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Path of Least Resistance | Reasons Your Child May Be Rejecting You | The Rejected Parent Newsletter

This newsletter is for parents who are being rejected by their children and those who support them. I will be sending regular newsletters to give suggestions and support to parents dealing with rejection from their children on all levels. I generally support parents whose children are 18 years and under; however, some of this will apply to parents with adult children as well.

Hello Reader,

This newsletter is part of the Reasons Your Child May Be Rejecting You series. Although less common, another situation I see in cases where a child rejects a parent is the fear that the Central Parent (current primary caretaker) will get angry if the child doesn’t stay home with them. These children feel like they will upset that parent if they express their desire to see the Peripheral Parent (less involved parent). The child feels they will get in trouble if they admit to loving the other parent. Sometimes, it’s safer to stay with whom the child considers the angry parent. Children may think they won't get into trouble if they do what their parents want. Therefore, they pick the path of least resistance.

The Peripheral Parent in this situation may be fearful of the Central Parent, too, but they have less influence over their child. The child feels safer with this Peripheral Parent but doesn’t see them as a protector and feels the only way to stay safe is not to upset the Central Parent. In other words, they choose that parent to keep the peace.

Without realizing it, a parent can influence a child not to see the other parent without malicious intent but simply out of the grief of losing time with them. Divorce and custody disputes are challenging for the whole family. Parents need support to work through these feelings so they don’t leak onto their children. In other words, parents express emotions in front of or towards a child without realizing they are negatively influencing them.

Parents sometimes get caught up in their anger and possible childhood triggers but don’t realize they are harming their children. Like depression and anxiety, they are so stuck in those feelings that they can’t see anything else but anger. Parents with this level of anger go about their day-to-day activities without knowing their edginess. I bet you have met a colleague or person you worked with who always seemed angry. They are out there, and if you think they are difficult to work with, imagine being their child. As adults, it is tempting to align with these people as adults just to keep the peace, and we have a choice most of the time. As children, it could feel like they have only one choice: to align with one parent 100 percent just to stay safe.

What can you do if your co-parent inadvertently influences your child not to see you? Try some of these ideas and let me know if one of them helped:

  • Be positive and accepting of your child’s distress. Offer understanding and unconditional love so they know you are not upset at them for their choices.

  • Offer little moments of help to your co-parent, such as picking up your child from school when your co-parent’s schedule is busy. Not only does this increase your time with your child, but seeing the Central Parent’s relief can start alleviating your child’s fear of anger from that parent and make being with you a positive association.

  • Think of ways to stretch little periods of contact into more meaningful moments, such as taking a detour home through the park or getting a snack.

  • Offer to take your child to school in the morning and bring a healthy (but tasty) lunch for them to take. By communicating ahead of time, you again put yourself in a positive light for your co-parent by taking on specific duties. Not only does this give you that extra time with your child, but it also gives them a positive reminder of you throughout their school day.

  • If possible, attend school functions and games your child is involved in, sit near your co-parent, and be civil. If your child can interact with both of you and not feel “pulled”/conflicted about who to greet first, who to talk to after the event, etc., their fear may be assuaged and they may worry less about hanging out with you one-on-one.

  • Think of times that your co-parent wouldn’t feel threatened by the time taken, and take advantage of those times. Volunteer in your child’s classroom, offer to bring lunch and to sit with them at lunchtime, or take them out for lunch during their lunch period.

These may seem like small steps, but every moment of contact you have can be a positive and can help plant seeds for greater contact and connection in the future.

-Cathy Himlin


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