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At what age should children decide contact?

(76 Posts)
ClaudoftheRings Fri 12-Feb-16 12:24:15

I ask because DSS - 10 - is beginning to opt out of some mid-week visits (he's happy as larry at weekends) and his mother is letting him do it.

In fact, she is occasionally causing it by taking him out to visit friends until late (after midnight) and then saying he is too tired to come the next night etc.

Is 10 too young to decide that contact can be skipped here and there?

swingofthings Fri 12-Feb-16 13:03:49

Depends on the reasons. What is he saying? Does he have an active life outside of school? Does he do an activity on that day?

ClaudoftheRings Fri 12-Feb-16 13:06:24

He's tired or feels poorly (headache, tummy ache, etc) but nothing that is keeping him off school.

Bluelilies Fri 12-Feb-16 16:19:52

I think 10 is about the right age for starting to have a say in the detail of when he has contact - what pattern works for him? Does he want to alter it from time to time to fit around other plans? etc.

It's too young for deciding to opt out altogether, as they can't realise the consequences of losing a relationship at that age.

But if he's happy at weekends (and his DM isn't blocking weekends) then maybe he's getting to an age where frequency of contact is less important to hiim and dropping the midweek contact, or doing it less often, maybe for some specific purpose might work better for him? Maybe he just finds going to a different house one evening a week is a bit of a drag.

Could you suggest he comes for longer periods in the holidays instead? Or extends the weekends a bit? My DC stopped wanting do do the weekday overnight at about that age, and we extended the weekend to include Sunday night instead, which suited them better, for a while at least.

PrettyBrightFireflies Fri 12-Feb-16 17:28:35

Maybe he just finds going to a different house one evening a week is a bit of a drag.

A little ironic given the explanation being given by his mum is he was at her friends house until late the night before.

Personally, I think contact with a NRP should be prioritised as highly as education - yes, there are some genuine cases of school refusal, but on the whole, a DC who "doesn't fancy" going to school is disciplined, as are the parents for not ensuring it happens.

But, I know I'm in the minority and that most people (MN and RL) believe in giving DCs a choice from a very young age.
What I also know is how tempting it was, and how easy it would have been, to create situations where my DD said that she "didn't want to go" to her Dads.

So forgive me for bring jaded about this.

VimFuego101 Fri 12-Feb-16 17:35:39

Personally, I think contact with a NRP should be prioritised as highly as education - yes, there are some genuine cases of school refusal, but on the whole, a DC who "doesn't fancy" going to school is disciplined, as are the parents for not ensuring it happens.

I agree with this. A young child can't fully understand the consequences of allowing a relationship with their parents to tail off. I do think there should be some flexibility as kids get older to allow for social life and schoolwork, BUT only as long as the RP doesn't encourage or incentivise the child to avoid seeing their other parent (by, for example, putting something more exciting on the table for them to do on an intended contact weekend).

ivykaty44 Fri 12-Feb-16 17:38:29

I would suggest that instead of going to the friends DSS is dropped to you instead? But this is probably not practice or diplomatic, guessing here

I would suggest tagging on a Sunday night to visits each time it happens?

BoboChic Fri 12-Feb-16 17:41:29

DC don't decide contact because they need their parents to make their decisions for them in order to feel safe.

Parents should, of course, pay utmost attention to a child's feelings and needs when making decisions on their behalf.

WhoGivesAFlying Fri 12-Feb-16 18:02:05

It's too young IMO, but more to the point it's way too yoing to be up until after midnight on a week night shock

Fourormore Fri 12-Feb-16 18:05:18

I don't think it's necessarily too young but it does seem to be more that mum is undermining his relationship with his dad than it being a genuine desire on his part. Staying up til midnight at her friends house is absolutely no excuse for him being too tired to see his dad. That has to stop.

NotMeNotYouNotAnyone Sat 13-Feb-16 19:28:55

If he had a genuine reason (after school activity a certain night for example) then it's not to young to be allowed to say this isn't working for me.

Just because he's tired or doesn't fancy it? Yes too young.

I'm an adult and often feel too tired or don't fancy going to something (I'm a guide leader which i never fancy after a long day at work) but which I do anyway because I'm a grown up and importantly, once I'm there I enjoy it and I'm glad I went.

Speak to him and see what's putting him off and whether he would prefer a different arrangement (same amount of contact but maybe Friday to Monday instead of fri-sun plus weeknight)

CointreauVersial Sat 13-Feb-16 19:34:33

I was probably 13 or 14 when I took the plunge and told DM (who had custody) that I wanted to spend more nights at DDad's, mainly because I wasn't getting along with DSDad at the time. She was upset, but took it on board; I'm not sure she would have done so if I was only 10.

RudeElf Sat 13-Feb-16 19:35:13

Well my DS is 10 and has recently decided not to see his dad anymore but its not because he cant be arsed or is tired. I've tried to encourage him, i've tried to get his dad to sort out the issue with him but he isnt bothered so i'm not going to force DS to spend time with someone who isnt bothered about seeing him.

AuntieStella Sat 13-Feb-16 19:36:14

It probably is worth finding out if a different night would suit better and swopping if possible.

And the two parents, in the interests of the child, should be looking to see if he is over scheduled and reduce activities accordingly so he is not overtired midweek.

PrettyBrightFireflies Sat 13-Feb-16 19:36:45

Speak to him and see what's putting him off and whether he would prefer a different arrangement (same amount of contact but maybe Friday to Monday instead of fri-sun plus weeknight

If a DC is too young to opt out of contact, they are too young to make arrangements direct with one parent, IMO.

If the OPs DP wants to change arrangements, it should be discussed and agreed between the parents, and then explained to the DC - in this case, the opportunity to express an opinion, or have a trial period, should be given, because of the DCs age - but the DC will feel far more secure if he knows that his parents make those difficult decisions for him until he's older.

ClaudoftheRings Thu 18-Feb-16 16:14:53

Thanks all

I completely understand that midweek visits are not ideal. If I was to come home from work, have dinner, get changed and start to relax and then someone said I had to up-sticks and go somewhere else for the night, I probably wouldn't want to every time.

However.. and it's a big however. If DH does not see DSS in the week, then on EOW weekend when it's not his turn for contact, he would go two weeks without seeing him and that is incredibly hard and upsetting for DH.

I find it sad that DSS's mother does not support contact more responsibly. I really hope that she does not fib or let DSS fib about being poorly. The tiredness thing is a different matter. DH thinks, 'so he's tired, he can sleep here and then at least I get to see him' but she does not see it this way.

The late night he had recently was two nights before contact and still she/DSS said he was too tired. I think that's really poor. The time before when tiredness was an issue, meant that DH missed the chance to see DSS on Christmas Eve. DH was gutted.

I did wonder whether it was just the way things get at this age, hence the question. But I agree that 10 is too young.

I don't think there is anything I can do other than support DH and cheer him up when he is sad. sad

ClaudoftheRings Thu 18-Feb-16 16:19:32

PS I know contact is for the benefit of the child and not the NRP, but that just gets us back to square one in this case - the RP has to support contact until the child is old enough to understand the consequences of opting out of it.

abbsismyhero Thu 18-Feb-16 16:23:27

my son had a social worker who said from age six if he doesn't want to go then he doesn't go by relaxing it like that he now goes regularly with no real issues

Zampa Thu 18-Feb-16 16:24:34

A court would definitely say that 10 is too young (having just been through this).

If contact is not via a court order, I would definitely get this sorted ASAP. It sounds like the mother of your DSS is trying to undermine the relationship with his Dad and sadly, sometimes a strict schedule of contact is the only way to ensure this doesn't continue.

abbsismyhero Thu 18-Feb-16 16:27:11

i personally wouldn't cause a fuss the more ds was told we miss you and questioned if mummy was "allowing" him to come the more likely it was he would refuse

as mad as it sounds just carry on as normal assume he is coming over midweek maybe set up an activity for that day say when you come over wednesday we will order pizza and see x film nothing huge just ordinary stuff you usually do

MirandaWest Thu 18-Feb-16 16:49:28

My DC are 12 and 10. Unless they are ill or involved in an activity that can't be moved (residential trip, outing with a club they're in etc) then they go on the days that XH and I have agreed on. We have made sure his contact days during the week are not the regular days when the DC have activies based here.

Im pretty sure that sometimes the being in one house for one day then the other the next day isn't ideally what they'd like and I'm not sure the best way to do things as they get older. But for now the adults are he ones in charge of when they are where

MsColouring Thu 18-Feb-16 23:42:41

Much as a (very selfish) part of me wants my dc to turn around and say that they don't want as much contact with their dad any more, I think they find it easier to have a schedule and not have to be put in that difficult position of choosing between parents. I think the courts say 12 for them to be listened to. I think it is easier just to stick to the schedule unless it clashes with something important.

I have a friend in her 20s who still sees her dad every Wednesday. I think by continuing this she knows he will remain part of her life.

Oswin Thu 18-Feb-16 23:49:42

I think midweek visits are hard for kids.
You say he could sleep at yours if he's tired, but if he feels more like he visits at your house and his moms is home then I can feel for him.
When your tired you don't want to be going to another house, you just want to chill at home.

ClaudoftheRings Fri 19-Feb-16 08:59:24

"When your tired you don't want to be going to another house, you just want to chill at home."

I do get this, and covered it my second post. But..... does this mean that all NRPs say "Aaah, you're tired and don't fancy coming over midweek, let's drop midweek contact"?

I'm not being snippy - just genuinely interested in how firm people are about sticking to this. It must happen with thousands of kids every week.

If dropping midweek contact means the DC and NRP do not set eyes on each other for two weeks then is that OK? And it makes the NRP unhappy but the child isn't bothered then what's the answer?

I have never been in this situation. I like to think that I would not want to force my child to come over if they didn't want to but equally, the idea of not seeing them for a fortnight would be hell.

NotCitrus Fri 19-Feb-16 09:19:10

Do they phone or Skype regularly? A couple slots for a chat in the week might work better, and extra chats are good.

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