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.

Lift Magazine - - Contents -

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.

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