Father Abandonment Issues in Tween Daughter

Updated on August 24, 2012
N.H. asks from Palmyra, PA
6 answers

My twelve year old daughter is struggling with her father not wanting to see her. The last time he saw her was in March 2012. She has been to a counselor but does not open up very much about it to her. Are there any books or tools you all could recommend to help her deal with it? It is most likely that her father will never want to be in her life since he recently decided and told me he wanted nothing to do with her.

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answers from Houston on

I'm so sorry for your daughter. That plays havoc with girls self esteem because the daddy is the one they take alot of their ques regarding the opposite sex. Our daughter first learned how to "flirt" with her father.

Hopefully you have a great family support system and she is exposed to men, i.e. grandfather, uncle or even a family friend. Its important that she understand that her father is a goober and not all men are that way.

I would keep taking her to counseling and encouraging her to discuss her feeling. Let her know its okay to be mad at her father and that his decision is not a reflection on her.

Just keep loving her and that he is the one missing the treasure.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

How did she discover he didn't want to see her? I ask that question because presentation is everything and understand that she will take his absence personally. Children get their personal identity from both parents and when one parent is absent by choice or by chance it does impact the kid. Keeping her in counseling is important. Finding a counselor she can open up with is also important.

When I was in counseling it took 2 tries to find one that suited my personality and temperment. I would suggest trying a different counseling experience. Perhaps group counseling would help her too. Sometimes it is easier to talk with others who are going through the same stuff as you than it is to do a one on one.

Don't give up it really does take time. In the meantime and between time, never say anything bad about her dad. NEVER means never. Children have the darndest habit of hearing and overhearing things never intended for their ears and taking what was said out of context so it is just best to never let any words out of your mouth be negative against her dad.

Try to get the best communication you can established with her. Perhaps there is a play or movie you can take her to go see that addresses these issues that are in her life. It could give you a way to talk to her about it.

Whatever her father said to you he could possibly change his mind or want to establish relationship with her when she is older. Prepare her for that possibility. Get more safe men involved in her life. She will need to see a good model for what a real man is all about otherwise she will model after the only man she has had experience with.

You may also want to do some research into grief counseling because this experience is like grieving the loss of someone. There are steps emotionally she will go through and you will need to help her navigate through them. Also developmentally she is also changing and yet more reason to help guide her through. Counseling for her and you will definitely help.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My heart breaks for your little girl.

Please keep her going to counseling. Maybe she needs time to open up to this person, or maybe this counselor isn't the right fit. However, considering that one of her parents has completely rejected her (does she know this?), it will take time for her to be able to trust another person and to open up. She may be very afraid of saying the wrong thing. She may be afraid that anything she tells the counselor could upset you... there are a lot of 'ifs' in a kid's head.

What might be helpful is the great book on communication "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen...And How to Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish. This book does not deal directly with abandonment, however, it does discuss empathetic listening techniques, which is a lot of what you want to be doing when/if the subject of her father comes up.

I would go the middle route, which is to say I wouldn't throw him under the bus, nor would I defend the man. There's an old saying "Shame the parent, shame the child"; whether or not she is having a relationship with him, she is still his kid, and hearing what's worst about one's parent can cut deeply. I would instead offer reflective and empathetic language; when she says "he's a jerk" you can say "Yeah, I can see why you feel that way. He's really disappointed you". In this way, you validate *her* feelings without dumping on him more than she can deal with.

Kids also shut down a bit to protect themselves. I have my own history with being abandoned by my father, and without going into details, a lot of what I did was self-protection. This may mean that she will get mad and blame you or herself for dad not being there. She may still want to protect him, in order to protect herself. She is still very, very young.

Young girls get so much of their self-esteem and self-identity from their fathers, and yet, be careful with any men who would befriend her or show her attention. I agree that having good experiences with other men is important, however, you have to remember that they will need to be of some pretty upstanding moral caliber AND that she will need them to stick around for a while, or it's just a re-run of what's already happened for her. The other concern at this age is that sometimes crushes may develop due to positive attention being paid to young women. They're just kids and have a hard time sussing some of this stuff out. Other than uncles, grandparents, or beloved family members, I would also look into constructive group activities. If you belong to a church, get her plugged into the tween/teen activities. If you don't, consider talking to the counselor and asking for suggestions. There's a lot of stress at this age on both fitting in and boy/girl romantic relationships as well as friendships, so this can be a very confusing time. Focusing on local nature camps, healthy activities with peers-- let her pursue something she might love, like acting or a sport or whatever else interests her. I would focus less on finding a dad-substitute and more on giving her ways to gain social acceptance just for who she is. And again, the counselor might have some good suggestions.

Best wishes. I hope that somewhere down the line, there is healing for you all.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Tripletmom and Stacey B. I disagree that you can't say bad things about bad people. It's important for your daughter to know that just because someone has sex and gets someone pregnant and creates a child, that does not make them a good father or a good person. If you never say anything "bad" (the truth) about him, she will assume the fault lies with her.

Mirroring her emotions combined with the truth. I know it's sad when the man who is your father doesn't see you, but you need to know that it has nothing to do with you. Not everyone is meant to be a parent. He wanted to have sex, and I got pregnant, but he is irresponsible and selfish, and not good father material. It has absolutely nothing to do with you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fargo on

My daughter had to go to the counselor a lot before she'd open up - she had to "trust" her first. I think that's your best bet. Also, my daughter's father is a horrible man and horrible father. I have yet to say a bad word about him and trust I have plenty to say. He's been in and out of her life for years at a time. He lives half way across the country but he'll go months and months without calling and when he does, he'll bash me - really??? When she does visit him, his kids call me "The Evil Woman". His kids are 5, 7, 9 - I've never met them - nice, huh? That really bothered her when she went there for a week this summer. He aslo promised her all these trips and school shopping, etc - nothing, she sat home and babysat his kids. She's seeing him for who he really is. But it's hard for her to talk to me about it - the counselor helps - it's her confidont. Girls for whatever reason, put their fathers on a pedistal (not matter how bad or nonexistent) and they can do no wrong. She'll figure it out and work through it - keep her in counseling.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from York on

That's just a crummy thing for a selfish dad to do. : ( Does she know he did this by choice? If not don't ever ever ever ever tell her. Just say he's having problems right now or something. She needs to know both parents love her at this point in her life. If he doesn't come back she'll realize the way things are on her own when she's older. When my daughter's father dropped out of life she still called him sometimes and we sent birthday cards and school pictures. But she got to the point at about 15 where she didn't want to try anymore. I called him and said I need to talk to you right now and I'll be there in 10 minutes. Told him "don't you dare leave that girl!!! I don't want her to grow up without you!!" Not because he's so great but because she needs the security.

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