Dear Dr. Romance:
If the child has not had a real relationship with her father for many years and does not see him more than 2 times per year, should a mother keep pushing a relationship with the father and child? Will it do more harm than good?
There is no way I can tell from this much information whether the father/daughter contact is helpful or harmful. I assume the daughter does not want contact, if she needs to be pushed. It's important to know why she isn't interested.
You also need to consider legal reasons, such as a court ordered custody agreement, that contact with the father is mandated. If, as you say, it's been many years, your daughter should be old enough to discuss the issue with her father. If there is some reason contact with him would harm her, that is a matter to bring to the court.
"How to Heal a Rift with an Adult Child" will give you some insight into the relationship between your ex and your child.
Commonly, everyone feels wounded after a divorce. The divorced parents are going through feelings of failure, rejection, abandonment and loss. The children have similar feelings. All these hurt feelings lead to competitiveness, drama and recriminations. Divorced parents, in sharing custody, can retaliate against each other by making visitation difficult, bad-mouthing the other parent (or the new partner or step-parent) to the children, withholding child support and trying to get the children to deliver inappropriate messages to the other spouse, like "mommy says you didn't dress us right"
Divorced parents can avoid these scenarios by using the following guidelines:
*Don't React, Respond: When the other parent does something upsetting, take time to cool down before responding, and respond with a possible solution.
* Talk About It to safe people: Talk to other couples, to a therapist, to friends and to family to create more understanding and brainstorm about options. If you can find other couples who have resolved divorce differences, find out what they decided. Let off steam to safe people, so your children don't experience your anger and frustration.
* Explain Your Ex's Point of View: When talking about it to each other, or to someone else who is supportive, explain each other's point of view, which will help you understand.
* Focus on Your Children: Keep your focus on what would be best for your children, and if they are old enough to understand, bring them into the discussion. Don't try to persuade them to either side, but present the options as objectively as you can, and find out what your children think about it.
* Experiment: Be willing to try some experiments. Try it the way the other parent wants it, to see if it works. Try letting the children decide how they want it to be, within reason.