My child is worried about seeing their other parent

When you’re separated, children can sometimes develop worries about seeing their other parent. This can happen even if you have a positive co-parenting and contact agreement in place.

There are many possible causes, and these feelings can affect children of any age. You may find it also makes you feel more anxious or puts a strain on your co-parenting relationship.

There are a few things to bear in mind, and actions you can take.

A parent walks through a poppy field holding two children. A third child is running ahead of them.

Support your child

Talk to your child about what’s worrying them. Take care to listen and consider their feelings.

Some children may find going between homes unsettling. If your child is older, they may want to spend time with their friends over the weekends. If you child sees the other parent at the weekend or during holidays, remember that this is their time to relax.

  • Check in with your child on whether they can express their wishes and needs with the other parent.
  • Try not to put pressure on them. This could make them feel anxious.
  • Make sure they can talk to you about any worries they have.
  • As long as your child is safe, show your child that you’re supportive of them seeing their other parent. Sometimes children can feel worried about going to the other parent because they don’t want to upset you.
  • Think about their experiences might differ between homes. Are the rules and expectations the same in both?

Help your child express their feelings

If your child is struggling with anxious feelings or doesn’t seem open to talking, you can:

  • Suggest your child writes their feelings in a notebook. Encourage them to talk about what they are writing.
  • Create a worry box to put their worries into. For younger children, you could draw a worry monster together to eat their worries.
  • Spend time with playing with your child. This will give them time to open up about their feelings.
  • Work through whether it’s possible to change the thing they’re worried about. The worry tree activity can help with this.
  • If your child is older, read our advice on talking about difficult topics. 

Help your child see the positives

As long as you feel your child is safe with the other parent, you can:

  • Talk about the positive things that will happen when they see their other parent.
  • Focus on the return, rather than the separation.
  • Ask them what they liked the last time they visited and what they want to do when they visit this time.
  • Find out what would make it easier for them. This helps them to problem-solve their worries.
  • Does your child have a special toy, comforter or belonging that they could take with them? This can give them an element of control.

Speak to the co-parent

Speak to the co-parent about any concerns. If you find it hard to be calm when talking to the other parent, use text or email. Try to keep a positive tone throughout.

  • Talk about how you can both help make your child feel less worried. Set aside your own feelings towards the co-parent.
  • Look at what you can do to meet your child’s needs. You may need to make adjustments to the current set up.
  • Keep disagreements away from your child. This will help them feel safe, secure and happy when going to see their other parent.
  • Routine is important for children. But both parents will need to be flexible with contact arrangements. You might agree to shorter visits for a while.

If you're concerned for their safety

If your child has raised concerns or you feel they may be at risk of harm, seek advice before enforcing contact.

  • If there is a court order in place for contact, get legal advice on your rights and responsibilities.
  • Raise any concerns with your local children’s services.
  • The NSPCC has a helpline, where you can get advice.

 

 

Go back

How can I help when my child feels anxious?

Read

Dealing with feelings of anger in separation or divorce

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Understanding and managing my child’s behaviour

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Helping your child adjust to separation or divorce

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