Be honest, yet gentle with daughter about family situation
Question: At age twentyone, I became pregnant and had a baby girl. The father and I never married. My daughter is almost three years old now, and I know she will soon be asking questions about her daddy. How should I explain this situation to her and when should that explanation be given?
Dobson: Eventually, you will want to tell your daughter the whole story about her father and describe your relationship with him, but now is not the time to do that. She must be mature and emotionally ready to deal with those details. On the other hand, you don’t want to treat the subject as a dark secret that haunts the two of you. Neither do you want to be untruthful and tell yarns that will later have to be admitted.
At this early stage, I’d sug- gest that you respond confidently and lovingly to the inevitable questions about “Daddy.” When the appropriate occasions surface, begin giving her vague explanations that are based in truth but are short of the whole story.
You may wish to say something like this, “Your daddy went away before you were born. He didn’t want to live with me. I’m not sure why. Maybe he had some problems that made it hard to be a husband. I don’t know. I’m sure if he had ever met you, he’d have loved you very much. But he left before you were born. Maybe a new daddy will come to live with us. Would you like that?”
I recognize there are potential problems with a reply of this nature, and that it may not be entirely appropriate for every case. It simply attempts to lay the foundation for the more in-depth discussions to follow. Just as important, it likely will defuse the situation early on while conveying a sense of affirmation, security, and mutual reliance upon the Lord. And once you’ve achieved that, take a deep breath and let it rest for awhile. If you’re at peace, your daughter will be, too — and there will be ample time to add detail to the picture as God directs.
Question: The children who play with my kids in the neighborhood are familiar with terrible programs on television and cable TV. I can’t believe that their parents let them watch such violent and sexualized stuff. What is the long-term consequence of this programming on children?
Dobson: It is sad and very difficult to understand why so many parents fail to supervise what their kids watch. To those who let them watch anything they wish, I would pose this proposition: Suppose a complete stranger came to your door and said, “You look tired. Why don’t you let me take care of your children for a day or two?” I doubt if many of you would say, “Great idea. Come on in.”
That’s a story Peggy Charren, President of Action for Children’s Television, likes to tell. Her point is well taken. When we sit our children in front of the television set, we’re giving control over them to complete strangers; and more and more, that’s a risky thing to do. An increasing number of studies have found that violence on television frequently leads to later aggressive behavior by children and teenagers.
One of the most conclusive studies was conducted by Dr. Leonard D. Aaron. He examined a group of children at age 8 and then again at 19 and finally at 40. Children in the United States, Australia, Fin- land, Israel and Poland were studied. The outcome was the same; the more frequently the participants watched violent television at age 8, the more likely they were to be convicted of crimes by age 30, and the more aggressive was their behavior when drinking.
It’s time for parents to control the amount and the content of television that their children are watching. The consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic.