Shared Custody Doesn't Give Kids a Chance to Express Themselves

teddy bearsThere's a funny thing about child custody cases. They're supposed to be about the kids. For the sake of a kid, everything is mapped out with a schedule. Trouble is, kids don't feel on a schedule.

Let's consider the case of the mom who temporarily lost custody of her three kids because the children were refusing to go to Dad's house on his scheduled days. The courts are now apologizing to the mom (whose name has been withheld to protect the kids) after first accusing her of poisoning the children against her ex. But it's a case that makes the very idea of shared custody sound like torture for everyone involved.


Because, as every parent who has spent time with, well, anyone knows, sometimes you just don't want to be around someone else. And as parents, we need to respect the way our kids feel. Sometimes they're being manipulative and unreasonable, but a lot of times, they are just plain feeling.

To think that a court can tell them they're not allowed is just plain absurd.

Hey, I'm not saying there aren't squabbling couples who use the kids as pawns in the battle over who can screw the other more. There's a special place in hell for the mom who tells her kid he has to wear flip-flops to school in the winter because Daddy can't be trusted to take care of your nice boots.

I'm talking about the rest of us normal folks who think the kids come first. We know that kids don't turn feelings on and off -- and they sure as heck aren't going to let a calendar tell them how they feel. It's why CafeMom's community is littered with posts from moms begging for advice on everything from how to deal with a toddler who will only let Mommy take him to bed every blessed night to tricks to convince a teenage daughter that Dad is not the only one who can recover her math book.

I'm especially sensitive to this at the moment because my 6-year-old's personality is increasingly mercurial. For weeks she refused to show my mother even the smallest ounce of affection, crying hysterically when my husband or I would leave the two alone together. No question could burrow into her little mind and solve the mystery. And while she shed her tears on the outside, I was crying on the inside. My little girl was hurting, and I couldn't make it end. And I couldn't discount that she was upset.

Perhaps even more frustrating is the fact that last week, out of nowhere, the cold war ended. She was content once again to cuddle on Oma's couch, have pedicure parties, and take in a movie at the local theater. Just. Like. That.

This is the sort of story I hear from parents who share custody. Their kid, for whatever reason, doesn't want to go spend time with the other parent right now. They've got a cold coming on. Or they want to sleep in THIS bed tonight. Or they are feeling like they need a little more Daddy cuddling right now. Or Mommy is really getting on their nerves right now, and they need some space.

Whatever it is, the fact is, kids feel. They aren't little robots.

This is where courts and child protective services have to re-evaluate what's "best for the child." Is it to make sure they get their time with each parent, or is it to learn how to deal with their feelings?

Do your kids ever have a tough time with the transition? Does your ex hold it against you if you say Jr. just doesn't WANT to come over today?


Image via scazon/Flickr

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