Subscribe for 99¢

Divorce can impact a parent-child relationship in profound ways, especially for the non-custodial parent. Author and therapist Sam J. Buser has written a book specifically answering questions from divorced fathers.

This commonly asked question is excerpted from "The Guys-Only Guide to Getting Over Divorce and on with Life, Sex, and Relationships" by Sam J. Buser and Glenn F. Sternes.

Q: How do I handle it if my kids don't want to spend time with me?

A: It is very painful when you are looking forward to spending time with your kids, and they seem disinterested. Often fathers in this situation blame the problem on mothers' influence. It is common, though, for kids themselves to object to visitation. You won't hear such vocal complaints from younger children; they may be unaware of the whole process, simply going where they are taken. Toddlers and elementary age children usually look forward to their visits with the noncustodial parent. However, as kids get older and busier, going to see the other parent is less of a treat and more of a chore, and an "interruption" to the life they've developed. This does not mean that the kids don't care about you. It does mean that they are becoming more interested in being with their friends than in being with you. This development often hits noncustodial fathers especially hard. They may feel that they have already missed many opportunities to be with their children, and now it seems that the children don't want to see them at all.

You should also realize that the whole process of going back and forth between households can be a real pain for kids. In some ways, it is a reminder over and over again of the divorce. Just like it may be hard on you to drop the kids off at their mother's house, it is hard on the kids to switch back and forth between homes. They often wish they could just stay at one place. Try not to take these kinds of feelings too personally. Often, their unhappiness is about the situation and not about the parents.

If your kids are resistant to seeing you, forcing them to visit does not necessarily make things better. You might get them there, but they can make things unpleasant as a way of expressing their anger. In some situations the child may tantrum or actively resist going with you.

The best way to handle this situation is to talk directly with the children about your concerns. Let them know that you want to continue being a part of their lives although you realize that they are busy and have other things to do. You may be able to work things out with them by:

· Allowing your child to bring friends for overnight visitation.

· Making sure that you do things that are in line with your

children's interests.

· Being the one to take your child to his or her various events or activities such as games, concerts and movies.

· Rearranging the visitation schedule to accommodate your child's special events.

Take a "hands on" approach to parenting wherever possible. Don't rely on others (neighbors, friends, babysitters) to do the parenting. Especially don't rely on your ex-wife to help you out with parenting. Fathering can require big sacrifices and schedule changes for dads, but the resulting relationship with your child will be worth the costs. Dads who throw themselves into these new roles usually do them quite well.



Aisha Sultan is home and family editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.