What can I do to encourage my son's relationship with my ex-husband?

Question: My son will be 8 soon. He has been voicing his opinion on how he feels about visiting his dad for years now and is getting more and more frustrated with a current schedule we are following.

Recently, on his dad's day, he walked home to my house after school. I called the school and his dad to let them know. He has talked to the school counselor, the assistant principal and even the GAL and he is getting more and more frustrated that he isn't being heard since nothing is changing.

What can I do to still help encourage the relationship between he and his dad, while also being there for him as a mom who is supposed to help him and make him feel heard and listened to. I want him to know what he says is important. What age can a child speak to the courts and state what they want?

He says he still wants to see his dad, but just isn't comfortable going there as much. He has expressed this to his dad and I have tried speaking to his dad and court people about this, but they are saying he is still too young. I think that it would possibly help ease my son's stress if he was given the opportunity to speak and feel heard. I also think this may help him feel less anxious about going to his dad's house.

My heart breaks knowing our child is in this position. I just want him to be happy and feel safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, it isn't an amicable situation with my ex-husband, but any feelings we have toward each other need to be put aside and we need to focus on our son and his feelings, needs, and wants.

I am trying to get my son heard with court. I filed years ago and it is just starting to go forward. And, now that he is older I thought he would be able to speak about his feelings since whatever I say can be misinterpreted and/or taken like I am encouraging him to say things. I want him to be able to speak and I don't know how many people he needs to tell before someone will hear him and take him seriously. Is there anywhere you can direct me? Is he too young? And, what are the next steps if he isn't heard?

I am afraid he will start "rebelling," not going wanting to go with his dad more and more like what happened the other day and I will be blamed. As with the other day, I encouraged him to go and told him he had to in order to keep with the rules; however, knowing your child doesn't want to go somewhere and is begging you not to make him is very, very difficult. What should I do?

Tracy

Answer: Dear Tracy,

I read your letter to Columbus Parent with a heavy heart. Being heard is what we all want and what every child deserves. I am hoping that the GAL is actually listening to your son and evaluating the situation. It seems like neither of you are being heard.

You did not mention whether your son is in counseling with you and with his dad. Instinct tells me that this is the route to go so that all parties can be a part of making this child's life easier. From what experience I have, the GAL has a great deal of influence and I hope that they have suggested counseling for your son. I would be curious about why he does not want to spend as much time with his father.

Unfortunately, I do not think the courts will let an 8-year-old decide not to visit unless there are very extenuating circumstances involved.

Please schedule an appointment with the GAL and have a face to face talk.

I hope this is helpful to you. It sounds like you are in a difficult situation.

With a smile,
Diane Strausser
www.successfulrelationships.com