Kids' Problems with Shared Custody

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3.5 yead old screams for Daddy

jan 2006

My husband and I have been separated for about a year. We will be filing for a amicable divorce and will not be reconciling. We have a 50/50 custody arrangement, one week on and one week off. We each see the kids every day either driving them to school or picking them up in a consistent schedule that the children know. The problem is that when their father drops them off, or I pick them up from him, our three and a half year old throws a full out ''I want daddy'' tantrum. I have to peel him from his father and he screams (at the top of his lungs). This can go on for quite a long time. I have tried talking to him, holding him, acknowledging him and ignoring him. This occurs not only at separation time, but whenever he is repremanded for anything or told no about anything. He doesn't do the same thing to his father about me. I feel like such the bad guy and I don't know what else to do. Any advice on how to deal with this would be greatly appreciated. I would love to break this cycle.
Tired Single Mom

Your ex-spouse loves the drama. He is not prepering your child for the switch, but you are.Ask your ex-spouse to cooperate on the matter, or take the child for expert advise (medical), and take your ex- too. You may be surprised of what you learn from a single session. Seen this before
I would advise a combination of lots of hugs, ignoring the temper, and waiting for the behavior to resolve itself with time. Of course he wants Daddy; you can't change that. And it sounds like you already have the best divorce possible. So don't take it personally; it's not about you. He's just a little guy dealing with a situation he can't control and can't fully understand. You just have to love and support him through the difficult times. And NEVER forget that no matter how civil a divorce may be, it's still really, really hard on the kids. -- Child of divorced parents
you could try doing several things over time. 1) try having some meetings with your ex in which you DON'T do the exchange, if you can. 2) Have an intermediary: have your ex drop him off at a mutual friend's house or play date, then you pick him up 15 minutes later (or later if it's a playdate). 3) avoid doing the exchange together-your ex drops him off at school, and you pick up. 4) once in a while, have a pick up where you're going to do something extra special that is of the kid's choosing. Avoid anything that could be perceived as taking daddy away; instead, invent exchanges that are all about what he GETS by going to mom (not what he LOSES by being taken from dad).

3 year old doesn't want to go to Dad's

Sept. 2003

My son's father and I share custody of our 3 year old son (70% with mom, 30% with dad). Over the 2 years that our son has been staying overnight at his father's house, he's gone in and out of phases where he says he doesn't want to see his dad. Lately, he says it every time his dad picks him up. He gets upset (cries and complains) when I tell him his father is coming to pick him up, and when his father arrives, he runs to me and ignores his father. He cries pretty hard when I put him in his father's car. He says he doesn't want to see Daddy, he doesn't love Daddy, and he doesn't want to go to his house. I've feel bad for all of us every time it happens. I try to comfort him, tell him I understand that he wants to be with me but he needs to see his dad who loves him, and we talk about the fun things he and his dad will do together. However, this isn't working. He insists that he doesn't want to see his dad. His dad is a good father, and I don't believe that he's doing anything to make our son not want to see him. I've tried to get more information from our son, but get no farther than I don't want to see Daddy. According to his father, our son calms down in a couple of minutes and the rest of the visit goes well with an occasional I miss mommy comment. I think my son's feelings are genuine and that it might be a phase where he just needs to be with me more than with his father. I work full time, and our son started at a new preschool about 6 weeks ago. He's adjusted pretty well to preschool (some sadness/teary eyes when I drop him off, but the teachers say he is happy all day and he doesn't want to leave when I pick him up). I'd like to hear how others have dealt with similar situations, and I'd appreciate suggestions on how to get us all through this phase.

Are you and your ex on good enough terms where you could spend some time together with your son? Maybe the tramsition time is too quick - could dad stay for dinner, then take him home? Or maybe time at a playground with all of you and then he goes home with Dad? If those don't work, would Dad be amenable to doing shorter chunks of time with him where you drop him off with Dad at a playground or museum and then pick him up later? I would think if your son has a chance to get thru the phase he is likely in of needing more support from you at this time, he will come out with a stronger relationship with his dad, not a wekaer one. Perhaps reassuring dad that his time will come - when your son gets closer to 4 and 5 dads become heroes to be modeled!

One other thought, do you know if Dad has midified their time together to reflect the developmental chenges in his son? I have seen in my own home that my husband gets stuck in patterns that worked for a long time, but he needs ideas for when to break out of those patterns to establish new activities as our son grows. Jen

I think that must be a phase that hits around three. I nannied for a family for about a year. In the beginning, the parents could go out and the daughter would not have any problems, but near the end of that year, she started missing her parents very much every time they went out. My own kids are the same way. They used to spend the night at their grandma's once a week, but we had to give that up lately. They just don't want to go if I'm not going. I'm sure the change of situation with a new preschool is playing a role as well. When my boys used to spend the night out at their grandma's I would send with each of them a note card with a lipstick kiss on it. I told them I could always give them kisses that way. What about a little something ''special'' that you could give to him before he leaves that he could keep with him- perhaps bring to bed with him- to let him know how much you love him even when he is with his father. Sounds like a tough situation. Hopefully it's just a temporary phase. anon