When One Parent Is Favored

Planning a Comeback

What can couples do to weather a bout of favoritism? Start by commiserating. Whether you're the snubbed parent or the guilty (and overwhelmed) object of your child's fierce affections, this phase can be hard.

Luckily, there are ways to make it easier. If you're the preferred parent, clear out of the house from time to time, leaving your child and the out-of-favor parent alone for a while to interact -- and hopefully grow closer again. Talk up your partner too, says Parents adviser Kyle Pruett, M.D., a clinical professor of child psychiatry and nursing at the Yale Child Study Center and School of Medicine, in New Haven, Connecticut. Say things like "Daddy really loves us! Aren't we lucky to have him?"

If you're the shunned one, try these tips.

  • Get in the game. When your child is playing, hang around and watch, then see if you can join in, says Dr. Pruett. Chances are, you'll be tolerated, especially if you get down on the floor and follow her lead.
  • Try teamwork. Invite your child to help you get the Sunday paper, separate the recycling, or walk the dog.
  • Make it a group thing. Schedule regular time for fun as a family, says Parents adviser Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., a child psychologist and author of Playful Parenting. You can try as little as ten minutes a day. Play an easy game, like Concentration, or cuddle together while Mom and Dad take turns reading a bedtime story.
  • Seek out some support. Find solace on the Web, at parenting chats and on message boards like the ones featured at Parents.com.
  • Above all, don't lose faith. Experts agree that favoritism is only a stage, lasting a few days to a few months. Eventually, the pendulum will swing back, and you'll go from dissed to desired once again.

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