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Letting a 6 year old 'dictate' contact arrangements

(10 Posts)
ThoughtsPlease Fri 02-Nov-12 22:29:46

Sorry this is long......My 2DDs 5 and 6 years, have been unhappy with every other weekend overnight contact for years now.

It is a cycle of going for a few months, then starting to say they don't want to go, to then getting upset at going.

Then we try again just for the day and their Dad says they are fine once they are there, so we start overnights again, and a few months later the same happens they say they don't want to go. I think it all gets too much for all of them, I don't think he can discipline them very well, and I am not sure they really enjoy what they do with him.

I have tried to talk to DDs and him about what is going wrong, but he has always refused to talk about it and always said they were fine and they needed to just get on with it, he has told DD1 in front of me that 'sometimes we all have to do things we don't want to do so just get in the car, this is what is happening'.

I have over the years made suggestions to him of going back to just day contact for a longer period of time until they are consistently happy with it before starting overnights again, but he always refuses and say 'I just want court ordered contact, no discussion'.

I think I know how to help the situation, and the girls have said that they think they would prefer to go every third weekend.

He has been back to Court numerous times about this, most recently a few weeks ago the Judge ordered a CAFCASS Report, their Dad didn't want one, but obviously the Judge said well that is the next stage if you can't agree what is best for them.

After the Court Hearing, he finally agreed to talk to the girls with me about how they felt, we did this and actually there was an immediate improvement, they felt listened to and that their feelings were important to him for once. Future contact looked promising. We agreed, or rather he agreed that it might be better to try and ensure the girls enjoyed contact by working out problems ourselves rather than through the court.

So the next contact weekend came, and DD1 was quite poorly, she missed the last 2 days of school, she had been up in the night with a fever etc and she wanted to just stay at home. I didn't think this was much of a reflection on how she really felt about contact, she simply felt ill. DD2 went and stayed the night and appears to have had a nice time.

However he has now written a letter to DD1 that say he loves her very much etc etc, and from now on he will simply ask her every time when he comes to collect if she wants to come and if she doesn't that is fine, she can just say no.

To me this is ridiculous, he has now after carrying her kicking and screaming to his car saying she has to go, now told her she doesn't and can just decide each time whether she wants to go that weekend or not. I think we need to find a solution that both DDs are happy with, not just let her decide each time. What is going to happen whn DD2 says actually I don't want to go this time either, or they start arguing about 'well I'm not going if you're not' which I have already heard them say.

I have suggested every 3rd weekend as both DDs have said that they think that would be better, I think they prefer time at home, but they clearly do want to see him, but he has said no, he will just turn up every other weekend, if they go great if not nevermind!

This isn't a good way forward is it? To me it puts decisions on them that they shouldn't be making at 5 and 6, and making the decision themselves every other weekend? I have always said to him that we need to listen to the girls and then for us to make arrangements that work for them. I also think it is so wrong on all sorts of psychological development levels.

ToothbrushThief Fri 02-Nov-12 22:34:14

I think for a short period of time letting DDs dictate contact will be useful personally.

Their relationship with their dad is really important and it seems he wants it to continue and is prepared to change tactics to keep it going.

ThoughtsPlease Fri 02-Nov-12 22:39:41

But we have had years of on and off contact because every other weekend breaks down every time after a few months. Surely it is more sensible to work out why this happens, and change it?

ToothbrushThief Fri 02-Nov-12 23:18:33

Every other weekend as a frequency is not the problem. Moving to every third weekend is not identifying the cause.

Take away the rigid schedule? Put the DC first

They are obviously feeling pressure because things improve when pressure is removed

there was an immediate improvement, they felt listened to and that their feelings were important

Then listen to them? Both of you?

ThoughtsPlease Fri 02-Nov-12 23:26:05

Actually I think the frequency is the problem, they said so.

They have said they would like it to be every 3rd weekend, so yes I am listening to them.

Yes they feel pressure because he has insisted on contact for years that they clearly don't like, so surely we now listen to what they say they would like.

He is the one who has been to the Court over and over again demanding strict rigid schedules, but actually I think they do need a schedule that works, not one when he comes to the door, and they say yes ok I'll come this time, or no I don't want to this week?!

You really think that every other weekend we just wait until he turns up and then tell him yes or no they are or are not coming this week?! Sounds like madness to me!

ToothbrushThief Fri 02-Nov-12 23:52:12

Ah ok. It just seemed such an odd thing for a 5 and 6 year old to say. We'd like every third week My 10yr old has fortnightly and has often asked if it's this week. She doesn't seem to feel any concept of fortnightly or 3 weekly. It's extremely flexible and she isn't stressed by it all.

Well I guess you could say to the ex: from now on I will dictate schedule and maybe it will work better.

Hopefully you will come to a conclusion that benefits the DC. I just wonder if letting them choose without ANY pressure might be worth a trial

NatashaBee Sat 03-Nov-12 00:00:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ThoughtsPlease Sat 03-Nov-12 00:16:10

They have a very good grasp of what every other weekend or 1 at Daddy's 2 at home means.
I suggested to them every 3rd weekend they didn't come up with the idea, I suggested it as they have said many times they don't get time to do stuff at home and things like I'll go next time but not this time I want to stay at home. So I thought it was a compromise that might actually be sustainable long term, and that we could break the cycle we have had for years of contact breaking down.
I also think the getting upset at going is all linked with this, they don't enjoy going every other weekend for the reasons I have said, so I hoped that it would work long term for them this way.
And not only that but what if they end up just saying oh not this week again and again and get in a pattern of not going at all, when he has stormed off before and not responded to my contact for months they actually never seemed very bothered. Surely it is in interests to try and encourage a good relationship with him that they enjoy?

ToothbrushThief Sat 03-Nov-12 00:32:43

I appreciate that contact is difficult and both parents have their own perspective on it. I guess from your exs point of view he may feel vulnerable to losing contact.

My DPs ex used to reduce contact with a myriad of reasons and put pressure on the DC to agree with her suggestions.

I am not suggesting this is what you are doing but I am suggesting that it might appear this way to someone who feels excluded and vulnerable. You hold all the cards and control here.

He's tried one technique of insisting contact happens (not as unreasonable as it DD was kicking off going on a family walk last week...once it was a fait accompli she settled and had fun)

He's now trying another of letting DC decide. Might work. Might not.
(3 weekly contact...might work...might not)

I really think in fairness to him and the DC you should give them a fair trial of this. A trial of 2 months? Then review. As you say it's worth it to encourage a good relationship.

ToothbrushThief Sat 03-Nov-12 00:34:15

I guess what I'm saying is that two DC really matter here. Both adults will have a viewpoint that is unique to them and conflict and feeling threatened or controlled will affect both of you. I sincerely hope you find a solution for your DC that is less stressful for you all

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