at what age can children "choose"- seperated family

Erin - posted on 06/22/2015 ( 6 moms have responded )

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Hi, i have a question regarding my 5 year old son. His father and i separated about 3 years ago, his father moved interstate and has had no contact with him for approx 2 years. No birthdays, no xmas no nothing. We have now moved to the same state and his father and i discussed a plan of contact, we stated with phone/ skype, however our son quickly got bored with this, i offered suggestions to his father about things to talk about etc to help keep the converstation going but he refused each time, he just could not hold a conversation with him. Our son is quite bright and i communicate with him as i would an adult at times (please dont judge). But becuase his father has lost the connection with him, he talks to him like he still the 2 year old he left years ago. Anyway, his father wants physical contact with him, something which i have never denied him at all, but when i talk to our son about it, he says he doesnt want to see him, he doesnt want to talk to him/ skype him either. My question is how old should a child be to make these desicions, i know the legal age etc, but should i force him to have contact with his dad, my thoughts are that for the last 3 years he has had a picture of who his dad is, and when he spoke with him via phone/ skype this didnt match his picture, so he hasnt made a connection with his dad. Iv encouraged phone calls, skype calls and often ask if he wants to see him, but the answer is always no. Im not sure what to do! Im sure his dad thinks i am purposfully denying contact, but each night i ask our son if he wants to speak to him, and each night he says no, so i just let his dad know that he doesnt feel like it tonight. Anyways, back to my question! Should i be forcing/ strongly encouraging him to physically see his dad at age 5 or letting him decide when its right for him?

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Michelle - posted on 06/22/2015

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He doesn't want to see him because the little contact he has had so far has been strained.
You need to encourage your son to get to know his Father. Let him know that his Father loves him but has to learn how to talk with him again and that can only happen if they spend time together.
He's far too young to know what he really wants and you need to tell him that he has to spend time with his Dad. He's only 5, you need to do everything in your power to get that relationship going.

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Dove - posted on 06/22/2015

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At 5? Yes. If he is uncomfortable about seeing his father then his father should understand and be OK w/ you (or another person your son trusts) being present, but your son NEEDS this. It's been 2 years, so it won't be 'too' easy (though my 7 year old is about to see HIS father for the first time in 2 years and is handling it well)... but it is necessary.

He is not too young to know what he wants, of course, but he is too young to know what he needs and if he starts to develop a relationship w/ his father now and his father sticks around... the time will come that he won't even likely remember NOT knowing his father.

Michelle - posted on 06/22/2015

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Hi Erin
WOW...what a challenging situation that you are in, I imagine how hard this must be for you and your little guy. I can only speak from my own experience and hopefully it may be useful to you. I am actually a step-mother to 3 children from my husband's first marriage. While we are not in the same situation as you (in fact their mother moved them farther away from us despite us going to court to fight it) and have always sought out a strong relationship with the kids it has been difficult to build that foundation over the years EVEN WITH a solid effort on our part simply because we aren't with them physically day in and day out. I don't personally think it's right that your ex has had no contact with your son for such a long time and now wants, "back in." That just puts your son in a tough spot. BUT if your ex's motivations are pure and he really wants to have a relationship then I think it's worth BOTH of you trying to facilitate one in the best interest of your son.

That being said, perhaps you could suggest that the 3 of you do some activities together initially to get them reacquainted. Having you there though might make both your son and your ex feel a little more secure...for your son, having you there will certainly make him more comfortable and less nervous. For your ex, having you there provides a better link to your son because you just know him better and can show him how you interact with your son, etc. In time, if the two of them can talk and do things without you needing to be involved that is great but for the time being this might help get the ball rolling for all of you. I know it can be uncomfortable doing something altogether (I've done it with my husband's ex-wife and it certainly isn't what I would call a barrel of fun) but again, keep in mind what's ultimately in the best interest of your son.

If doing a few activities together simply isn't an option then perhaps you can suggest to your son that you join the call / skype session with his dad. Maybe then you could facilitate some discussions or again, show your ex how YOU talk with your son so he can see that he's not a 2 year old anymore. If I were in your position I personally would encourage my son to make an effort to have a relationship with his dad IF I felt that his father would be a positive influence in his life but that's also easier said than done. And yes, your ex should also understand that it's not fair to pop in and out of your son's life and if he really wants to be involved then he has to walk the walk. Of course your son is going to be stand off-ish, he doesn't want to be disappointed / hurt again and your ex needs to understand that...those are natural emotions.

I don't know if any of this was actually helpful but I do feel for your family and hope that things will improve. Keep your chin up and doing your best!

-Michelle

Michelle - posted on 06/22/2015

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It's up to you because if your ex decides to all of a sudden "be a Father" and he takes you to court saying you were stopping him forming a relationship with his child, the courts will see it as parental alienation and that's not good.
You covering for your child and telling his Father that "he's not in the mood" doesn't help. You need to make your son sit in front of the computer and talk to his Dad. They won't build a relationship if they don't give it a chance. You need to explain to your son that the only way he will get to know his dad (and his dad him) is to talk to each other.

Ev - posted on 06/22/2015

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Do you have custody orders along with visitation and child support? If not, I suggest you get that done so that everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them. Then if dad does not exercise the visitation then its on him and even without the orders it is still on him though you are trying to get him to do anything about it.

Erin - posted on 06/22/2015

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Ok, im going to sound like a horrible person just for a minute ;) but i have done everything in my power for the last 3 years, when does it become his fathers turn to put the effort into building this relationship? I onvioulsy also have a strained relationship.with his dad so try not to let that cloud my judgements, but why is it always up to me!?

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