Joint Custody: When your child is upset about something at their other parent's home

Q: My six year old daughter told me that her father locked her in her room with no breakfast, lunch or dinner. She tells the same story over and over again like it happened yesterday. Her dad says it's her imagination, but I believe her. She has a lot of anger towards him. She won't get out of the car when I drop her off for visits, and she often says, "Stupid daddy." I told him to change the way he disciplines her. My daughter does have a therapist. Any other suggestions?

A: I'm so glad to hear that your daughter has a therapist. The therapist would be a mandatory reporter, so if you suspect neglect or abuse you should let the therapist know so he/she can determine whether it needs to be reported to the authorities for further investigation, and take appropriate action to do so.

With that taken care of by a professional, you can turn your attention to your daughter and the feelings she needs to work through.
Regardless of what is actually happening at her dad's, she seems to be feeling abandoned and disrespected, and needs your help to cope with these strong emotions, whatever their source. Telling stories over and over is actually a strategy kids sometimes use to try to release stuck feelings.

These articles explain what you can do better than I can:

It's not likely that you will be able to change or influence your ex's behavior by telling him he needs to change the way he disciplines her, although sometimes it does happen.

But you can listen to your daughter while she releases the accumulated little hurts, and you can make sure you are treating her with kindness and respect during your parenting time so she knows what a warm and healthy relationship feels like, and you can help her build resilience so she can handle it better when circumstances are less than ideal.

You can devote a certain period of time to listening while she vents, but don't egg her on or share your own feelings with her. Just listen with warm attention until she starts to run out of emotional steam, and then make sure you get out and do some fun stuff together.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have questions after reading the articles above.

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