Helping a Child Cope with an Absent Parent

Posted December 30, 2010 by

Just after my daughter turned 2, her father and I separated and divorced; he was abusive and drank too much.  When my daughter was 3 her father lost his visitation privileges as a result of his continued violent and abusive behavior.  He had passed up many ‘supervised’ visits throughout the year so it came as somewhat of a relief.

I have two older step children that are my daughter’s half-brother and half-sister.  When I had first met them, one of their deepest pains they shared with me was the vague knowledge/memory they had of not seeing their father for a period of time when they were younger.

Through the insights of my step children, I already knew an ‘Absent Parent’ deeply wounds the emotional wellbeing of a child consciously or subconsciously. I realized this circumstance could have a negative effect on my precious daughter as well.

I decided to educate myself.  I had the good fortune to speak with a child trauma expert.  Without going into great detail, I did share the age of my child and the situation.  The main thing she felt I needed to know was to not say the absent parent was sick.  She explained that my child would worry about the absent parent’s health.  She recommended I tell my child that her father had ‘problems’ and that when he gets better “someone will call and you can see him again.”  That was so easy to remember I did not even have to write it down!  Then I waited.

It took about one year for her to notice she had not seen her dad.  At 4 years old she came to me and said “I think my dad is dead.”  I said “who told you that?”  She said “nobody, I just figured it out.”  I picked her up, carried her into her room and we both had a good cry.  Thereafter I explained that her father had problems and that when he got better someone would call and she couldsee him again.  She had very thoughtful questions for me: 

“Do they know our phone number?”

“Yes, we have had this phone number a long time.” 

“Does he know where we are?” 

“Yes, he has been here and he knows where we are.” 

I did explain someone would call for him because he was not my friend anymore and could not call my home, but that he would always be her Dad and she could still be friends with him and that it was up to her and him to work that out, when the time came.  Then she waited.

Not long after this conversation, she told me she was starting to forget what he looked like.  I then called her pediatrician and asked if I could give her a picture of her Dad.  They felt that would do no harm but suggested that maybe it was getting to be time for a counselor.  After several months of therapy, the counselor explained that my daughter’s only problem was the absent parent; otherwise she was emotionally healthy.

It took 3 years for my daughter’s father to become available again and another 2 years for him to agree to a healthy reunification plan, which was designed by her counselor.  Visits started at another family counselor’s office, then progressed to a family member’s home (with graduating amounts of time) and now for the first time in 7 years the visits are ‘unsupervised’ for less amounts of time. My daughter is now 9 and all the wiser.

Let me be very clear … she is happy to have her father back in her life again; it is a natural desire for any child.  It serves no one to fight this.  There have been too many moments when my daughter saw another daddy swinging his little girl in the air where she had to handle the longing in her heart.  She knows nothing of the ugliness of what happened before.  At her age, she need not know.  I did not want her scared or stressed when the time came for her to see him again.  There is a big difference in dropping off a child who is ‘happy’ to go, rather than having to fight or struggle to ‘make’ a child go with the other parent, especially if they are frightened. 

There is so much in between these lines that she and I have gone through but trust me, I would not do anything any differently regarding this topic.  I am thankful of the fact that I stayed out it and did not put my issues into her innocent mind.  I want her to become the person she is destined to be, and not a victim at the end of a rope of pain. I am very respectful of her relationship with her father on her behalf. 

I recognize I can not control whatever course this story will take, but I can choose to influence my child’s life in a positive, respectful manner.  The high regard I have in my heart for my daughter empowers me to treat her wishes with respect and the maturity to see that this is her one chance at a childhood. As her most significant role model, I want her to see her mother as a strong and gracious woman.

About

Empowering Parents welcomes Julia Clark to the Parent Blogger team! Julia is the single mother of an 8-year-old girl. She is presently also caring for her gently aging father. Julia has two older stepchildren, a boy and a girl in their twenties, from her first marriage. She is also five years into her second blended family with her fiancé and his three children, a 12-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy. “With three generations at home, it’s always busy,” says Julia.

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  1. jenner1008 Report

    I am a single mom of a 5 y.o daughter.. It has been her and I since I was 3 months pregnant. Her father has never been an active part in her life. He will go a year at a time without seeing her and we live 15 minutes apart. He will see her by accident if we run into him in the store or at family members house. He doesnt make an effort to be apart of her life. He always says we will make plans and figure something out. Which of course I know will never happen. I have always kept the door open for him to be a part of her life since the day she was born. I have always made the weekly phone call knowing he wont answer but I do it because she asks me to call her dad.. She knows who he is and has never really showed an interest in him much until lately.. She frequently talks about her dad, asks about him and wants to call him. I am not sure where to go with this and how to explain to her that he is unavailable emotionally and physically. Do I take her to see a counselor? I am not sure where to go with this..

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      @Jen
      It can be hard to know how to help your child deal with an
      absent parent. Talking with a counselor may be a good way of deciding what
      steps you can take to help your daughter through this tough situation. The 211
      Helpline would be able to give you information on counselors and therapists in
      your area. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222.
      You can also visit them online at http://www.211.org/. I
      hope this information is helpful. Be sure to check back to let us know how
      things are going for you and your daughter. Good luck to you both moving
      forward. Take care.

      Reply
  2. desperate (Edit) Report

    My daughters mother is a heroin addict. She is now in the hospital dying of liver failure from hep c that she also gave to my daughter. She has been out of her life since she was 4 and has not seen her or attempted to see her in over ten years. Help

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      @desperate
      I’m sorry to hear your daughter’s biological mother is
      facing these medical challenges and I appreciate you reaching out to Empowering
      Parents for help with what sounds like a very troubling situation. I imagine
      you must be worried about how to tell your daughter about her mother’s failing
      health. You may find it helpful to talk to a grief counselor in your area about
      what approach you could use to deliver this news to your daughter. S/he may
      also be able to offer both you and your daughter support through this difficult
      time. If you are in contact with the hospital where your daughter’s mother is
      currently admitted, you might inquire about grief counseling services offered
      through the hospital. You could also contact the 211 Helpline for information
      on grief counseling and other grief related services in your community. You can
      reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222. You can also find
      them online at 211.org. All the best to you and your daughter moving forward. I
      hope you will continue to check back and let us know how things are going. You
      are in our thoughts.

      Reply
  3. Jeano1958 (Edit) Report

    This is a slightly different situation.
    My son has recently split with his wife, she was living with their 5 year old daughter in Thailand, he was in the UK.  They have agreed that as my son can offer their daughter a better life,he will bring her to the UK to live.  She will have to adapt to a completely different culture, new family, and living without her mum.  This is the part I am more concerned about.  What woul dbe the best plan of action if she starts asking to be with her mum.  Should she speak to her on skype? or would this make her miss her more?  Should we just tell her that she will see her soon (even though it will probably be a lie).
    I know she is going to miss her mum, so I am pre empting how to deal with her best.

    Reply
    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      Jeano1958
      I can hear your concern for your granddaughter. It could be a
      difficult transition to make for any child. I wish I could tell you what steps
      to take to make it easier for her. It may, however, be better to find someone
      local who is able to work with your granddaughter and family directly.
       Having someone who can observe any challenges your granddaughter is
      facing first hand and is also able to offer concrete suggestions for those
      changes, would be beneficial. There is a service in the UK that may be able to
      offer you some guidance around this issue as well as provide information on
      resources in your community if you should decide to seek the help of a
      counselor or other local support. FamilyLives (formerly Parentline Plus) is a
      resource that is available 24 hours a day, both online and by phone. You can
      find them at http://www.familylives.org.uk/.
      You can also call their Helpline at 0808 800 2222. Good luck to you and your
      family as you work through this transition. Be sure to check back and let us
      know how things are going. Take care.

      Reply
  4. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To “texas”: Thank you for writing in and sharing your story. It can be so difficult to know what the right words are when your child asks such difficult questions. I can hear how concerned you are with the effect visiting a prison may have on your son. There’s nothing wrong with what you are feeling. It’s understandable you would be concerned. Many parents would feel the same in your situation. As a parent, you don’t want to expose your son to something that may have a negative impact on him. Ultimately, as his mom, you are the one who decides what he is and isn’t exposed to. It may be helpful for you to talk with someone who could help you decide what you will and won’t tell your son about his father. The 211 National Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to put you into contact with local services and supports, such as counselors, support groups and such. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto 211.org. Good luck to you and your son as you work through this challenge. Take care.

    Reply
  5. texas (Edit) Report

    My son just turned 4 and has started asking questions about his dad who is not in his life. he has been locked up since my son was 1 month old. The last time I took my son to see his father he was 2. I choose to stop taking him because he was getting to the age were he was questioning everything aroud him and I did not think it was best to keep taking him. I don’t want my son to have memories of the inside of a prison @ this young of an age. Is this worng for me to feel like this. Now that he has started asking about his dad I’m unsure of what to do.

    Reply
  6. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear CamsMama, The first thought that came to mind when I read your note is distraction. I well understand him missing his Dad and unfortunately, the kind of Dad Cam has, leaves Cam missing him, even when the Dad is there. For the times he is really upset I would let him have a good cry just to keep him from bottling it up inside. Then maybe reassure him what a great kid he is and how lucky you feel to be his mom. Reassure him he has done nothing wrong. Empowering Parents has taught me ‘feelings are not facts’ & that it is most important to work with Cam about what Cam ‘thinks’ is going on? Try to find insight in how Cam has ‘figured out his dad’. That is where I would be trying to get to… And build him up from there. Yay, there is a positive male role model in his life. When my daughter was your sons age I dearly tried to not let her see how ‘I felt’ about her Dad or the situation. Our kids are very tuned into us. It’s ok to tell him you are sorry for how badly he feels but go right into counting his blessings. Our job is to teach our children coping skills and conflict management. Try to engage him in a hobby or two. Maybe start a scrapbook for him about his life. He can draw pictures, tape or glue photo’s in there. Start a coin or stamp collection, anything that he could be proud of and always reinforce how proud of him you are. I’m sure you are already doing much of this, I am merely sharing what I would focus on in your shoes. It may be time to have him see a counselor, they not only have helped my daughter but then they are available for questions for you. Helping us decipher what is healthy and not healthy for us to do. Do you go on bike rides? Do you have a dog? Or any pets? They can often fill some holes in a childs heart. My elderly father lives with us, he would trip over a pet. It is not easy but mainly keep up the happy face for your son, if he sees/feels/hears you are distressed about anything he picks up the ball and runs with it. He can probably barely handle what pains him at this time, let alone yours too. Protect him from your dissappointment. I kept my daughter busy much of her life. Empowering Parents taught me it is ok to be angry but not mean. Make sure he understands this. Give him suggestions on how to handle situations that arise in school ie. to tell an adult. Maybe school can offer a school counselor? I recently told my daughter now in the 6th Grade ‘school does not define you, you do’. Her grades are great, it’s not that, some kids are aggressive and hurtful and she is finding her way… we all must. Be his coach at home, as you do now, and keep cheering him on. He may be a bit jealous of your fiance’. Make sure you have one on one time with your son, as well, so he knows how important he is to you. My daughter when she was young would ask me who I loved more? I would say ‘adults love each other differently than the way they do a child’ and that I love both her and my fiance’ with all my heart. Even at a young age we jockey for position. She does not ask me anymore. She is older and sees how much I do for her out of love and respect. Make sure your son knows you respect him and his feelings. It teaches him how to respect you. Who, no doubt, has made many sacrifices on his behalf. I wish you peace, wisdom and courage. Hang in there you can do this. Before you know it he will be older and wiser. I have had many long days but the weeks fly by. Educate yourself, explore more of Empowering Parents, they are the best I have ever found, as a resource for parents in how to handle expressive children. It will help you all in years to come. The problems change and evolve into new ones. Stay focused on what is best for Cam and show him the good life you want for him. Teach him about the future. The Dad’s problems may effect him but they should not define who he is in the world, it is in Cam’s hands. Does he play an instrument? My daughter has been playing the piano going on 4 yrs now, she is only 11, it is an expressive activity. If you can help him find an outlet, maybe he will feel better? Karate could become very meaningful for him, my daughter loved it when she was young. It is a mind, body activity that will teach him values positive mental attitude. My daughter walks a dog in the neighborhood. Keep him busy. Read with him at bedtime everynight, we read by flashlight it is fun and a special time. Good luck. Julia

    Reply
  7. CamsMama (Edit) Report

    I am kind of going through the same thing with my 5 year old son. His father isn’t involved with his son like I need him to be. He has been in and out of his life since he was born. When he does see him, he’s more of the “friend” and not the father. He lives with his mother, and the only time he will see Cameron (my son) is when his mother will call and ask if Cameron can come over. When he does go over there, his father is working, and will barely see him at all while Cameron is there. He recently had another child about 5 months ago,Cameron’s little sister, and they didn’t include him in that. He didn’t talk to him, spend time with him, or anything to make him understand what was happening and to get him to feel a part of the family. He has no bond with his sister; he won’t acknowledge her, or his father’s girlfriend, not that I blame him, but I know it bothers Cameron. To make matters worse, I found out that his father has been drinking A LOT and is doing drugs. I have had a talk with his father (if you can call it a talk)and told him that I can’t allow him to see Cameron while he’s doing the things he’s doing.

    Now, Cameron has been extremely sad and cries a lot about missing his father.He’s been acting out at school, when he’s home he doesn’t like to play by himself, and sometimes won’t wanna play at all even when I try to get him to play a family game. As his mother, it hurts me so badly. I try so hard to get him to feel better, but I know it’s not my fault. It’s just making me sad as well to see him so hurt like this and I don’t know how to help him. I’m so lost; and I’m scared for my son. I have a fiance that has been in Cam’s life for 3 years and loves Cam just as much as I do, buy we don’t know what to do when he misses his father so much that he doesn’t want to do anything. I just don’t know what to do.

    Reply
  8. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear OnMyOwn,
    You are in a form of parental bootcamp for sure. Just because the dad is gone now it does not mean forever, more than likely he will be back to see his children at some point. Yes, it may be years, for us it was 5. There is no way to know from the sounds of it. If I were you, I would start a scrap book for each child. I would do my best to find a photo of each of the children with their respective dad in the picture and start with that photo…. and start a scrap book of their story with photo’s and written events and accomplishments…for when they see their dad again they can bring him up to date. (I am not saying this will be fun or easy for *you*. but I feel *they* would love it. I am thinking it will give them something to do while they *await his return*.) I don’t know everything but I doubt the dad will be able to stay away. I am not suggesting unrealistic hopes to set them up with, my posture would be around if/when he comes back they will have photo’s, school pictures and stories to share. I know it seems impossible right now how to get through the weeks, months and years when the days are so hard but you will and think of the future you must. I would reassure them how wonderful they are, that it has nothing at all to do with them, they are great. I would let them know we must work as a team and take care of each other. The 7 and 5 yr olds are old enough to help pick up toys and make their beds and the 15 yr old may step up and really help if you are really lucky. For me it would be about encouraging all the kids to learn as much at school as they can to prepare themselves for the future because it is coming one day at a time. You will certainly have some exhausting days but it is not about us anymore is it? I met a wonderful man better than hitting the lottery, if you should meet someone, make sure they are kind for you are all wounded lambs and do not need someone coming in to make matters any harder. As the custodial parent you will have the steepest climb, I am so sorry, but you can show your children what courage looks like against the odds. Empowering Parents taught me my home is a ‘factory’ and our children are the product… what kind of product do you want them to be? Keep it together, give yourself timeouts if you need them, teach by example and you will be fine. Find out what kind of assistance you qualify for, I trust you could use something. Have dinner together every night and talk about your day… have a penny and pass it around, whoever is holding the penny has the attention. Go for bike rides and walks together, let the dishes go sometimes, love them while you can, it will mean the world to them. Good luck and God Bless you all. I wish you great Courage & Wisdom. My Best, Julia

    Reply
  9. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear MamaBear,
    It is so hard raising a child in such confusing circumstances and handling all the worries that go along with it. So much to endure and keep up that happy face for our children but it is what is best for them. I also do not see any damage the gifts will do to your daughter so long as they are age appropriate. At any age I have always wanted my daughter to have all the goodness that life has for her. I know what you mean about what to say. So try your best to keep it simple, and keep in mind she will share it with others ie. neighbors, school, relatives and yes, her dad someday. (Keep in mind there is a very good chance he will be back, to see her however is allowable.) Whatever you say to her may highten her fear of him and that will not help her. What I taught my daughter at that age was “it is ok to give the relationship time for her Dad to earn her trust”. We talked alot about how friends act and I used recess behaviors to discuss how she can handle herself in situations that don’t feel right. Try to coach your daughter on what healthy behavior looks, sounds and feels like. I even did role playing where I was her and she would be the unhealthy behaving person to give her a way & words to handle the situation. Basically, the theme is to keep the unhealthy behavior with the other person and for our child to stand up for themselves without being mean or hurtful too. I did not discuss drugs or alchohol at this age, I felt it too soon. The allergic to alchohol may scare her in the future if he has a beer at a BBQ. You and I have life experience to keep this in perspective but there is so much about it she does not know, too much, too soon might be scarey. Have you looked into counseling? I did for my daughter at that age and it helped me too. I had someone I could ask specific questions and get good info. Please try it and let me know. Contact your health insurance company for someone in your area. My daughter definately appreciated it and I did too. She stopped for a couple years and is going again. She is older now (11) and has new questions. My daughter reunited with her dad after 5 yrs of absence @ age 7 as well. It did not take her long to tell me she does not know where she would be if not for me. She soon realized what qualities her dad did have and did not have. She recently mentioned she thought her dad would be nicer, when she thought of him when she was young. Now that she has been spending time with him she has come to realize her own dissappointments in him. So I try to coach her on healthy behaviors and reassure her what a wonderful daughter she is and to enjoy this time with her dad while she is young. The difficult situations he has put her in where he was behaving badly, when she wanted to go home, he did let her go. I hope the same for your precious daughter as well. Good luck and please do let me know how it goes? Stay in touch with Empowering Parents, they have helped our entire household. I wish you strength & peace. Julia

    Reply
  10. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To “On my own”: Thank you for sharing your story. I can hear how much you want to help your children through this challenging time. Since we don’t know your family it would be difficult for us to advise what the best course of action would be for your situation. For this reason, it may be helpful to speak with a family counselor or therapist in your local area about these concerns. It may also be helpful to find out if there are any support groups in your area that address your particular situation. The 211 National Helpline is available nationwide to put you in touch with services and supports near you. The Helpline is available 24 hours a day and can be accessed by dialing 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto 211.org. We wish you and your family the best as you continue through this. Take care.

    Reply
  11. On my own (Edit) Report

    I am a single mom with 3 children ages 14, 7, and 5. My oldest child is from my first marriage, the younger two from my second. My biggest concern is for my younger children because in August 2011, their father’s parental rights were terminated and there is no contact with him at all. I don’t even know where or how to find him, and honestly don’t want to. How can I make sure my children aren’t negatively impacted by this? They don’t ask about him much, only occasionally, but what do I say when they do? There is no chance he will be a part of their lives, so now what?

    Reply
  12. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To ‘mamabear’: It is so hard to find the words to say to your child about her father. It’s great to hear that you are being really cautious not to speak about him in a disparaging way—that takes a lot of strength. Regarding the gifts he is sending, it’s going to be up to you if to decide if you give them to her or not—that’s a very personal choice. One major thing to consider is what will withholding his gifts to your daughter accomplish? What is your goal? Are the gifts appropriate? What is in her best interest—to see that he is reaching out in possibly the only way he is capable of right now, or to believe that he is not trying to connect with her? These are some things that you can consider to help you make your decision. This isn’t easy, and we wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

    Reply
  13. mamabear (Edit) Report

    Good to hear I am not alone. My daughter is 7 years old and has not seen her father at all in 3 years. Prior to that, it was supervised. He blames me for all his problems and has warned me that when he gets our daughter unsupervised, he would make her hate me… He is a very manipulative, damaged person and I have been refused contact other than my attorney for quite some time.

    He mails a gift via an online website about 2 times a year. Do I continue to provide these gifts to our childÉ I dont disparage him to her, although she knows that I wish her dad the best, he is kind of like a stranger and that she lives with me because the judge said that was safest for her. also-she knows that he is allergic to alcohol. i really struggle with how to talk about her situation, due to his threats to alienate her..I dont know what to do about these gifts.

    Reply
  14. Crossroads (Edit) Report

    I am the mother of two wonderful girls. I am divorced, but still living with my ex while coming up with the “best plan” for the future. My kids’ dad is moody in his treatment of our kids – at best he is fun and loving – at worst he says things like “no more Dad nights if…”, slams doors when mad, throws dinner they don’t eat down the toilet and blames our 3 and 5 year old for stuff they do that is developmentally appropriate for them doing what kids do. I plan to move out as soon as this school year is complete. And, I’m struggling with trying to make the best choice for our kids – do I move to a place where I can reasonably rely on myself to make ends meet and have the life I want for my kids (far from our metro area of current residence) or do I stick it out nearby (very expensive and kids will grow up without extracurricular activities that they could experience in a cheaper town) so the kids can be nearby their father for the occasional dad’s nights (which may include at least one blow up of rage per visit). I know love is something they will always have for each other, but the verbal abuse and emotional damage is something I’d like to spare our children’s childhoods from.

    Reply
  15. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Truly Challenged,
    I am so sorry but protecting a child from their parent will be the hardest thing you may ever do. It has certainly taken nearly all I have myself. What you are up against is the Father has more rights than the precious child you are protecting and I do not know if it is nationwide or state by state. Your poor dear sister would have gone through the same hurdles. I relate to so much of what you are going through and my child is almost 11(she was 2 when it started). #1) Start a journal, names, dates, events your nephew experiences, this is how you can build your case. Your legal representative may never use it or refer to it often, it will help you, this I am sure. #2) All the child experts I have spoken to are pretty sure that a child will have problems in their adult life for certain, when they don’t have some kind of a relationship with both their parents. #3) It is only suspended if the child is believed to be in ‘mortal danger’ and this needs to be proved somehow within reason. (The scenario would be along the lines of him showing up at your house and you needing to call the police, him taking your nephew outside the visitation schedule something that would be frightening, disturbing, alarming around your nephew. Any kind of threats to him or yourself. The mentality that scares me is ‘if I can’t have them nobody will’.) Some of the things I tell my daughter. “Your dad has problems, when they are worked out you will visit with him. There are grown up things to handle, I will handle those you just have fun being a kid. Don’t you have enough to worry about? Yes Mom, I really do. ((homework, friends, chores) That’s what kids should worry about.) Please, for your nephew’s sake, keep him out of ‘it’ as much and for as long as you can. Try this: fast forward into the future, your nephew knows it all ok? Will he be able to carry all the adult worry waiting for him and be able to concentrate at school? Your job and My job is to get our children through their school years with their eye on the ball…. homework, friendships, chores, responsibilities, team sports … because if we don’t, they will be so sad … you’ll regret every word you ever uttered. Help him stay happy, because before you know it, your sweet nephew will know what his dad is really made out of and your heart will ache even more than when you kept it to yourself. It is one of the many sacrifices you will make on behalf of your nephew. He will get bigger, it will get better the older he gets. You will be his rock, you will be his source of comfort, you will be the one he knows he can turn to, you will get him there and you will be the one he will thank. The days can be long I know but the weeks fly by and the years do too. Does he have a photo album of his mom & dad? You could help him make one or make it yourself…. for him to look through when he is really missing them. I know it is hard, it is very hard but I would not change my path. Make choices you feel good about, keep your conscience clear. Does a 5 yr old boy *need* to know his dads problems? No, he does not have enough life experience to even understand right or wrong about it. Pick a trusted adult and confide and vent with them. It is good for the boys soul to know he has a mother & father that love him. His mother loves him from heaven and his dad loves him from his house, it is best he is with you considering the circumstances. Good Luck. You are a Grade A Auntie. God Bless your kind & generous heart. Love & Prayers, Julia

    Reply
  16. Truly challenged (Edit) Report

    Nearly a year and a half ago, my sister died of a heroin overdose. Since then, I have been in a legal battle with my nephew’s father for custody, who is also a heroin addict.

    I have legal guardianship over my nephew who is five years old. The whole court process has been very frustrating and an uphill battle. The father was given a parental integration plan which he has not complied with AT ALL. He was given UNSUPERVISED visitation every weekend Friday thru Sunday. (Even my sister, who was always high, knew better than to leave her son alone with this man who had been physically and mentally abusive to both her and my nephew.)

    Recently, we went to court and it came to light that he had received another drug charge in his city. The judge ruled that his visits would be taken down to every other weekend as long as he submits clean drug tests, otherwise his visitation will be suspended.

    Court was two months ago and the father has not even bothered to submit the initial test that he was supposed to take the day of court.

    Prior to all of this, my nephew had very little desire to go on the visits. He would always rejoice when his dad would call and say that he couldn’t make it. however, since this has happened, his dad has talked to him on the phone 3 times. The first time he told him that he had rearranged his room and couldn’t wait for him to see it and that he would get him the next weekend. And obviously, completely disappointed him by not coming to get him. The second time, my nephews father cried to him when he was on the phone with him. (My nephew is 5 yrs old) you can imagine how upsetting it was to hear “daddy” cry.

    The 3rd time, he told him that he is doing “everything he can” to make sure that he gets to see him.

    Knowing that this man is ultimately responsible for introducing my sister to the drugs that took her life, that he abused and neglected both my sister and my nephew, he has stolen from my entire family and is all around a terrible person, makes it VERY difficult for me to be diplomatic when in comes to talking to my nephew about his “daddy” and I always have been very positive when I talk to him about his dad because I have read how damaging that can be. But recently, I find it more and more difficult to come up with reasons that his dad can’t see him.

    His dad makes it sound to him (on the phone) like he really misses him and is sad that he can’t see him. But honestly, knowing him the way I do, he just wants to use my nephew to get money from the state so that he can get high.

    I hate to see that little boy go through so much loss and so much pain at such a young age. I just do not know how to minimize the pain that his dad is inflicting.

    Reply
  17. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Lost Dad,
    I understand how hard this is with your daughter so young. I’m sure you know there are no easy answers here and you know the road will be long and steep some days. So, what can you do? Coach yourself through it all, that’s it, plain and simple. When your daughter is especially emotional try to coach her through it as gently as you can, try to be a source of comfort and lead by example like Sarabean had suggested, she knows what she is talking about. When my daughter was your daughters age, her favorite activity was painting, my daycare provider would have a painting station ready for her every morning when I dropped her off for the day. My daughter would run to it and it helped her with her separation anxiety so much I will never forget. At her age ‘distraction’ is key, children love cooking in the kitchen, maybe you could have food crafts ready for transitional times. Decorating cupcakes, making brownies, buy her an apron and a hat, she may really get into it. If it is soothing she needs, you can hold her hand, hugging the teddy bear is great, offer a tubby, they love to play in the water at that age, a new water toy or a cup. I used to buy those fizzy things, or bubbles, or tub crayons, keeping her mind off missing her mom is a gift you will ease of her stress level. This is an age of ‘busy’ when she gets older the activities will change but the need for ‘distraction’ may not. Your golden rule is to not say anything derogatory about her mother, it is an arrow straight into her heart and it will not serve to bring her closer to yours. There is nothing more endearing to her right now than your understanding. What to say? Your mom & I love you very much, this is your dad time, then it will be your mom time. (Always remember, no matter where she goes, here on in, she is missing SOMEONE. I’m certain she misses you at the moms. This is a painful tragedy of children of divorced parents.) She must mind her manners but she does not have enough life experience to make sense of all this. It is hard for adults, with life experience, so you can surely understand her confusion. I have given myself a timeout, if I find myself loosing my patience. Just step away for a moment, regroup and ask what is really important here? They cry alot at that age, it’s one of their most meaningful ways to get our attention. Raising children is an ever changing environment, this week it’s one thing, next week it’s another. You will eventually meet someone and that will add another dynamic. Try to be flexible, it will help her cope as well. Do you read at bedtime? That is incredible quality time, we read by flashlight (or now the Kindle Fire). My daughter is going on 11 but now she wants to read the classics Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc. Try to grace her with the desire for reading, a whole world will open up for her. Pop up books are wonderful too for that age group or any arts and crafts. Assure your daughter how much you love her, be gentle and kind, roots & wings. You will be exhausted at days end, I won’t sugar coat it but you have much you can do to help her through this but mainly remember it is her life, she loves BOTH her parents and will always NEED BOTH her parents that will never change. Raising children of divorced parents is more successful the more selfless we can be. Keep doing what you are doing you may not like your situation but it is where it is for a reason, be a positive role model and show her by example ways YOU are making the best of it … mean while she gets older everyday. You are in the prime time of bonding time and she is highly fragile. The heartache of watching my daughter miss her alchoholic distant father remains indescribable to this day but the picture my daughter has in her mind of me is gentle and kind, you will have that too. On court days, I was upset on the inside and frosting cupcakes on the outside. I was not going to put my burdens on my precious daughter for anything, I loved her but did not lean on her, I only hugged her and nurtured her more. So I wish you great inner strenth and courage to keep it together, I had my days believe me but you can do this, mother or father you can do this… hang in there. ‘Be’ the person you want ‘HER’ to be because even when she is crying she is watching you and learning from you … what do you want her to learn? Love & Prayers, Julia

    Reply
  18. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To ‘lost dad’: It’s not at all uncommon for kids of any age to struggle through a divorce. It’s a transition—in fact you’ve had a couple transitions back to back with changing custody arrangements. Transitions can often lead to behavior changes as kids struggle to cope with change. It’s going to be a good idea for you to model self-soothing techniques for your daughter when she is crying or saying that she misses her mommy. An example of this might be, “I know you’re upset. Your mommy still loves you and you’ll see her soon. I wish I could help you calm down. Here, why don’t you hug your teddy bear?” You can suggest an age-appropriate activity that might help your daughter feel better such as snuggling with a blanket, looking at books, or playing with a favorite toy. It might also be a good idea to check in with her pediatrician about the changes you have seen just to rule out any medical causes for the behavior (particularly the accidents) and get some additional feedback and support to help you through this. We wish you and your family luck. Take care.

    Reply
  19. lost dad (Edit) Report

    So, I’ve got a little role reversal. I’m the father of a wonderful 2 1/2 year old girl. My ex and I are towards the tail end of our divorce, I hope. Custody of our daughter was split 50/50, and she had adjusted quite well, as far as I knew. She’s well behaved, potty trained, rarely throws tantrums, and is generally just a happy little girl.
    My ex and I are both recovering alcoholics, and I had found out about 3 weeks ago that she had gone back to drinking. Upon bringing up concerns about her drinking to my daycare people, I was informed that they had suspected as much, and that my daughter is a completely different child during her time with my ex. She has potty accidents, throws tantrums, is clingy, and is disruptive. The daycare people accredit this to structure. I am very prompt and fairly organized while my ex brings our daughter to daycare anywhere between 30 minutes to 3 hours late. I started the process to gain sole custody and she ended up coming clean to me about her drinking two days before court. She agreed to my terms, sole custody and supervised visitation, with an option to review in 90 days provided she attends aa meetings, etc. We haven’t been a week into this new custody situation and she’s drinking again. I’ve got some pretty big resentments about all that, but that’s another deal.
    So, now I’m freaking out a little, or a lot. I have a fairly decent support system, which is awesome, but my main issues are that I don’t know what to say when my daughter expresses how much she misses her mom. I don’t bad mouth my ex, but I don’t want to play the “if you can’t say something nice…” game, either. Plus, I’m not the favorite, not that I have to be the favorite, but I’d like her to like me! My daughter cries when she has to come home with me now. I picked her up from my mom’s tonight and she bawled when we had to put her coat on. Don’t get me wrong, we have a blast together, and I know she loves me, but it’s heart wrenching when she realizes it’s Daddy picking her up and not Momma.
    This has been the first week of the new custody agreement, and I know it’s going to be rocky for a little while. I just want to find a way to help my daughter cope with what’s going on.

    Reply
  20. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Mother, I am always moved by how honest parents are with Empowering Parents. I deeply respect your story and all that you have been, and are handling, right now. All I can think of, is you can tell your son his dad moved… but I don’t want him to worry that you will move too. I think Sarabean gave you the best advise in the world… In some cases we the parents need the counseling on how to handle what our children are trying to wrap their brains around. Our children look to us for guidance through a developing technological world we are trying find our own way through… most of our days are a pressure cooker of timing, drop offs, pick ups, meals, homework, baths etc. We take advise from the people we respect, your children I’m sure respect you. I think your oldest childs counselor *is* the best resource at the moment. You have so much going on outside my experience, I can only encourage you to continue to educate yourself so you can be the lighthouse for your children through the storms ahead. I’m sorry so much falls on you, I can only guess you must have some unresolved worries you would benefit from sharing in counceling. You are right, you do need somewhere to go with all this… call the numbers Sara gave you… just give it a chance. Try to squeeze in the precious time for yourself to get some coaching, they will help you guide the kids. Get back to us if it is not helpful. Empowering Parents is here for us all. You can contact the ‘Victim Witness Advocate’ through the court system and they may be a resource as well. I wish you great courage and strength, I wish I could do more for you. If you could go with your son to his room and talk to him about all the good things about his Dad that can’t hurt. You could maybe help him make a scrap book, a memory book with him, that he could look at, maybe some pictures and you could write some stories in there for him about him & his dad. I just would be mindlful to teach him to keep it private, I would not want to offend the older step daughter who may have mixed emotions about his book. You have a complicated social structure within your home, I would make your older daughters feelings as important as your sons. They are both different, but important … because it is so important to *them*. You will not have to do this forever, you just need to get them to 18 and I think your biggest enemy will be to try to keep them from getting depressed about it all. It’s ok to be angry but it’s not ok to be mean. Teaching them to respect each other and the different relationships they had with the now absent Dad/Stepdad. You have your work cut out for you but you are strong, you are seeking and you will find. Did you read all the stories in this blog? There is great information back and forth, the original article, the parents sharing, the ideas from Empowering Parents and my ideas. We all put our hearts into sharing what we can with each other, to help that parent who is so desperately seeking where to go and what to do? It’s alot to handle these days. We are all working so hard to raise our resilient children to be good people and citizens. Do your best, I bet you are getting there and may just need some rest. Try to nurture yourself through this, it sounds like you have many little ones, we all think better when we are well rested. Good Luck. Sara was right too when she suggested you go with your motherly instinct… patience, loving & gentle kindness works well with children of all ages.
    Love & Care, Julia

    Reply
  21. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To ‘mother’: I can imagine it’s pretty heartbreaking to hear your little guy asking questions about his dad. We commend you for reporting the abuse and protecting your children, as well as getting your oldest some help. We’re glad to hear that things have improved. We do not know of any websites that offer the type of support to which you are referring, but it might be helpful for you to contact 211 to see what types of support are available in your community and surrounding areas. 211 is an information and referral service that you can access by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by visiting http://www.211.org. As far as what to say to your little one when he asks you those tough questions, it might be helpful for you to ask your daughter’s therapist. Ultimately, though, you just have to trust your gut. We know this is hard and we wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

    Reply
  22. mother (Edit) Report

    I desperatly need advise on what to say to my 3.5 year old son who asks about/talks about/prays about his father on a daily basis. The last time he saw his father he was only 1, so I don’t know if he is urning for the specific person or the idea of a father, but I don’t know how to handle it either way. (I can’t find anything on the internet anywhere regading my specific circumstance. My childrens father was sexually/physically & emotionally abusive to my oldest/his step daughter) I don’t discuss anything about their father to my 5,3 & 2 year old children.. but my 3 year old son is constantly asking about and for him. What do I say?

    Please post this question, I am sure there are many moms out there who have a similar story. It would be wonderful if some of use could get together and create a place for women like me to get answers & help in dealing with situations of this nature. The stastistics are staggering.. and lets face it, most men who physically and sexually abuse children are not the pedophile on the registry down the street: they are the men we have married, grown up with since childhood or other figures close to our own families. If you know of any other websites offering support to mothers about how to help their children cope & recover from this type of trauma… please also post that information. Thank you so much for your help.

    p.s. In case your wonderding, I called & reported the abuse as soon as I discovered it. Criminal charges are pending (and have been for over a year) & my oldest is doing great now after months of therapy.

    Reply
  23. law9869 (Edit) Report

    Julia,
    Thank you so much for those wonderful comforting words. I am so touched….
    Thank you for your advise, I defiantly will use it .

    Lisa~

    Reply
  24. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Law9869,
    Understanding I am a mother with similar experiences and not a licensed professional like Empowering Parents offers in various areas … if I found myself in your shoes, I would educate myself because that is pretty much how I handle things that I don’t understand or confuse me, I go to my local library and start reading up and I start asking around and surfing the web which is probably how you found me. I can’t help but mention as his most significant role model right now, I would try to teach him how to look at and focus on what is ‘good in his life’. That our life should be about celebrating ‘who is interested in us’ that we count our blessings by ‘thinking of the people who do share our joys and sorrows’ and nurture and celebrate those people. Because we can pick our friends but not our family… I would remind him he has a devoted mother who loves him so much, that his grandfather still watches over him and hears his prayers so it is good for his grandfathers soul in heaven to hear the prayers of his grandson … I would try to teach him that Grieving is the process of learning to live our lives without someone we care very much about and that it is a life long journey that you will walk together. That there will be days you may lean on him and days he may lean on you but how much you want to be there for him and how much his love, on the really tough days, keeps you going. My Dad is still with us, but that is how I picture life when he is not here with us. I would try to teach him that if ‘life is a million moments’ lets try to spend as many of them as we can being thankful for what we do have. How sorry you are that life has been so hard but unfortunately, that IS life, sometimes it is up and sometimes it is down… but it is about how we handle what comes our way that enriches the experience, that is where our self esteem comes from, handling these challenges, coping with the set backs but not letting them ‘set us back’. That you know he is good and strong and will make a difference in this big world, yes even just him being himself. That it is ok to be angry, it is not ok to be mean and try to teach him the difference. When he gets you really upset, keep it together and always do your best to be understanding, let him know you understand he is hurting, about so many things, but as he gets older he will understand so much more as he gets older. When he starts having relationships and how they can be great or not so, but it is how we handle it all. Sometimes teens use anger to control the adults in their lives, the Total Transformation Program is all over that topic. I would only suspect it THAT if he gets that way when you ask about a responsibility that he has shirked. Is there a male in your circle of extended family that could maybe be a role model? My stepson is 14, we let him bring a pal and took them for pizza and bowling. He did put up with my 10 yr old ‘like a kid sister’. But it was ‘something to do’. Try to figure out any interests he has and help him explore those. There are indoor skate parks that they have now, just to help him have some ‘down time from worrying’. I think my stepsons preoccupation with VideoGames all these years was his escape from missing his ‘disinterested’ mom. Lastly, I would not ‘make him call’ anyone. I agree with him, the phone works both ways. It may hurt him more being the one who always calls, maybe it makes him feel needy … when all he wants to feel is needed. Talk, Listen, Listen our 14 yr old wants to talk except I don’t see many people listening to him much more than me! Even when I am busy, I have him follow me and we talk that way. I often know more about what is going on with him because we DO talk, his dad will say I did not know that. I don’t push either, I present opportunity to the children in my life, if they go for it great, if not, at least I tried. As his mother, I know you will always try. Keep the faith, pray and listen and listen more. Be who you want your son to be: be loving, be patient, be kind, be gently, be gracious … because he is watching you and learning. I wish you both all the joy you can both handle. I lost my mother and I am still on my own journey… in my heart of hearts I wish you both … Courage which is Grace under pressure. 🙂 I would ask him right out ‘why are you angry today’ and hope he wants to talk about it, that will be a step in the right direction. Have a gentle tone for he is a wounded lamb. I hope that is enough ideas. Peace to you and yours. Please let me know how it goes. I am always here. Julia

    Reply
  25. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To ‘law9869’: It certainly does sound like you have done all that you can to make sure your son gets to have a relationship with his father and grandmother. Your son is at an age now where it’s a good idea to let him make that decision on his own. What might be more important at the present time is making sure your son has the support he needs to deal with the loss of his grandfather, who seems to have been the strongest male influence in your son’s life. It would be helpful to look into grief counseling or at least talking to the school counselor at his school to see what kind of support is available for him there. I know you don’t want to see your son in pain and you probably feel quite helpless. You can’t fix his broken heart overnight but you can help him by getting him some support and helping him to find effective ways to cope with the hurt and sadness he is experiencing. You can look for some support for him in your local area by contacting 211, an information and referral service, at 1-800-273-6222 or by visiting them online at http://www.211.org. We wish you and your son luck as you continue to work through this. We know it’s not easy. Take care.

    Reply
  26. law9869 (Edit) Report

    I’m a single mother of a 13 year old son, His father and I separated the first time when he was 2, we tried many times after that to work it out, OR should I say I tried, he was very abusive to me mentally and physically . I knew that when my son started telling people what he saw daddy do to mommy it was time I had to leave for my son….my son was 3. I have never tried to keep him away from his father, and I never have allowed people to talk about his father in front of him. I have always encouraged him to have a relationship with his father. At first his father was very involved, called all the time, set up vacations for them, saw him 3 times a year or more because he moved out of state. He decided that he could not handle being away from him any more when my son was 5 and moved to Florida where my son and I resided.
    At this point I thought things would be so much better for my son. He saw my son 1 time that year and I had to drive him 2 hours away to his house and to pick him up, but he did continue to call, that was the year I put him on child support.
    From the time the support was ordered to this date he has seen my son maybe 4 times from 2005-2012 as well as his mother cut my son out of her life as well because she did not agree with her sone paying support for his only son
    . I still continued to have my son call his father and grand mother and try to have some type of relationship. Now my son is 13 and he is starting to refuse to call him or the grandmother, he says to me all the time “I’m his kid he should want to call me and so should my grandmother” I shouldn’t have to call them all the time, stop trying to make me! I don’t care about him anymore, but I know he does, I know that his heart is broken to think that his father doesn’t care about him, and his grandmother (the only one he has) have just written him off. I try to reassure him all the time that he loves him, and has his own issues to deal with, but he loves him his way is just a little different. This year my son lost is grandfather, we lived with us for the last 10 years and my son is very close to … he is having such a hard time, he is still dealing with the loss of my dad and in some was his Dad…This year his did not even return his call on Christmas…… HE has not spoken to his father in about 7 months. I do not know what to do…his heart his breaking and I wasn’t to fix it and make it ok. My son is already going through so much being a 13year old; dealing with the issues with is absent Father, and the death of his grandfather.
    I try to talk to him, but it seems all we do is argue, He seems very angry, and sad all the time…. I don’t know what to help him

    Reply
  27. Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To JAG: It sounds like you have been doing everything you can to protect your son from feeling the hurt of not having his father around, and trying to help him cope with that loss. While you cannot change the situation of his father being away, you can work with your son on some coping skills to help him with this loss. We recommend talking with your son about what might make him feel better in this situation. Talk about everything at first, even if it is not possible. From there, you can perhaps find a couple of things he can do to make himself feel better when he is missing his father. We also recommend having a similar conversation about what he can do if he is being teased by other kids in the neighborhood, and then picking a couple of things he can actually do in those situations. It might be helpful for you to check into some local resources for both you and your son to cope with his father’s absence. A good place to start is http://www.211.org. 211 is an informational service that can help to connect you with resources in your area. You can also reach them by calling 1 (800) 273-6222. You might also try contacting the social worker at the correctional facility to see if there are any support groups meeting for family members of those incarcerated. Good luck to you and your son as you work through this; we wish you the best.

    Reply
  28. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear JAG, I have walked in your shoes and had the same struggles. #1)I would explain to my child that just like when he does not follow the rules at home, he has a time out. That his Dad did not follow the rules and now he is in ‘time out’. I would keep it simple and limit it to that, he will probably ask more questions and I would tell him (like I tell my now 10 yr old) that is for grown ups, when he is older you will talk about it more, right now enjoy being a kid. When I asked my child don’t you have enough to think about? She said “You know, I really do.” This should help your son and his need for ‘His Story’. #2) He knows he has a dad somewhere, so I think the what to call the other adult guys in his life will work out. #3) I am very sorry but being a parent has countless worries. I worry so much at times about my own 1 child, I am glad I did not have more, I truly don’t know if I could have handled it. Now a parent with multiple children would tell you, you find the way. So I would try to develop some coping skills for yourself … self talk? Have you ever heard of it? When you find yourself worrying, coach yourself through it, the first thing I do is get my hands busy, cooking or cleaning, if not, start reading a book or find an online game you could play to take your mind off the worry. You need to find your distraction because there will always be something to worry about. One of my personal big worries is that our neighborhood will find out about my daughters fathers ‘time out’. How many friends will she loose? Will anyone still want to be our friends? Sorry, but the world has dangers and people will associate us with that,yes, I believe even if it were years ago. So I respect your openness about it.#4) You reunited with a man who is not around. Some might say finding a new person in your life may have helped and yes it may have. But I did and as wonderful as he is, she knows he is not her Dad and I never suggested he was, so it has been wonderful to have a gentle positive role model for her but again, now that she sees her Dad and has a relationship with him, she loves him and is glad to have her dad in her life. He still has problems and confuses her often but like you said, it is still a special relationship. You may want to make a ‘My Story’ photo album for him. That starts once upon a time, there was a woman (a picture of you)[turn page] and a man (a picture of his dad) [turn page], they fell in love (a picture of you both) [turn page] got married or decided to have a baby (a picture of you pregnant), the baby was born(his baby picture) and everything was wonderful (a picture of all three of you?). Then one day Dad broke the rules and had to go in a ‘time out’ (just a picture of you and your son). Then start making pages of all the things he is doing and learning so when Dad gets out of his time out your son can bring him up to date with his memory book. You can put family there, pets everything and your son when feeling ‘left out’ will have this great book of all the pictures and ‘his story’ to look at, your son can even make pages of him missing his dad, if you do a 3 ring binder you can insert pages if you missed something. My child has heart aches too but she is getting there. I can’t tell you the ocean of tears I choked back watching my daughter watch other Dads swing their little girls around in the park, that sinking feeling, the one thing we can’t give them, but our job, is to teach them coping skills to handle their feelings about it, we show them with our own actions and we give them tools, like his new story book, to get through it. #6) When he reports to you the cruelty of the other children, try not to get mad, try to keep it together and give him, words or tools. My daughter said another little girl said something hurtful to her, I said “Just because someone says something does not make it so”. She used it and the girl backed off, she was put out because my daughter took the power away of the sting of her words. Just be general not specific or hurtful back. That child will tell their parents as well and I know you don’t want a contest. I do role playing with my daughter, she will be the meanie and I will be her. She also knows to tell an adult. I agree with the Dad your son needs to learn to stick up for himself. My daughter does not want to offend anyone either, we always keep the bad behavior in the other person. Sorry if this is so long, I think I got everything. Please let me know how it goes? We are all comrads in this world trying to raise our children well, provide for them but the best way we protect them is teaching them how to take care of it on their own, yes, even so young as 8. He sounds smart, I bet he surprizes us all. I am glad you have much family support, it can take a village to raise one child. God Bless Us All.
    I wish you great strength & courage as you prepare him for the world. Love & Prayers, Julia

    Reply
  29. JAG (Edit) Report

    Hello,

    I dont even know where to begin.. I seperated from my childs father when I was 2 1/2 months pregnant, gave birth to my child and refused to call his father on the day he was born. He came the next day after receiving a call from my brother. Anyhow our relationship was ok no arguments, no disrespect it was good.. we communicated and it all revolved around our son. He paid child support and was always there when I needed him. Unfortunately he got arrested when our son was 14 months old.. My son was not aware obviously but I was, my son would call his godfather, grandfather and uncle dad because he would hear myslelf, or nieces calling out to our father so he thought thats what he should cal them not knowing what the word father meant i guess. I would correct him and show him pictures of his fahter and tell him who he is. About 2 years and 1/2 I decided to take him to see his father in Prison. He immediately gravitated towards his father and bonded. It was so special because of the innocense and bond they now share we visit him often and speak to him daily. On the day we visited him his father and i decided to get back together. But I noticed that my child I guess feels left out per say during school functions such as daddy and me breakfast and I show up Father day cards that have to get mailed and cant see his dads reaction. Asking him what he wants for his b-day or put atop a x-mas list and he tells me his dad. I finally had to break the news to him that his father was not out building houses he is actually in prison.. he took the info a little upset he asked why i had lied. and i told him i wanted to protect him but knew that I had to tell the truth so he can understand why i couldnt make some of his wishes come true and why we are in this situation per say.. he accepted it but i noticed that he has a void.. he talks about his dad with his friends and yesterday a neightbors mom came a dn spoke to me we were just conversating and she told me that my sons misses his dad (which i knew) and that he should have some sense knocked into him and that my son has mentioned that his dad is spending time with his other siblings when its not true.. i guess my son is makeing up stuff in his little head to make sense but is causing him pain he is only 8 years old..well i told her listen he’s not a dead beat he is actually in this situation and it is what it is.. my childs family does help up out a lot and we all have a good relationship and i am there for my child and his father does speak to him daily i know its not enough and will never be i know shooting basketball is not as fun with mom than it would be with dad, talking about boy stuff is not the same unless its with dad etc.. etc. i just dont know what to do.. how do i help my child cope with the fact that his dad is not here but will soon be here but dont know how soon.. My child at times gets picked on cause he is smaller is more hyper than others and at times the other kids want to play with him because of the stuff he has.. i have been fortunate enought to be able to provide for him as if he lived with both parents so he doesnt desire for toys because he gets them of course earned (good grades)but i feel as if other kids can be so cruel and he runs to me and i of course get angry and protect him and keep him inside and later let him out but then i talk to his dad and he tells me kids will be kids he just has to defend himself and just play.. i am torn.. i have a little boy that is so friendly that wont hurt anyone and is so hurt by the absence of his fahter.. what can i do to ease the pain or make him understand.. please help.. i cant see him hurting any longer..

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  30. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear SingleMom, You have accomplished great feats in turning your life around, and doing so for your child, is the greatest purpose, I too have worked for. You are a success story and should be proud. If I were you, I would be honest with my son. (He is confused by the situation now, so maybe he will better understand especially now, that he is getting older (age 7?) and hears about family roles in school from classmates. I would have an honest, age appropriate, conversation with him. I would say something simple like his dad ‘moved away’. He can picture that in his mind and understand that. I would let him know that *your* dad is his ‘grandfather’ this will give your son a ‘grandfather’ which is special too. When my daughter was young we talked about her baptism and how she was adopted by God and that we are all Gods children and God is Our Father. Many children have two sets of parents due to divorce, 1 where they live and 2 or 3 homes they visit and/or sleepover… parents, grandparents… you sound intelligent and I bet your son is too. I would not discuss drugs or alcohol until he is more middle school age and you want him to stay away from kids that do such things. I would let him know his biological father has ‘problems’. When he gets better he will call for you to visit. I strongly suggest you read a previous note from Suzanne. Her daughter was asked to reunify with her dad at age 26. Prepare yourself now for that as well. Teach your son never to get into a car without your knowledge…. that if his dad ever pulled up to your house, your son should come get you, so you can make sure the dad does not still ‘have’ problems. You are his guide for safe measures. Your now complicated situation was based on keeping your son safe and for good reason it sounds. His father is involved in a very serious and dangerous world. I am glad you have your parents helping you, they watch out for your son too I am sure. I would start the entire conversation reassuring your son how wonderful he is and how much he means to you. Keep it simple. Answer his questions because he will ask others if not. Whatever you tell him he may share with classmates, ‘my dad has problems and moved away’ has never offended anyone in our company and that is what we said. My daughter was satisfied by this for many years. As your son gets older you can share more ‘age appropriate’ information but limit that and keep it simple. The focus should be on your wonderful life, being a good student at school and learning how to be a good friend, so that in turn, he has good friends. Do your best not to cry through this conversation with him, you don’t want him to see your pain of all this, your tears will land on his heart and stay with him. Let him know his life is special, his story is special because it is so very special to you. If it comes to him too sadly, he may preoccupy with worrying about it all and he is a precious young child who should be free from anymore worries than he must bear. You may want to let your dad know you will tell your son, so your dad is aware, you are gifting him the beautiful present of being a ‘grandfather’. I’m sure he is wise enough to enjoy his new role. Maybe one day you will meet someone, if he is worthy, your son will be free to give him that special name of dad, if he connects well with your son. I have been ‘age appropriate’ honest with my daughter and she is thriving and successful. You can reassure your son that now that he is getting older, he was ready for this conversation where, when he was younger would not have understood. I want you to read previously what Suzanne wrote and what I wrote back to her. So you are aware. You and your son have been through a lot together. This will bring you closer. Maybe you already spoke with him and I am too late. I am very sorry if I missed helping you, I did not want to rush my reply. But with a little boy waiting I did not want him to wait too long. I send you my strength, love and courage. Courage is grace under pressure. I picture you very courageous. Being a parent is the toughest job you’ll ever love. (Stay in touch with Empowering Parents, I am always so moved by other parents honesty. There are few places to go but I always go here.) Please let me know how it goes?
    Love and Prayers to you & yours, Julia

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  31. SingleMom (Edit) Report

    Hello — I have a rather unique situation that I would like to ask for your advice about. I am a single parent, and my six-year-old son and I live with my parents. I went through a court situation with my son’s biological dad when my son was 1-2 years old. I pursued having my own dad adopt my son, since my son’s biological father was (and still is) very heavily involved in drugs and alcohol (something that I too was once involved in, but completely forsook once I became pregnant). Tom was also verbally and physically abusive while I was with him. I am completely clean and have been for over 7 years now. Since the time that I found out that I was pregnant, I went back to school to become an RN and now work as an ICU nurse. I work part time (weekends, night shift) and also homeschool my son (who is now in the first grade). So needless to say, I really cleaned up my act and my life has changed a LOT since the time that my son was born. Long story very short, my son’s biological dad gave up his parental rights to our son when he found out that his other daughter (by another woman) was going to be willing to testify in court that he had shown her how to use drugs. (She actually showed up at the courthouse to testify one morning; and in a *rage*, he immediately gave up his rights to our son.) During the entire time that we were going back and forth in court, my hope and my request was that my own dad would be able to adopt my son in place of his biological dad. As soon as Tom gave up his parental rights, my dad was able to immediately adopt my son (although I still retain all of my rights as his mother). So my son has grown up in a very loving, healthy, and committed family environment his entire life. (I left Tom soon after I found out that I was pregnant, so my son has no recollection or knowledge of his biological dad at all. We have always lived with my parents.) Because my son is now my dad’s adopted son, I have always encouraged my son to call him “dad” — because he IS his dad. But recently, my son asked me about how my dad could be his dad when we (my dad and I) are not married — and I am in a real predicament as to exactly what I should tell my son about his biological dad. My son has and will have no contact with his biological dad. As I say, his biological dad is still heavily involved in drugs and alcohol and is not a mentally stable individual. I consider it a blessing from God — and a miracle — that he gave up his parental rights. Do you have any advice for me about how I can address my son’s questions? I really want to find out the best way to explain to my son that he is adopted and the fact that his biological dad chose to give up his rights. Any thoughts or advice that you might be willing to share would be **greatly** appreciated.

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  32. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Dad’sGirlfriend, I am sorry I did not reply sooner, I read your comment and had thoughts but I give my heart time to think about each situation before I reply. I want you to know, that your thoughts are on track in my experience. Letting your little angel know you are there for her is most important. She probably has some separation anxiety or detachment from being separated from her mother at a young age… this makes it hard for her to connect because she may be worrying you will go away to, which is also out of her control. This can be confusing because she does not have life experience to weight against and rationalize it all. My stepdaughter and I loved going clothes shopping. I always wanted to bring my other step daughter to have her nails done and to a make up counter to learn how to put makeup on properly but she would not let me close enough. So we did things that she *was* comfortable with. You may want to let your someday step daughter guide the relationship so that you stay within her comfort zone. I would respect the dad and check in with him before doing too much so he is ok with it too. But one on one girl time is really great. Coloring in her bedroom, reading a story together everynight is a treasure to any child. My daughter and I consider this our most quality time of all because we talk about her day and I help her settle her thoughts if something is troubling her as well. Every home needs a womans touch if she is gentle, kind, patient, cleans & feeds the masses. 🙂
    Cooking in the kitchen has also been one of our favorite time together as well. Cupcakes, smoothies, dinner anything. You could share, make or buy her her own apron. There are so many things you can do with her that will be special … even calling your chats ‘woman talk’ would make her feel good. Whatever builds this precious little girl up is a treasure that will stay with her always. Give her all the special memories you can and love will blossom for sure. I hope you get this note and please write back again. Help her tidy her room, sort through and pull out the clothes that are too small, hunt around and find a ‘quality’ consignment shop where the second hand clothes are barely worn. Make sure she always has a nice dress in her size. Take her picture and put a pretty picture of her up in her room. My daughter loves hanging her own school picture up in her room. Everything and anything you do will bring you closer. Little girls look up to and adore big girls. You may not have brought her into this world but please look past that and embrace helping her find where she fits in and how to be the best *she* can be and the rewards will come and she will become your daughter in your *heart* and you will eventually not feel the difference. Love & Prayers to you all, Julia

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  33. dad's_ girlfriend (Edit) Report

    I am a 26 year old that is dating a 37 year old father of four. We have been dating for 2 years now. The childrens mother has some drug problems and is always involved with the court system. I myself have no children of my own so I have tried to be the best friend to thee kids who are 19, 17, 14 and 7. His 3 boys are the oldest and they had time with their mother and knew how she was before without the drugs, but his daughter hasn’t really known her mom. When she was 4 her mom came back into her life but has been in and out of it for the past 3 years. We let her go to her maternal grandmothers (where her mom and her bf stay) but when she comes home she gets angry at everyone because when she’s out there her mom don’t spend any time with her. I have tried to get her to talk to me and I have let her know that I am here for her. I know she is hurting and it kills me that she won’t let me close enough to help her.I always tell her that her mommy loves her but it doesn’t seem to be enough.. how do I get through to my little angel?

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  34. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Supermom,
    I am so sorry how hard this all is. I have questions though too. Is it your schedule that limits you, the dad or Family Court. I would start with the basics, dedicate a notebook to a journal. (Mine goes back to 2003.) Keep track of everything and build your case. If you believe your son is ‘safe’ in the family home then you have time to organize yourself to care for him. You have to have yourself in order before you can care for a child because a 4 yr old is alot of energy and work. Then I would look at my budget. Can you afford the kindergarten at college? Would you be able to study and manage his homework, dinner, bath and story time? If the father has a house and you have an apt, there is that to consider. Then I would look at how my visits went with my child … is the dad hovering or respecting your time? It did not seem to take long for friction to surface with the father, so I would give him space. I would focus on my relationship with my child, acting respectfully at all times in his company. You can not control the dad only yourself. Were the living conditions better in the home of your son? If not, I would note that in my journal. If the dad was stressed out and not calm, I would note that in the journal. I would try not to focus too much on the dad and more on myself and my child where feelings are concerned. Educating yourself for a better career in the world is fantastic. Lack of funds often is part of what keeps us in a bad relationship. For women a well paying job offers empowerment and choices in my experience. Are your parents an option to help you? Sometimes not. You can write your son a letter every day, reassuring him how much you think of him and miss him. How wonderful he makes your life and how much you can’t wait to see him again. You could give him a blanket with your picture on it or even a picture of both of you together for times when he especially misses you. Where your journal is concerned I would always scan the home to see there is nothing dangerous within his reach and the house is picked up. Is he bathed and his clothes clean that sort of thing. I would build my case to be ready, when I am ready and have my facts in order when I appealed to be his caregiver. (My ex husband used our daughter as an object to control me. I don’t think he ever imagined I would love her so much and the great sacrifices I would make on her behalf. I spent my entire retirement and savings building a new life for my daughter and I. I would do it again. She was always with me though, so I feel for you.) Focus on showing the good you are made of and what you can do for your son in a positive meaningful manner in the meantime. I don’t know how old you are if you have any resources yet. I would resist getting anymore involved with the dad, it sounds like he may have a temper. The main thing is you must do what ‘you believe’ is the right thing. If you truly believe continuing your education will be what is best than that is what you should focus on. If your son is in danger or sad? His safety is paramount. Do what you think is best for your son. And I myself would never give up. At least your son will see and know you never gave up on him.
    I wish you great courage and strength. These are very difficult times… it does get better, but it does take a long time. Grace is courage under pressure. You can do this. See if your college has any services that would help you. Hang in there. We never know what our children will remember. But we are always building memories. Sincerely, Julia

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  35. supermom (Edit) Report

    the father of my child broke up with me after 6yrs living together in poor living conditions. for the past year however, things started to look up for the family (moved into our new home & we are going back to school)after 3 mths since we moved in he threw me out of the house. Being a college student now i get to see my son who is 4 sometimes bi-wkly or wkly. i visited the house last wknd, both his dad & my son were excited to see me, but on the second day he started to make me feel unwelcome so there was a fight. I had to leave for school early the next day and my son begged for me to stay. I talked to him then he decided that i should walk him to school.(I regrettably couldn’t)That day at school he wasn’t cooperating,and after lunch break he started crying & held his head down the whole time (after seeing fellow classmates’ mothers bringing their lunch).I am at school stressed,angry and furious at what his dad is putting him through because of his selfish ways. I am thinking about letting him live with me while we go school together(there is a kindergarten school on my campus) Do you think it will work for him? What can I do to make things easier for my son because clearly this is affecting him in many ways? I am lost at words and very emotional when I even hear my son’s name. What can I do to help him through this stressful period? What should I say? What can i do?

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  36. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Feeling Lost,
    I have deeply learned from Empowering Parents that the trickle down effect happens painfully in a family. This means the kids are watching us and sharply. In a blended family like ours (yours & mine)it is the most successful setting for ‘divide and conquer’ strategy (kids to parents). I am coming up on the 7 year anniversary myself, at this point we are knee deep. I agree it is a big mistake to expose our children to ‘unhealthy behavior’. The problem is the other parent is demonstrating ‘lack of self control’ in front of the children. So he may be successful at ‘scaring them’ he is unsuccessful at teaching them mature behavior. My first attempt would be to talk to the other parent and strategize some ground rules for our own behavior. Kids are smart, we can not yell at them and then tell them not to yell. It is funny, but the more calm we remain in the heat, that is when we regain our status as a collected individual who is mature and in ‘self control’. Even my childs report cards notes for all students if they are demonstrating self control or not. For me, this would be my first step, to ask the other adult in the house if he would stop yelling at me and the children. I personally can not live like that and most people too. If he is willing to compromise and stop that since it is unsuccessful, that would be the beginning of a better life for all. The adults must demonstrate mature respectable behavior. Yelling is disrespectful bottomline. My mother yelled alot so I can’t take it in my adult life too, it stops at me. My other concern is there swearing too? We have worked really hard at getting the kids to stop swearing. (My bio was too young but his inner city kids used alot of street talk which was tragic to listen to coming from children. My ex husband was highly explosive and when I finally got away from him I made a vow to myself never again would I allow anyone to treat me that way. Your story has much between the lines that makes me identify with you so much. If the male role model in the house will not stop acting out … what you should do now … is whatever you can live with because what ever you think is the right thing, will be what YOU can live with in your heart. You must live each day doing what you think is the RIGHT THING. If staying where you are is the right thing, then I would say start educating yourself on what ‘healthy behavior’ looks like, sounds like and feels like. The adults in the house must work together in a blended family because the children are relentless in trying to gain control because they do not respect who is in charge. My fiance’s two older children ran away to live with their alchoholic mother because we wanted them to do their homework and clean their rooms. They were yelling and swearing at us, in my heart, they merely moved back in with the person who taught them such unsocial behavior. My fiance’ does not yell at me. He argues occaisionally with the youngest (boy now 14) about cleaning his room and doing his homework. But not in a crazy scarey manner at all. But he helps the boy too. They both spent hours cleaning the boys room to get him organized and now he can pick it up better because the dad gave him a leg up. Our house is quieter now with just my bio girl now 10 and his boy now 14. I would picture a variety of scenario’s in your mind what sounds the best and work towards that. I feel if the parents got counseling THEY would know how to handle the children better and would understand they need to be a unified front to bring some civility to the home and stick to it. Did you ever hear the saying “we teach people how to treat us?” If someone says they love me but does not behave loving to me, I realize they may feel something for me but I am not convinced it is love. With all my heart I wish you strength,courage & peace in your heart & home. Julia

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  37. feeling lost (Edit) Report

    I am bio mom of two and a step mom of two more. They all four live with my husband and I full time. My stepdaughters mother is an alcoholic and they rarely see her. Thier dad and I have been together for the last 7 years. They are now 16 and 13. I am really struggling right now becuase the oldest is very mean and vindictive to me and my kids. She has been to so many counslors I have lost track of the number. She has never been diagnosed with anything other than her pediatriton finally put her on an antidepresant just recently. She was having sex at the age of 13, she was cutting herself before that. She always agravates my son to the point where something happens and he pushes her away. this has happened since her dad and i started dating and her dad always get my son in trouble and he goes off on him in a yelling rage. Just this week the samething happen to my daughter. The 16 year old told her dad that my daughter kicked her and he went off in a yelling rage and told her that she could defend herself in anyway she wanted even if it meant she drug her up and down the steps by her hair. Come to find out, the 16 year old lied about what happened and she had acutally hit someone first but failed to tell her father that. She knows if she tells him they hit her that he will go off on them. This time I was actually able to prove it becuase someone was here besides my children. I have tried to be a good stepmom to her but she just is so mean when she does not get her way. What should i do? I feel like i am hurting my kids by exposing them to these kinds of unhealthy behavior.

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  38. kemberly (Edit) Report

    Thank you for sharing your stories. It makes me feel a little bit less alone. My then 5 year old son and 7 month old daughter and me fled their abusive dad into a shelter 4 years ago. I have tried to rebuild twice now financially and emotionally, and he is so unstable that he lost his job (due to drinking) and so child support is non existent. Although I have an order for protection against him (literally he has threatened my life several times since we left) somehow he convinced a therapist and the guardian ad litem he was ready to “reunify” under supervised conditions. It was the worst thing I ever did. He acted inappropriately (trying to get info from my son) and the visits were discontinued until he got mental and alcohol help. 2 years later, he has still not done these things, and the children of course are confused and feel abandoned. He has not contacted them whatsoever-birthday, Christmas-its like they fell off the face of the earth to him. It has ruined many a holiday and it breaks my heart in 2. I appreciated your idea of what to say- it is so hard when your child catches you off guard and you don’t know how to reply. In our case, the longer they get away from it, the better they are doing. After talking to the victim advocate who has done this for 25 years, she says it is very unlikely he will ever be a part of their lives. He likely has a “deep-seeded personality disorder” and will not seek help voluntarily. We participate in an address confidentiality program to keep us safe. My children have issues, especially anxiety, but I know it would be ten times worse if I had stayed. Counseling helps. I still feel very guilty and sad for what they don’t have. I had a great dad, and I cannot imagine how they must feel. I try to be the best mom I can be, but some days are exhausting and I can never be 2 parents….

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  39. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    You have a story and half my dear friend. What courage you have against all odds. You have come so far with such dignity and grace. I think the teen years are the real ‘boot camp’ for parents (unless you have a seriously ill baby). My daughter is approaching 10. So you are one of my new hero’s. I want to start by saying ‘we have all trusted the wrong person’. You are doing a lot of things right. Staying out of your daughters mind is a precious gift you give her. You must be very secure in who you are and where you stand with your daughter. I feel you were right to tell her to say what she felt. The father sounds like a ‘rubber band’ or that ‘Peter Pan’ syndrome when someone flies into your life, everything is so wonderful for that fleeting moment then they are gone again, and for who knows how long again. I will guess that he pops in when ‘he needs’ to regroup and not so much on behalf of your daughter? Some parents demonstrate selfish traits and it is hurtful and painful to the precious children on the receiving end of that kind of behavior. The experts are always telling us that our children need consistency, if this is true, the inconsistent parent is working against us. So what do we do? We keep supporting our child through the thick and thin that we got them here in. Supporting your daughter through all this confusing behavior is really the only thing you can control. There are no magical words that will make this biological father a consistent ‘dad’. Be glad *you* have moved on, I am glad of this for your daughter. Everything you have said that you tell her are profound and right on if you ask me. Hold her and cry together if need be, but I would try not cry too long or too often. You have 3 more years to go to influence her to educate herself and try to strive for college. I would be talking how to afford college and all that get ready for life stuff because it is quickly approaching. Does she have a journal? Expressing herself in private may help. Do you have health insurance that you could find a counselor for her? Sometimes they can talk to someone right at school. Just like you want her to say what she feels maybe you have told her you feel badly he does not come around more? DISTRACTION … remember the experts teaching us when our toddlers where distressed about something to distract them from the focus of whatever was distressing them? How about a backup plan in your mind when she is over thinking about her dad you could go for a bike ride, or a walk or play cards or something? She sounds athletic so she has a physical activity … does she have an expressive outlet? My daughter started piano a couple years ago, would your daughter like to play an instrument? (lessons are $15. for a half hour lesson 1 x per wk) My daughter takes 6 wks of swim every summer (not too expensive either $70. per two wks). 15 yrs of age sounds like a transitional time in her life when we are part time mothering and part time friendship. They are gaining independence and testing the waters. I would not let her be fresh to you ‘just because she is having a bad day’. I would look into teaching her ‘coping’ skills and conflict resolution approaches. You have worked so hard to get this far. Try to get to know more about how Empowering Parents works so she does not play on your sympathy. Of course you feel badly, but you should tell her with words and not let her hurt you or any of that stuff some kids do. They must always be respectful of us, always remember that. Your comment touched my heart regarding how dedicated you have been to your daughter and how much hurt she has had to handle. I do not appreciate the cousins commenting on the absence of your daughters father, it would be certainly understandable to have some dialog with the mom of those cousins and then the mom talk to the cousins regarding the hurtfulness that it brings upon your daughter. I strongly feel that would be a help. Knowing the dad is not dependable, I would try to discourage my daughter from inviting people over to see him. She could take a picture and show them after the fact. Does she have a photo album? She could make a photo album of ‘dad & me’ to look at when she is missing him. All your ideas of what you told her were a great approach, I was touched deeply by your consideration of her feelings. So good luck. I tried to give you ideas that you could go with. With all my heart I wish you continued strength, courage and respect. For you deserve great respect for getting this far so well. Keep taking the road less traveled if it’s good for your daughter. Keep in with Empowering Parents, they are thoughtful as well. 🙂 Maybe every night at bedtime you could go in and snuggle with your daughter and talk about each others day, it could be your special time together. Please keep in touch. Julia

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  40. I don't know where I went wrong (Edit) Report

    My daughter is almost 15 and her father has not been in the picture AT ALL since 1/01/2007. On 12/24/2009 there was a call. I knew in the pit of my stomach it was him when my mom answered. She yelled for my daughter without a chance to stop her my daughter answered. There was a moment of silence then she broke down and looked at me and aske “what do I say.”. I told her to say what she felt. She refused and quickly got comfortable with him. She brought him up to speed on the last two years of her life and all her accomplishments and again he promised to come by the next day. AGAIN, she asked her cousins to come over to meet him anther best friend too. All of them Came over the next day and till this day we’ve never heard from him again. I’ve still protected her from knowing the kind of person he was to me because that was between him and I and how he felt about her was different. I always tell her that he is in a bad place in his life right now and someday his priorities will come back to him and he will call her. I make sure she knows that if he is not around it’s for her own good and he is a great person for sparing her his troubles. He was not good to me as a matter of fact he was a horrible person to me but at one point he was good to me. And no matter what he had a good heart and helped many people in need. We just brought the worst in each other. I tell her this all the time. I strongly feels that her feelings for him should be independent of mine and she should know the good in him from me and find out the worse on her own if ever. Inspire of my efforts to never dishonor who her father is to her she hurts tremendously from his absence. she misses him so much and I have no way of finding him. It’s even affected her athletic activities which by the way were extremely intense because of the sport she competed in. I recently found out he was possibly homeless and on drugs. She is now almost 15 and can better understand that it is beyond her control and his absence has nothing to do with her. I tell her that he loves her so much that he knows it’s best to stay away. Yes she now worries about him and wonders if he is ok but she also has a sense of relief that it’s not her. She recently agreed to reach out to his mother who is also not involved by choice. Meeting her was somewhat therapeutic for her but she too let her down. She promised to visit her and call and still has not done either. I try so hard to protect my daughter from pain and hurt but this is something I can’t protect her from anymore and now I feel it’s starting to build inside her. I took pride in how I handled the first years of her life but these teenage years are more difficult than I ever imagined. I thought it would get easier it it’s only getting harder. I’m not sure where I went wrong?!

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  41. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Suzanne,
    At age 26, your daughter has lived through most of her life with that deep sense of loss of an absent father. She must be so curious. At a very young age I talked to my daughter about what makes a friend? It sounds like you have a good sense of things, I have a feeling you taught your precious daughter well. My daughter has been reunited with her father for a year or so. In that time they have had special times (that I deeply wanted her to have), there have been cancels which hurt more when you are sitting in a parking lot and they did not even bother to call anyone and let you know … and your precious daughter is watching every car for the sign of their dad. My deep sense is to nurture the child within your daughter to experience what ever is meant to be for the father and daughter. Going out for breakfast or whatever makes your daughter comfortable. This is the one thing only the father can give, his interest in her and her life. He may just be curious what she looks like and then go away again, and your daughter will probably lean on you at that time. Maybe it will go better and he will be gentle and kind and answer some of her questions, no matter how hard. I know I personally had a special chat with both of my divorced parents on different occasions. There were tears but I felt better. My daughter keeps her dad in perspective, she is giving him the chance to ‘earn’ her trust, it is slow going and it does not sound like they are completely there yet. (she is almost 10 now) She has recently said now that she knows her father .. she does not know where she would be without me. “No mom, really, I don’t know where I would be without you”. I don’t think it is too bold a guess you and your daughter are close .. the greatest gift you can give her is to try to ease the ‘torn’ feeling with reassurance from you that she will always be your precious daughter and you would do nothing different in the past if the future did not include her. Share your endless devotion to her and see what happens. There is a 50/50 chance it could go well. If he is still drinking it may turn your daughter off and give her a new perspective. Try to coach yourself through this. That was good previous advice to lean on your own support system and not your daughter for this one. I know you don’t want to confuse her. I set my daughter free to give her dad a chance to treasure her and build her up. Like I said there are still cancels here and there, bipolar if I had to guess. He has bad days. But I have told her ‘you only have one chance at being a kid’ and when you grow up you spend the rest of your life reflecting on these days, enjoy the time with your father while you can. No one really knows how it will go, but I have a good idea you taught your daughter well. Show her your gracious side and set her free of ‘torn’. You know you want your daughter to have all the *love* in her life she can handle. As a grown woman, she will know if it is an unhealthy relationship. There is a place in her heart that is still a little girl waiting for her dad to come home and swing her in his arms. I would want her to have that chance even at age 26. Check in with me anytime. Suzanne, he may hurt her but he may heal her too.
    Motherly Love, Julia

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  42. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To Suzanne: It sounds like you are feeling badly about how your daughter is feeling. I can also sense some resentment on your part for her father. Remind yourself that this is not your fault—you had no control over her father’s decision to leave, or his decision to suddenly pop up after 25 years. That said, there are two things you can do here to be helpful to your daughter. The first is to be her consultant, not her manager. As Debbie Pincus says, “That means you talk to him about what’s going on like a consultant for a business might. You need to step back more and more as time goes by because now you’re talking about an adult. So you can be helpful and check in, but you’re not looking to give unsolicited advice.” In other words, treat your daughter as the autonomous adult she is, ask how you can be helpful, and anticipate that she might not want your input or your advice. The second thing is to refrain from talking negatively about her father in any way. It will be most helpful if you leave your feelings about your ex out of your discussions with your daughter. Even though your daughter is an adult, it’s best to keep your resentment to yourself and deal with is privately or with the help of your system of peers or other supports. It is possible your daughter will still feel that she is hurting you if she chooses to have a relationship with her father, so be careful not to feed that fire and burden her with those kinds of feelings. After all, the two of you have enough to work through as it is. We wish you both luck during this process. Take care.

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  43. Suzanne (Edit) Report

    I am a parent of a wonderful young woman who is now 26 years old and married with children. I raised her alone from the time she was 1. I married a troubled man who was addicted to drugs and sex. After a tumultuous troubled marriage, her bio father said we were dead in his eyes and he wanted no part of our lives. I raised her on my own, making mistakes along the way, and through the grace of GOD she has turned out to be a responsible, hard working and loving woman.
    Now, 25 years later, she is being contacted by the absent “father”. She seems upset, but at the same time torn. How do I help her? I want to be fair, but am so upset at the thought of him being a part of her life.

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  44. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Like A Mom,
    Our stories are similar. Remember always unless a parent is an endangerment to the child, the relationship in the child’s eyes is a comfort, to know their mom or dad. They can even get ‘preoccupied’ are they ok? The absent parent made poor choices but they are still family to the child. It would even be fine to ‘pray that mom is ok’ what would it hurt? It would teach them a method of self comforting. Raising other people’s children requires great unselfishness and maturity. (Often lacking traits in the absent parent.) I give you much credit. I love children, I want to be a positive role model for them to see how a lady behaves and speaks. The love of my life also had many problems in his marital home and yes, his dear children would go back in a minute if they could, as unhealthy as it was. Confusing because we have life experience to weigh all this against, they only have the memories and the familiarity of it. They probably did not focus on the mess and disaster, they had their mom and dad who are like ‘hero’s’ at that age. I would not be in a hurry for them to learn about alcohol or any other specifics of mom’s condition, I would keep it simple AS problems for many reasons. My youngest step son (age 7 when we met age 13 now) needs to decompress when he comes back from visiting his mom. Life with her is stressful, uncertain and combative. There is an older brother now 19 and sister now 16 who fight with mom often during his visit which leaves him detached and stressed out. He wants peace like us and aside from not wanting to do his homework, is a great guy. We had all three but the two older children ran back to the mom (empty fridge, no car, no money, various boyfriends) because we had reasonable expectations (clean your room & do your homework). Always make choices you can live with in your conscience. Think before you speak, be their LIFE COACH or in the past several years Hallmark now has cards that say ‘Like A Mom’. It is a proud title for a kind soul like you. I respect all children in my company and I stay out of children’s minds with negative comments … what I do for them is present opportunity to see the world another way. We have all come together in the kitchen making cupcakes, cookies and homemade pizza. I have found ‘distraction’ of their sorrows helps them too. I believe it is important to acknowledge childrens feelings, they need to know their voice is heard and that they matter too. The 13 yr old boy just told his dad recently he does not really remember his mom in his younger memories very much at all. With me he has countless memories of cooking in the kitchen, sledding, movies, bowling, board games, me helping with his homework, or holding him while he cries from another canceled dinner by his mom and more. He did not say/recognize that but I know he does. I have showed him so much in the last 6 years he may, or may not have experienced. But it was kind, gentle, loving exposure less the drama. We have good talks he and I, for me it is enough to know I have gifted these things to him and lets see what he does. 🙂 Yes, I am sorry but they will need decompression time but be glad they are coming home to you, who truly loves and cares for them and is willing to make personal sacrifices so that they get what they need whether it be an after-school snack or a shoulder to make soggy. It will hurt less if they don’t cry alone .. or if they need space let them know you are nearby. It will hurt less if the adults in their life recognize their mom is still alive and may still be able to do them some good (sounds like with needed supervision). It will hurt less if Dad spends time with them and tells them they did nothing wrong, that this happens to families sometimes, not just theirs and that they are not alone. They are made half of their mom, anything derogatory about their mom would wound them deeply, especially coming from us a step mom, always remember you are not competing with her in any way. You are brought into their life as a blessing of goodness, be well knowing you are doing good things for them, they are young and know not the ways of the world. This is my second set of step children, they are all different and handled their challenges how ever worked for them. Be gentle, be patient, that will help it hurt less. Kids love to go back in time, have their dad tell them the loooong version of the day they were born, just fill them with how special they are to you, that will help it hurt less. I see all children of divorced parents as ‘wounded lambs’. I would not cut off the mom, she sounds very ill and may or may not get better. I would only visit if you can afford it and if you do always remember ‘decompression’. With all your heart try not to focus on not being the mommy, a child need not come from your womb to love them like your own. Remember, you are the one there now, you are helping to shape their memories, be proud of caring so much for them. I know it is tiring, imagine how much these children will teach you. The children in my life have taught me so much it is THEIR wisdom I share with you now. Maybe you could give them each a journal to write their feelings in? I read Carole Banks note to you, there is wisdom there you may want to try a couple ideas. This is your walk now, do your best, sounds like you deeply truly care. Sometimes people come into our lives as a life boat and sometimes we are their life boat. You are these girls second chance I am glad you all have each other. I don’t know everything but I know these girls will teach you too. Sincerely, A very proud Step Mom ~ Julia

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  45. Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor (Edit) Report

    Dear Not_Mommy:

    This sounds like a hard situation for all concerned. Whenever there is illness in a family, there are challenges. One of your challenges, certainly, is comforting these children when they are sad. It is perfectly natural for them to miss their mother, regardless of what the living conditions were when they were together. Instead of trying to compare how they live now with how they lived then, offer understanding of the sadness they feel and their longing for her. You could say to them, “I’m sure it’s hard to not see your Mom. Would you like to draw her a picture to send to her?” Encourage them to keep in touch with her as best they can, including personal visits. If you feel they could use more support, ask the school guidance counselor or their pediatrician if there are groups for grieving children that they might attend. We wish your family the best.

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  46. Not_Mommy (Edit) Report

    This is the closest thing I’ve been able to find to someone in my situation. Their father and I started dating when he was just a “weekend dad” but shortly after he discovered that his girls (ages 7 and 9) were being neglected. Their mother is a severe alcoholic, hoarder, and bulimic. She has literally drunk herself into brain damage and his currently living in a nursing home a plane ride away. The girls haven’t seen her in going on a year and a half now. They do talk to her on the phone and mail cards/pictures back and forth. I’m not sure if this is helping or hurting because they seem so distraught after. The youngest said to me once “It feel like Mommy is dead.” And I didn’t know what to say to her, because that seemed pretty accurate. We have tried to answer all of their questions as age-appropriately and as honestly as possible but its not always easy – you never know if you are saying the right thing. Its hard for me because I feel like I’m 10 times the mother she ever was, but it doesnt matter, because she is their mother and I am not. The youngest one said to me, “I wish we could go back to how things were before.” and again, I didnt know what to say – they lived in squalid conditions – they had no working toilet, the bath tub was full of toilet paper, they wore the same clothes day after day, they could only eat out because the kitchen was full of beer cans. Their mother used to throw up in trash bags !! And that was literally the ONLY thing she ever threw away. They had no rules, no guidence, no supervision, they only ate mac & cheese and chicken nuggets and junk food and soda. They often had lice, they never brushed their teeth, etc. And the poor child thinks this is NORMAL and wants to go BACK to it ?! Even after over a year with a truly normal childhood. It may not have been the right thing to say, but I tried to explain to her that her mommy had problem then too – that the drinking too much and the mess were part of mommy’s problem – i didnt want her to think it was only the recent symptoms from the alcohol related dimentia that were mommy’s problem. And I just dont know, do we keep going like this ?? Should we cut off contact with their mother? They want to go visit her at the nursing home this summer when school is out. Is that OK? Is that going to make the separation worse again after the visit ??? How to I help them hurt less ?? They miss her so, because no matter what I do, I’m not mommy.

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  47. Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor (Edit) Report

    Dear Lisa:

    We’re so sorry to hear this has happened to your family. It would make sense that you feel a lot of anger toward your son’s father because your son is hurting, but it probably won’t help you to dwell on those feelings for long and it won’t help your son to share your angry feelings with him. The tricky part here is that your son needs to have a ‘good story’ in his head about his father. All kids need this. You can help with this by telling your son how he and his Dad are alike and what you knew of and liked about his father when you met him. It will not help your son, even in this situation—to only think bad things about his father. Plus it won’t make sense to him that you we’re attracted to someone ‘bad’. You certainly can also say to your son that you’re sorry this has happened to him and try to comfort him when he is confused, angry, or grieving. As far as an explanation, you really don’t have one and you’re probably better off expressing puzzlement to your son—you don’t understand why his Dad is not seeing him right now. Being puzzled sends the message that it does not makes sense that someone would not want to know him. We wish your family the best as you work through this difficult issue.

    Reply
  48. Lisathebrummy (Edit) Report

    I feel for you and your child in such difficult circumstances. However, my situation varies in that my son is 15, has ADHD and Autism and his Dad has not been seen since I mentioned the word ‘pregnant’. My son is really struggling with the fact that his Dad wants nothing to do with us and I have tried explaining it in so many ways and until recently I didn’t even disrespect his Dad in anyway. My son has had counselling but it hasn’t done any good and I don’t know how else to help him. He is so angry all the time and it’s affecting his school life/work. He thinks its because of his special needs, but I have explained that he wasn’t around before we knew he had problems.
    We recently found out that his L. has married and has a son (not 100% sure if he’s biological or not) and he even went on holiday a mile away from our house, despite living in Wales and we live on the South Coast. So very cruel!!! This hurts my son all the more. L.’s friend has discontinued our friendship on facebook because my son contacted him wanting to know about his father. So its obvious L. wants nothing to do with him to this day.
    Please could you advise me on how I can help my son come to terms with this awful, waste of space Dad, before it ruins the rest of his life.
    Regards
    Lisa

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  49. Julia Clark (Edit) Report

    Dear Digger, There is so much hurt in your story, I am so sorry how hard things have been and still are for you. My daughter is now 9 and does get ‘mad’ at me, so some of that can be expected. The experts would probably tell us that the acting out (tantrums)is to get our attention. I heard of a game once where when our child is not cooperating we can not ‘see’ them, so we play a game ‘where are you’? When they calm down and warm up, then we can see them again. I learned by another article that we tell our acting out child to ‘Stop the Show’. I’ve even asked my daughter if I could get some popcorn for this show? ( I mean not to down play how exhausted you are, I hear that. Just a different way to look at it.) I worked in Daycare for a period of time, when a child is in a state of tantrum, it gets under our skin. So my thought is to look at how *you* are responding to the tantrums or are you reacting and getting charged up? Do you remember that saying our life is 15% what happens to us and 85% how we react to it? I say let her know she needs to go in her room and close the door to do that. When she is ready to talk kindly to you then she should come out. She is inviting you to loose it, show her you are in charge of your feelings and are choosing to maintain your motherly level of personal emotional control. I bet she is actually watching you to see what you will do? Maybe if you pick up a magazine and become unimpressed, she may get tired of it herself.
    As for her dad not ever calling for her because he can’t. I am sure you have told her he watches over her and she can pray to him and he will hear her tender words and that will make his light in heaven shine all that much brighter. Maybe she could have a loving ‘dad box’ with special things he gave her that she could treasure. Do you have a blanket or shirt of his she could wrap around her with love for quiet times? I deeply believe it is important to respect our children’s feelings and coach them how to handle them. She needs help handling all her life’s journey has asked of her. Have you found any grief services for children in your area? I bet a local funeral home would know. Sorry this was so long. My heart goes out to you and I send you much strength & courage. 🙂 You are her greatest role model, do you show her how hard *you* try?

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  50. digger (Edit) Report

    I am in a similiar situation, when my daughter was 2 we seperated. His abusive drinking worsend and it of course was “all me” with his family. David gave up so many of his visitations. During 2009 she did not see him, David died in December of 2009. Due to his family, the creameted him before we could say goodbye. To this day..I have no idea where his ashes are. My daughter is having more tantrums due to being lazy and not trying and getting mad at me daily. I am stuck and no where to turn. I am just tired.

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