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Readers Respond: How Do You Help Your Child Cope When Custody Visitation Plans Are Canceled?

Responses: 14

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Unfortunately, custody visitation plans aren't always written in stone. Things come up, plans change--and, in the process, little hearts get broken. When this has happened to your child--either because custody visitation plans were changed for a legitimate reason, or because the other parent has become a repetitive "no show," what have you learned to say or do what has been particularly helpful for your child? Share your thoughts here.

Texts Each Month

My son is four, and I'm pregnant with my second child. His dad dropped him off over a year ago and said he didn't want to ever see him again. Right in front of our son! Now that I'm pregnant, he now "wants" him back. But he only texts me every month to let me know that I “ruined his life.” He has made some plans to come over and spend time with our son, but he never texts then or shows up. The only time I hear from him is when I've apparently done something wrong. It's always about child support and how I'm a bad parent for spending the little $81 every two weeks on our son. I've dealt with the questions: "Does my daddy hate me?" and "Why does that boy have a daddy?" It's heartbreaking. But I tell him that he has so many people in his life that are worth a million daddies. Sometimes it works, but other times I just have to say some daddies aren't ready to be daddies. It's still a struggle, and I don't put down his dad. But we make it through...
—Guest fed up

No Shows

My son is 5 now, and for the last year has not seen his dad. Well, on Friday - out of the blue - he showed up (and, yes, I keep track of who's weekend it is ). He has tried telling me it's my fault, that I wouldn't tell so-and-so to pick him up... Well, needless to say, he asked our 5-year-old, "Do you want to come to my house?" My son said, "No, thank you. But you can visit with me." His dad so no. Me and my 5-year-old are close, and he does tell me, "Mom, my daddy don't love me." I try to say he does; it's just that the other baby takes up his time, but my son knows better. What can I do after a year of him not showing up, and now he wants to? And my son freaks out; he starts crying and screaming that he doesn't want to go.
—Guest mom27

Fatherless Daughter

All I can say is that the pain of not having a father physically around can be so unbearable. I hate my dad, and I remember being so jealous of other kids who did have a father-figure.
—Guest Fatherless

He Left as Well

All the theories in the world don't change the hurt of being abandoned. May God show them in tenfold what they've done to their children!
—Guest S

She Doesn't Miss What She Never Had

My daughter is 13 now. Her dad left when she was 6 months old. He never came back, never paid any support, never asked to see her or ever sent her a birthday card. Its like she just wasn't anyone he ever knew. She is happy, healthy, caring, kind hearted, and a very loving person. I'm proud to be her mom! She was told her dad wasn't ready to be a dad. He wanted to have fun with his friends and not have to pay bills all the time, so he left. She understood and has never asked about him. She is loved and she knows that I've worked hard to make her content. It's his loss!
—Guest pa mom

"You Should Have Picked a Better Dad..."

Yep, that's what my daughter said to me after (yet again) her father failed to call. Fortunately/unfortunately he has no legal rights to our child whatsoever, but I try to keep the contact. It's hard to see your child suffering and know that ultimately your choices brought this on. So we deal with the disappointment and the anger. I try to always create our "Special" time at least three times a week. We'll go have ice cream, to a movie, or a park. I always tell my daughter that her father loves her, but sometimes he just doesn't think. That leads into a discussion of the "How comes?" "How come daddy doesn't call, see me, care...?" The list goes on. So I try to focus on the good things and I always tell her how thankful and grateful I am to have her. I tell her that I must have done something very special for God to have given her to me. Then she smiles and our lives go on, until the next time her father calls (which is usually months later) and we repeat the process.
—2staypasitive

None of that works

None of this stuff works with a stubborn kid when he just lost his dad. I am a teenager and yes I did just have my dad walk out on my family of 8. Before this we had an example family my oldest brother was valedictorian at our 5a high school, but now my grades have fallen because I can't ever sleep at night. My mom has taken me to therapy once and it was the stupidest thing ever and my mom doesnt have enough money for all that and supplying for us. You see she doesn't work so times are getting really tough. And my dad just recently got a job in Tennessee which means i will problably never see him again.
—Guest T.S.

"I Wish I Had a Daddy"

I have custody of both my grandchildren. One is a 6-year-old boy and the other is a 9-year-old girl. The girl used to have to take a lot of cruel words from kids after school at day care, telling her that she is a loser because she doesn't have a Dad. I told her she does have a father. Our Heavenly Father and he will always love her and never forsake her. She still wishes for an earthly father, but I told her that God will send her the right one, when the time is right.
—Guest Deborah

Dealing with Absence

I have two beautiful children. One is 7, and he has been abandoned by his father since July of 2006, and before then had only had 6 supervised visits from 2004-2006. My daughter is 3 1/2 and ever since we moved from my ex-finance's back in 2008, he has been extremely absent with his biological daughter and abandoned my son. (He had been a close male figure for my son during the time we were together.) From time to time, sporadically, he will visit with my daughter only and possibly take her for a weekend day, or once in a while a one night sleepover. My son, who used to be included, has now been forgotten and dumped to the side by two selfish, inconsistent, unhealthy men. And these parents still have the right to visitation? The right to pick when they will parent, to become active in the child's life! It is unbelievable to me that more has not been done to protect our children. Become a fan on face book: "In Their Absence." Support our children, and let's raise awareness about emotional abuse!
—In_their_absence

Dealing With No-Shows

Unfortunately, this is a situation we deal with often. My boys are young (4 and 2) so I try to keep things vague and not tell them when Dad is coming until the last minute. When I do tell them, I make sure to frame it as "Daddy is going to TRY to see you this weekend." When he cancels, I try to get him to talk to the boys, but he usually refuses. Even if he gives them a lame or vague excuse, it does help for them to hear it from him. As others have said, I don't ever bad-mouth him. Just "Daddy thought he'd be able to see you today, but something happened, and he'll see you again soon." I tell them that it's OK to be sad or disappointed, and then try to spend some extra quality time with them to make up for it. It still breaks my heart when my 4 year old says, "Daddy told us he was coming, but he lied."
—SingleParentExaminer

Always Have a Backup Plan

I have learned through experience that a backup plan is a must. If you have a plan and don't use it, save the idea for another time, because you will need it eventually. I also think age-appropriate, frank, and honest feedback should be given to the child, as you do not want to affect your bond with them by covering up for the other parent. Especially if your child is old enough to "connect the dots" with the date and time of the visit, you have to provide some type of response. Heartbreak is unavoidable, so be prepared. Also, the backup doesn't have to be anything BIG, but it should be something just for them. For example, if you were planning to do errands, squeeze in a short trip to the park or the library. I always keep craft supplies on hand, so I usually take a portion of my day to make something if that is the case. Perhaps a special lunch or dinner (out or at home) can be done. I have learned to keep my plans flexible, just in case. As the primary caregiver it is a must.
—singlec

Cancellations and No-Shows

It happens to my kids a lot. Here's what I do: 1) If they don't ask, I don't tell them when he's coming until the last minute, just to avoid let-down. 2) If they do ask, I say,"He said he'll be here Monday at 11." 3) When he cancels, I tell them exactly what he said: "Dad called to say he has a flat tire and can't make it." If possible, I ask him to talk to them. 4) I empathize with their feelings without editorializing his behavior. 5) If they ask questions or are upset, I ask if they want to call and leave him a voice mail (because he won't answer the phone) or write him a letter. 6) I don't trash their dad. Instead, I'll find a quiet moment after the let-down to tell them their dad loves them and that he has problems that aren't their fault. I remind them that his problems are about him, not them, and that we all hope he gets better, but that only he can make that happen. I also remind them that they have many people they can count on, such as our family and friends.
—Elph11

I Wish I Had a Daddy...

When your child says, "I wish I had a daddy," it feels like someone just ripped your heart out, knowing that the absent parent chooses to be absent. In my case, "Dad" pays support, and that's great. However, when my son cries out for his daddy, I have to gently explain that he doesn't want to be a daddy right now, and it makes me sad, too. I then ask him if he would like to send him an email or give him a call to let him know how he feels. Usually, the answer is no, but you'd be surprised how uncomfortable the other parent feels when they have to answer to their own child.
—Mom2kan

Canceled Plans

Ordinarily what I do is have the noncustodial talk to him on the phone so I won't be the bearer of bad news. If it's because he's sick, then I'll explain that to him (if he doesn't get to talk to his dad). Occasionally, though, something will come up like he has an appointment or something, and he can't come get him. In that case, I'll explain to my son that dad is far away and didn't expect his appointment to run over. This instance was actually one of the few times that probably couldn't have been helped, but he did let me know ahead of time that it was a possibility. My son was disappointed, though, because they were supposed to do something fun, so he was actually mad. I just basically explained it wasn't his dad's fault, and that most of time he is able to come get him. Unfortunately, things happen.
—emccree08

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