absent parent

Parenting | 10 Ways to Talk To Your Child About An Absent Parent (0-3 yrs)

absent parent 0-3It can be daunting when your baby is born and you start to think about how to tell them that their other parent does not want to be part of their life at that time, or maybe never. However, it is best to introduce this concept from day one. This way you do not allow any confusion to creep into your child’s life.

Here are some tips on how you can do this:

  1. At the registration of your child’s birth, you can add the father’s name to the birth certificate. In time your child will see this and you can talk with them about their father. Children always want to identify with family, who they look like and where they came from.
  2. Have a picture of your child’s other parent in their room or in their baby book, if possible. You may find this very hard to do, but at least if the image exists you can explain who that person is as the child grows up.
  3. If possible, inform the father of the child’s birth and invite him to send something to the baby. Something you can keep to show the baby that they acknowledged the birth.
  4. Try to inform or involve the absent parent’s extended family from the birth of your baby. This can be very hard to do when relationships have broken down, but along the road at least you can tell your child you made every effort to ensure they knew where they came from.
  5. Have a short story in your baby book about how you met their father and how you felt when you found out you were pregnant. Talk a little in the story about how you understood the father felt too. Try to stay positive. Children never usually want to hear anything negative about a parent, even if they are completely absent from their life.
  6. As well as a photo in the baby book of their other parent, you could write some things in about your baby’s absent parent such as their full name, birthday, what s/he liked to eat, their hobbies etc. Give an example of something you liked about them. Whatever you feel you would like to share do, without going too deep into what happened between you as a couple.
  7. As your child grows in this age range, try to drop comments into conversation about how they may remind you of their other parent – positive things only. Try to open up conversation with them about their father. If things come up in a story book or in conversation with other parents about dads, use this as an opportunity to remind them that they also have a father (or mother, depending on your family’s situation).
  8. If you enter a new relationship be very clear when meeting new people that your child is your son or daughter and this other person is your partner, e.g. saying ‘Kaela is my daughter and Simon is my partner’ instead of leading them to believe it is ‘our daughter’. So many people fall into this by error.
  9. Remember, children don’t have to hear something to think it is real. Often by not hearing anything to contradict an idea they have formed can lead them to believe it to be true.
  10. Do not at any stage support or encourage your child to call anyone who is not their biological father ‘daddy’. This can lead to great hurt and confusion as they get older. Children always discover the truth, one way or another.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Next you might like to read: 10 Ways to Positively Maintain Contact

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email support@onefamily.ie.