On Explaining Absent Parents to Young Children| 8 Dos and Don’ts

photo credit: Ambro

It’s hard work being a parent—even with a supportive co-parent. And without one, it kind of feels like Mission Impossible, except it’s not impossible. All over the country, millions of parents are doing their best to fill two pairs of shoes and to field the questions of inquisitive children who want to know where their other parent is.

Sometimes, parents die. That’s a special situation, but other times they simply choose not to be active in their children’s lives. Out of immaturity, irresponsibility, emotional hang-ups, addictive lifestyles, or plain old spite for you, some parents just don’t do their jobs, and it’s infuriating. Enough to make you want to cry. Enough to induce one of those old school temper tantrums, like falling-on-the-floor-kicking-and-screaming-until-a-big-snot-bubble-forms-on-your-nose kind of temper tantrum.  But I don’t even have to tell you. You already know the feeling.

And to make things worse, here comes your beautiful, innocent little child, looking for answers. He wants to know why other kids have two parents while he only has one. He wants to know where his father is and why he isn’t around. These questions cut like a dagger to the heart, and if not handled correctly, they can cause a lot more emotional strife—for you and your child.  But fear not. Follow these guidelines to make the best out of such a difficult situation.

DO NOT speak poorly of the parent in front of the child

Chances are, you child knows nothing about DNA, chromosomes and fertilized eggs. She doesn’t know the technical explanation of how she came to be, but she does know she’s half you and half him. That’s just something they can feel, and so regardless of if children actually know their other parent, they still identify with them. For that reason, you have to bite your tongue. If she hears you talk about how worthless her father is, she can’t help but to conclude that part of her is worthless too.

DO be as honest as is appropriate for your child’s age

There’s no need to create fairy tale stories that cast the parent in a positive but completely unrealistic light (i.e. “Your father is a superhero who saves people all across the world”). You can be honest without going into unnecessary detail. If your child asks where the parent is, it’s ok to tell them you don’t know or to tell them where the parent is. Just reinforce that the parent does love them. Try to be as upbeat and matter-of-fact as possible. If your child sees that you get upset every time they broach the subject, they won’t do it anymore. Then they’ll be left to draw their own conclusions about why the parent left. More often than not, they will conclude that it is their own fault. Don’t know what to say? Try something like, “I’m not sure where he is, but I know he loves you a lot. Hopefully he’ll be able to tell you that in person one day.”

DO NOT hold your child emotionally hostage

We’re meant to connect. We’re hardwired that way, and if we don’t have the proper people around to make those connections with, it is easy to make improper ones with our children, particularly our opposite-sex children. I get concerned when I hear mothers jokingly saying things like, “I don’t need a man. I’ve already got my little man right here.” Your child is not a surrogate partner. He isn’t there to “fill you up” or make you happy (though children do make us parents quite happy). That’s a lot on a little guy to be emotionally responsible for his parent, to feel like he has to make her happy because no one else is there to do it. You are the adult, the responsible party, not him. Genuine happiness comes from within. You need to be able to create and maintain your own happiness so your child is free to do the same.

If you’re having a particularly hard day, don’t make your child feel guilty by saying things like, “It’s just you and me. You’re all mama has.” That puts the weight of the world on their little shoulders. If they notice you are sad and ask why, give an answer that allows them to stay in a child’s role. Say something like, “I’m just having a frustrating day. That happens sometimes, but it’s okay. I just need to relax a little and I’ll be good as new!” Even if that’s not 100% true, you should still get the message across that “mommy is going to be okay and this isn’t your problem to fix.” One day in the distant future, your child will need to detach and form his own family. Children who have been held emotionally hostage have a challenging time doing that.

DO give your child the space to express his feelings, good or bad

If children (and people in general) aren’t able to express themselves constructively, they most certainly will do it destructively. Of course you want the former. In an attempt to protect our children from sadness, anger and disappointment, we sometimes find it easier and less awkward to avoid the topic all together. That only makes it easier for you, not the child. Take advantage of natural opportunities to talk to your child about how they feel about the missing parent. If he says something like, “Jimmy’s dad came to school today and talked to the class. It was cool,” use that as a way in. Say something like, “Oh, really? That is cool. Does it bother you that your dad isn’t here to do things like that?” When your child sees that you’re comfortable talking about it, they will be more likely to bring it up on their own whenever they feel the need.

DO NOT discourage or be offended by your child’s loyalty to the other parent

You changed all the diapers. You buy all the food. You wipe all the tears. Yet and still, she loves HIM. What’s up with that? Human nature is what’s up with that. The bond between parent and child is amazingly strong and can’t be quantified or even fully explained, so the lack of physical presence doesn’t erase the connection.

Don’t take it personally if your upset child says something like, “I don’t love you! I love daddy!” They don’t mean it. That’s just their way of protecting that connection. Don’t get baited into an emotionally charged, “Well, your ignorant daddy is nowhere to be found,” kind of response. Stay calm and say, “Well, I still love you, and I’m glad you love your daddy.” Then go in your room and have a good cry if need be.

You also shouldn’t be offended if your child tells their friends that the new shoes you worked overtime to pay for are a gift from the other parent. Again, that’s their way of holding tight to that connection. Just let them know it isn’t good to lie, and don’t waste your time worrying about where Billy from across the street thinks your child’s shoes came from.

DO use family and friends as a support system

The other parent may be absent, but good friends and family are always willing to be there for you. They love you, so they will be willing to help out in any way they can. No one wants to feel like a charity case, but don’t turn down the help of those who offer with a sincere heart. (Note: Do beware of people who have ulterior motives and only offer help as an excuse to get in your business.)

Happy children have happy parents, and happy parents use all the resources at their disposal. Upset because your child’s father said he’d do something and didn’t come through—again? Don’t tell your child how mad you are. Tell your family or friends. Vent to them all you want, knowing that the things you say won’t be hurting your child’s sense of self.

DO NOT try to overcompensate for the absent parent

It hurts us to see our children sad. We want their childhoods to be full of laughter and smiles, not tears and disappointment. The undeniable truth, though, is that tears and disappointment are a part of life. They make us stronger, teach us life lessons, and add to our wisdom, so don’t allow yourself to become the super lax parent who only wants to be a friend. Rules and consequences are an integral part of raising well-adjusted, responsible children. No one wants to end up with a brat who cannot handle disappointment and thinks the world revolves around him. That’s not even cute at 5, and it sure ain’t cute at 18! Be stern with your children. They will thank you later.

DO examine your relationship history

This doesn’t relate directly to your children, but it will affect your ability to pick a good mate in the future. They say hindsight is 20/20, so things probably look so much clearer now than they did when you were in the relationship. Did you take the time to get to know the person well enough before you had a child with them? Did you ignore signs that suggested this wasn’t a good person to have a baby with? Do you have a pattern of getting into relationships with the same type of people? Answering these questions can help prevent you from repeating history in your next relationship.

~Nadirah Angail

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52 thoughts on “On Explaining Absent Parents to Young Children| 8 Dos and Don’ts

  1. ROBERT LEE July 30, 2012 / 9:04 pm

    I love your post. I could use more posts like this as I prepare to be a single father, hopefully, sooner rather than later. Hope you could also see my posts and see where I am coming from. Thank you.

    • N. Angail August 1, 2012 / 8:31 am

      Hello Robert, So glad to get a comment from a man, and the first comment at that! I wrote this from a woman’s perspective bc most of my readers are female, but I was hoping men would benefit as well. Of course I will check out your posts:) Headed over now

  2. ROBERT LEE August 2, 2012 / 3:08 am

    Either way – from a man or a woman’s perspective – one of the most important thing to keep in mind, is to understand where the other person is coming from. It takes two to tango, so if one fails, then issues come up now and then.

  3. ~E August 2, 2012 / 10:16 pm

    Hello! I hopped here from Robert’s blog. I love this article! In a way, it reinforced some of what I have already been doing (because sometimes I just have no idea if I’m doing things the right way) and then I had additional key takeaways as well. Thank you.

  4. Tania January 3, 2014 / 10:07 am

    This is a great post. I’ve been guilty of some of these “don’ts” but will have to work on it.

  5. jake ballard May 15, 2015 / 5:43 pm

    Im a single dad of a little 5 yr old and this just helped me a bunch. I learned alot from this post and thank you very much for the info. Very helpful.

    • jake ballard May 15, 2015 / 5:44 pm

      Ive been guilty too

    • N. Angail June 4, 2015 / 10:41 am


      I’m so glad you found it useful. That you want to learn more about this topic shows you;re an excellent father!

  6. Dani May 22, 2015 / 8:40 am

    Very good information. Thank you!!!.
    My six year old grandson asks about his absent father who has a 1 year old daughter with another woman and chooses to having nothing to do with his son. It breaks my heart but knowing how to handle the questions helps.

    • N. Angail June 4, 2015 / 10:42 am


      It’s mind boggling how a parent can CHOOSE to be out of their child’s life. But we cant worry ourselves trying to figure out other people’s demons. All any parent can do is give their child the best, and explain things to them in a way to supports and empowers them. Thanks for reading!

  7. Lisa July 22, 2015 / 5:58 pm

    Really useful post :). My little girl has only just turned 1 however I am already starting to think about the questions she may ask me when she is older and how I explain to her that her father chose not to be a part of her life. Sadly, he has never seen her, a choice made by him. Your suggestions will go a long way to hopefully helping me to answer her questions in the future and in the appropriate manner.

    • N. Angail July 23, 2015 / 11:38 am

      Lisa, sorry your daughter’s father made that choice, but I’m so happy I was able to help some. You’re right, she will have questions. Your job will be to answer them in a way that will still allow her to feel whole:)

  8. Mom of 2 May 28, 2016 / 12:51 am

    Great post. I am a single mother of 2 beautiful boys – who one day I will have to explain to them why there father is not in their lives.
    It’s the anger that I am not able to let go of. I’m working on it. I do vent to friends and family and I never speak ill of their fathers in front of them.
    I am one that sees my mistakes in hindsight. I need to learn from that.
    Thank you. This post was very helpful and insightful.

  9. precious May 28, 2016 / 11:46 am

    Thank you for such helpful info

  10. Ben May 28, 2016 / 9:31 pm

    Loved the article, was a great read and very resourceful. But perhaps don’t just single out the absent fathers all throughout the next time you write one.
    I am a single father to two beautiful kids – 3 and 5.
    Their mother and I seperated 3 years ago, when my daughter was 3 months. 2 months later the mother attempted suicide then diagnosed as bi polar. I took the kids full time and did so for 3 months. We then went to 50-50 and that lasted 23 months.
    I’ve now had my children full time for 12 months with very little contact from their mother for the past 6 months.
    I often read about absent fathers or deadbeat fathers and a lot of anger and hatred towards those fathers and without people realising, unless us fathers are in a relationship with the mother, we’re all labeled under the same umbrella. I know that’s not your purpose, but just remember for future reference.
    But as I originally stated, this was a great informative article which I will take some points from.

    • N. Angail May 31, 2016 / 5:45 pm


      I hear you. Didnt meant to leave out the single dads. Most of my readers are women, so I write to them a lot. But I hear you and will keep that in mind in the future! Thanks for your comment.

  11. Thinga Monyai May 29, 2016 / 1:04 am

    This has opened my eyes in a big way. My daughter hasn’t met her father she’s over a year now. I now have an idea of how to handle the questions

  12. brandy ballash May 29, 2016 / 9:05 am

    This article really made me think about somethings not only for my children whose bio father decided to move to the other side of the country 5 years ago without saying goodbye. My older children that remember him refuse to talk about him and it breaks my heart, to know all the hurt that they hold inside without letting go. Any thoughts would be great! I am with someone else now who has taken on the role as their father and does an amazing job.

  13. Mandy C May 29, 2016 / 9:35 am

    I’m not so sure it’s fair to tell a child the other parent loves them when that may well not be the case. It can set the child up for hurt in the future, when they’re old enough to go looking for the absent parent and finds someone who simply doesn’t care at all.

    • N. Angail May 31, 2016 / 5:47 pm

      Very true. I think a lot of time, the other parent does love the child even if they arent mature or mentally well enough to show it. But if you know the other parent is a special case and really doesnt care, dont lie.

  14. Rain L. May 30, 2016 / 8:37 am

    This post was everything that I needed! I have been reeling over how to answer my almost 4 year old daughter’s questions as to why she doesn’t see her dad often. He makes plans and breaks them and I try to do everything in my power to make seeing her convenient for him…. To no avail. He feels like I love her more than I did him and the more I want him to have a relationship with him, the more he disappoints.
    We moved 5 hours away on Mother’s Day so that I can start law school in a few months and I feel guilty bc she will likely see him even less. The fact that I’m not alone and she’s not the only child going through this empowers me a little. Thank you!

    • N. Angail May 31, 2016 / 5:48 pm

      youre welcome! And congrats on law school!

  15. Pat May 31, 2016 / 8:13 am

    What would be an appropriate response to your 5 year old nephew that you’re raising now because his mother is incarcerated for drugs. She’s been in and out of his life since he was born but not a “permanent parent”. We want the child to grow up to be a responsible well rounded young man and want to give him all the tools to be able to do so. Any advice would be very welcome. Thank you.

    • N. Angail May 31, 2016 / 5:15 pm

      Does she use drugs? If so, Id treat her addiction like any other sickness. Maybe something like this could be appropriate: “Mommy is sick and that makes it hard for her to be there for you all the time. But she still loves you even though she cant show it in the way I think she really wants to. But while shes gone, you have (insert names of people who are constants in his life) to take care of you.”

  16. Christine June 2, 2016 / 6:54 pm

    This post is post was so helpful especiallin since I’m a single mom of a 4-yr old son. Though it’s hard to hear your child take an interest to his absentee father, it’s prudent to remember not to project any ill feelings you may have towards his father. Even though the examples may not necessarily give you every scenario on how to go about handling this subject it definitely helps to point one in the right direction. Thank you.

  17. Diana Swaney June 9, 2016 / 12:24 pm

    As a child and adolescent mental health therapist I get to talk to the children whose parents don’t, won’t or can’t do a good job of co-parenting or who have an absent parent who doesn’t, won’t, or can’t take on their share of the parenting, and I’d like to echo all of the things you’ve suggested.

    If parents can do those things their children are less likely to wind up in my office, and, the truth is, most of them figure things out as they grow up and have a great deal of respect for the parent who behaved appropriately.

    It’s hard to be the grown-up, and sometimes it’s hard to be the better person but that’s what people sign on for when they have children. When one parent stops holding up their end of the bargain the other parent has to step up, get support, find someone other than the children to complain to and cry on, eat even if it’s hard to swallow, rest even if you can’t sleep, shower even if it wears you out, and whatever else you can think of to do to maintain your own strength so you can tell bedtime stories even if you just want to crawl under the covers, pack lunches with little I love you notes inside, watch cartoons and play games, snuggle, and whatever else you can think of to do to make sure they know you aren’t goign to leave them, too, that you’ll always love them, even if the absent parent doesn’t, that you won’t forget their birthday, the Science Fair,etc, etc, etc, because, sometimes, you’re all they have left.

    • Charles March 29, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      Love the note idea, I was going to do that. I’m a single father of a five-year old son who has an absent mother in his Life. I do most of the things suggested but sometimes, I feel he really, really misses her. The only way he sees her is on a sticker that has her picture on it. He had it on the back of his tablet. I’ve been single close to two years now and have a great family and friend support system.

  18. Christopher Phillips August 9, 2016 / 12:31 am

    I was shown this article as a means to help with explaining to my daughter where her absent is and how to deal with the occasional question or emotional moments. I did find some very helpful tips in the article so I do appreciate that. However what was very concerning and what I found very one sided is that while you used both he and she to refer to the child, you only expressed that a father can be the absent parent. I am a single father raising a beautiful smart five year old little girl. I have been her only involved parent since she was almost 2 years old and have had to be both dad and mom for her and feel that I have done rather well so far. But reading this article is mildly offensive from the single fathers point of view when her mother made bad choices and as a result is in fact the absent parent.

    • N. Angail August 14, 2016 / 2:04 am

      Christopher, glad you found some helpful things here. Didnt mean to offend with my use of the “he” pronoun. I know wonderful single dads, so I never meant to slight them or anyone else. I wrote it that way because most of m readers are women. But now that I know I have more male eyes (you’re not the first to say this), I’ll be sure to reflect that in future post.

      Thanks for commenting!

  19. unknowen September 16, 2016 / 5:07 am

    I am proud of some fathers who take the time to care and love and be there for there children.

  20. Gail Smith October 6, 2016 / 10:53 pm

    I have a 4 year old grandson that I take care of when his mother works. His father is not in the picture. For the first time, the other night, he asked me about about his father. His name and if he was died. When I answered him, then he asked me where he lived. I gave him very simple questions and he seemed satisfied. When I told my daughter about the conversation, she told me that she had no problems with the way I handled the situation, but in the future if he ask me any questions, to tell him that he needs to ask his mommy those questions. I really don’t feel like this is the way to handle it, because I want him to always feel free to take to me about anything. What is your suggestion?

    • N. Angail October 6, 2016 / 11:36 pm

      Hello Gail,
      I understand your wanting to have an open relationship with your grandson, but I think it’s best to follow mom’s wishes. Or perhaps you two can agree to a list of information you’re allowed to share. Then if he asks you anything else, you can answer based on the preapproved info. If the question goes beyond that, refer him back to mom.

  21. Single mom October 30, 2016 / 11:28 pm

    I love your fed back on how to respond to the child, but i have a question. My child who will be 5 is starting to mention her dad, im guessing when something reminds her off him. He never really spend time with her and left around 1 1/2. I know she loves him but doesnt really have a bond with him. He kept coming in and out of are lives and every time it would be longer and longer. He left about a year ago after her birthday came back 6 months later but hardly saw her just a few weeks and left again. Now i no longer let him be apart of are lives because i just relized ive set a horrible example of a father figure for her. She thinks that its normal for her dad to be in an out of her life when it’s pleasing to him. Its a long story about our relationship but he chooses not to see her and then wants to see her when his life is going down hill. Now no contact from him he says he doest want to hurt us anymore, and he feels guilty about his decision of beig permenatly to stay out of her life. What im trying to ask is how do comfort her when she is mentioning her dad? When she wants him to come back home? If he was a more into being a parent to our child i would try to make him be in her life but he is being very selfish and making choices i do not want her to be around, so you can say im glad he stays away. But seeing my child sad why did dad do those things like, pinch, bit, yell, or doesnt listen to me just watchs tv an goes to sleep, it breaks my heart. Im just trying to be the best single parent i can be, any pointers would help thank you.

    • N. Angail December 20, 2016 / 10:06 pm

      Single Mom,

      He sounds immature. At least he’s expressed that he feels bad about being out of her life. That doesnt help your daughter, but it shows he at least realizes what he’s doing isnt right. That means there could be some hope in the future… maybe. Dont want to get your hopes up. It sounds like you’re being a wonderful mom. All you can do is comfort her and let her know its okay to talk to you about how she misses him. Say something like, “Daddies are supposed to stay in your life, just like mommy does. But some daddies don’t know how to do that. I know you miss him. You can always tell me when you’re missing him. I cant bring him back but I will do everything I can do show you my love.”

  22. Tina December 20, 2016 / 12:49 am

    Have a 9 year old daughter being raised by father and mother is out of the picture due to drug use. Running out of excuses why she can’t see her. Any advise?

    • N. Angail December 20, 2016 / 9:54 pm

      Tina, sorry to hear that. I don’t know if excuses are the best thing to give. Maybe try saying, “Some parents have trouble showing their love. Your mom has a sickness that makes her do things she would not ordinarily do. So even though she loves you, it really hard for her to act like it. I know that makes you sad. It makes me sad too.” Of course you dont have to say that exact thing. But you want to get the point across that she isnt absent “just because.” There is something getting in the way.

  23. Shane January 1, 2017 / 1:53 pm

    Great points for the do’s and don’t’s in this situation, despite our own feelings towards the other parent the child’s interests and what’s best for them should always be the forefront. As mentioned in other replies, the only thing I was dissapointed with, was you went to the trouble throughout including both male and female children yet when it came to the parent, as per usual it is only the father ever mentioned to be missing! Yes I also read that you more so write to female readers however I believe even with that the case, it should be made a lot clearer to mothers that hey these days there are just as many dads flying solo as there are mothers, not enough women realise this! Through a health situation I faced my Ex wife found it easier to start fresh with someone else instead of being a support, and by doing this she also walked out on our 1 month old son. I have raised him on my own since, he will turn 7 this yr. his mother has only recently started having time with him but I tell you it has been tough, mainly because Iconstantly get starred upon by mother groups, some have enough courage to approach and say unpleasant things, I have had one lady call me perverted peodophile because I went with my child into the toilets in a parents room, and many other times I can say there are more negative responses to me just doing my job as a father, this is why I strongly feel that even though you may target your writing to mothers, you still need to be practical and make it aware for us fathers who do the single parenting job aswell.

    • N. Angail January 10, 2017 / 5:12 pm

      Ok, bro. Received. Appreciate your feedback.

  24. Magda Labonte January 6, 2017 / 4:05 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. My son’s father is inconsistent at best. Lately, my son has been asking about his father and wondering why he doesn’t come to see him. Last night, I just didn’t know what to say and said nothing. While I already follow most of your suggestions, it was so helpful to read something and feel that someone out there totally gets it. I’ll be a little less emotional and more matter of fact(which I have been in the past when the questions were less often) and go into my room and cry it out. All I want is for my son to be happy and he genuinely is. I just fear that some of that may be changing as he gets older and truly understands what is happening, and that makes me sad.

    • N. Angail January 10, 2017 / 5:10 pm

      You’re welcome, maam! Sounds like youre doing an awesoem job!

  25. Mary February 7, 2017 / 11:20 am

    I’m facing a difficult time ATM in my children’s father has recently decided he doesn’t want too see the children and we have been to court and his given up his parent responsibilitys volenteraly. It hurts. Not just me but my children, I hurt for them. They already know him my baby’s are 5 and 3 and are asking slot of questions so this article has been good to read and help me understand how to react. As I’m a big softy they ask for daddy and I burst into tears!

    • N. Angail February 7, 2017 / 11:47 am


      Glad you found it useful. I don’t know what makes a parent choose to not be in their children’s lives, but I’m glad your children have you.

  26. Katia March 16, 2017 / 10:28 am

    Thank you for writing this. Its been very helpful for me and my mom who basically co-parents with me. I’ve been following your suggestions. I do have a question though. My daughter is 3. Her father has a lot of narcissistic behaviors, including drug abuse and violence. Since we divorced he has come in and out of her life always with me present. I do not know if the right thing is to let him come in and out as he pleases every 6 months or so, or if it’s best to cut all ties? I worry that he will eventually be a bad influence on her. And I do not know what age if ever would be appropriate to explain to her the real reasons why he is not present. So far she asks for him on a regular basis, and I only tell her he loves her very much but cannot be here as he is not well. She sometimes cries for him when she is upset and it breaks my heart. Any suggestions?

    • N. Angail March 16, 2017 / 12:08 pm


      How excellent that you have your mother to help you. I’m sure she is an excellent resource. How do you feel she is being affected by his popping in and out? She’s only 3 now, so she doesn’t have the understanding to make choices for herself. You have to act on her behalf. If his inconsistency is hurting her more than helping, it may be better to cut ties… for now, but let her know (later on, not now) that there may be a possibility in the future when they are both ready. If when she is older and a bit more mature (preteens/ early teens?) and wants to try again to get to know her father, allow her that space to try. But you’d have to prepare her for the reality that he may not be in a space to do right by her, even though the deepest parts of him want to. You cannot make him the father she deserves, but you always have to leave an opening for her to make that connection if and when she is ready.

      As far as her crying and being upset, i know that tears at your heart. Tell her how it hurts you too and you’re sorry she’s hurting. Tell her anytime she feels bad and wants to talk about it, you’re ready to talk. Let her know she has a right to mourn the loss of her father (even if it isnt a permanent loss). You dont have to say those words. Shes only 3; she wouldn’t understand. But let that idea guide your behavior. All any single parent can do is be there for the child while they process and grow through the painful experience. Hope this helps!

  27. Josephine March 24, 2017 / 12:14 pm

    Thank you for the post, this is incredibly helpful and well thought out!

    I’ve been keeping my new baby a secret from the father. Frankly, I’m afraid of the man’s violent behavior, lack of self-control, lies and manipulation and had decided with the counsel of parents and several older people to leave him out of the picture for the sake of the child and myself.

    Recently a family member who disagrees strongly with my decision took it upon themselves to contact the father but I haven’t heard anything from him yet. More than anything, I want this child to be emotionally healthy and protected from his influence and potential abuse, but I’m wondering now if I need to have a court prove and make the decision for us so that the child can understand better that it wasn’t just her mum who decided not to tell dad about their existence. Have you seen a situation similar to this? Do you have resources that you recommend to help deepen our understanding of how to handle this?

    Unfortunately, I expect the same family member to make it their business again later down the road to explain to my child how their mum was too fearful and selfish to tell their father. How should one handle other people’s answers to these tough questions?

    I regret so much the foolishness of getting involved with an abusive man, but am so very thankful for this beautiful child and the enormous amount of love she is surrounded by. I hope no single parent ever has to do it completely alone – the immensity of having even one person you trust carry your burden with you has no comparison.

    Thank you for your time and thoughts Nadirah!

    • N. Angail March 29, 2017 / 7:59 pm


      COngras on your new baby! I have some thoughts on this but I’m busy in the moment. I going to get back to you!

  28. Veronik August 11, 2017 / 6:19 am

    Thanks for your post so helpful.my quetion is it’s ok to have friend male around your 3year old daughter while she calling them dad.i have been a single mother since she was 3month old.her dad pregnant another women and doesn’t involve in my daughter life.How to respond if she ask I wanted to go to dad.thank.

    • N. Angail August 12, 2017 / 1:16 pm


      Is this man a real, reliable, tried and true friend, or is he someone you are dating? Either way, I think it is best to NOT allow your child to call him dad. It seems like that can be confusing and a setup for disappointment in the future.
      If he is a friend, just a friend with whom you have no romantic involvement, it is fine to have him around your child. It may be that this man becomes a supportive father figure, but have your child refer to him by his name. Perhaps Mr/Uncle X.
      When it comes to dating, take your time introducing your child to potential mates. New relationships are often fickle, up and down, off and on. So you don’t want to risk your child getting attached to someone who may not even be in your life a month from now. If you are dating and this man has proven himself to be a good, solid guy with whom you could build a real, lasting relationship, it is fine to introduce him to your child, but, again, don’t have the child call him dad. I would only suggest using the dad label if you two are getting married and he has committed to being a full father to the child.
      As far as the child asking about his/her father, be honest but brief. If you have a picture, show your child. Say something like, “This is your father. His name is X. It would be nice if you could meet him, but that isn’t possible right now. Maybe one day.” If the child asks why, tell the truth again. Say, “I don’t know where he is” or “He’s not ready to be a daddy right now” or “He’s sick and can’t be a daddy until he gets better.” That will probably make your child sad/mad. That’s ok. Let them express that. Tell them it makes you sad too. No negative details. If the dad is a deadbeat or on drugs, just say he’s sick or not ready to be a daddy. You don’t want to stress the child any more than necessary. Your job is to do two things:
      1. Let the child know he/she does have a dad, but he just isn’t available right now.
      2. Let the child know it is ok to be upset about the dad’s absence and you won’t love them any less for being mad about that.
      Hope this helps!

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