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How do you help a child cope whose father has decided to not be involved anymore?
What ways can you show the child that they are still very loved and appreciated and that it is the parents fault for abandoning them? It's hard because the mom doesn't want to trash the dad to the son, but at the same time, the dad has made the irresponsible and selfish choice to stop being involved after many years. His stepdad is around and very involved - should that be the focus?
Sadly, I have lived this question. I was married for 8 years who was absent when we were married. I often said I was on the selfless end of a selfish, selfish marriage. When we divorced after 8 years, we had a 7 yr old boy and a 2 yr old girl.
As you say, the fact that the parents are not together is not the child or children's fault. I totally agree. I vowed to myself at the time of the divorce that I would never bash my ex-husband in front of my children. As I said to him once, "In time the kids will know you for what you are all by themselves. I don't have to say a word." This is painfully true with an absent parent, father or mother.
I was a single mother for 5 years before I remarried. During that time when their father missed his scheduled visits I told them, "your father loves you as much as he can." It was very true. A selfish person can only love others so much.
I remarried when the kids were 12 and 7. We enjoyed time together with our new family and their stepfather. I suppose because he was absent so much of the time, I made a decision that I didn't mention him to the kids or talk of pending visits. If they happened, great. If not, no harm done. I always had back up plans just in case he didn't show up for visitation. My kids felt loved and cared for by me and their stepfather.
Now that they are grown, it is exactly as I said so many years ago. They know their father for who he is. He showed them all by himself.
I agree with you, kansasyarn. Children are smart enough to figure out what's going on. It is wise to let them come to their own conclusions.
I totally agree with you about children figuring it out as they grow and it's awesome that you chose not to talk badly about the father, that likely made your children respect you even more.
I touched on these issues in a hub about kids hating their dads. Tough position for the mother.
If the child is old enough, I'd suggest his mother occasionally say, "We/you can phone your dad and invite him to come along if you want. It's up to you," (in a positive manner that shows his mother respects his right to make his own decision.)
For the most part, however, if his stepdad is becoming his father figure, build on that relationship. A strong, positive role model is very important and I'm sure we all know children who - as adults - give far more credit to a step parent than their biological parent.
I think you are on the right train of thought with an involved step dad. I am familiar with a number of boys from various families whose fathers have left the boys lives entirely. Some boys handle it well. Others act out. I may be wrong, but I think girls - on the average - handle an absent father better than boys since the girls can relate better to their mothers. But then again, I could be wrong. And, not all children are alike.
My father never left and yet he was never "in my life." Even though my father lived in the same house with me, there was no meaningful interaction; it was as if he was absent in my life. He never talked with me, did anything with, except for occasionally criticizing me. For me personally, this isolation forced me to learn independence. I was not one of those boys who acted out. I learned to be self-sufficient and I set my own course in life as well as my own code of ethics and morals. I put myself through school and I graduated first in my class in college. I now have a wife of 20 years and 3 beautiful and intelligent children who I am very close and involved with.
As I said however, I do know boys with absent fathers who act out. I believe most boys need a father figure in their life just as I believe most girls need a mother figure in their life. They need a role model they can interact with that they can closely relate to. Sometimes a step father can fill that role. Sometimes an uncle, a grandfather or even a brother can fill that role. I think it very healthy for boys to have some male figure in their lives as they are growing up. And it is very healthy for girls to have some female figure in their lives as they are growing up.
Beautiful, spot on answer! Reality Talk, you responses are always intelligent, beautiful, and shockingly spot on!
I agree. I think it's also good to focus on strong male role models in these situations. I guess for me, I was never close to him and so it didn't phase me. I think it would be hard thought had we been involved initially.
My wife and I've been involved in answering this question for the last 17 years.
I'm the stepdad.
We (wife and I) hooked up when her youngest son (who lived with his Dad) was eleven. For many years, he (son) continued to believe the lies Dad told about Mom. Mom quietly refused to trash Dad, just kept trucking, kept her tears inside until she could let it out with no one else to see but me.
Five years ago, we moved back "into Dad's face", where the son has lived his entire life except for a bit of time here and there with us when we were still living out of state. Our place is 15 minutes from Dad's by car--well, an hour and a half now with the road washed out. Son and his family (wife, two boys of his own) live just a couple of air miles from us at the moment.
A couple of years ago, the son began "getting it", realizing more and more and more that (a) Dad's word really could not be trusted, (b) Mom never did half the "bad things" Dad said she did, (c) Mom is always "there for him" now, and (d) so is stepdad (me).
We've a 100% team in the parenting effort (wife & me), so that's good and more than good. There was a time about 10 years ago (son in late teens) when we had to cut him (son) off from all financial assistance, tough love, he learned to straighten up & fly right or die on the streets. I could handle that; holding Mom together through it was a real task.
Today, the son acknowledges his Dad's failures--they're still somewhat close and still talk regularly--and has told Dad to his face what's what more than once. He's also developed into one helluva man and openly credits me (stepdad) with providing his #1 role model.
What was our basic approach? Basically, like you said, no trash talking, but when he was old enough, his Mom did start letting him know that not all of Dad's trash talk was accurate. It took him years to realize she was being truthful, but he did figure it out eventually.
Aside from that, it was (and is) a one-day-at-a-time thing: "What is the BEST course of action we can take (or refuse to take) AT THIS MOMENT?"
It's not over. Apparently, it's never over for some folks. But it's definitely been worth the price of the whistle so far.
First of all, give that precious child a big physical and emotional hug. Tell him/her how important and majestic he/she is. Furthermore tell him/her that it is NOT his/her fault that the father no longer wishes to be involved in the former's life. Always be there for this child and include other responsible male authority figures in his/her life such as uncles, grandfathers, friends, cousins, and other male associates. A good and caring stepfather can be an excellent father figure. Tell the child that the world does not rise and set upon the father. Lastly, keep personal feelings regarding the father to yourself. If you wish to vent, discuss the issue with another trusted adult. You must be strong for the child.
Helping a child cope is difficult to do. Many of the children faced with this problem grow up with anger and depression problems. The mother needs to stop making excuses for the absent dad, such as to have a child waiting for a visit, when you know it is not going to happen. That is so hurtful to the child and leads them to not trust anyone and blame everyone except the father.
Bashing the dad is a no-no also. Sometimes doing all you can to make it right does not work. Sometimes the truth as to why you are no longer together and what might occur, such as not wanting to see the wife, so they don't see the child either.
Telling a child that their father really loves them, and he is a no show, is kind of confusing. Covering for the father and making excuses does not help that child understand what is actually the reason for missed visits.
Blame starts to set end and the child will think that it is the mom's fault for the dad's behavior.
You should focus on your family as it is now and demonstrate what a loving family is suppose to be like.
Biological dad may have the negative characters but never say bad things about him in front of the child. Give him reasons and tell him all of you love him dearly. Giving false hope to kids may produce hatred in future.
I think this to be a very touchy subject and have lived it. My ex-wife had a daughter whose father chose not to be in her life. The daughter seemed fine with it because mom made sure she had everything she wanted. In other words she overcompensated with material things, in which was a very bad idea and I told her so. Of course my opinion didn't matter.
Then the daughter is introduced into the real world. Where are my hand outs? Why do I have to make these decisions? There is nothing wrong with loving your children, but it can go too far and become detrimental.
I think I can understand single parents over compensating, but you are so right about the real world hitting a child in the face if they grow up thinking the world owes them a living.
I agree, compensating with material things doesn't solve the underlying problem, but I am not sure how the second half of your answer ties into this situation. No one is giving him material things to ease his pain and he's a responsible young boy.
The child should be assured that it's not his fault his dad left and doesn't want to be involved. He should be reminded it's better to be around people who do love him and do want to be involved (i.e. the stepfather).
It's also much better that the parent who doesn't love their child goes away and not be involved than one who comes home every night and reminds the kids with their actions that they are not loved.
Dads can be cruel too , Stepdads , stepmoms and moms as well . The child just needs regularity in his [her ]emotional development ! listen -, the biological ties alone can last forever ! There is no right or wrong here , we continue to blindly feel our way through parenthood here ! Share , laugh , love and learn how to just be humble in relating ! It will work out !........yea !
Help them focus on who/what they do have. Focus on loving relationships with others in the family. Let them know adults aren't perfect and many make bad choices but it's about their own selfishness and has nothing to do with the child. You don't have to use the dad's name or even hint at him. Bring it up at other times. He or she will connect it eventually. Just keep doing the right thing and they will realize it one day you had the best intentions.
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