I wonder if you can give me some advice, I seperated from my husband back in 2001 and we got divorced in 2002, I am with another partner since 2002, and he’s great. I have a daughter who is nearly 13. My ex husband lived close by when we first split up, he then met a new partner who had a 7 year old daughter, they moved about 30 miles away from us back in 2003, and he didn’t tell my daughter where he was gone, I only found out through his mum, who I am still close to, since then they have had two children, boys, my daugter has met one of them, and back in November 2003 my ex turned up one day saying he wanted to see my daughter, he did, promised her the earth, and then he hasn’t been in contact with her since then. She keeps going through periods where she is distraught by this, I just don’t know what to do or where to go. She is really down about not knowing where he is and why he isn’t in touch with her, I am worried about her, she keeps sayiing that she feels like one part of her is gone, so she keeps pushing me away, because she doesn’t trust anyone. What can I do to help Susie? I am at my wits end, she says she’ll never be able to get on with her life. I just wondered if you can give me some advice, she says other people she knows who’s families have split up still see their dad.
Poor young lady – and poor you! I so wish that her father could read this and realise the pain his absence is causing, and buckle down and be a Dad. The problem is that men in his situation so often simply don’t realise how important they are to their kids. They think it doesn’t matter if they go away. I addition, many do find leaving their children painful for themselves. But instead of facing up to this pain, they run away from it. When they see the kid, they feel so awful they decide if they saw the child less, the pain would be less – so they up and vanish.
I’ve talked to Dads who were positively amazed that the child missed them as much as they did, and even more amazed to be told that it would hurt less if they saw the child more. It sounds as if your ex saw his daughter and promised her more contact, because that was what he wanted to happen. But leaving her felt so awful he decided he’s feel better if he avoided it all together. What I bet he didn’t even think about was what she felt, or what sense she would make of it all.
What I suggest is this. For a start, have an honest talk with your daughter about why her Dad left and why he now stays away. She needs to hear it’s not her fault – that it’s not because he doesn’t think well of her or love her, or that she isn’t worthy of his love. All the emotions you so clearly describe are very common in children in her position – it may help to get hold of a copy of my book so you can show her, and get some ideas from there on what to discuss, and to do. the book – Stepfamilies – Surviving And Thriving In A New Family – is published by Simon and Schuster and available through amazon via the link on the books page on this site.
Then I suggest the two of you co-operate on writing a letter to her Dad. Don’t use this as an excuse to blame him; acknowledge and accept he too has feelings and they may be why he is being so elusive. But explain how much it hurts her and how much she would like to see him. Send it through his Mum – telling her what it says so she knows it’s an appeal, not an attack.
And go on loving and boosting your daughter to so she knows her feelings are understandable but her fears about why he left are groundless. Good luck!!