• Tori Owens

How To Explain An Absent Father To Your Child

How to explain an Absent Father to Your Child

Taking on the overwhelming task of raising a child alone can be daunting and while many factors can cause your child’s father’s absence, explaining these seemingly adult issues to your child is even more challenging.

It’s not their fault

Many times, children feel responsible for their parent’s absence. This usually arises from not understanding the reasons behind the absence. Reassure your child that their father’s absence is at no fault of their own and that their father loves them dearly. Depending on their age, it’s best to simplify your explanation to the level of their understanding, without complicating the issue. Further discussions as they grow older will help them understand the reason later.

Speak only good things about their father

Depending on the situation, saying good things about your child’s father can be hard. It can evoke old wounds and hurt that you would rather leave buried. Chances are your child may not understand your feelings of hurt, grief or anger, and seeks only what you can tell them about their father. Speaking badly about their father can make them feel bad about themselves, as they are also part of him. They may also regret being their child and have serious issues with identity later in life. Highlight good qualities, or tell funny and happy stories about their dad, but still, remember to be realistic without embellishing or creating stories of grandeur that may later end up in your child’s disappointment.

Allow them to express their feelings

Create a safe space for your child to voice their feelings. It can be difficult to hear, but open communication breeds healthy dialogue. Understanding your child’s feelings towards their father and the situation will help you appropriately deal with their emotions.

Their loyalty to the other parent doesn’t mean a lack of love for you

Don’t take it personally if your child chooses to talk more about their dad than you. We sometimes forget that the child is sincerely missing their father and holds on to little gifts like the shoes, toys, and clothes for comfort. You also don’t have to compete for your child’s loyalty, because your place in your child’s heart is special and nothing can compete in that.

Don’t overcompensate

Don’t allow the guilt of the absent parent to force you to try and overcompensate for their absence. It’s easy to fall into that guilt trip, and it becomes a never ending cycle. You will only stretch yourself thin.

Go at your child’s pace

Only address the absent father when your child asks. Refrain from constant referrals to reasons why their father isn’t around. Statements like – “This would be easier if your father were here,” “If your father were here, this wouldn’t have happened,” - are only detrimental to your child as they often take on the guilt of their father’s absence.

Offer counseling

There is no easy way to discuss an absent father in your child’s life. Allowing your child to initiate and express themselves is the best way to tell if they are ready to have these difficult conversations. Children will often ask similar questions over and over for clarity, work with them at their pace and trust that you are doing your best with the circumstances you have. If it does become overwhelming, seek professional help to guide you both through this process.

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