Me and my wife have separated and are going through a divorce, we have two boys, 6 and 2, currently I only get to see the eldest. He stays with me from Friday evening until Sunday evening. I usually pick him up at 18:00, I live about 90 mins to 2 hours away depending on traffic and there is a court order that means I have to take him back by 18:00 on the Sunday. This contact is greatly reduced from what was previously happening a couple of months ago where I would pick him up after school on Thursday and then take him back to school on Monday morning.
The problem is that he gets increasingly anxious throughout Sunday leading up to when we have to leave to take him back to his mother and when it is time to leave he is very upset, distressed and doesn't want to go.
He hides under the bed or under chairs, he hides his shoes and he cries and begs to stay. I hate seeing him affected like this and will do anything to try to mitigate the distress he seems to be in but I don't know what to do. I also want to make it clear so that he understands that he doesn't have to go because I want him to leave. That I wold love him to stay as long as he wants to and there are forces outside of my control that are putting us in this situation.
I have already tried taking him out for the day before leaving so that we leave from where it is we have been instead of from home. This didn't help.
Also I have considered that it might just be the situation and tension of the handover when I take him back that he is trying to avoid but this seems unlikely as I do not engage in any conversation or conflict of any type when picking him up and he does not seem to be upset at all when I collect him. If fact he always seems very happy to be coming with me and often waits by the door for me, the only times he has been upset when I have picked him up have been when I have been later than usual due to traffic and he has been scared that I wasn't coming.
I cannot expect any help or cooperation from his mother in dealing with this or any flexibility over the time I have to return him.