Home Parents What to do if my child doesn’t want to go to the father?

What to do if my child doesn’t want to go to the father?

by Ines Wurbs

Many separated parents have the problem that their child does not want to go to the other parent with whom they no longer live. This is usually the father. The reasons are not always immediately apparent and understandable.

One of the most common reasons is definitely the children’s conflict of loyalty. Another reason could be uncertainty or insecurity about the new family structure.

In this article, you can find out what the reason is for this. What can other reasons be and how you can best react.

Possible reasons why your child does not want to go to the father

Conflict of loyalties

A conflict of loyalties means that children of separated parents have difficulty staying loyal to the parent with whom they are currently living. Especially, children before school age are particularly loyal to the parent with whom they live or with whom they were the closest.

The closeness and togetherness strengthen the bond and thus loyalty. Parents living apart are more likely to have conflicts than parents living together. Especially when there is a fight in front of the children, they usually notice the tense situation quickly. Sometimes parents also see their children as allies in a dispute. This should be a big taboo.

These conflicts force our children to be faithful to one parent. At pre-school age, they can not yet endure and reconcile good and bad feelings. So, the children are in conflict over who they should be loyal.

This makes them very uncomfortable and leads to pressure and stress. Children often react to such a situation with avoidance. They look for a way out and turn to the only way that is left to them. They try to escape from this stressful situation where they don’t know what to do and how to behave. Our children don’t want to go to their dad or mom. They get stomach pains or other symptoms that prevent them from being exposed to this situation again. Our children don’t want to and can’t decide on one. Because of this conflict, which is triggered by us, their parents, they feel they have to in order not to hurt mum or dad.

Most of the time, of course, it is unintentional for us parents. However, children notice more than we think. Disparaging remarks about other people, about the ex-partner, also increase this conflict of loyalty.    

Difficulties with new things

Many children, as well as adults, have difficulties getting used to new things. They adapt slowly to new situations. A divorce of their parents is also such a situation. The children are torn out of their everyday life and have to adjust to a new everyday life.

This is of course a big challenge. Children need a lot of time to get used to a new situation. Often the other parent’s place of residence, the environment, and the circumstances under which the meeting takes place are new. And as already mentioned, if children are uncomfortable with something, they are happy to withdraw from the situation. Especially with children for whom this is too much, the “don’t want to go to dad” problem also occurs.


Precisely because the situation, circumstances, and environment are often new, our children are insecure. They’re just not that familiar with it yet. And since they were with their mother beforehand, they often don’t know what their father has planned either.

It’s usually weekends or holidays that they spend with dad. And these days do not follow the regular everyday life. We usually prepare our children for this and tell them our plans. But when the children are with the other parent, that often doesn’t happen. So, they don’t know what to expect, far more often.

This creates insecurity and nervousness, which of course can also lead to our children not wanting to go to their dad (or respectively mother).

All possibilities

The reason, however, relates more to “not wanting to go back”. Often, our children have fewer rules and boundaries with the parent they spend less time with. Some parents intend to take full advantage of the limited time they have with their children and make it extra enjoyable.

Of course, the atmosphere is more relaxed there, there are fewer obligations and fewer rules. Of course, children enjoy this and don’t want to “give it up” so easily. You just don’t want to go back to everyday life. Similar to how some of us feel after vacation.

That’s why it’s particularly important that parents continue to pull together despite their separation.

New family structure

Many parents want to get back into a relationship after a breakup. For many children, however, this situation is often problematic. Children need a lot more time than we adults do to get used to the new separated situation, and then also to get used to new partners.

For children, it usually goes much too quickly from the first meeting of their new partner or partner of mum or dad to the fixed new family structure. The new partners are frequently accepted far too quickly as a fixed part of the new everyday family life for our children. Children show this by not wanting to expose themselves to this situation and then.

When can a child decide whether it wants to be with a father?

Children should be included in the decisions that affect them right from the start. Of course, the decision-making process regarding visitation rights should be age-appropriate. But what is age appropriate?

In principle, children can usually be noticed when they don’t want something. We parents should also respond to this and find a solution that suits everyone. As far as age goes, I can say that we should involve our children in the decision of whether they want to be with their father or not, from an early age.

Of course, contact with both parents is important for children of all ages. As long as the well-being of the child is not endangered, of course. However, everything that happens with pressure and coercion is also harmful.

In my opinion, the child can and should have a say in decisions early on. However, this does not mean that it should not have contact with the father. Instead, solutions should be found to maintain contact anyway.

Children from school age, i.e., from around 6 years of age, can include the perspectives of other people in their decisions. From this age, it becomes easier for children to make such decisions.

Before school age, children cannot escape the conflict of loyalties. Children are only capable of having positive and negative feelings towards a person from around the age of 6. Before this time, you cannot be faithful to both parents at the same time if there is a conflict between them.

The child does not want to go back to its mother

It is difficult for some children to adjust to new or changing situations. This can also affect the mother. As already mentioned, the parent with whom the child does not live is usually impacted. But even if your child has spent the weekend or the holiday week with the father, it may be that your child does not want to go back to the mother.

The reasons are the same as those described above. Even mothers are not immune to this. The bond intensifies through actual contact and closeness, which also creates loyalty.

If your child was now with the father, that naturally strengthened the bond again. That’s the point behind it. However, it can also trigger this conflict of loyalties in your child.

A child suddenly no longer wants to go to his father

If your child suddenly doesn’t want to go to dad anymore, it doesn’t automatically mean that he mistreats your child in any way. Either way, it’s important to see this situation as a reason to act.

It is a sign that something is wrong. The above reasons are often the trigger for this. But even with these causes, we should not leave our children alone, but take our children’s fears and worries seriously and support them in overcoming them.

Even if your child hasn’t had a problem before and the refusal behavior comes on suddenly, the above reasons may apply. Sometimes we become more careless with our choice of words over time, and we tell others about the problem with the ex-partner or something like that. Of course, this can also lead to conflicts of loyalty in our children afterward.

What can you do specifically to make it easier for your child to have contact with the other parent?

Avoid conflict of loyalty

Our children need our help to overcome this conflict of loyalties. We can achieve this by:

  • Giving them the freedom to act out and express their love for both parents.
  • Giving them the opportunity to talk about everything, including the good experiences and feelings they have with the other parent.
  • If possible, try to put aside your resentment and conflict with your ex-partner to the extent that your child doesn’t see any animosity. 
  • Explain the situation to your child and talk openly about the fact that it’s okay to love mom and dad and that both are there for him or her and that it’s good for you too.

Pulling together in education

It’s also important for separated parents to try to pull together in parenting and to agree on rules and boundaries. While this is often a point of contention, you should attempt to at least agree on ground rules with your ex.

If that’s not possible, attempt to explain to your child why the rules apply in your home. However, without accusations and hostilities.

Create and maintain routines

Routines and habits are very essential for children, they give them stability and security. This makes it easier for them to cope with their everyday life, and they feel safe. Routines are all the more significant in difficult times, such as separation and divorce.

If the same routines are continued by both parents, it makes it much easier for your child to get used to the new everyday family life.

Make handover pleasant

Handing over your child is an especially important moment. Nevertheless, this is frequently neglected. If you pick up your child or bring them to the other parent, it is essential that this happens without conflict.

Time pressure and stress also have a bad effect on your children in this situation. So try to make the handover like this:

  • If possible, always at the apartment or house of one of the parents or after kindergarten/school
  • Without stress and time pressure
  • Without arguments and hostilities
  • Exchange important information

Both of you should set out to stick to the concrete agreements and, even if one parent does not stick to it, under no circumstances take it out on the child or in front of your child. Dealings between separated parents should still be respectful. 

Introduce a planner or a calendar

If possible, the stay with the other parent should also be entered in such a planner or calendar for children and, if possible, important cornerstones of what is planned when they are with the other parent. Alternatively, each parent can do this for themselves and give their child the planner.

Don’t let new partners become a fixed part too quickly

Even if we adults are happy about a relationship, our children find it much more difficult. On the one hand, this sometimes causes a conflict of loyalty, on the other hand, many children simply find it difficult to get used to new people, especially in the family.

Meeting a new partner should be slow and gradual. First, it is advisable to tell the child about the new partner. Then getting to know him or her and then only gradually letting your partner become part of everyday life and not immediately integrating it as a fixed part of the child’s life.

Even if your child likes him or her, he or she is still a stranger. Your child should also have the opportunity to spend a lot of time alone with mom or dad, and not just with mom or dad and a new partner. Furthermore, It is helpful if the other parent explains to their child that it is okay that mom or dad has a new partner.

Meet at home or outside

If your child doesn’t want to go to their father or mother, you can also try to have the other parent come to your house and spend time with your child there. Children usually feel safer and have fewer fears.

This is a good way to maintain the bond with both parents and address your child’s concerns or issues. It is important that your ex-partner still has enough time alone with his/her child.


Breakups are never easy. Nevertheless, good solutions should be found for all those affected. When a child suddenly doesn’t want to go to mom or dad anymore, we should treat it as a cry for help and try to get to the bottom of “why”.

It is best, of course, if we can set aside hurt pride and animosity. Even if it is difficult, it is still essential for our children. Our children suddenly lose one of their closest caregivers through a separation, even with shared custody. One parent is always missing.

Nevertheless, both parents are important and good for our children. Provided there is no danger to the welfare of the child, of course! (If in doubt, contact the youth welfare office and the responsible authority immediately). If your child doesn’t want any contact, you shouldn’t force them or just leave them to their own devices. But they should try to find ways and solutions together with the other parent so that the contact is maintained, and to strengthen the bond further.

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