When a separated parent has not seen their child for some time despite frequent, consistent attempts to do so, they may seek formal avenues in order to spend time with the child. For the most part, where there are no safety concerns, or where there are unsubstantiated safety concerns, the Family Court Act purports the principle that children have a right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. There are various processes and mechanisms that can assist in this upholding this principle. One such process is Supervised Contact.
Recommended Reading – How to make supervised contact work for you and your child
LifeCare Children’s Supervised Contact Services supervisors are skilled and experienced in supporting children re-establish their relationship with a parent who they are resistant to or apprehensive about seeing. Importantly, we know that both parents contribute to successful reunification/relationship re-building.
If your child is resisting spending time with you, here is a list of suggestions and comments to keep in mind:
1. Maintain physical and emotional health. Seek professional assistance from a counsellor or therapist who is experienced in post-separation conflict. These situations can take a long time to resolve; you will need lots of energy to sustain patience and resilience throughout the reconnection process.
2. Seek legal advice, sooner rather than later. Ensure your solicitor has a strong understanding of the dynamics of prolonged (unjustified) estrangement.
3. Be honest with yourself and with professionals. It is almost always the case that both parties have contributed – in some way – to the current situation. Accept responsibility for any past unhelpful behaviour. Children are more likely to be drawn to someone who displays contrition and humility rather than someone who is denying unhelpful choices, is arrogant or is defensive.
4. Be humble, even if you totally believe you have no fault in the current situation.
5. Do not direct your anger and/or frustration at your children. It is not their fault the current situation has arisen (and they didn’t ask to be born!). Be aware that any hurtful or negative comments they make about you are not necessarily an accurate reflection of their truly held feelings and thoughts.
6. Be thankful and appreciative. If your child is warm or positive in any way whatsoever, be thankful and appreciative. Do not assume this is a sign that everything will be positive moving forward. Be grateful for “crumbs”.
7. Always speak respectfully and graciously about the child’s other parent. Do not make snide indirect comments – “well, of course we could go and see your grandparents but your mum/dad makes us spend time together here at this place”.
8. Do not discuss your legal proceedings in front of your children. Do not show them court documents.
9. Present as a person your child would want to connect with. Resentful, bitter, overly-emotional, sad, frustrated people are not pleasant to be around.
10. Reassure your child that you love him/her. Resist the urge to be smothering, overly affectionate (especially when it is not invited), buy excessive gifts, make promises about future fun events, living arrangements and so on.
11. Honour all your legal and personal responsibilities. Ensure child support payments are met. Undertake all courses or programs recommended by court appointed experts or professionals.
12. Keep a diary. Keep a diary of events, attempts to have contact, notations about times you have contacted their school (if you are permitted to do so), interest in medical issues and so on.
13. Be aware that your behaviour – including your words (spoken and written – emails, texts, Facebook and so on) – can, and will, be used to either build or thwart your relationship with your child.
14. Always adhere to Orders. If they are open to interpretation, seek clarification from a professional.