Junge mit braunen Haaren. Er blickt ernst in die Kamera.

My child doesn’t want to visit their parent who doesn’t live with us

When parents separate, agreements are mostly made about visits, but this isn’t always right for the children.

They may often prefer to stay with one of the two parents for unspoken reasons. “Fundamentally you need to distinguish between children who are being traumatised by physical, psychological or sexual violence and those who have experienced nothing of the sort,” Christine Bodendorfer tells us.

In the first group, the right to contact should be called into question in any case, depending on the severity of the case. In other cases, the reluctance to visit should definitely be taken seriously: “It’s important to take responsibility and to try to find out the reasons.” Pressure should not be exerted under any circumstances, and you should not act against the child’s will. Depending on their age and the life situation, it would be helpful to include all of the parties – the mother, father and child or children – to find out the reason.

“It’s often perceived as a slight by the parent affected. Since the kids know that, they often won't say why they don’t want to, but it might not be anything personal,” says Bodendorfer. For young people there is often a significant obligation to have to keep visiting their father or mother. “At this age children are pulling away from their parents anyway and they gradually want to go their own way,” the expert tells us.

If it’s just for a temporary reason for the children or it’s because of puberty, Bodendorfer recommends pointing out the rules and explaining that that’s how things work now. It’s easiest for children to get used to switching between parents if this is regular and not just every other weekend.

If this topic affects you and you would like advice from experts, contact one of the Austrian family counseling centers. The appointment is free of charge.

Our interview partner

Christine Bodendorfer is a social worker, psychotherapist and co-founder of "Mädchenberatung" in Vienna.

Mädchenberatung für sexuell missbrauchte Mädchen* und Frauen*
1050 Vienna
Website Mädchenberatung

The interview was conducted in January 2021.

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