I have been separated from my childrens' father for nearly two years. I have custody of our two children, and he lives in a different city than us. Although it is a long haul for him to get to us, he made the decision to stay where he is, and has made minimal efforts to physically visit his children. Our four year old son has had minimal contact with him since he was 2 years old, and last saw him 1 1/2 years ago. My daughter, who is 9, has a much closer relationship with her father (with phone calls and face-time), but has not seem him in 1 1/2 years either. Their father has made less of an effort to connect with our son than our daughter. Although things are uneasy between myself and my ex-partner, I encourage them to stay in touch him and hope they can maintain a loving relationship with him.

My son is very well connected with me and is always openly loving and affectionate, saying kind words and wanting to be by my side. If it weren't for his older sister having a consistent dialogue about/ with their father, I do not know if my son would even know who he is, or if his father would bother to stay connected with him.

Their father came to visit them this week. I agreed to drop them off with him for a few days. My son seemed somewhat weary about leaving his mommy but I wanted to give them time to bond. My daughter phoned the first night saying she wanted to spend the days with him, but would like to leave at night to sleep at home, while my four year old has insisted on staying with his father. When I have gone to pick her up in the evenings, my four year does not even acknowledge my presence and has no interest in me hugging him or giving him love. He seems totally uninterested that I am there.

I understand he is spending time with his father and is getting undivided love and attention, which I do not oppose, but should I be worried that my son, who typically runs to me with smiles and hugs all day, is suddenly so disconnected after being away from me for a few days?

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    Have you considered that he might be angry for what he might perceive as you abandoning him to a stranger, and this is how he's expressing that breech of trust that you had? This is the first time this happened. His behavior may well change back once he's back home for a while. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 17:40
  • I'm certainly no expert, but it seems to me more likely that it's some combination of that desperate need for father (figure/love/etc). Possibly mixed in with some not-good "encouragement" from dad - certainly talk to the dad first and see if he's helping or hurting...
    – Orangutech
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 18:35

3 Answers 3


No, you should not be worried. Boys need their fathers, and he's making up for lost time. And 4 year olds tend to think about only one thing at a time. If your relationship changes for the worse after he is back with you, then you could worry, but I doubt that will happen.


I am with Warren Dew. But not 100%. I’d say the children are focusing on one person.

This has nothing to do with punishment.

And it is neither a conflict of loyalty. (This behavior is shown when the child can’t decide with whom it wants to stay when Dad and Mom are living together but e.g. one of them is going out and the child doesn’t know whom he wants to go.)

But when the parents are divorced and living separate your child is leaning on the one it is depending on. It just needs some time to get adopted to the new relationship.

You can find the same behavior of children with parents and grand parents. But this doesn’t mean that it always will be like this and for all children and all partners. Each child reacts individually.


He could be punishing you for leaving him with this stranger. Then again, he could simply be really enjoying himself. You will know more by his behaviour when he returns home. With you picking up his sister, does he know that he too could go home for the night?

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