Your Health, Your Life Q&A: My kids miss their dad, what can I do?
Your questions answered with Leanne Hall, Re-partnered single mum, psychologist, personal trainer & health and nutrition coach.
Since our separation my co- parent hasn’t been reliable seeing our two children ( aged 6 and 8). Weeks can go by without him contacting them or he’ll cancel visits at the last minute. When my children say they miss him, all I can think of to
say is ‘ I know’. What else can I say to comfort them? The first place to start is to not to fall into the trap of mind reading or making up explanations so your children feel better, you have to stick to the truth. If you don’t know why your co-parent is behaving in a certain way, be up front about it. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I don’t know’.
You can’t change the fact that your co-parent isn’t around and as much as you want to give your children answers to ease their pain, you can’t make it better and making it better isn’t actually your job. Your role is to carry your children through their experience and be there with them through it. It’s such a hard part of single parenting.
When parents are absent for whatever reason, the most important thing you can do is to reassure your children regularly that it’s not their fault. And let me reinforce that you cannot reassure them too much. Children internalise so much; they will make up reasons why their parent not visiting is their fault and try to correct it he future. Things like ‘Maybe I said X last time and it upset him’ .
If you’re worried that your children may be blaming themselves you can ask why they think their parent isn’t coming around and if they say something like ‘Because he doesn’t love me’, you can then tell them that’s not the case and reassure them that way.
Another thing to remember is that even if it angers you no end to see your children in pain, never bad-mouth your co-parent in front of them as your children will internalise that too. Then they’ll not only think it’s their fault that their dad doesn’t visit but it’s their fault that you’re angry. I know it can be hard to contain that sometimes! And we all make mistakes, so if you do succumb to anger, just go back and explain to your child that you shouldn’t have said it. It’s healthy for our kids to see us admit our mistakes because it gives them permission to make mistakes too.
In terms of trying to improve things in the future, Family Relationships Online offer services that can help with getting visits on track again.
But if there’s one thing to take away it’s that when it really boils down to it, as long as kids are loved, wherever that love comes from, they’re resilient and they will be ok.