help cover the cost of the first 3 visits and then the rates should be more reasonable. Do what is right for her, not him. Clearly there is a reason she doesn't want to go, please don't force her. If he gets abusive towards you, ask him to leave, call the police or file a restraining order.

Good luck & God Bless!

1 mom found this helpful

I think you need to talk to your daugter! Three year olds can articulate a lot. This "verbally abusive to say the least" father may be verbally abusive to her - especialy now as she transitions from baby to little girl. She apparently still wants to see him but not so much alone. It appears she needs a buffer, hence the long goodbyes to you and the request that he basically visit her at your house. Don't put words in her mouth, let her take her time telling you what she did at daddy's and what was fun and she'll open up with what wasn't fun.

Good luck

1 mom found this helpful

I don't want to minimize the issues you and your daughter may or may not have with her dad, but I think in some cases it's not unusual for kids to have these separation issues. Is she in daycare or preschool, and if so, have you seen similar behavior?

Both my kids have had similar "Don't go!" drama at preschool drop off briefly around that age, and letting it go on for an hour actually makes it worse.

As I said, I am not minimizing the situation, because I'm not close enough to advise. I just wanted to give some food for thought.


Well usually when someone is verbally abusive to an adult they are the same with children. That may be why she does not want to go over there. That or there may be something about his place that she does not like. My son in law grew up not wanting to go to his dads because of the smell and his dads girlfriends. Needless to say, ask her questions, and lots of them. Get to the bottom of things.
W. M.

It's possible that your little girl just does not like the way that your ex treats you. I'm married and live with my husband. My little girl is 4 and she does not like it when Daddy and I argue. She will actually yell at him like she is protecting me. Of course, we've had to change the way we disagree with each other for her sake. However, your little girl may not want to go with her Daddy because she knows he's mean to you. Also, it's possible that you pay more attention with her. That when she is with you, she feels and knows that she is the center of your life, but with Daddy she is the annoyance. It's possible that he just ignores her.

My little girl likes to spend all her time with me because she is the center of my world. I play with her and when we watch TV it's shows that she likes to watch. Though her Daddy loves her dearly, he doesn't always want to watch the Disney channel. He likes to watch poker and golf. He likes to set her up with her toys and then he plays on the computer. It's possible that your ex does these kinds of things. Your little one could just feel less loved in his presence.

Maybe you should ask your daughter what happens on these visits and which parts of it upset her.

It is most likely just that she spends all of her time with you and is attached to you leaving her not wanting to leave you. Ask her why she doesnt want to go to Daddys house. I would not rule out any abusive behavior. You should find a way to take her to a child psychologist to see what they think. She should have a special toy or stuffed animal that she takes with her and you should take her and let her pick out one for you so she knows you arent alone either.

this may be much of the same. . .but here goes.

something happened to make her feel uncomfortable. Find out what they do together.

does he pay attention to her?
does he ignore her?
do they just watch tv the whole time?
are there other people in the house?
who are they and are they ever left alone with her?
does he argue/fight with others around her?
has he lost his temper or been verbally abusive with her?
or worse, phsycially or sexually abusive?
are there any physical signs of trauma?
any change in her attitude and behaviors other than when he comes to pick her up?

get her to a therapist. get something documented. if he has harmed her and traumatized her. . .DAMN HIM! Protect your daughter. Get an attorney.

I pray your daughter has not been harmed. I really really do.

This seems very concerning to me because children are so pure and they only know the truth. If she is feeling uncomfortable going with him I would not push her to do so. He may have been harsh with his words toward her, he could be detached enough from her to treat her mean or neglect her emotional needs which would hurt her more in the long run. If you have a social worker or if you could get a court appointed GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) she/he may be able to accompany your daughter during her stay to observe the visits or the court may appoint you a child therapist. I would not take this lightly especially since he can not be civil enough to speak with you personally and obviously if he left at such a critical time for your family he may have serious emotional issues to deal with before he takes it out on her. God Bless!

When I read your email request, I just had to respond. If your ex is verbally abusive to you and your daughter. He should NOT allow to spend time with her without supervision. Did it ever occur to you why she is upset and doesn't want to go with her Father? This is not my place, but have you thought about what else may be happening?
Please do not send your daughter to her father if he is verbally abusive, you are only placing her in an unhealthy, unhappy situation.
I've been there and took my 3 kids and left their abusive father over 20 years ago. It was hard at first, but my kids grew up just fine.

The comments about the negative energy may be correct, but I'll bring up another idea---Is she uncomfortable being without you, in general? Is she uncomfortable at other people's houses in general? Since she is more okay with him being around IF they stay at your house, I am wondering if there is any possibility that it isn't him exactly, but the situation of leaving her home or being in unfamiliar places/without her familiar things (not to mention mom)? If so, you could try letting her keep some personal familiar things in his car/house, to help her feel more connected with home during her visits with him.

I'm looking for a reason that isn't about negative energy because I know an ex-couple with a young child, with VERY negative feelings toward each other (which probably are obvious to the child) but the child (now 4) doesn't mind at all going with the noncustodial parent for visits. Of course, some kids are more sensitive, but these parents are fairly combative...so I don't know if tension alone is enough reason for the behavior you are describing.
But if you feel really sad every time when it's time for her to go, maybe she wants to stay to comfort you.
Sorry he is so rude to you...try to let it bounce off of you, stay serene, and remember when people lash out at others, it is only a reflection of their own personal unhappiness. Some fathers don't even try--at least he is trying to be around for his child, even if he isn't very successful with it. I wouldn't assume he is doing anything wrong, unless your child says there is something wrong, or her behavior gets worse--a bad husband/boyfriend could still end up being a decent father in the end.
Good luck with single parenthood---I know it's really tough!

Is there any way you can do the pick up/exchange in a place that is not your home? For example you could go to a children's playground area or children's section of the library/or a bookstore and explain to her that you'll be there for a little while and then her Dad will play her with there and bring her back to her home later?

It does sound as though some therapy might help your daughter. I don't know what's available where you live. Here in Santa Clara County in California there are funds available through "First Five' fund for kids in similar situations. You could check with the local family courts and see if thy know of any available funds. Also do the local family courts offer any mediation - they might have good suggestions to help both you and her Dad with the current problem.

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