35 answers

How Do I Explain the Absence of Their Father?

Can someone give me a bit of insight on how they explained to their children that their father will not be around? My sons are 2.5 and almost 4 years old. The oldest very much knows that a family consists of children, a mother and a father. Their father has not been around for over 2 years, so they do not remember him. So far I have left the topic alone. Now my oldest out of the blue said he had no father. I told him that is not true, it is just that his father lives far away. Their father is an idiot, but I do not want them to know it. I never said anything negative about their father. I am a bit in the middle here and do not know what the right answer to this question is. If he asks why his father is not seeing him, do I tell him the truth which is that the father does not care to see him? The truth hurts sometimes, but I prefer sticking to the truth as much as possible.
Again would be nice to hear from other single parents with simialr experience.
Thanks in advance for your responses.

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I wouldnt say not one thing bad about the father that isnt in the little boys life. Just tell them that their daddy lives to far away to come see them Let them find out how he is. When they get older they will find out on their own. That way they will not hate you fot it. I have a granddoughter that her dad has nothing to do with her , she found out how he is by herself. Kids are not dumb. Lots of luck A grandma in Atwood

My sister has two boys similar in age when she went through this, about two years ago. Her oldest remembers the dad, but the youngest, not so much. She doesn't want to bad mouth him, and doesn't shut the door on any relationship that may come since he is their father. He has been taking visitation, not as often as planned but he does care about them. Later in life they will have the time to make their own opinion.
Speaking from my own exp., my mom never led me to opinions of my dad. The rest of my family did. Now, I have my own opinions, and in the end he's my dad. I didn't grow up with him, he lived states away. I got used to the absence, and relied on my close family. My grandparents (his parents) have always been wonderful, even though they live far away.
Best of luck to you, sounds like you are on the right track.

HI

My daighter is 8 now & hasn;t seen her father since she was 17 months old. He does not pay child support. He still lives with his mother in a different state. I tell my daughter that her father can't take care of her because he can't even take care of himself, that's why he still has to live with his Mama. I don;t bad-mouth him, but I don;t make him a saint either. And I tell my daughter that if she has any interest in meeting him, I will do my best to make that possible. So far she has not expressed any interest in that option.

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Hi,

I was in your boat for a very long time. When my daughter would ask about her father, I just told her that sometimes people can't live with eacher other.. then the "Why's" came in. I tried to answer the questions the best I could, then change the subject. Some say "out of sight out of mind" I think that it is different for children with a missing parent in their lives. I didn't tell her the truth of the real reason why her father is not around. I want her to have her own feelings of her father. She is 12 now. We live here in IL and her father lives in FL. He sees her now for only two weeks at a time. This just started two years ago. He did not have any contact with her at all. Nothing for Christmas, birthdays or anything.

I have yet to explain the "real" reason her father and I are not together. I would like to tell her because I hate him, he is a very bad father and he cheats on his wife just like he did me and I can go on. But I choose not to and let her find her own feelings.

It is very hard when you are making up excuses of why they are not there. I think they are to young to really understand. I am not going to tell my daughter the "real" reason until she is in her late teens. Then she should be able to understand. I have notes from him telling me he hates me and blah..blah...blah.. I will show her everything when I feel she is old enough to understand.

I am now happily married. I thought I would never marry, but my Mr. Right came along. :-)

Good luck to you!!
L.

You have a lot of responses so I'll keep it quick. As a 34-yr old whose parents divorced when I was 2, I'd like to suggest that you not share the reasons you think their father left / isn't around. I had a conversation with my Dad (who moved 1,000 miles away when I was 4) a few weeks ago and learned that his point of view was very different than what I'd assumed and what my mom had told me. Though she made a serious effort not to trash talk him, I still grew up thinking he left us /didn't want us/ didn't love us, etc. Once he had kids from his second marriage, that added to the feeling, which of course, is very damaging to long-term self-worth, self-esteem, etc. But I learned he had a point of view and had feelings - about us, my mom, etc. And though he may have been a jerk to my mom for most of those years it didn't mean that he wasn't able to grow up and see the error of his choices, to feel deeply saddened by missing our childhood etc.

Best to be truthful and to take responsibility for it onto yourself. Tell them that you made a mistake, that you made a very poor choice when you picked him to be their father--but stress that the mistake was your fault alone, and that the mistake was picking him--they are NOT a mistake. I would not say that his father doesn't want to see him--tell him/them that you and their father decided together that under the circumstances, it's best that they not see him now.

It's good that you're not saying anything negative about their father. Is there some way you can repair this so that their father can be in their life?

As a mother to two adopted children with rather wayward biological parents, I understand that the absolute truth is way too much for them to know or understand.

We tell our children that their parents just couldn't take care of them so they came to live with us.

You could try that with your kids telling them their Dad couldn't take care of them but knew that you could do it all by yourself. That way it shifts the blame of themselves, (which a lot of kids do) and to the parent who has left. It's not the whole story, but it's not untruthful, either.

Hi,

I am in the same situation my daughter is 6 years old and she has never met her father, i live at home with my parents and her friends have started to confuse her saying that my father is her stepdad. She had never asked about her father until she started school. What i told her was that my father was her grand fahter and not stepdad, and that she does have a dad, but she has never met him and i explained to her that he lives far away and that when she grows up and if she wants to meet him she can. She asked about him, how does he look, are my eyes like him etc. I did not tell her any negative comments about him to her, i told her that when she is a little bit older and when she can fully understand things we would talk about it further. She has not asked anymore, just answer the question he is asking without trashing his father.
Hope this helps! if you want to talk send me a message, i would like to hear how things went!

M..

My situation is a bit different but my child is older (9)so I wanted to give my input. My son is adopted so my situation is different but similar. He has a good relationship with his birthmom but no relationship with his birthfather (BF). Just recently, out of the blue he said "my birthfather must be an awful person because you won't tell me about him." It shook me to the core because in fact his BF has made a world of bad choices. I thought I was making a good choice not telling my son about him because I didn't want him thinking that he is bad because his BF is bad. But it seems to have backfired and my son actually has a worse impression of his BF than it really is. So, my advice is to keep it as positive as you can but not to avoid it because their imaginations may make the situation worse than it really is. I hope this makes sense.

I think you already have many good suggestions. The only thing that I would add is that you go to the library and find books about different kinds of families and read them with your children. Can't think of any titles offhand but you may want to ask the children's librarian for suggestions. That way they will know that they are not unusual and that families are all about love and not just mommy, daddy, kids.

Best of luck,

Never put dad in negative light because they child will have enough resentment on his own. also want to leave that open if dad does come back and wants to be included, the child will then be able to work through it on his own feelings rather than how you feel about dad. I would tell them that even though it is more popular that mom and dad live together there are many different kinds of families. and that your family is this way and it's okay and all that matters is that we love each. I would be as honest with them about dad without attributing negative character traits to him. so tell them yes you have a dad but he just doesn't live with us or spend time with us. If they ask why you can easily say I don't know, and help the kids get through their feels about that and reassure them that they are not the reason why dad isn't her it is his choice at this time. It is hard and it will be something your kids will have to deal with forever, but having a loving mom like yourself will be an advantage. do they have an uncle that could take them out and spend time with them so they have a male figure. They do need some thing like that. Just a family friend that could take them to baseball games or play ball with them.

That would be the most negative thing you could do. You want your kids growing up thinking they are loved by both of you. When your kids are older they will realize their dad is a foulball and it isn't their fault. Either he's too immature to raise kids and you're all better off than to have him at home and you 2 fighting or him not coming home nights. Be strong mom. The kids are well worth it.

hi there . i am in the same situation as you. my daughter is 2 1/2 and has never seen her father. not that i havent tried to get him to see her but he has no desire to do so 9he is an idiot as well). i have been thinking about this alot as she will be starting school next year and i am sure will be asking about why there is no father around. the best answer i have come up with is that her father and i saw things differently and couldnt be together so we went our separate ways and even though he isnt in the picture that does not mean he doesnt love you. (part truth part not) but whatever i decided to say or you decide to tell your boys make it perfectly clear that they had nothing to do with the fact that the father isnot around.

I've been in your situation- my sons' father moved away to another state when they were 1 and 2 1/2. I would not recommend telling the kids that he doesn't want to see them- even though it is the truth- the child will just internalize it as something being wrong with him personally since their dad doesn't want to be a part of their lives-
I never told my sons their dad was a selfish jerk, even though he is- I just figured they will figure it out on their own someday soon enough without me having to say anything. Oddly enough, my sons are now 7 and 9 and their dad just moved back to our area with his new wife, wanting to be superdad after only seeing them two or three times a year for the past six years.
Very annoying for me! But I keep my mouth shut, (bite my tongue is more like it)since the boys seem happy to spend time with him. But I have realized there are advantages to being the only parent- no one comments on how you get their hair cut!
As for your sons saying they don't have a dad- I would just say, " Yes, you have a dad but he lives far away and that makes it hard for him to see you. I'm sure he thinks about you all the time. Sometimes grownups have to do things that kids don't understand." If they push further you could just gently tell them that sometimes grown-ups do things that don't make sense and someday their dad will be really sorry he didn't get to see what great kids they are. Which is true whether he comes around or not- I think you are doing the right thing with not saying anything negative to your kids- I have always tried to stay that way with my own kids and sucked up alot of anger but it has been worth it because they are great, well adjusted kids! Good luck to you- you sound like a great mom!

As a product of a broken family I will say that honesty is always the best policy - don't dissolution him that his father is anything more, but continue not going down the negative path either. "Your father chose a different path" is a solid sentence to fall back on. At least, for now, he's four - he only wants or needs simple answers.

I agree that talking to a child psychologist would be a good option to determine what the best approach for your situation might be. If you are able to do that - then maybe you can lay out a plan of some kind on how much information he will be ready for at which points in his life.

Remain consistant. My own mother went back and forth - one minute my dad was the lying *jerk* that was the cause for the split. Other times she used him as a threat - "would you rather I sent you to live with your father?!" None of it was healthy and most of it reflected her own frustrations at being left on her own to raise me. She always gave me a lot more of the details about the "problems" of their relationship than I ever really wanted or needed to know. Knowing that he was a lying *jerk* would have been enough. I didn't need to know ALL the ways in which he had wronged her. As it was - I met my father later in my life, around age 21. I was briefly dissolutioned that maybe he wanted a part in my life after all, but then found out a year or so later that he really didn't care. He'd moved on, so I did too. But it still hurt. I think that it would have hurt less if my mother had been able to handle the issue better throughout my life.

I'd suggest that you also take this opportunity to look into yourself and make sure that you have come to terms with the broken relationship with their dad. It might be that you have, but if you find that you aren't sure - seek out some counselling for yourself so that you can move on. It will be better for your kids in the long run, as well as for you.

I watched my mom struggle through as a single mom, and it's tough work. Good luck!

Keep it simple. Families come in all shapes and sizes. Some have a Mommy and Daddy, some have a mommy, daddy and grandma/grandpa, some even have 2 mommies or daddies, and some our just like ours with just a mommy, and that's okay.

I understand the desire to be as truthful as possible, but I don't think kids so young should have to be burdened with the idea that their father has no interest in them. Kids think they are the center of the universe and will think that their father doesn't want them because of something they did or something about them personally. So, talk to a professional about how to deal with this. Whatever you do, make sure your boys understand that their father's choice has nothing to do with them personally.

A.: I have been through this with my 5 year old son. He does not know his father either. I took him to therapy so he can deal with the fact that he does not have a father and everyone in his school does. This is very hard for him, especially for boys since they need that male role model around. Therapy has helped him cope, believe it or not. He continues to go and the therapist has seen so much improvement that he soon will not need to go anymore. I use to cry trying to explain to him why his father was not around and I was always afraid of saying the wrong thing. The therapist also helped me with giving him the appropriate answers such as, it is ok that his father is around, not every family consist of a mother and a father, some kids grow up with a grandmother and that is perfectly fine. Just know that we all love you. Things like that.

I would not tell them the exact truth, that caould be too confusing and hurtful right now. I would tell them their father lives far away and that you and him did not get along so he had to live somewhere else, and it had nothing to do with them. That is the key, you don't want them to think it is their fault, and as they get older they will understand more and figure things out, but right now I would not tell them everything, young children should not have to know that their father doesn't want anything to do with them.

Please take the professional counselor route for good advice. You sound like a terrific mom - how lucky for your boys! When I had to talk about death to my oldest, I was told by a professional therapist to keep the news VERY brief, factual and then to let my son ask questions. It worked wonders. She says that adults share too much for kids to process. So that's my simple advice. Slow and steady. And seek professional guidance. Good luck, mom. You are doing great things.

My sister has two boys similar in age when she went through this, about two years ago. Her oldest remembers the dad, but the youngest, not so much. She doesn't want to bad mouth him, and doesn't shut the door on any relationship that may come since he is their father. He has been taking visitation, not as often as planned but he does care about them. Later in life they will have the time to make their own opinion.
Speaking from my own exp., my mom never led me to opinions of my dad. The rest of my family did. Now, I have my own opinions, and in the end he's my dad. I didn't grow up with him, he lived states away. I got used to the absence, and relied on my close family. My grandparents (his parents) have always been wonderful, even though they live far away.
Best of luck to you, sounds like you are on the right track.

HI

My daighter is 8 now & hasn;t seen her father since she was 17 months old. He does not pay child support. He still lives with his mother in a different state. I tell my daughter that her father can't take care of her because he can't even take care of himself, that's why he still has to live with his Mama. I don;t bad-mouth him, but I don;t make him a saint either. And I tell my daughter that if she has any interest in meeting him, I will do my best to make that possible. So far she has not expressed any interest in that option.

Looks like you got a lot of advice...I just wanted to add that you should keep your childrens ages in mind when explaining this to them...never lie, but talk on a level they will understand w/out being hurt. They will figure out that their father is an "idiot" on there own!! I don't think brutal honesty (dad doesn't want to see you) is the way to go...that could be damaging to a 4 yr old and have consequences you don't want to deal w/. I agree w/ a lot of other posters who suggested getting a professional to guide you on this one! Best of luck and keep up the good work and raising 2 handsome young men!!

A., that is such a sad situation for you. You sound like such a great mom, I had to write a reply. I think it is wise not to bad-mouth the kids' father to them. (No matter how much of a loser he is.) This would only damage your boys' identities as males now and later on as they become men and fathers. When your boys ask where there father is, or why he isn't a part of their lives, I would answer with an "I don't know", and call the father for them (if possible) and let HIM answer them for himself. That way, if he behaves like the jerk you say he is, your kids will see it for themselves and will draw their own conclusions. Definitely try to keep your own emotions out of it, though I know it is difficult being you love your children. My prayers are with you -- you just keep being the great mom you have been to your boys. When they are grown, they will thank you for it.

If you want to stick with the truth, then I would try explaining to them that families are not just mommies, daddies and children. That may have been the way it was years ago, but that is not true at all these days. some kids live with Mommy or Daddy and Grandparents, there are same sex parents, some are adopted, Mommy or Daddy or both could be in the military and overseas...The reality of today is that families are defined by people who love and care for one another. Yes there are still a lot of familes out there that are the traditional family unit, but that is not what defines them as being a family. I bet the more you look around you, the more you will see that families come in all shapes and sizes and its OK to be different.

I wouldnt say not one thing bad about the father that isnt in the little boys life. Just tell them that their daddy lives to far away to come see them Let them find out how he is. When they get older they will find out on their own. That way they will not hate you fot it. I have a granddoughter that her dad has nothing to do with her , she found out how he is by herself. Kids are not dumb. Lots of luck A grandma in Atwood

Honestly the truth is the best direction to go and a counselor or your pastor can help you with the best way to do that.

S.

I understand this perfectly. My son's father and I split when I was 46 months pregnant. He lives in London so he only see our son a few times a year. I have always just said "your Daddy loves you very much but because of his job he has to live very far away" and until recently that seemed to be enough. now my son (3) is starting to ask more questions because he sees other "daddys" at school. So I have started having my ex send picture via email (so I don't have to talk to him) and then I write what Will (my son) wants to say to Steve. This seems to be working better. Good luck it seems to get harder as they get older.

I think really that people who are saying honesty is the best policy are not thinking that through. You don't want to lie, but it is inappropriate to burden children with too much information about what went wrong in your relationship with their father and even, your "opinions" of why he is not around. In no way should you tell the kids that he "doesn't care to see" them. Why? Because that will hurt them, not him. There is no way they can process that at thier age except to think-"What is wrong with me that my own dad doesn't want to see me?" More something like-You Father lives far away, and we decided we didn't want to live with each other anymore. But reassuring of course that you will never ever leave tehm etc. and that you are all a great family just how you are. The truth of the matter is, as you've already said, you don't need to bad mouth him, he is digging his own grave in their little minds by not being there. But also keep in mind that things may change. You never know. Also the children will have many questions about this over the years and that is normal. You mustn't make them feel bad about it. THey will feel rejected by him no matter what. I would get therapy for them too.

I vote for honesty...here are my opinions as a single head of household with 2 kids...spewing in random order.

I'm sure you are correct in assessing that the dad is an idiot. You could phrase it differently however, because the kids are part of their dad.

You shouldn't guess at why dad isn't around...tell them that you don't know why he isn't there, but that they are 2 of the best kids in the world and he's missing a lot.

As time goes on you will have to teach them that being an absent father is not an appropriate option. Even if they are not living with their kids, they have to be responsible (pay for living expenses) and be around to raise them.

Families are not, I repeat ARE NOT always Mother, Father and kids. This is a myth. I know plenty of couple that consider themselves a family and don't have kids. I know gay couples with children and I know plenty of single moms and dads with kids. All of these people consider themselves a family.

I can only imagine what it is like to have 2 responsible adults raising a family together...must be nice. I am so fricken busy and doing the work of 3 people all the time. It really isn't fair that dad isn't around, but this is how it is.

I would refer to the kid's father as their birth father, no more than that...otherwise you are elevating him to a much higher position in their lives...one he is not worthy of.

I've heard over and over not to bad mouth the dad (from him) but I struggle so much to maintain that I firmly believe that my kids need to know what the real deal is. My 16 year old daughter needs to know not to get involved with the kind of guys I did (hint: irresponsible artists that don't really have a job), and my son must know that he must grow up to be different than his irresponsible father. Dad is around, but child support is zero. Dad is appalled that his son knows that he doesn't give me any money. Too bad! Get a job!

My son is being taught that he must do well in school so he can get a good job that pays enough to support himself and his family and have money left over for fun stuff and savings (we don't have any of that).

Something that I have done over the years is nurture and encourage my kids' relationships with families that have both parents around. This gives them the opportunity to see in action how 2a 2 parent household works. If it is a bad relationship I talk to them about what is going on in the family. (alcoholic dad (with mom working full time) leading to divorce and then the realization that mom drinks too much too). We have little to do with this family now.

I also have told other healthy relationship 2 parent family parents that I really like my kids being around them so they can get an idea of what a good family partnership is like.

We belong to a wonderful synagogue that is very supportive of our family. The kids feel proud of who they are and really belong to this community. It has been a tremendous help to have the support of so many other random adults to help raise my kids. Everyone has a stake in who my kids grow up to be...the awesome people that they are. My kids will go out into the world and help make the world a better place for everyone. Just like they are supposed to.

In conclusion: All of these things make a difference. Keep it age appropriate but tell them the truth.

Now, I have a question for you...how can you be a stay at home mom and support the kids?

children are smarter then we can ever realize. tell him the truth- no name calling because that kills his self esteem. Just tell him his dad just was not ready to be a dad. Being a father is a huge responsibility he was not ready for. you can tell him his dad loves him and maybe one day he will be ready. Reassure his dads absence has nothing to do with him etc... Good luck!

WOW! This is really hard! I don't think I would tell a 4 yr old boy that his father doesn't want to see him. That could not only hurt, but do some damage to him. I mean he is going to get that anyway someday, but saying it outright is really harsh. I would say thing about him being far away and that every family is different. There are all kinds of families. I would go to a library and ask for some books about different types of families. Focus on what you have, not what he is missing. Good luck!

I have never known my father, I was raised by my mom and grandma. My mom told me that my father lives in the different city far away. I never missed him, as you can't miss someone who you didn't know.
I honestly feel like as long as a child has people in the family who love him/her, it will be OK. Stress the fact that there are different kind of families. I would hold off on the whole truth, until your kids are older.
I complement you for putting your kids first and trying to explain the absense of the father in the best way possible. Good luck.

My husband is not the biological father of our oldest son, and we ran into some questions when he was about 4 years old. I found the best and most effective route was to be open and honest about the fact that he has a different (biological) father than his sister, but that the relationship between his father and me didn't work out. (His biological father is also an idiot.) I didn't want my son to feel like he was responsible for his biological father not being around, so I just explained as best as I could that we loved each other at one point, but our lives took different paths, and God's got a different path for us.
I think you're right not saying that their father is an idiot- you never know how that might back fire, and it's always better to take the high road, especially in situations such as these.
Good luck- I hope you find some answers in the responses you receive here!

As a Child Development Specialist and child of divorce I would suggest you seek the advice of a good child psychologist. This is a very complicated issue and it will come up many times as your children struggle with it. As an adult now, I know you struggle with it your entire life. I would not pole friends but go to a professional who knows about the development of personality. This issue goes to the heart of intimacy, abandonement, self-esteem. It is HUGE and I am glad you are thinking it through before answering him. Please do not tell him his Dad does not want to see him until you talk with a professional. A.

I can only imagine how much it hurts you to see your children in this position and asking questions that are difficult to explain. My heart and prayers go out to you. I would tell your sons that they have a heavenly Father that loves them SOOO much! That He watches over them and loves them with all of His heart- so much so that He sent those boys to a wonderful mom like you :) Each day tell them that about this Father and maybe it won't be quite so hard for them to be without an earthly father. May God Bless and keep you. :)

I didn't know my father as I was growing up. My parents were teenagers when I was born, and my grandfather forbade my father to see my mom or me--so he just didn't. When I was 10, my mom explained the situation to me simply as possible. My father "wasn't ready to be a dad." She didn't know where he lived or how to contact him, but we could work on finding him if I wanted to when I was 18 because it was an adult decision that should be made when I became an adult.

When I asked what he was like, she told me good things about him: he played the guitar and sang well, liked to read, knew how to make dandelion wine. It had been a long time since she knew him, so she really didn't have much to tell me, and she only had one picture and some jewelry he'd given her, which she gave to me and I still treasure.

I think it's important feel out what it is your children want to know--and how much you think they need to know. It's also crucial to stay neutral: don't talk down or up about the man. I think there are three types of questions you might hear from your children.

They easy ones--the facts:
What's he like? Do I look like him? Where/when/how did you meet/get married/etc. These answers you can usually keep short and honest.

The hard ones:
Why did he move away? Will he write/call/visit--or can I? Why doesn't he want to seem me? Some preparation on your part might be necessary because it is really important for you to stay neutral. You might find it helpful to practice answering questions on paper or with a counselor or a close friend. Practicing aloud is helpful so you can get feedback from someone listening AND watching you react. Remember: if he's really a jerk and an idiot, his children will figure that out for themselves. It will be painful, yes, but it's better to learn that from him than take your word for it--and blame you.

The hardest questions:
These are the ones you truly cannot (and should not) answer. Does he love me? Does he miss me? Does he care what I'm doing? My mom said, "I don't know" a lot. It's an honest answer to questions best asked by the children to the father either in letters or phone calls or in person. If he's complete estranged, keeping a journal can help even very young children work out their feelings in drawings. I wrote a lot of letters I tore up or put away because I wasn't always sure I knew what I wanted to say or why.

Unfortunately, you can't prevent the heartache your children will inevitable feel when they realize that they deserve to be loved and cared for by both of their parents. I'm not convinced that the "best" family is mom-dad-kids in one house. There are lots of places that kids feel love and acceptance--at home, with relatives, with close friends, at school, at houses of worship, etc.. You do the best you can, you fill in the gaps yourself or find others who will help. All kids have challenges to overcome, and if you can be someone your children trust will always love them and stay with them no matter what, that's the best you can do.

when i was young iwas around your boys age my mom told me the truth and had no details just like he left and were moving and i will always be here for u and gave me hugs but i found out secrets about it so hide what u want but be frank.

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