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Are You Dealing with a No-Show Parent?

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We know that many of you are divorced -- and, unfortunately, some of you deal regularly with "no-show parents."

boy hugging his mother

Single Mom Seeking: One single mom who recently wrote to us about her ex-husband said this:

"He got all the parenting time that he'd initially requested -- it was part of our divorce agreement and I was all for it. Our kids adore him.

"But here's the problem: he's very irresponsible. More than half of the time, he doesn't show up when he promised. Then, I'm left with two crying, disappointed kids. When I confront him about this, he just shrugs his shoulders and tells me: 'Something came up.'

"Please tell me: How can I lessen my kids' hurt?"

Here's what Dr. Leah Klungness, a.k.a. the Sanity Fairy, suggests:

The best way to handle this situation is to prepare. The next time that he's scheduled to take the kids somewhere, talk to them beforehand about "Plan B." This is your alternative plan if their dad does not show up.

Here's an example of how the script might play out: "Your dad is planning to take you to the movies on Saturday. He told us he would pick you up at 12:30 PM. What is going to be our plan for the day if he does not arrive?"

If your kids are preschool age, it's up to you to have a "Plan B" if the other parent is a no-show.

To minimize disappointment, the "Plan B" should be fun. Avoid offering alternatives like vacuuming the car, an all-afternoon errand run, or getting a head start on homework. Suggest, for example, that you do a few errands and then see the movie later in the afternoon. If your finances are tight, decide together on a fun and low-cost activity like visiting your local museum.

Lastly, do not let "the other parent" have control of the day and everyone's feelings. It's up to you to take charge if past experience has taught you that he may suddenly -- and for no reason -- decide not to show up.

We'd love to know: Have you had challenges with a no-show parent? What strategies have helped your kids cope with the inevitable disappointment?

P.S. In no way are we coming down on dads here. As one single dad recently pointed out, "It's not just dads that don't show up for their kids."

next: David Letterman's Wife Demanded Public Apology
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
tessie October 9, 2009, 7:21 AM

Ive been dealing with this problem for 5 yrs now. my son is 8 and has recently decided he doesnt care about his dad. i understand his pov because his dad doesnt even bother to call or give us new contact info (he constantly moves and changes phone #’s) i dont want my son not to care…his dad will eventually come around, i hope. and if not, thats ok. my son has my dad and other relatives for a male role model. id rather his role model be a kind, responsible, trustworthy guy anyway.

Stepmom October 9, 2009, 12:23 PM

This happens all the time at our house because birth mom is an alcoholic. Dad and I got custody of my 5 year old step son this spring. I hate it when she doesn’t show up or is unable to take him due to her drinking. The little guy gets so excited to see his mom and then is so disappointed when he can’t go. We used to try to cover for her, but more often now we just have to explain that mommy is sick because he was starting to say things like “Why are you keeping me from my mom”. It’s such a sad situation.

Dave October 9, 2009, 3:24 PM

Thanks for sticking up for single dads. My ex wife had a long history of no-showing for the kids. The kids lived is a state of rejection for some time. She eventually committed suicide which became the ultimate act of rejection. You should have seen her note! I’m with holding it, but one day I will share it with the kids. We rationalize it on a disease that Mummy had and that she didn’t know what she was doing. Kids need to know right from wrong, irrespective of who is the guilty one. we have standards and values and we must stick to them. On a daily level, Plan B is the best cure. Good luck, it is difficult to recover from this.

Johnnia November 17, 2009, 9:08 AM

Honey, I’ve been divorced now for a few years and have been dealing with the same problem. I have come to the point that I don’t tell the kids about “plans with daddy” until he’s on our doorstep. It saves them the heartache and me the headache of having to “make things all better.” Good luck!

Anonymous December 21, 2009, 10:53 PM

There is something else you can do about the situation, but it requires going back to court. This may not be feasible or cost effective if this is the only issue that needs to be dealt with. If you have to go back about other issues or if the situation gets bad enough, just have your documentation backing up the pattern of behavior and ask the judge to alter the way visitation is exercised. The same schedule can stay in place if that is not part of the issue, but instead of the non-custodial parent telling you when they’re not going to have the kids for a visit, they have to tell you in advance, in writing if they are going to have the kids and by a certain deadline that will be stipulated in the order, perhaps maybe a week in advance or longer for holiday visitation. If you don’t get notice by the deadline, it means they’re not having the kids and you’re free to make other plans. It doesn’t solve all the problems this type of parent creates, but it lessens the control they have on your lives and the negative emotional impact on the kids.

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