How Do I Respond If My Child Wants to Live With My Ex-Spouse?

Many divorced parents say the most challenging part of ending a marriage is sharing parenting time. Not being able to see your children every day can be incredibly painful. Without having to defer to each other for daily decisions, divorced parents may create households with different rhythms and rules.

One day, your child may tell you they want to live with your ex-spouse. While you are likely to feel sad, angry, or rejected, it is important to control your emotions and balance your response if you want to preserve the relationship with your child. The following are tips for moving forward after your child asks to live with the other parent.

Remember It is Not Personal

If your child asks to live with your ex-spouse, it is natural to believe your child likes them better. Yet, there are countless reasons why they may want to move out. To prevent needless anguish, remember to remind yourself their decision is more about what they are going through than your ability to parent.

Hear Your Child

Unfortunately, some children are trying to get a reaction from you by asking to move out. Their message may not be pleasant, but it needs to be heard. Every member of the family processes divorce in their own way. Parental support needs to be consistent in this time of change. Validate your child’s feelings and continue to give them the safe space they need to talk and express themselves.

Be Open-Minded

While it may not be your vision of how life after divorce would be, try to remain open to new ways of navigating this new chapter. With good communication and a fair parenting plan, maybe your child’s request is not so unreasonable after all. Change is inevitable and the connection with your ex-spouse may be what they need right now.

Discuss with Your Ex-Spouse

If your relationship with your ex-spouse is amicable, bring them into the discussion. They may be able to offer more insight into why your child wants to live with them and if it is practical. Approaching the situation as a team will make determining where your children will live a more peaceful and productive one.

Avoid the Guilt Trap

When a child wants to live with the other parent, it may be tough to not make them feel bad or guilty, but this will only strain your relationship further. Divorce is painful for children and adding guilt or shame to the emotions they are already experiencing will make the healing process more difficult. Do not punish them for processing this enormous transition in the only way they know how.

Categories