It seems that many families struggle with the question of what age is it ok
for a child to sleep over at Dad's house.
I think the answer is probably different in every household. For me, both
of us had travelled a lot for work and our son was totally used to being alone
with one parent. So when we divorced, although there was a new environment
at Dad's house, there was no major change.
Some families have dad's who work long hours and hardly see their kids
during the week. The stay-at-home mom might do all school lifts, homework,
play dates, meals etc. If this is the case a very young child might not cope
well with being sent to dad's house for a sleepover.
Similarly, if the child fears the father because of raised voices or threats
during the split, it might be very damaging to force a child to have a sleep
over with dad.
Assuming that dad is not a violent or unstable person, it is essential that
mothers work hard to get their children used to the idea of spending more and
more time with their father. Start with a meeting in the park where mom sits
to one side and lets dad do the swing pushing or the ball kicking. Build this
up to dropping the kids at the park with dad and fetching them an hour later.
Eventually, the park becomes dad's house and the visits are longer and
longer. BEWARE of putting your ideas into your child's head. Eg. Tonight
you are going to sleep at dad's house but of you are scared or unhappy
or dad is mean to you, just phone me and I will fetch you."
Your child will go to dad's house anticipating problems and may overreact
to the smallest thing.
Rather have that conversation another time. During a drive in the car or a
chat around the dining room table, let your kids know that if they are ever
anxious or scared or very unhappy in any situation, they are welcome to call
you. It may be at school, at dad's house, at a friend's house or
at Granny's house. This way, the child understands that he can call mom
anytime but he does not necessarily associate that action only with being at
Remember in a divorce that the children's wellbeing MUST be removed
emotionally from your personal feelings of anger and hurt.
Ideally, children should have access to both parents and be able to feel comfortable
at either home. As parents - moms and dads, it remains your job to secure
your child emotionally - even when you are turmoiled.
Withholding access is illegal and very much not in the child's best