Children benefit from participating in extra-curricular activities like sports teams, lessons or clubs. These activities tend to come with a time commitment for the children to be present at set times for practices, team building activities, recitals or games. There is usually a cost that is considered a section 7 expense requiring each parent share the costs based on their respective incomes.
Control Tactics & Retaliation
Extra-curricular activities are often used by one parent to dictate and control the other parent. Children are often enrolled into activities as a means to control, limit or interfere with the parenting schedule or to vary the child support obligations. Some parents go out of their way to look for activities that have costs and/or time commitments to set-up the other parent up to look bad if the decision is disputed.
This abuse tactic often extends to all other third-party services providers like doctors, dentists or specialists. The parent acting in bad faith will often pick service providers that have offices that are farther away or that have limited office hours that coincidentally conflict with the other parent’s work schedule or other commitments.
Control tactics and unilateral decision-making creates frusteration. The frustrated parent might retaliate and refuse to bring the children to their activities, refuse to administer medication, refuse to bring the children to counselling sessions, birthday parties or appointments. The frustrated parent may refuse these things because the decision was made solely by the other parent.
The child is diagnosed with ADHD and is prescribed a stimulant medication. The child is not given the medication while in the other parents care because the other parent disagrees with the diagnosis and/or the prescribed treatment.
The child is enrolled in a dance class that meets every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The child is only able to attend the classes that land during one parent’s time. The other parent is upset regarding the enrolment and refuses to give up time and/or bring the child.
In the above scenarios, the thoughts and feelings of the children were ignored even though the decisions directly affect them. The child in the first example might want to take the medication instead of experiencing withdrawal symptoms then being forced to readjust to the medication all over again. The child in the second scenario might want to be at all of the dance practices instead of struggling to keep up with the rest of the group. Either way, the child was not asked and/or considered. The focus was on reacting to the disputed decision.
What should I do?
It is rarely a good idea to fight unilateral decision-making with unilateral decisions. There are usually other options to dispute conflicting schedules, diagnosis, medication, treatment plans or costs. The first step is to determine the facts, goals and to collect relevant or supporting information. For example:
- Speak with the child’s doctors regarding the diagnosis and the risks and benefits of the treatment plan or medications. Ask another doctor for a second opinion.
- If the child is at risk of burnout from participating in so many extracurricular activities, consult an expert for guidance to help prevent the child from over-doing it.
- Check-in with teachers to see if grades, behaviour or attendance have declined since the child started the activities.
- Check-in with service providers regarding the importance of attending appointments or practices. Inquire if there are any ways to prevent falling behind if dates are skipped.
- If costs or transportation are an issue, ask for options available to assist such as subsidizes or carpooling opportunities.
- Ask for additional or make-up time for when the child when the child is not scheduled for appointments or activities. Reach an agreement amicably or keep the response as evidence.
Parents should take steps to collect information to help make an informed child-orientated decision. Armed with the relevant information, it might become necessary to bring in outside help to achieve the best outcome in the worst of situations.