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Divorced Dads Tips: How to Solve Teenage Visitation Problems

Feb 25, 2008
DISCLAIMER: The following is NOT legal advice, nor is it a substitute for legal advice. If you are in Family Court you will need legal advice, so please see a lawyer.

ACCESS PROBLEM # 1 Teenagers want to spend time with their dad because mom doesn't encourage it.

What do you do when teenagers don't want to spend time at a divorced dads house anymore? Especially when Mom is not encouraging visitation, but is actively discouraging it?

Here's what one father asked me: My young teenage kids have been alienated against me and do not want to see me. I decided not to pursue an order for access of the holidays. I have been told I will probably not be successful and I do not see any sense of rocking the boat as well as adding another hurt to the top of the amount of pain I feel from missing them what can I do?

Teenagers as we all know are a totally different type of child. We were all teenagers at one time and it is a rocky period of a child's life. If you have been alienated, that even makes it more difficult. Sometimes kids do wake up.

You need a different strategy in this situation, because Family Court often will not enforce visitation against a teenagers wishes. So what's a divorced dads to do?

First, recognize that what motivates a teenager to do or not do something is far different than a young child. You've got to give them some autonomy, plus make it attractive for them to do want to spend time with you, by hearing what they say and also by understanding that they are under enormous pressure at home to not go see you.

Many kids just avoid the whole issue because they are sick and tired of their parents constant fighting. PLUS they just cannot stand being asked to take sides.

I went through that myself. I was alienated from my dad to an extent not fully as I have seen in many situations, but enough for it to have some impact. My mother did not discourage contact, but she did not encourage it either. How I felt and I why I felt that way was never really explored by her.

And out of both my parents, my mother could be more rigid, and my father more inclusive. However, my dad had his share of baggage too. We all do, and it's important to recognize that.

There were a lot of things my mom said about my dad that were not nice and some of them were true and some of them were not. And vice-versa. At some point, when you are older, and I can tell you this from my own personal experience, I needed to find out for myself. I did not want to hear from somebody else anymore. I wanted to hear and see it for myself.

The unfortunate reality is that many children get no encouragement from mom to see dad after a separation and/or divorce.

The BIG problem is teenagers have not yet fully developed their language skills, nor their emotional resiliency as they hopefully will as adults. So rather than face the situation, they often avoid the pain by escapism with their friends.

All teenagers naturally prefer their friends to their family at this time of their life. It's part of separating their identity from their parents.

So how do you make it attractive for a teenager to spend time with you? Find out their hearts desire, and if appropriate accommodate it. That doesn't mean bribery, it means accommodate a negotiation.

Children want all sorts of things good and bad. However parents constantly say NO. Sometimes that is an automatic reaction. Discern where it is appropriate to say YES.

YES is an attractive word to a teenager denied something they desperately want, especially when they know its appropriate and their mother is constantly saying NO.

There is one caveat NEVER let your kids play you and their mother off against one another in order to get the highest bid. That is just plain wrong, and your teenagers will lose all respect for you, and make every effort to weasel what ever they can out of you.

That's not appropriate parenting. Set reasonable limits, BUT say YES when appropriate. If Mom says no Xbox in her home, go buy one and play it with your kids, IF they do their homework. IF they hit a certain grade level get them their favorite game as a reward.

Just don't overdo it! Test and observe. Remember: YOU are the parent/adult. That should mean you are more experienced, smarter and insightful. Giving up is never an option.

Finally! in some cases you may become estranged from your child for some time because of their confusion about many adult issues that they have been inappropriately exposed to.

Time heals all wounds.

I went through a period after being a custodial parent when my stepson Luc and daughter Elyenne were teenagers when they were absolutely impossible to be around. And it was very hard. And I missed them with all my heart. BUT I recognized that all that was left was indirect parenting until they came to their senses of their own accord.

I made it clear at all times what the rules were in my home, and what my reasonable expectations were, and what the consequences were for immaturity.

They had to learn these lessons on their own, because the two people they loved the most, their mother and I had opposite ideas about the world and life in general. Our values appeared to be diametrically opposed.

It took them five long years to reconcile and assimilate the very best of these values into their own value system. Today as adults, I have an incredible relationship with both Luc and Elyenne.

Patience is a virtue when you are a parent. Your children will both delight and exasperate you. That's the deal when you signed on as a parent.

Separation and divorce only exacerbates exasperation. But I can tell you this: Seeing how they have turned out has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

You may be at the beginning of your adventure/story of your life as a father under trying circumstances. Be patient if things are really bad, and do everything you can to maintain contact or leave the door open for that to be a possibility.

All things come to he who waits.

We got another question here that just came in. I will have access. I have every weekend with my son, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, but last week the judge decided to make it every other weekend so that the mother can spend time with my son. She never had weekends before but pleaded for it on [unintelligible] grounds and the judge gave it to her.

She had no basis and I was very disappointed. Ex-court date is in April. It is very disruptive. What can be done? Please advice. I do have a lawyer, but I just want your opinion on this. Thanks. So, what can be done about it? The first thing is it should have been a situation where you say, "Well, you know what? I can understand how she might want some time.

What we need to do here is do some compensatory time because I have got this lack of time with our son and here are the great things that we do together and here is the bonding that we have. Here is how I am involved in his life and here are all the benefits to him. She wants once a weekend. That is fine. What will our son get in return with me for that weekend?" Compensatory access.

Compensatory access. That is a mouthful. There is a 50-cent word for you. It is basically saying how are you going to make it up to me that I have lost the access for that period of time? That is basically what you want to find.
About the Author
Danny Guspie - Executive Director of Fathers Resources International can help you learn the successful strategies of fathers who have won in Family Court. Join us on our weekly calls at

where we will share with you what works for successful divorced dads.
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