How to Help Your Child Cope With Parental Rejection

Boy looking out rain-streaked car window
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A question we often hear from custodial parents is, “What can I do if my child’s father/mother doesn’t show for visitation.” As parents, we feel our child’s pain when the other parent fails to exercise parental visitation. It is only natural that we want to “do” something to take away their pain.

When a parent chooses not to be active in a child’s life damage is done. Children are left to feel unworthy, unloved and worthless due to the lack of self-esteem that comes along with being rejected by a parent.

We can’t protect our children from all of life’s disappointments. In this situation, though, there are things we can do to keep the impact of an absent parent from causing too much destruction and help visitation go smoothly.

3 Ways to Help You And Your Child Cope With Parental Rejection

1. Don’t allow your child to see your disappointment and concern. If you are angry with your ex, keep it to yourself, do not share those feelings with your child. Talk with your child and allow your child to express his/her feelings. Be reassuring by showing them they are loved by you.

When talking about your ex, explain to the child that his/her absence is not a reflection of the child’s worth. Let the child know the other parent is having difficulties that get in the way of him/her understanding how hurtful the absence is. It is important your child understands that the problem is not with him/her but with the parent who is not visiting.

2. Talk to the absent parent. He/she may not realize the negative impact on the child. Some parents aren’t emotionally intelligent enough to know the importance of their presence in their child’s life. Assure the other parent that your only motive is to co-parent in a way that is best for the child.

If, after communicating your concerns, the other parent still refuses to visit, let it be. He/she may not care and where there is a lack of caring, there is a lack of concern and love. And, what child needs a parent like that in their life?

3. If you are dealing with a non-custodial parent who makes plans with your child then doesn’t show, have a backup plan. If the non-custodial parent is inconsistent, the best way to keep that from harming your child is to distract the child with other activities.

I encourage all non-custodial parents to maintain a consistent visitation schedule with your children. Also, custodial parents should encourage the relationship between your child and the non-custodial parent. Don’t allow hard feelings and conflict with your ex to harm your child. Put your child’s needs before your need to lash out at your ex-spouse.

And, keep in mind that just because your ex doesn't parent the same way you do, doesn't mean they don't' love their children. Divorce can play tricks with our emotions that keep us from thinking and behaving rationally at times. If your ex is having a hard time dealing with the divorce emotionally that can leak over into his/her relationship with the children.

The best you can do as a concerned parent is, guard your children's feelings and, approach the other parent in a manner that takes into consideration their emotional fragility.