7 Tips to Remember when Talking to your Child about their Absent Parent
Being a parent is one of the most rewarding jobs there can be. There’s this tiny human who looks up to you and adores you. You’re their parent, care giver, teacher, doctor, and so much more. You’re everything to them. But if you are like me and millions of others, you are a single parent raising your child alone. Being a single parent is just as tough, if not more, than co-parenting. Today I want to share with you 7 Tips to Remember when Talking to your Child about their Absent Parent.
As a single parent you have probably felt alone. You sit there while your baby is sound asleep and you wonder what you could have done differently. What changes could you have made to ensure they had both parents. However, their other parent made a choice and all you can do is your best.
Being a single parent doesn’t mean you’re alone. It may feel like you’re alone and I know how much that hurts, I’ve been there. I’ve cried those same tears. But know you’re not alone. There is an entire world out there of single parents and I am one of them. My son Jaiden is 9 years old and has never met his father. I am a single parent and I am not alone!
Being a single parent is not the worst thing in the world. I had a nervous breakdown when I was pregnant with Jaiden. Scheduled to work 6 days that week and I only made it 1 day. There was a lot of crying that week. Feeling like you can’t breathe and the world is about to end. But I was okay and you will be too.
You finally start to feel like you have control of things as a single parent and then you are loaded with the question you were praying never came. Your baby comes to you and wants to know about their mother or father. The parent that is not around. The one who never shows and breaks promises. Defeat starts to roll in and your entire world is pulled right from under you. Now what?
I want to share with you how I have handle these question with my own child. I just hope my advice can help one single person out there. The questions my son has asked me has left me in tears while he slept because I can’t cry in front of him. That wouldn’t be fair.
7 Tips to Remember when Talking to your Child about their Absent Parent.
Do not avoid the topic when asked. –
The first time Jaiden asked me about his father he was probably about four-years old and I was taken away. I wasn’t ready to talk about his father but clearly Jaiden was and I couldn’t avoid the topic as much as I wanted too. That wouldn’t have been fair to him. He asked and as my job as his mother, I had to answer. Since Jaiden was only four, keeping my response short and sweet was the best way to go. Jaiden asked “Do I have a dad?”.
That was the question that made my heart skip a beat. I explained to Jaiden that he did in-fact have a father which resulted in the question, “Where is he?”. Lying or avoiding this question wasn’t an option, so I was honest with my son. I wasn’t sure where his father was and I explained that to my four-year old. Then we talked about ice-cream. He’s four… I wasn’t expecting a lengthy conversation! *wipes the sweat off my forehead*
Be totally honest with yourself and child. –
Don’t lie to yourself or your child. It will get you no where and honestly, it will bite you in the rear in the long run. When my son asked me where his father was, the best thing I could do for him was be honest and that is what I did. Where is my son’s father? I have no idea and I was clear about that with my son. Anytime Jaiden has asked me about his father or where he was I explained I was unsure of his location. Telling my son some made up story won’t do me or him any good.
We don’t live in a fairytale. Making up a story about his location won’t do anything but hurt our relationship and I am not willing to risk that for anyone. You don’t have to be 100% honest with your four-year old. Take their age into consideration and be as honest as you can with them. There is no reason to tell your four-year old their absent parent is into drugs or some other nonsense. It’s just unnecessary.
Do not speak poorly about the absent parent. –
This is something I have learned from experience. When I was 11 my parents separated and divorced when I was 14. Those three years were pretty tough for me. My parents liked to bash one another and that did nothing for me. It didn’t help me and it made things worse for me. People make mistakes and it’s okay. It’s not fair when the mistake is being an absent parent but it’s not the end of the world either. My son will be okay. I know this because I am doing my job as his mother to protect him and care for him.
Talking badly about my sons father won’t do anything for my son. My opinion of him, is just that, my opinion. Jaiden will develop his own opinion of his father when he is ready. He doesn’t need my input. To be totally honest, his father isn’t even a bad person. He made mistakes, we all do. He wasn’t ready to be a father and as a mother, I had to protect my son. Being a single parent isn’t the end of the world. It is tough but you will survive.
Give your child space to feel and express themselves. –
Rather than hounding your child with a load of information, give them a moment to process and ask questions. It’s their right. Start off with a little bit of information and ask them how the feel or if they have any other questions. Only give them information based on their age. Because Jaiden was four when he first asked I didn’t need to include any other information like him getting arrested or starting another family. (Please note those references were examples only) This information is irrelevant to him. Simply answer the question they have asked. No reason to go into details or explain all the crap they don’t need to know. There will be a time and place for that and that is not when your child is a child.
Remind your child that they are loved. –
The best thing I did when Jaiden asked me about his father was remind him of everyone he had. He is loved and he needed to be reminded about that. Missing one person in your life doesn’t take away from all of those who are there and love you. Having all of these people around who love him won’t take the pain away of an absent parent but it will ease it. The bond between a child and parent is precious and you can’t replace that. All you can do is your best and remind them that they are loved by many.
Be the parent, not the friend. –
Your little one is everything to you and the last thing you want is to see them sad. Their feelings are hurt and all you want to do is make it better. However, you can’t always be their friend and parent. Just because they have an absent parent doesn’t mean you give into their every whimper or cry. No is still No and you need to stand your ground.
Jaiden and I once had an argument where he wished his father was around. Well, so do I but the fact is he isn’t and even if he was the situation wasn’t going to change. I am the parent and what I say goes. No simply means No and that will not change. Father or not, it didn’t matter. Don’t lessen your role as a parent to compensate for the absent parent. Your child doesn’t need a friend, they need a parent.
Don’t put the weight of the world on your child –
You’ve had a bad day and your child can see that so naturally they ask if you’re okay. Do not overload your child with your problems. A simple answer like “I’m okay, I’ve just had a tough day.” will suffice. Unloading on your child about your problems is not okay. It’s not for them to worry about the electric bill or rent. Expressing that they are all you have puts a weight on their shoulders they can not bear. It is not their responsibility to make you feel okay.
If you need to unload about your problems find a friend or family member to talk to. If you don’t have anyone, grab a journal. Do not unload on your child because they are the only one around.