I Can't Stand Visits With My Dad

Published: August 04, 2014
Dear I Can't Stand Visits With My Dad,

My parents are divorced and I'm supposed to have visits with my Dad every other weekend. But I can't stand going on these visits. My Dad always seems to be irritated at something, so it's annoying to be around him. Plus he's always so preoccupied with other things that sometimes I'm not even sure why he wants me there. I've told my parents I don't want to have visits with him anymore, but my Dad gets angry and says it's his "scheduled time" and so I have to go. Is there anything I can do? I really can't stand these weekends with him anymore.

Dear I Can't Stand Visits With My Dad,

TeenHealthFX is sorry to hear that these visits have become so problematic. But there are a few things you can try the following:

  • By simply telling your father you don’t want to do visits anymore, it sounds like it’s turned into a power struggle with him then insisting that you have to do them. To get out of this power struggle it would be helpful for you to focus on your concerns about the nature of these visits instead. If you haven’t done so already, talk to your father about how you’ve been feeling about your visits lately. Let him know that it’s sad and frustrating for you that he is frequently irritable and checked out during your scheduled time together. Check in with him to see if he’s surprised that you experience him this way or if he can see this in himself. Let him know that if he cares about you and these visits that you would like to him work on this – his mood and how present he is during his time with you. Perhaps by suggesting that you’d like to work towards a better relationship and better visits, it will motivate him to make some changes rather than just turning things into a power struggle.
  • If your father is not receptive to what you have to say, ask your mother whether she feels comfortable intervening on your behalf to have a similar conversation with him about how you are feeling and what you would like to be different so that you are more open to having visiting time with him.
  • If your father is not open to anything you and/or your mom have to say and nothing changes, you could ask your mother to check in with the lawyer she used for her divorce to see what your legal options are. Judges tend to put more weight on the opinion of teens (as opposed to younger children) when it comes to negotiating parenting time. If your father is unwilling to address the relationship issues that are causing tension and stress during these visits, you could always let him know you will be asking the courts to make changes to the parenting time. Just speak with your mother about a plan before addressing this with you father to ensure this is a possibility, especially given the costs that can be associated with bringing these types of issues back to court.

FX also thinks it could be helpful for you to speak to a reputable mental health professional, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist, about what you are experiencing. FX can imagine that you must be feeling some anger and hurt connected to your relationship with your father, and it might be helpful for you to have a safe, private place to deal with those feelings. A therapist could also provide you with some support and guidance as to how to deal with these visits and your time with your dad.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.