According to Oprah’s Lifeclass, 24 million children live in biological father-absent homes— in the United States alone.
And 1 in 3 children grow up without a father. Although a majority of these fatherless homes are found in lower income situations – that’s not always the case.
This problem has also been reported to cross the economic spectrum. Men leave because they’re having an affair. Some men go through some sort of empathy-lacking yearning for a childless freedom.
It arrives with a positive narrative to tell your child. It’s an “I wanted you so much” story – which safeguards a child’s ego.
It’s another thing to have single motherhood thrust upon you – because the father has chosen to abandon his child.
It’s a perplexing tongue-tying challenge. A verbal landmine. The mother recognizes the importance of telling a positive narrative – while also telling the truth. But, truly, how can there be a positive and truthful narrative to questions like:
But there’s one day in particular which is especially scary: Father’s Day.
This day might as well be re-named Boogie Man Day. It’s a day which you know brings up many questions for your child.
Your child might not ask you questions out loud. But still you know your child will be extra-wondering about that unknown shadowy figure called father. Or rather, never-to-be-called father.
She says to answer as best as you can. Make sure that the child understands that the father’s decision to abandon had nothing to do with who the child is. It is common for the child to feel guilty. It is not their fault. The father never got to know the child. They left NOT because they got to know the child and did not like them. They left to avoid the possibility of failing to be a father and/or they didn’t know how to be a father – or because they were on some ego-driven, empathy-lacking freedom ride.
He suggests saying: “First and foremost, a child who is abandoned must beconstantly and repetitively told (and convinced) that s/he was not at fault for the abandonment. This can take months and years of repetition. Gentle, firm, clear, loving repetition. Use realistic dialogue about exactly why the father left. Make sure the child can see that the child was not causal of the abandonment.”
Turn the questions back on your child.
It is then that you “validate” the child’s emotions.
By validating, Dr. Julie Gottman means “empathizing with the child’s feelings and confirming that they have a right to feel that way.”
After validating the child’s feelings, the mother can help the child to label them.
Dr. John Gottman reminds: “Providing words [to describe the problem] can help children transform an amorphous, scary, uncomfortable feeling into something definable. Something that has boundaries and is a normal part of life”
The mother should not try to talk the child out of their feelings. This will leave the child feeling rejected for feeling that way.
He coaches the child to tell their father..
This could be a mentor, an uncle, a male friend, a teacher, a coach, etc.
Contact this father-figure to see if they would be willing to meet with your child on Father’s Day for a meal or fun activity. Perhaps even a “guy oriented” activity – like a sports game.
So, it is great if an abandoned child can be encouraged to care for a younger sibling, a pet, etc. Bonding and attachment can be difficult. Practice may be required.
A suggestion: Take some quiet time to write out on paper some “go to” answers for the child. Make sure they are honest without being “bad mouthing.” In doing so, you can be clear on how to answer. And you don’t get caught in the heat of the moment without an emotionally healthful answer.
For example, the mother might list some of the father’s goodqualities – like how he’s handsome, smart, funny, or talented at sports (etc…). In this way, the child can find some positive aspects of their biological father to feel connected to.
This man’s lack of compassion and over-loaded ego might have shown up in the family home in a negative way – which might have negatively impacted the child, by presenting negative core values.
The mother should do her best not to overly focus on the absence of the father – something she cannot control – and focus instead on what she can control: providing her child with lots of love, support, positive core values, and quality attention.
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