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Daughter Won't See My Soon-to-Be Ex
Q: My husband and I are getting ready to go through a divorce. We have two kids, ages three and five. A few weeks ago, my husband signed my daughter out of school and was planning to take both kids to North Carolina. Now my daughter is afraid to go anywhere with him, even church. She won't even visit with him. Should I try to convince her to visit him or just sit back and wait? Up until now, I have tried to talk her into going.
A: I am unsure whether or not you're disturbed by your husband's signing your daughter out of school and "planning to take both kids to North Carolina." Initially, I assumed that he did this without your knowledge or consent and that this was an attempted abduction, something seen all too often in the wake of parents' bitter divorces. But if that were the case, why would you be attempting to convince her to visit him?
If your husband did attempt to take your kids out of state without your knowledge, I would seek strong legal sanctions against him. Parents kidnap their kids more often than strangers do. You would never want to place your kids in that danger. If you and he had agreed to his taking your kids to North Carolina, your daughter's reluctance to visit him is probably tied to her fears about your divorce and about being separated from you. I certainly would not force your children to be alone with him.
Please see a family therapist about handling your divorce in a manner that does not frighten your kids or cause them to feel uncertain about their future and their relationships with both you and your husband. This is a very trying time for all family members and your kids' well-being should be the primary focus of you and your husband throughout the divorce proceedings and the months that follow. Your daughter's fearful behavior is your clue that you need to devote more sensitivity to your kids as they experience this major upheaval in their lives.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.