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When Is The Right Age To Tell A Child About Missing Dad?

My Ex was so abusive, he threw me out at nine months pregnant and did not want anything to do with our son when he was born.

I have brought up my son on my own. He is five years old now and in school and has started asking why we have no Dad in our house.

I fear if I tell him his dad rejected him, it will break his little heart and will affect his self esteem.

Should I tell him now? He does not know he has a Dad.

The other thing is my son will want to meet his heartless father and that is a risk for our lives because the father is furious since child support has been deducting his salary for the last three years.

Please advise.

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Kids Need To Know - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Wow, you sure have had a tough time of it, well done for raising your child on your own, it certainly sounds like it will have been a much better situation than living with someone abusive.

But of course it gets tricky when our kids start asking questions. Once they start asking, it is better to give them some information, but without telling him he personally was rejected. The bottom line is he does actually have a Dad, albeit one that does not want to be involved in his life. It is better to be honest, and yes he will have issues and questions as he grows up and may likely want to meet his Dad at some stage.

Deal with that when it becomes a reality but for now, keep it simple and don't make him feel bad or feel like anything was his fault. You being pregnant may have been another stress in the
relationship, but it is not your son's fault the relationship with your ex fell apart. Your ex was clearly not someone who could have a healthy relationship anyway.

Don't make up any stories or lies to try to protect him, but equally don't put your hurt and anger onto him about your ex. Be as neutral as possible, the bottom line is he is going to have to make up his own mind about him and yes, he may get hurt if he builds up a fantasy about Dad that gets blown by reality at some stage.

Now is a good time to explain to your son where babies come from!

You can tell him it does take a Daddy and a Mommy to make a baby, but sometimes Daddies and Mommies don't live together or can't be friends, and not all Daddy's see their children. There are sure to be other single parents in his class at school, it is pretty common these days for a big percentage of children to living in blended families or single families.

Just keep it simple and say your relationship with his Dad was not a kind one and it was much better for you and him to live together as a loving family. If he asks why doesn't he see his
Dad, you can just say he (your ex) was not ready to be a Father and was an angry unhappy person who needs to sort himself out.

When he says he wants to meet his Dad, you can say maybe one day you will get to meet him. He has to be allowed to have his feelings - sad that he hasn't got a Dad, maybe anger or blame at you - it is NOT your fault, but he may well go through a time of blaming you - and he may go through a stage of blaming himself too.

It is important to make sure he understands that the relationship was not a loving one and you being pregnant was not the cause of anything. Your ex may well have blamed that for some of his issues, but those issues were there anyway.

Remember the "stuff" is between you and your ex - your son is the innocent person in all of this, and he may well need to make some kind of relationship with his Dad at some stage.

Part Two Follows . . .

Kids Need To Know - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

One of the hardest things I ever had to do was let my 13 year old son go off to live with his Dad for a year - in another country, knowing I may not get him back.

I could see it was really important for him to build a real relationship with his Father, and even though I knew his Father hated me, was still angry with me and would not hesitate to put me down in front of our Son. My son needed some reality to his relationship with his father, even if it was very different to his fantasy of what having a Dad around might be like. I had to trust that he was secure enough in my love for him and that the foundations I had built with him would see him through.

The year was a difficult one for us all, and thank god he did come back to us, but I still think it was the best thing for him to do.

Your ex may mature and regret not building a relationship with his son, and at some stage want access visits. He has that right, and it will be a huge challenge for you to stay as neutral as as possible and let that take place. If they can build a connection with as little baggage from Mom and Dad, all the better.

But equally, your son may have to deal with never meeting or knowing his father, and it could well be something he struggles with as he grows up. You can't protect him, you can only love him and be there for him as he explores how he feels about it all.

Part of learning in life, is dealing with disappointments, hurts and challenges, and if we as parents try to protect our kids from ever getting hurt, we are doing them a disservice. They have to learn how to bounce back and how to deal with pain. When we don't gain those skills then we are not able to relate with others as we stay stuck in reacting (like your ex).

Yes you can protect him from growing up in an abusive family, and raising him on your own is the best thing you could have done. Maybe your ex threw you out - but in actual fact he was doing you and your son a favor, in that the relationship was not a healthy one to raise a child.

The important thing is to deal with any of your anger and hurt about the way you were treated by his Father, so you don't put your stuff onto your son.

Part Three Follows . . . .

Kids Need To Know - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

The other thing that is important, is try to find other male role models that can give your son a healthy image of what it means to be a man - and eventually a Father. People in your family - teachers, sports coaches, good male role models in your community. Boys do need to learn about being loving Men - and as Mom's we can teach them so much, but they still need to figure out what being a boy is all about. You can read him stories about men - and yes it will raise questions for him but that is actually a good thing. Bringing things into the open so you can talk about them is important.

There are all kinds of families - and although the most common is the typical nuclear family of Mom, Dad and kids, there are lots of other family groupings and helping your son to see his family
as wider than just you two - maybe you have a close friend who is like sister, maybe your brother is a big part of your lives.

Family is what we make it and recognizing the other important people in our lives is a good thing.

There's a couple of children's books that you could read to him that would help to raise the issues, and talk about different family groupings.

Love Is a Family is a story of a little girl who as a family fun night at school and wants a REAL family. She is being raised by a single Mom who says Love is what makes a family, and Lily gets to meet other children who don't have a traditional family living situation.

Helping your son learn there are all sorts of different families and just because he does not have a Dad at home does not mean he is not loved or that there is something wrong.

Part Four Follows . . .

Kids Need To Know - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

You may also find books at your local library that are about single parents, but equally get books out about Dad's too, as this gives him a way to talk about it.

The second one is a fairly old story, A Father Like That. It is about a little boy and his fantasy of what a Dad would be like.

It can be hard to help a child explore the fantasy of having a Dad, without it raising feelings of your own - but it is important that your son gets to explore it all. It is when we don't allow our children to feel and talk about things that causes problems. When our kids can pretend and explore what something might be like or test out about something they are struggling with, then they have an opportunity to come to terms with anything that might be going on - feeling different, sad, angry or whatever.

So don't hesitate to let him talk about it and give him information without the nasty stuff between you and your ex.

Most importantly, look after yourself and make sure you get good support and some time out. Being a single parent is not easy - you are carrying the load on your own, many single parents still have a divorced partner who has the kids part time to give you a break. Make sure you get some adult time, and do things for you to fill you up. It is even more important when you are parenting on your own to make sure you are not running on empty.

Do things that make you feel good about you, learn, grow and enjoy your lovely little boy, you are doing a great job, raising a child is such a special time.

Feel free to comment back and let me know how you go,
All the best
Annie D :)

Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you very much Annie for your time and all the insightful remarks.



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