What to tell your kid when their dad is not involved

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Dear Emma,

When my daughter was six months old, her dad left and more or less never showed up again. There were a few visits for a few years, and a couple of visits to family court for child support, but since then we have not heard or seen from him. My daughter is now 8 years old.

We don't talk about it much and I feel like it isn't such a huge deal. She is a great kid — does well in school, has lots of friends and is polite. We are close with my parents and siblings, who live nearby. I am glad that I get her all to myself and don't have to share custody like some of my divorced friends. Sometimes people say things to me like, “I feel so bad for her that she doesn't know her father.” She never mentions her dad, and I feel like she doesn't care. She doesn't know any different. What should I tell all these rude people who judge our situation?

— Shannon

Dear Shannon,

I’m not worried about your rude neighbors. I am worried about you and your daughter.

Absentee fatherhood is a huge, complicated problem in this country. Incarceration, a culture and family court system that presumes fathers are incompetent, and other lack of support for shared parenting are among the causes for the fact that just 22 percent of fathers who don’t live with their kids see them once per week or more, according to Pew Research, and nearly a third never see their kids.

This, of course, is heart-breaking for your child, and stressful for you as a single mom.  If your child’s dad is not, or marginally involved, there are a few guiding principles for addressing your child’s concerns and questions.

What to say to your child when his dad is not involved:

1. Be honest. Don’t say he died if he didn’t. Never say “He’s working far away.” Your child deserves the truth, even if it is painful for both of you to address.

2. Be kind, and keep your feelings out of it. “Being a parent is really hard for some people, and your dad wasn’t ready to be a parent yet.”

3. As you will do in your relationship with your child’s father, as well as in your own heart, you will keep the door open to future, improved relationships. At the same time, be very careful not to nurture false hope in your child. It’s a tough balance, but an important one. Note in the “yet” in the sample script above.

4. Answer all their questions. “I’ll tell you when you’re older,” or “We don’t talk about that in our family.” These create the notion of secrets, and secrets foster shame, self-hatred, and lack of trust.

5. Highlight the fact that there are all kinds of families, and every family is whole. Even if it feels silly, as you go through your day, or are watching movies or TV, point out gay families, interracial families, kids being raised by grandparents, multigenerational households, friends who live together, foster and adoptive families, how some groups of friends create families, and on and on. Then, name the people in your family — blood relatives, friends, your neighborhood network. Do this enough and nuclear, married, straight families start to seem like the weirdoes!

6. That said, do not dismiss or minimize pain that a child experiences by his father being absent from his life. It might be really, really hard to hear, but listen. It sucks to feel like you’re the only kid at school whose dad isn’t around. It hurts like hell when your birthday comes around and your father doesn’t call. You worry you did something wrong, or you’re unlovable, or deeply flawed — no matter how great your mom and life are.

My father was mostly not part of my life after age 8, and there was no space for me to talk about it. Growing up with my mom, I heard no positive stories about my father, and no space for any of us to ask questions, or to share hurt feelings about the matter. The few times I remember asking about my dad, I was just reminded of how good our life was, which only made me feel stupid and selfish for feeling so horrible for not having an involved father. I think my mom felt really bad about the situation, and didn’t know how to deal with her own feelings, much less her kids’. Fast-forward to today, after plenty of therapy and other ways of processing my daddy issues, I now find myself answering my children’s questions about why they don’t know their paternal grandfather. While your son or daughter is not your bartender, talking with your child openly can be a wonderful way to heal your own heart, too.

7. Do not always wait for your child to ask. For many reasons, your child may not bring up the fact that her father isn’t part of her life. It is up to you to talk about it very early, even earlier than you may think reasonable. One day, when my daughter came home from school and said, “Today Sofia talked about how both our parents are divorced.” She was 3! Even as a toddler your child sees her friends with two parents. Movies and TV shows and books are powerful messages, consisting almost always of a mother and father. It is your responsibility to address this, even if she doesn’t initiate the discussion.

8. Remember: Life is long. The questions will continue throughout your life, and each conversation at each age will lend new perspective and healing for both you, your child, as well as your relationship with each other.

What do you do when the father doesn’t want to be involved?

Every family is different, but here are some things to consider:

  1. If there is some communication, take the opportunity to improve co-parenting. Men are typically marginalized as secondary parents, and statistically likely to duck out of their kids’ lives if they have limited visits and a high-conflict relationship. Here is how to co-parent, even with a toxic ex.
  2. You may be angry that he gets to check out and expects you to take on the extra responsibility. That is a legit complaint! You may consider taking him to family court and demanding an equal parenting schedule. How to find a divorce lawyer.
  3. Accept life as it is, and move forward with your own wonderful family — no matter what it looks like.
  4. But don’t pretend there is no issue. You, your child, and together as a family you may benefit from individual therapy or group therapy.

BetterHelp is the biggest online therapy app with nearly 1 million users, and makes getting counseling from a licensed therapist as easy as sending a chat message, or engaging in a video or phone session. Prices start at $65/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Read this review of my personal experience or use this link to get a 20% Betterhelp discount and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

How fatherlessness affects children

When a parent is absent from a child’s life — no matter by choice, imprisonment or death — it is a loss. It is a loss for that child and a loss for those who love her.

Your child may ask you:

“Who is my dad?”


“How is my dad?”

“How old I my dad?”


“Where is my dad?”

“Where can I find my dad?”

“Why is my dad so mean?”


“Is my dad dead?”

We are all socially conditioned and predisposed with a deep need to know both our mother and our father. Socially, it is easy to understand that the majority of people grow up living with both a mother and a father — and nearly everyone else knows both parents. That is the norm. Your daughter is very aware that her family does not look like other families. She understands deeply that most of her friends have relationships with their dads and she does not.

We are biologically half our mothers and half our fathers. Humans have an intrinsic need for family. We yearn to know our relatives so that we can better know ourselves. When we are raised apart from our families, homelands and extended cultures, there is a sense of loss that transcends our daily experience.

This explains why people who are adopted are compelled to find their birth parents — no matter how wonderful their adoptive families. This also explains why humans are driven to visit their ancestral homelands, even when they are removed from the place by generations. This is why companies like DNA mapping companies 23andMe.com and Ancestry.com are so successful, and genealogy is among the most popular hobbies in the United States — and world.

Not every person will know both their parents. This is a fact. This does not mean that your daughter does not have a fantastic life, or that she is a wonderful child who will grow up to be a happy, productive and lovely adult.

The reasons men don’t see their children

There are many reasons that explain fatherlessness. These reasons include:

  • Parental alienation, as this father explains
  • He did not want to be a father in the first place
  • Conflict with the mother was too much
  • The father cannot afford child support, and pursuing more parenting time means increased risk of going to jail
  • He doesn’t feel confident as a father — and with minimal parenting time each month, it is hard to grow as a dad

Mourning when your child’s father is not in his or her life

But those things do not preclude loss and grief. Your daughter has experienced a great loss. She does not know her father. She is different from other kids. And she also has a mother who dismisses this loss. When grief is ignored or belittled, it creates shame. I don’t care what your daughter expresses outwardly, she is deeply affected by this situation.

Before you can help your child, you must address your own loss and grief.

Consider online therapy with BetterHelp >>

When your ex-husband left and abandoned your daughter, he also abandoned you — both as a husband but more to the point here, as a co-parent. You also suffered a loss in that you do not have someone to help raise your daughter — even if it means separately, as divorced parents. You do not have anyone to enjoy their sweet habits, or commiserate on the daily challenges of parenthood. You do not enjoy a happy co-parenting arrangement that gives you a break. Most of all, you suffer because deep down you know that your daughter is hurt. That, for any mother, is devastating.

This situation can be changed. But you must take action.

First, you must recognize the situation for what it is: A huge, giant, grave loss. It is not your fault. It is life. But it is your responsibility as a parent to address it. First, acknowledge how this has affected you personally. Lean into that pain. Right now you are avoiding that pain, which is why you are dismissing it in your daughter. Just sit with it. Cry, scream, punch the refrigerator or write him an angry letter you never send. Whatever is your way, go there.

Then, recognize that he is human. When a parent abandons a child, that parent is deeply wounded. There is a reason they cannot fulfill their responsibility. They do not recognize they are worthy of being needed, or can bring value to another person’s life. Your ex misses out — in a very major way — of the joy of raising and loving his child. He also suffers knowing that he deeply hurts her. Every day.

Recognizing this is part of the process of forgiveness. It involves empathy and grace. It will take time. But you must get there — for your sake, and that of your daughter.

While you work through that, you must now face your daughter.

Talk with her. Say: “I’ve been thinking a lot about your dad. I imagine you do, too. How do you feel about the fact you don’t know him?”

Ask her how she feels when she visits friends who live with their dads — or have visitation schedules with both their divorced parents. Tell her about her father, how you met him, what you liked and loved about him. Tell her stories about your time with him, and stories he told you about his life. Tell her about his family and jokes he told. Ask her what she’d like to know about him. Answer honestly — including about the part where he left. And why he doesn’t call. If you don’t know how to answer some questions, say so. “I wish I knew, but I don’t.”

How co co-parent with a narcissistic or toxic ex

That is just the first conversation.

Have another the next week.

And the next.

You may not have weekly conversations about your daughter’s father for the rest of your lives. But get into a habit of talking about him. About her father. Give her permission to ask, and to feel. Do not sugar coat the information, or your own feelings. Especially as she gets older, tell her what really went down, and how absolutely infuriated you were — and maybe still are. By recognizing your feelings and sharing them honestly with her, you give her permission to recognize and honor her own, complex and human feelings.

Only then can both of you move forward with a full, wonderful — and complex — life you were meant to have.


Father doesn’t want to be involved. Is this child abandonment?

If a non-custodial parent — mother or father — is found to have willingly abandoned the child, they may lose parental rights. This can mean that the father is not allowed to have visitation or legal rights to his child. It can also mean that in the absence of other safe adults to care for the child, the child will be taken into the welfare system, including foster care.

Outside of safe haven laws, parents technically cannot voluntarily forfeit their parenting responsibilities without facing criminal consequences.

While all states have child support policies and laws that force (in theory) parents to contribute financially to their children, there is no mandate for non-custodial parents to participate in the physical caring of children.

Close the pay gap? Get dads involved? 50-50 visitation and no child support

Is child abandonment a crime?

These are examples that a court may consider criminal child abandonment by a custodial parent or guardian, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services’s Children’s Bureau:

  • Leaving a child with another person without making arrangements to care for or communicate with the child for three or more months
  • Failing to maintain a regular visitation schedule for at least six months
  • Abandoning an infant in an unsafe place — as most states have ‘safe haven laws’ that allow mothers to leave their newborns in designated places such as a hospital, police station or church without facing criminal charges.
  • Leaving the child home alone in a situation deemed unsafe
  • Otherwise failing to provide care, support or reasonable resources (food, clothing, heat) for a child you are responsible for

How to prove child abandonment

Child abandonment laws usually apply when a custodial parent or guardian fails to care for a child, leaves them with another adult for long periods without contact, and sometimes leaves a child alone at home, unattended.

The laws on these issues vary from state-to-state, and sometimes apply to non-custodial parents, but not typically.

Child abandonment may be an emotionally traumatic experience, though not a criminal one.

Proving child abandonment may be required to win full legal and/or physical custody of a child. Parents who wish to relocate with a child may want to prove abandonment or have the child adopted by a step-parent or other adult.

One of the first co-parenting apps, and widely used app, OurFamilyWizard, which features chat, information storage (like pediatrician and teacher contact info, prescriptions, etc.), and financial record-keeping. 30-day free trial, discounts for military families, and a program to provide OurFamilyWizard free to low-income families. Each parent can add unlimited numbers of other people for free, including children, grandparents, step and bonus parents, as well as attorneys.

Try OurFamilyWizard for free for 30 days now >>

Read OurFamilyWizard review on Wealthysinglemommy.com >>

Does an absent father have rights?

Increasingly, courts favor keeping families connected if at all possible. This includes reuniting children with willing fathers who have been absent from their lives, as well as recognize legal joint custody when considering matters such as where a child goes to school, where the child lives, and religious and medical decisions — regardless of the father’s or mother’s actual participation in the child’s life.

Effects of child abandonment in adulthood

A child can be abandoned by parents in any number of ways, most of which are not criminal. A child can also feel abandoned, even when they have been properly cared for by loving adults. Situations that can leave an adult with emotional wounds of child abandonment include:

  • Having been adopted
  • Losing a parent or loving caregiver to death
  • An emotionally distant parent
  • Divorced or separated parents
  • Never knowing a father or mother
  • A parent who was often away due to work, relocation, a new family or choice
  • Having an addicted or mentally ill parent

Being abandoned as a child often produces adults who struggle to trust friends, colleagues or romantic partners. They may struggle with self-esteem, having an early message that they are unworthy of unconditional love. Adults with abandonment issues may unconsciously push people away, and repeat distant behaviors with their loved ones.

Alternatively, adults with a fear of abandonment may lack boundaries and be overly needy and dependent in an attempt to protect themselves.

In short, when your earliest message is that love is fragile, it can be hard to connect with people.

Online counseling site BetterHelp has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. Prices start at $65/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. Use this link to get 20% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

Movies and books on absent fathers and shared parenting:

Recommended shared parenting documentary: Divorce Corp

Kickass Single Mom, Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children, By: Emma Johnson

Blend, The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family, By: Mashonda Tifrere

Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex: What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Tries to Turn the Kids Against You, By: by Amy J. L. Baker, PhD and Paul R Fine, LCSW

Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, By: Dr. Richard A. Warshak


Is your child’s father not as involved as he should be? How do you deal with it? What mistakes have you made? What advice can you share with other parents? Share in the comments…

Single mom parenting after divorce. My kid's dad is not involved and I don't know what to say to her. First, you must recognize the situation for what it is: A huge, giant, grave loss. It is not your fault. It is life. But it is your responsibility as a parent to address it.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

112 Comments

27 years of marriage and I was faithful. Turns out our first and third children are not mine. I put her eldest through college, mine joined the Coast Guard. I refuse to pay for her youngest to attend college and my attorney was able to use the threat of finding her lover and forcing him to give a statement in order to get her to back down from pursuing it further.

I pay my court-ordered child support and I pay MORE because I never want to see either of them. I am paying additional money to not have evidence of her infidelity in my face ever again. He was an endless headache growing up and I tried so hard to be a good dad to him. So I moved far away and prefer it to living with her. Two down, three to go.

I am the father. My son is 11. His mother and I have had shared custody for 9 years. Our problem stems from paranoid schizophrenia. His mother developed this dreadful disease possibly 12-14 years ago without having known. Looking back it was probably what drove her infidelity and may have been the cause of our divorce. Anyhow, it had become a pattern of her taking medication regularly after being hospitalized and after several months she would stop taking it. My son noticed the patterns. Every year around October the wheels would fall off and he would stay with me full time… December she would get evicted and lose her job and Christmas back in the hospital. May would roll in and she would be back to being a good parent as short lived as that was. This past October is started again. However in December she was arrested and placed under suicide observation for 72 hours. She was evicted. She was homeless and eventually ended up (yesterday) sending him a text message saying “don’t forget I will always love you”. She moved out of state apparently flying back to her home state. She did reply to my text when I asked where she is just saying “good luck with everything”.
I have spoken to my son numerous times over the years explaining that mental illness and the voices in her head are what drives her and it has nothing to do with him, with me, or anyone for that matter including his mom. I said the only thing we can do is pray that she gets the help she needs and eventually she may be back to “normal” but as we have seen that it may not last. He just said he was sad for her.
I told him he has me for life and I would never leave him and I promised I would always be around to teach him, to tease him and to love him immensely. I was open with him that she may never be back but to not let that make him angry and it is ok to be sad and I will always be there if he wanted to talk. ( I also gave him a journal several years ago to write in when he felt the need).
He has been dealing with this since she was picked up on Christmas eve by the police for threatening to kill herself in front of the both of us 6 years ago.
Next week hopefully the family court judge will finally give me full custody after three attempts.

As a single parent of a 6 year old daughter whose father ‘abandoned’ her when she was 6 months old..i have to say i somewhat disagree with your reply to Shannon.

First of all, Shannon’s daughter is not ‘different’ any more than other children (situations) are different from hers. She has known no different in her life, so her situation in ‘normal’ to her. To constantly bring up in conversation the fact shes lacks a present father will only go towards creating a complex that otherwise isn’t there.

If the reason her father abandoned her is out of pure selfishness or if the biological father has a narcissist personality then to explain this in truth to a young child is not only going to devastate the child but also the parent who deeply loves the child and wants to protect them from feeling any hurt, so to use the reason that he lives far away for the time being until you feel they are old enough to understand and digest the truth in a more logical way without it having a confusing and or detrimental effect, in my eyes, is perfectly fine.

No family set up is ‘normal’ and whos to say children who do have present fathers are anymore fulfilled than those without?

It sounds like Shannon’s daughter is lucky to have such a strong mother who loves and protects her, As long as a child has people who love and care for them, then in my eyes, that child is blessed.

In Shannon’s case, it sounds like she is lucky enough to also have a wonderful family who also dotes on her daughter and make up for any lack of father around.

In my opinion, to answer her original question about small-minded judgemental comments, which I get myself and yes these are frustrating. Simply say your daughter is blissfully happy and express how lucky you feel to have a wonderful daughter that brings you so much happiness and to have an amazing family that loves her unconditionally. This should shut them up, if they continue to press about her father then you know their motive is to cause upset so which you can then probably quickly identify that they are lacking in something themselves or for their children and are trying to use your situation to make themselves feel better.

Love this & totally agree with your points! I am doing the same with an 8 year old, whose normal is our normal! I don’t shy away from questions or information about her biological father (albeit they are infrequent). I feel the more attention you pay to what they are ‘missing’ (in some people’s opinions), the more it becomes an anomaly or a complex.

I am a single mother of a 10yr old. Her biological father is toxic and has only seen her a couple times in her life. I try my best to encourage and support a relationship but he chooses not to be consistent or emotionally supportive for her. I decided, it would be best if he was my in the picture. After years of torment and added responsibility of making sure he called her on Christmas and birthdays. I had to explain to her that he was not healthy or safe enough to be in her r life. It is extremely painful to have to deal but I’m trying to protect her from any further disappointment. She has had moments of being upset at not having a dad and now I’m trying to focus on helping her heal and accept the truth. It’s hard to have empathy for the narcissistic looser!

Being a single mom is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s been 2 years and I still feel like my daughters dad left us yesterday. The unfairness of his absence is almost too much to bear and of course as she gets older I can barely breathe when the day comes that she fully realizes what has happened. My heart breaks for her over and over again.
Thank you for providing such heartfelt suggestions on how to weather this storm that none of us prepare for.
I do like the idea of starting sooner rather than later a open dialogue about her Dad. I do struggle with how much to tell her and the reason is that some of what we went thru are very adult topics including meth addiction. I am a child of divorced parents and my mom sat me down at 14 years old to explain why she divorced my dad 5 years prior due to his rampant adultery and she forever changed my lie that day for the worst sparing no detail and filling in the blanks of bits and pieces of what I remembered. From that day on the Father that I put on a pedestal was never he same in my eyes and I am 41 now and have never been able to trust a man because of my mom telling me details I wish I had never known. Like my Dad pretending that he had a weekend business trip out of town when really his neatly packed suitcase was headed down the road to a motel where he cheated on my mom all weekend. That was the only thing that bothered me about this article, there is a balance of what to say to a child. Thank you!

I’m in a similar situation, My daughter is two and a half. Her father left when she was six weeks old. It was an abusive relationship and there is alot of hurt. Whilst I have found my happiness again, I still resent him greatly. She has already started asking about him. I have never really spoken of him, neither have I shown her a picture. Today she asked me quite pointedly about him. All I could say was that he lived in another country. I have been told never to speak negatively about him to her, but I would be lying and it would hurt me greatly to tell her positives things about him, when I can barely think of anything nice to say about him. What do I do?

Thank you for making this site. Can’t tell you how much I appricate it. I hope we all keep painting the world beautiful.

Thank you! You have helped open my eyes to dealing with this situation in a totally different way! I have saved this article and plan to read it multiple times to rejuvenate the urgency in discussion and various tips you have provided to start the conversation .

I have always been open and upfront when it comes to the choices that my son’s father has made. After not seeing his father for more than 5 years I decided it was time to take my son to see his father as he was 4 years old the last time he saw him. I swallowed my pride and took him to his father, who lives in a different city. They talked things through and I had high hopes. I had hoped that the relationship would improve and communication would be more frequent. Sadly, over the past months it has deteriorated again, after I made it clear to him that I never want to be in a relationship with him. Seems the only reason that he reached out to our son was to get to me.
I’m hurt by the fact that my son is getting hurt in the process. I have however vowed to never allow him back into my life.
Here today because I find it difficult to accept the fact that my son’s father is not actively involved in his life

It’s kind of ignorant that you don’t realize that there are single fathers out there whose wives fucked off on them! It’s not always the father that’s missing, my miserable piece of crap wife has been missing for nine years! All these weeping bullshit about missing dad‘s, two parts of every story and you should just tell half of it it’s very Insulting!

Bud…. this site is called wealthysingleMOMMY.com. Additionally, everything she said can be applied to a single male parent as well. Untwist those knickers and focus on the message.

These are some really good points, and every month is a small struggle. I’m raising two elementary aged children by myself and I didn’t see the signs of a narcissist early enough because I was “in love” with the idea of healing. Now here we are 11 years later and my children don’t have a stable minded biological dad, but I have though long and hard about this topic because it deemed as the norm in today’s society but in actuality, no one really wants to deal with the struggles that come with a single parent household due to abandonment. (Serial abandonment)
At first I made the biggest mistake of believing him when he would disappear ( not a drug addict) and reappear many months later and use my children as leverage with statements like “ they need their father, right.?” “ you wouldn’t want to reason I’m not around” “ I had to leave for work” “ I feel like they (my children) get in the way of success” All of those things said cut deep and blinded me from the harm I was causing my children. At the time I was juggling a military career so it was selfish of me to just want the extra hands to help, but I was so wrong for not enforcing boundaries and distancing all of us from him. Being blinded caused me to be trusting and stupid, he cleaned out my account while I was deployed, lost my house, amongst other material possessions, all because he’s a hurt soul. Mad at you know a lot about the backstory what I ended up telling my children is that this man needs time to heal he is in no shape mentally to be a dad or father, he can’t even bring himself to call my children and on the other note all I have is my daughters statement but she looks just like me then when he did spend alone time with her he would hit her just because. She’s the youngest I don’t know how to explain that kind of evil, but she looks just like me literally and he hates me because I’m immune to his lies right now we’re separated by miles in state borders which is the best option because he displayed signs of physical aggression and I don’t want to be another statistic on the show snapped.
For the sake of mental stability for my children I have chose not to lie to them about their father so when they asked me questions in the nicest childlike level I can explain the reality, I also let them know that love is shown by actions not by words and not to get it misconstrued because their mental stability and well-being means more than anything means more than anger towards an absent father because they’re going to grow up to be adults one day and I prefer that they were mentally sound or in other words I prefer to have children that don’t have daddy issues. So I encourage them to strive for things that they want in the lives we set goals we openly talk about their father all the time they know what the struggles of parenting is like they understand child support which he does not pay and refuses to they understand sacrifice they understand unconditional love if at all they talk to him want to twice a year, My son who is the oldest can’t bring himself to say I love you back nor does he really engage in conversation because he witnessed his dad hitting his sister for no reason and it just doesn’t compute for children sometimes my daughter as loving and naïve as her mom she looks for the best in people and as my dad has said if it looks like a dog walks like a dog barks like a dog it’s a dog. So even though that’s the biological father I prefer her not to make the same mistakes as life-changing cases in the past when you know someone is damaged when you know someone is hurting and they hurt others with their own behaviors and doing knowingly then distance and the truth will set you free. I have called a lot of ridicule for being honest with my children when they asked me about their father I’m not gonna tell them that he’s working I’m not gonna make up any other lie to sugarcoat it because in the future they’re going to ask me one day why did I lie to them and that’s gonna destroy trust and that’s important so as I told Family Court it’s not my job to lie for him to make things better one day in the future if and when he decides to be a dad when they’re 20, 30, 40 years old he’s going to have to put in the work, the blood sweat and tears of parenting and that’s the one thing that’s missing from all of The literature, they tend to put emphasis on compassion, forgiveness and all those things that are so loving and mushy and there’s nothing wrong with that but it lacks reality and the reality of it is; please correct me if I’m wrong. children need parents before their adulthood they need the guidance they need that care all those things that fall under the category of what a parent is. So anything after that it’s just considered a friend or acquaintance because if you’re not willing to put in the work what do you want to do. If there’s no sound reason for your absence drugs, substance abuse, prison, etc… If you’re absent out of sheer laziness or just committing life suicide then I have limited compassion for that behavior, and I don’t want my children to mimic that behavior nor think again that it’s the norm because it’s not it’s a mold that needs to be broken. Advice is always welcome, so far my method has positive results because They expect more from their father they make critical thinking statements like my daughter would say I understand if he wants to talk to me he’ll pick up the phone and talk to me, and because I can see how they are responding to a more social life, and setting goals for the types of futures they want.

You forgot a reason some parents are not involved: they’re horrible people who don’t care about anyone but themselves. And those ones don’t suffer everyday. And neither do the children with the absence of such people. And neither does the other parent with their absence. I have no anger towards my child’s bio Dad. I hope he stays away. An absent parent is better than a toxic one. I asked literally hundreds of people and no one said otherwise.
I’m not going to teach my daughter she is missing something by his absence. We have both gained a life free from abuse and toxicity. This article seemed too sympathetic towards bad parents. They don’t have my sympathy.

The whole system is wrong,you have a mother that does everything in her power to alienate a child from a good loving father just to get back at him for whatever reason, because it’s obviously in the best interest of the child to restrict the time with spent with their father to one lousy day a month,then complains she’s not getting enough financial support etc.
How do you expect a father to be able to be a parent to a child with such limited access? at best he becomes like an uncle they see occasionally.
No wonder fathers check out,all the while then the mother puts rubbish into the children’s head that he doesn’t want to see them etc.
Yet they are super mothers because they are doing it all on their own
So then who is to blame here for the issues that the children will end up, The father for giving up and not wanting to deal with the mother’s shit or the all controlling mother?

My daughter’s father was diagnosed bipolar just before we got together. I understood and dealt with it and helped him get counseling and the right medication, helped him get and keep jobs, etc, for 8 years, then I got pregnant. I don’t know if it was the stress of having a baby or what, but he stopped his counseling and medication on his own cold turkey (without telling me) and started up again with the paranoid delusions, threats, harassment, etc. I got a restraining order when our daughter was 18 mos old. When she got old enough to ask about him at about 3 y/o, I told her that her dad lived far away but he loved her very much (his delusions and threats were aimed at me, never her), then she never mentioned him again which I admit I was selfishly relieved. This year on her 6th birthday, he called me for the first time in 4 years out of the blue. He wants photos, details about her personality and life…this is all leading up to He wants to see her and reestablish their relationship. I sent photos and told him about her life, but told him I need to be 100% sure everyone in her life is mentally and emotionally in a good place, not perfect but in a good place. He agreed. I know how important it is for a girl to know her father and the quiet devastation that occurs throughout a girl/woman’s life when she grows up without her father, lack of trust and self sabotage, and the guilty secret of resentment this woman will have vs her mother who kept her father away (I am speaking from personal experience, if you haven’t already guessed). He and I have been chatting about her for a couple weeks. He has been pressuring me (you know when someone says ‘no pressure’, but actually there’s a ton of pressure?? Yeah, like that) to tell her about him. Tonight I did, and she said ‘I have a dad??’ and now wants to make him a card, which I said Yes He would like that. But everything she wanted to write started with I wish…I wish I could see you, I wish you could live here, Can we come visit you? I tried my best to answer her questions. But how do I tell a 6 y/o she can’t invite him here to visit because I don’t know if he’s taking his prescribed meds, is he still having bipolar manic scary panic attacks, is he stable and in his right mind, will his reactivated presence in her life scar her more than his absence??? I’m low key freaking out, my mother is against their having a relationship, thinks he wants to get partial custody and then file for child support from me (I have always made more $$ and he made a point of telling me he is not working right now), or take her and hide her from me, or he will disappoint her due to his history of making promises and not living up to them….but my daughter is excited to know that she has a dad. The restraining order is indefinite and still in place, although we both now live in different states. WTH do I do now?

OMG! You are living my life. I have almost the exact story. I wish you the best. I am sure you have gone through a lot as I have too.

Update: I am blessed to have mental health insurance. I have been having weekly counseling with a therapist since the week my daughter’s father called me. She is really helping me work through my own issues with men. Through her advice, I have put my daughter on the phone with her father twice now. The conversations are shy and awkward, as you would expect…but my daughter was so happy to talk to her dad that I knew it was the right decision. We are taking things slow with weekly calls right now. I am not ready for in person meeting…and Covid19 makes that impossible right now anyway. In addition, I am pretty certain he is Not taking meds or therapy right now…both cost $$ and he has no health insurance and is not working. So we are sticking to weekly calls for now. Of course I continue to worry and stress over this situation…on top of working…homeschool…living with my elderly mom who has not left our house At All in 37 days….it’s a lot but we are taking it day by day. The bottom line is my daughter was missing half of herself and now seems happier and looks forward to her calls with dad. And her growing up happy and self confident and whole is the most important thing to me. So we shall see…pray for us and I will surely pray for you. Take care, ok?

My sons father requested an abortion the day I found out I was pregnant with him. His direct quote to me was, ” I already have one I can’t take care of why do I have to deal with another one.” 9 months later, my water broke and I got a simple “hi” message as I was being admitted into the hospital then ignored for 3 weeks after I explained to him that my water broke. It was about this time, my older brother contacted his family and after being abandoned himself as a baby by his father he really let them all have a piece of their minds. They claimed they had no idea and asked to see my son,, while his father behind the scenes was telling his immediate family that it wasn’t his child. Long story short child support was established after DNA proof determined he was without a doubt his son. Till to this day, even after multiple attempts made on my part extended graciousness towards him and his family to get to know my son. He is still ignored and unwanted. No Christmases or birthdays or even a darn card on those days by any of them.
All the while, they all love and adore his 9 year old and the rest of their grandchildren. So to this article I say to all those that question what to do…get yourself an attorney and take away any further future opportunities to hurt your children any further by striping them of their so called legal rights to them. Don’t let them hurt your children further by giving false hope. Give them a better loving existence knowing that their mother fought for them and loved them enough to spare them all of this.

Ive been honest with my kids, most recently, about their father. My son whose 9 now said he missed his dad. His dad was bipolar drunk who became physically abusive. I had to file a restraining order to get him to leave almost 3 years ago. I kept Maddox from seeing most of it, but his depression and drinking was something he made clear I cpuldnt help him with. He refused help of any kind.
My son has had the worse time with the transition, as his father didnt call or show up when he was allowed. I said call every night (he wouldn’t) in almost 3 years hes missed out on so much.
I said “honey, I’m going to be honest but it is hard to hear for you. He chose not to call, he chose not to show up. And we cannot control that. Your dad says things he shouldnt say and does things he shouldnt do. But that is no ones fault, but his until he can help himself live life by making better choices. But i love you forever and I’m always here for you no matter what.”
And we will have the same talk a million more times I’m sure, until God finds another way or better way to explain it.
I know I’m not the first ever single mom, but this has been the hardest thing I have ever went through. But it was way harder before and emotionally mentally financially killing me when he was around.
And at least now my kids have a fighting chance to handle their emotions and feelings better than their dad was setting an example of. Thank you for an honest post! Ive been reading everything I could to find something I could relate to, the comfort I needed was here. Thank you! Stay strong all!

When my girls were too young to “deal” with it (until age 9 or 10), I put the blame on me. I reinforced the idea that it was ME who didn’t “let” him come around, because I FELT it wasn’t a good idea or I felt it wasn’t what was best for them. They both have told me since, that there were times they were very angry with me for that. In our talks now that they’re older, I’ve explained to them that I consciously chose to do that on purpose. Having a young child blame the situation on the mother is less harmful to them than having them try to process the reality of the situation, which is that their father is making a choice not to be involved and a part of their life. Young kids don’t have the mental capacity or maturity in their thinking to not internalize and blame themselves for the situation. They don’t have the ability to process it in the correct way so as to not feel unlovable and unwanted by their own parent. But eventually they become old enough to be open and transparent about the reality that is their father making the CHOICE not to see them. Whether it is because he doesn’t take the steps needed to achieve this, doesn’t prioritize his children high enough in his life, or values his own personal agenda over the irreplaceable time with his children, blaming his absence on ME is less detrimental to a child until their maturity level will afford them the ability to see the whole picture and not feel like it is THEIR fault. But when they are old enough, tell them the reality of the situation and explain why you handled it the way yo did. If anything, they will at least see how much you love them and the lengths you will go to protect them. It is all for their own good, and you were doing what you thought is best for them. Beware the moment when reality slaps them in the face though, because it will, and you have to be prepared to explain it in a way that counteracts their guilt and feelings of unworthiness and personal responsibility in the matter.

WOW, I am shocked by a lot of what you wrote. How insulting to single parents. They know their child way better than you do and it is you that are putting feelings onto the child about abandonment. Stop giving advice, you are vey bad at it.

I kinda agree with you! It’s like Mrs Johnson is taking for granted that all people in such a context experience the exact same feelings. And in particular a big, fat, giant grief due to an absent father.
But potentially, in this case, her advices may indeed come from a place of a wounded adult who had to compress their feelings for too long as a child. Perhaps, through this text of advice she is perpetuating her own anger towards her mother.

In my eyes, there are many parts that make sense though. Advices like talk openly about it, if you grief: face it and go along with it, allow your kids to express themselves and pose all of their important questions, or even yourself as a parent foster an open environment for discussions about it, understand and forgive a father for not being brave. These parts of her advice I like! They’re coming from a positive ground.

But I do not agree that single parent families are the weirdos that are not enough for their child development and condemn their child into misery and grief! Look around you! And not only now but throughout the whole history of human kind! Men were mostly always away from home, and few of them were actually good parents or even partners. It is a concrete conscious choice for them. Did entire generations of children born during war times (our grandparents) or on islands (men were sailing away a lot) grew up in grief and misery? Absolutely not!

WOW! I am assuming by the context of your comment as well as this part “how insulting to single parents” as opposed to “..us single parents” – that you are not a solo parent. I came across this article by mere accident, and being a solo parent without my daughters father in the picture nor his family, I found this incredibly helpful. And I’m not one to suckle others advice. That says a lot about how helpful this was. You not being a solo parent, how can you even begin to imagine how things would be? There is one underlining worry we all have – ONE – and it’s our kids mental state regarding this situation. It would be SO INCREDIBLY selfish, and concerning actually – if this wasn’t a concern! And the fact that you went out of your way to read that has nothing to do with you – just to be a bully behind a screen….also says a lot. Stop being a dick.

I’m a father of a daughter whose eager for answers. I came upon this website and from what I read it really helps me understand. In my case it seems I may have abandoned my daughter and the mother of my child.. My daughter is three years old I have not seen her for like a year… The reason being is because the mother and I separated because she was seeing someone else. But I still visited them and we live far from each other so visitation was minimal. One day I went to see my daughter the grandmother came to the door and told me that they were not there. The she told me to not come around otherwise she’s gonna put a restraining order on me. I didn’t understand at first because I didn’t do anything to bring harm or any of the reasons that strengthens the reason to put a restraining order out .. I was devasted … I didn’t argue about it or anything cause I could get ahold of the mother of my child anytime after that so I did so I called she was on the phone and I asked why and what’s going on she just hung up on me I tried calling texting after that but I didn’t get no response ever since … During the year I got my job back been working ever since I didn’t let it bring me down cause what kind of father would I be? . I tried to take it to court but they stood against me and just told me give it some time and not acknowledging the fact on what’s important about having the mother and father in my daughter’s life. I ran out of options except for one whiich I’m not that type of person . Which is arguing and putting up a fight but the outcome of that would be terrible and I still wouldnt be able to see my daughter.. Plus I didn’t want my daughter to see me yelling or be the person she’s never seen which is being angry .. Honestly she’s my first child and I have no idea how to handle the situation without conflict.. I’ve been saving money for my daughter and I will try to see her again but considering the fact myself abandoning her my actions really spoke for me.. it wasn’t my intention to do so but the relationship I’ve had with the in-laws it’s gonna be really complicated. They really want me to not be apart of my daughter’s life and not acknowledging how my daughter will feel… I just hope that the mother never lies to her when my daughter asks questions.. Reading this article puts me in a good perspective. I just wish the mother of my child could read this article and would be willing to understand it… I think about my daughter every day it’s hurts and it brings me joy. It hurts even more when it’s just memories.
If you’re reading this thank you cause I don’t really don’t have anyone to talk to about this situation.. I will try to see my daughter again I will send her money and hopefully they accept it and if they do I will try to see them again… I keep thinking of a negative outcome knowing how the family is less understanding and just committed to shutting me out of my daughter’s life..
Again thank you and hopefully everything works out for people who have to go through a unique situation..

I appreciate how you said you should be honest with your child about their father’s absence. My cousin grew up without a father and now he has a lot of issues. I was interested in learning more about that so I’ve been doing some research. I’ll be sure to keep researching and maybe I’ll be able to help my cousin.

Hi there just thought ill drop this here to see if anyone can give me advice … little lost on all this stuff younge single mum.. i have a 3 year old daughter and for the past year her father has only seen her about 6 times in the year big space gaps .. always get excuses on why he been late etc ,expect me to jump to him when he message a day before wanting to come see her or he just not bothering at all to come . When he does eventually comes he dont even talk to her or interact
and i try to stay out the way to give him time with her alone but theres no effort off him at all . never asks on her or pays for her … am i best just slowly sliding it out as he eventually going to give up or cut ties now saves her the heart break when he does finally ditch her

If the child is happy, doesn’t mention the “Dad”, does well in school, how is the Mother dismissing the child’s feelings??? Seems like the author of this article was reading something that wasn’t even there. Stop shaming the Mother, she has done more for that child than the father and deserves respect, not blame.

That’s bullshit. It is people like you who kept feeding those kids that they should be sorry, should be sad, should feel a loss in life. So the society thinks so too and look them all in pity. How did people live in matrilineal society ? If you don’t tell them they should be sorry , they would not be!

I agree! My kids’ Dad walked out for his mistress of two years. He didn’t even say goodbye to them. Coward just didn’t come home.

My kids ask me not to mention him for any reason. We don’t talk about him negatively or otherwise.

His loss.

How do you use the right verbiage for a 9 year old who’s father did not want to be involved? My son doesn’t remember him, he hardly saw him until he was 2 & hasn’t seen him since. I dont have any good stories to tell about him. My son longs for a father. I want to be honest with him but I don’t want to say anything that could be damaging. Well, more damaging that what his little heart already feels.

I kind of agree here. Total bullshit. There’s some sound advice scattered in here but not in the initial response, kind of shameful actually, that one.

Mother of 2 boys here, ages 9 and 11. My kids father and I were together 11 years and then divorced. I didn’t really want the divorce. But he seemed to want to keep moving along with the filing process. So, after stupidly agreeing to a 50/50 schedule that lasted all of 7 months, we went back to court to have it changed with me having the boys the majority of the time. He was given standard visitation, every other weekend and every other week in the summer. The first summer, he only had them 1 week. He had started seeing someone within a few weeks of our relationship ending (January 2019), and started bringing her around our children almost immediately (March 2019). They didn’t say much about it at first, and then they were vocal about not liking her. He told them in May that he was going to move in with her. They didn’t like that either and they told him so. Now its summer and he sees them all of one week. Then it’s back to school time and our oldest is angry with him for something that daddy said and doesn’t want to visit with him. He doesn’t make him visit and he doesn’t apologize to our oldest, either. He only keeps our youngest 1 night every other weekend twice…..now we’re back to not hearing from him, not exercising his visitation. 7 weeks later he writes them letters and basically tries to blame his lack of involvement on Mom, and how he thinks it’s ridiculous that he has to call my phone to talk to them. It’s not like he has to talk to me….when he would call, I would hand the phone to the boys and they would answer it. Now he doesn’t respond to anything that I send him about the kids, examples: their grades, their accomplishments, after school activities and sports, pictures, important events in their lives. Am I wasting my time continuously trying to keep him involved by sending pictures through monthly emails? Is he ashamed of his behavior? He got engaged to this other woman in June and our children still do not know about this. He’s living with her and her 2 kids in a 33 foot camper. We live 30 minutes away from him and his doctors office is 5 minutes from our home. He has an open invitation to our home. I’ve talked to my kids about his behavior, about him not being around. Sometimes they talk about it, sometimes they brush it off. I’m sure they feel abandoned and rejected. Their parental family has basically abandoned them too. I’m guessing because he has to pay child support now. Who knows. I feel like I tried and tried and tried and just got rejected myself. So, for all of you single parents out there who don’t have a co-parent, I feel for you; I understand.

It’s not always the Father’s fault
My son and my family hasn’t seen my grand daughter for over 2 yrs now
She is now going to turn 5 yrs this year
My son tried everything trying to locate his daughter wen he found her its still a problem
The mother and her family is trying everything for us to c my grand daughter
First tym after seeing her she was so excited
It seems the my daughter is telling her wrong things about the family and us

I have a order protection from my son father because he like to Threatening me and says he wants to kill me so I had to get a order protection and it’s for two years I don’t want her to be away from his child but I had to put my son safely first

Have a grandson we have had since birth he is 11 now. We had to tell him about his parents who were homeless due to drugs very unstable I tried to help my daughter clean up her life she choose not to but doesn’t think she is that bad. She still has issues 11 yrs later. The father of the child went back home to another because I refused to help him out anymore we couldn’t take care of all 3 of them Baby needed us more. Now the father wants nothing to due with the child yrs later when child tried to contact him he never kept promises. We had a heated discussion with father now he has backed out completely I feel really bad what do I tell this child about this situation. This child would of been taken and placed in the system I feel sure Mom and Dad both had drug issues.

Sometimes the father is pushed away and misrepresented to the child by the mother and vice versa. Sometimes the situation is so much more than one parent’s abandonment.

Sounds like you are having a bad experience but you need to be there and prove yourself, just be there not matter what, they will come around if what your saying is all the whole truth. Just don’t walk away to easy you look guilty and you wont earn your child respect. Too many fathers do the easy thing and WALK, Don’t be that father.

Exactly this happened to me. I was banned from seeing my daughter. She was intensively brainwashed by my ex and both her grandmothers, one of them was my so-called “mother”. Now my daughter absolutely hates me. I can’t do anything about that. I will never ever be able to talk to her.

Rob, I doubt your mother was “brainwashing” you daughter, I would say there is probably a lot of truth in what they were saying or they wouldn’t say it. Why would you own mother turn your daughter against you? Own up and be a man, take responsibility.

Its never too late! Start tomorrow and put in as much effort as possible. Deep down your daughter wants to feel like you love her so prove that to her, and keep proving it until she cant deny it anymore. Its on you, only you can change this!

I knew she was pregnant after 1 month, that was right after she broke up with me. I had a dream to have a baby or more with her, or even give her the opportunity to be a mother if she left me.
she is 6 years older than me. she was 4 months pregnant, and she forgot about being a mother before knowing me. firstly she agreed with me to join her for the regular doctor visit, i did it only once. then i changed my WhatsApp photo to a cartoon baby picture. she is working as my subcontractor at the work. and right after that photo, she sent me a message saying that she has to deal with a complicated situation, and she will not communicate with me until she fixes the situation. i did not know what exactly the situation is, and she did not mention anything in that message. my baby now is around 8 months, and i do not know anything about her, even her gender, or how he/she looks like. i tried many times to contact my ex and ask about the baby but she blocked me, and never respond. that really hurts how you had a good intention to make your love a mother, and she ignored you like you have never existed. she moved back to her country, so i can not even go to her place and wait at those doorsteps to have a one-second meeting with my baby. anyway, I send every couple of weeks a message to her mail, without a response, to ask about the baby and wish the best for baby. i even write notes every day in my diary, explaining my feelings to the baby as she/he is in front of me.
i am always praying for my baby to be a great person and never be influenced by my absence, and finally look for me when she becomes older.

Dear Shannon

I think you have been wonderful to raise your child without needing to worry about her father having left the family very early and that you have been filling the gap without a sense of void, and worse – an array of negative feelings – being emphasised. Bringing up the father will accentuate this void given that it cannot be solved with the father returning to a loving relationship with yourself.

The judgemental views of peers around your daughter would be best managed by continuing to discuss them with her (your daughter bringing it up in the first place, and not being silent, shows she has a good initial relationship towards the subject). Single families are common now but were very common anthropologically throughout many times and cultures, and her peer’s judgements are largely themselves simply wanting others to appear more like them. If your discuss it in this way with your daughter she might be even more empathetic to them, emboldened and less concerned about their judgements.

Frank

Oh the parent that left is not deeply wounded. Most of the time they’re just irresponsible and probably abusive. Sometimes their narcissistic or borderline and don’t really feel a connection to anything or anyone. Are there cases of a parent being deeply wounded that’s why they run out of an innocent child’s life and shirk all responsibility? Sure but they’re far and few in between. They’re just not a good person. Let’s not sugarcoat it.

I agree with you April.

My kids’ dad is a narcissist, alcoholic, cheater. My kids were 16 and 18 when he walked out without saying goodbye.

Some men are not meant to be fathers. Sad but true.

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