Coparenting Tips for Improving Communication from the expert authors of Overcoming the Alienation Crisis: 33 Coparenting Solutions. For more information about OCB Publications go here.
Should the resisted parent send cards/gifts on special occasions if the child refuses to accept them and says they don’t want them?
The resisted parent must be honest with themselves. If he or she behaved poorly—for example, they lost their composure and said to the child, “Fine, if you don’t want to be here, I don’t want you here!”—the child is likely harboring resentment or maybe even holding a grudge and does not want a peacemaking offer or expression of caring. Contact with the child must start with a statement of regret and responsibility about the offending behavior. If the resistance to the parent is in the mild range, a sincere apology might convince the child that the parent’s remorse is genuine and they deserve a second chance.
If the child’s resistance is in the moderate to severe range, for whatever reasons, the resisted parent should send cards and small gifts on special occasions, even if the child says they don’t want them and refuses to receive them. A child may be explaining to a therapist why they don’t want contact with the resisted parent, yet at the same time complain, “And they haven’t even tried to contact me.” Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, right?
Gifts should be more than a token, but far less than something that opens itself to accusations that a parent is trying to buy love or affection. In one case, a mom who had not seen her children for over a year brought four or five gifts for each child to the first reunification session. The children excitedly opened them, but the favored parent refused to take the gifts home, saying they were excessive. A small, meaningful gift can communicate to the child that you remember what is meaningful to them and that you are steadfast in your devotion to them. It can symbolize the special love you have for them in your heart.
While it may be a stretch and not possible in some situations, a Neutral Favored Parent could tell the resisted parent what the child has been asking for, or might otherwise want or appreciate. This can be beneficial for three reasons. One, it provides the best chance the child will respond positively to the gift. Second, if the child knows the only way the resisted parent would know about that gift or item is if the favored parent told them, this communicates to the child that the favored parent does support the relationship with the resisted parent. Third, this kind of dialogue is a powerful peacemaking gesture demonstrating that the favored parent actively supports the child’s relationship with the resisted parent. Or, even more of a peacemaking strategy would be for both parents to jointly give the gift, communicating as directly as possible the favored parent’s support of the relationship between the resisted parent and the child.