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Is there anyone out there who's a child psych? I need help.

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
I realize I should hire one but I'm flat busted right now.

This problem has been an issue for several months now and I am realizing I don't know how to deal with it.

I am a single mom, dd's "father" has never seen her and pays no support - basically acts like she doesn't exist - and yes he knows she was born.

But the issue is we have a roommate. A very nice guy who is thankfully for me very busy and not underfoot too much. Basically he's in at night, 75% of the ttime after dd is asleep, the other percent of the time he's about, he'll do laundry on the weekend once in ahile and hang out a bit. He's a nice guy and has been so tolerant having a toddler in the house - her nightwaking, the noise, her facination with some of his things.

The thing is, she has thought for several months now that he is papa I think. When he comes home no matter what - she drops everything and runs to him - nothing can stop her. He does little to interact with her- she is not his kid, but his pressence here, and his life behind the closed door of his room has come to signify quite a lot for dd. On Saturday he took a look at my computer to fix something for me and she sat in his lap the whole time and wouldn't budge.

This is fairly common but it is getting worse: Last night he came home while she was in the bath. She had to get out of the batth immediately and run to him. He acknowledged her briefly, was polite, then he wanted to go to his room and be alone, which he did. This destroyed dd. Her disconsolate crying at the door and looking at me desperately like "where is he??? where is he???" it wrenched my heart out. I found myself saying "Come here baby, he's not your papa.... come here" and she just looked at me depserately crying and crying and just wanted him - not me.

Now obviously this is not this guy's problem so I cannot really ask anything of him.

Dd started saying "Daddy Daddy Daddy" over and over and I don't even know where she got that word!

What can I do to ease her pain? Obvioulsy this will be a lifelong pain for us, but at this non-verbal stage I am at a loss as to how to comfort her. She is so precious and perfect she deserves a great dad and I am heartboken for her. She is 21 months.

post #2 of 31
I'm not a psychologist, however, I thought I might add something.

My kids, at times have developed attachments to other people-- even ones that don't spend a lot of time with them. It could be that because she see's him everyday, she's gotten attached. My oldest was attached to my X's roommate & he only saw him about 5 times.

The fact that she says "daddy" does not lead me to believe that she knows what a daddy is or understands what she's saying. I would guess it's just a name to her, whether she's heard other people or has seen on tv or in books. My son thinks all men are "daddies" because they are men.

I think it would be important to talk to her about the fact that he's a roommate, if you say "not your daddy" she'lll hear "your daddy". Even though she's pre-verbal, she'll still understand things you say. You can talk to her about how a roomate just shares your space and has their own life. If he chooses to remain separate, that's his choice. Continue to explain in the simplest terms possible what a roommate is and that he will continue to live his own life.

Maybe you can find a positive male role model for her -- maybe a friend, family member or maybe someday a partner for you. I think it's important for kids to have lots of positive role models, of both sexes, in their lives.

It's sad that she's looking for his attention & he's not able to provide it. I'm not exactly what's the best way to deal with that.

I hope some others can help you. Good luck.
post #3 of 31
I'm no child psych either, although we've dealt with plenty.
Good advice from L.J.
Maybe getting a male mentor more involved in her life woudl also be helpful? A friend, a brother, a cousin, etc, that could be a presence in her life.
post #4 of 31
Wow. That's a tough one. My heart goes out to you, oatmeal. It must be very hard to watch your little one's heart break like that. Obviously your roommate can't be expected to interact with her more, but one can see how your child has come to expect that this person is "part of the family", so to speak.

I really don't know what to say. I suppose it will be some time before your DD is old enough to understand the concept of a roommate (and how they differ from family), and I'm wondering how emotionally hard/damaging this will be for her in the meantime (and maybe it won't be, I don't know).

I suppose living on your own is not possible? I suppose having a male role model, as others have said, might help but it's hard to beat the presence of someone who is there all the time.

post #5 of 31
I second the idea that she is "hungry" for other people more than for a "papa." My friend is a single mom and now fairly isolated.

When I first visited (she lives a state away); she had a close group of friends and her son was not interested in me at all. But then she and her best friend had a falling out and she was pretty much alone with her ds for much of he time. When I went to see her last, he clung to me, telling him mom to go downstaris for a "long long time" so he could spend time with, etc.

Do you have a close friend or two who your daughter knows and loves. It may be what she wants. She may just be ready for a larger social circle. That he is male might be a novalty for her - interesting. My firend does have a bo friend who is there a lot but not a close girlfriend, so that also might be her son gravatated to me so.
post #6 of 31
I am working on a degree in Psychology and my DH is a Psychologist. I read your post to DH over the phone and here is what he had to say about it.

Research has shown that it is important for children to have a father and a mother in the home. Except in cases of abuse it is always better for both parents to be in the home, and a male and female parent are crucial for emotional development. Politically, this view is unpopular, and even unfair to many people, but research done by both sides comes up with the same conclusion. Kids need a father and a mother for ideal emotional health.

Because of your situation, it is natural for your daughter to develop an attachment to this man. However, for your daughters emotional safety it is not a good idea for you to have a man in your home who is not her father, acting as a parent to her or even your significant other. Some research implies that even for girls to be around men who are not bioligically related can cause early puberty, but that research is inconclusive. However, from a sexual abuse prevention standpoint, having a man in your home who is unrelated is a risk factor. (although from your description of how he acts it sounds like HE is not the concern.)

The best thing for you to do is to find a male role model for your daughter who is willing to take on the role of a father figure in her life. She should see him at least several times a week, and participate in activities that are typical father/daughter type activities. Do you have a close family friend, even someone with his own children who would be willing to offer this kind of support? Maybe a brother or your dad?

You should probably also talk with your roommate about what's going on and what you are doing to deal with it. Obviously it's not his responsibility to do anything about it, but if he's aware of why and what is going on, it can help him be sensitive to the situation, should he take that initiative.

Aside from those things, the best you can do is to make sure you are giving her the most stable and secure home you can. Since you are posting on this site, I assume you do AP which is a really good way to create an emotionally healthy child.

There is a really good book, which mainly deals with older girls, but there is a chapter on Fathers which is really good. The book is Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher.

HUGS and good luck. I don't envy your dillemma. Feel free to PM me if you have other questions you want me to ask DH for his opinion on.
post #7 of 31
But is the variable having a mom and a dad (and does it matter if these rolls are filled by the same gender or is the key differnt genders?) or is it that the child is in a stable household, which, in this society, tends to mean a nuclear family?

There shouldn't be anything innately superior about the two parent household except that such a household is the norm, and households that fall out of this norm do so in tangent with certain economic, emotional, and cultural risk factors. So the problem would not be teh norm, but the risk factors.

It does gets trickier when the todler becomes a pre-adolecent and adolecent. Opposite sex role models become extremely important as does having a family that fits the norm and thus can be quiet backdrop to your own fraught identity formations. But again, satbility is probably more important that mom-dad formula.
post #8 of 31
Originally posted by mamawanabe
But is the variable having a mom and a dad (and does it matter if these rolls are filled by the same gender or is the key differnt genders?) or is it that the child is in a stable household, which, in this society, tends to mean a nuclear family?

There shouldn't be anything innately superior about the two parent household except that such a household is the norm, and households that fall out of this norm do so in tangent with certain economic, emotional, and cultural risk factors. So the problem would not be teh norm, but the risk factors.

It does gets trickier when the todler becomes a pre-adolecent and adolecent. Opposite sex role models become extremely important as does having a family that fits the norm and thus can be quiet backdrop to your own fraught identity formations. But again, satbility is probably more important that mom-dad formula.
The research shows that having a mom and a dad is better for the kids than 2 moms or 2 dads. However, they haven't determined causality on this--is it because a mom and a dad is more socially accepted? other reasons? Etc. So yeah, a mom and a dad is the ideal, but we don't know why. Biological parents kids are usually healthier (emotionally) than kids with step parent, except in cases of abuse by a biological parent. Again, we don't know why.

Single parents--there are a lot of changes that happen with single parents, because that one parent is responsible for everything with the kid. The chances that parent is able to be a SAHM or SAHD is WAY decreased. The financial situation is usually worse than in a 2 parent home, especially if the single parent is a mom, and is not getting child support. Emotional availablilty of the parent is sometimes decreased as well because of the sheer exhaustion that comes with being a single parent, breadwinner, and still trying to be a healthy adult. So kids of single parents are at an automatic disadvantage in this area, and takes even more out of the parent energy wise to counteract this issue. It can be son though. You can have an emotionally healthy child in any situation, but it just a lot more time, energy education, etc etc in any of the less-than-ideal situations.

Gender roles are important to a child's sexual/emotional health even during pre-sexual awareness ages, which is usually pre-puberty. The OP's daughter might be experiencing an internal conflict because of the lack of a male role in the family.
post #9 of 31
Sorry, double post.
post #10 of 31


Okay, to respond to the original post, I agree with NormaJean that having this gentleman in the home is problematic. She is going to form an attachment to him, that's normal and completely understandable. However, just as you're aware he does not have to reciprocate and that's the hard part. But, I do believe she would do this regardless of the gender, whether your roomate was male or female. I don't know if it is possible to live alone, finances may not permit. But, that would be the best solution. Next best is to keep talking with her, or to use play as a means to communicate. That is, playing house and having the dolls live out your life situation while you're narrating. Is it possible to talk to your roomate about this as well, just to get a sense of how he may be feeling? You are in my thoughts and I will send all the good vibe thoughts I can your way!

To respond to the other information that I've read. Actually the latest research does indicate that the best possible scenario for children is a two-parent intact home. However, when the two parents are in major conflict (does not have to be as severe as abuse) on a regular consistent basis, research does suggest (strongly) that it is better for the child if the parents are apart. In actuality, two parents in serious conflict is actually the worst possible scenario for a child. So best, is harmonious family, second best is split up parents - if otherwise would be too conflictual, then third is conflictual parents together.

Research generally has been inconclusive regarding the impact of same-sex parents. To date, the best it can state is that children of same-sex parents have no more or less psychological or emotional difficulties than children of heterosexual couples.

Finally, back to you Oatmeal, first and foremost and more . I am so sorry to hear how hard this has been for your wonderful dd. I understand that money is really tight, but there are many agencies out there that are sliding scale and can be as little as five dollars a session. Given her age, probably all they would do is evaluate the situation and give you some suggestions on how to handle the situation. So, it would be very short-term. You may think about calling a psychologists' office, explain the situation and see if they would be willing to help pro bono, or if they could recommend somewhere for you. Unfortunately, it is unethical for a psychologist to give advice as a psychologist without a professional relationship. Which means, that via the computer, a professional relationship is really not feasible.

I am nervous about posting this and afraid of being flamed, but I really wanted to try to reach out and give the best information that I was aware of and to reassure you as best I could, as a friend.
post #11 of 31


I tried to edit my response, but was having problems.

I wanted to add that with the play thing, it doesn't have to be dolls, it can be stuffed animals, paper dolls, heck dinosaurs will do...you can be really flexible.

Also, I wanted to add that research is always something to take with a grain of salt. Just because research says this or that does not make it true for you. It was true for the sample size they used, the population they drew from, using the procedures to evaluate that they used. KWIM. Use your instincts, I always trust that over what statistics say.

post #12 of 31
Thread Starter 
I guess this issue is coming to a head for us a lot earlier than I thought. I have been crying a lot today over it. Seeing her distraught that way and hollering desperately for a daddy who doesn't exist is more than gut wrenching. It's hard to describe how deeply and horribly it hurts me to see it, and to realize I have given her this life.

There are no males in our life who will take the mentor role. I have tried to softly recruit two men I know - they are both single and professional and I am lucky if they acknowledge her ONCE A MONTH. I usually have to offer to cook dinner to get either of them to show up, and then they are busy a lot. No one in our lives is very interested in my daughter - another thing that kills me on a regular basis.

The roomie has to stay - I am looking at getting evicted right now even with his money in the mix. He is a great roommate. Pays on time and is hardly ever home. Also, there is 0 risk of sexual abuse with him in the house, #1 because he's barely ever here, #2 because I am a she hawk freak about sex offenders, possible sex offenders or anyone who looks like a sex offender - see my posts in activism on that one. My friends will all tell you there are no men allowed in this house of any kind except the roomie and the two friends who come over once in awhile and chuck her under the chin. No boyfriends (not that there are any) and the sitter who watches her when I have to work is forbideen to have anyone here when I am out.

BTW I asked for psych advice so don't take offense if people give it - from before with normajean.

It's really hard today. I am emotionally thrashed by it today. We are desperately seeking money to keep the roof over our heads while her father lives in a big house and drives to the market in his Mercedes. My daughter is the most splendiferous creature ever known to man and deserves the world at her feet. I feel so awful that this is her deal in life. I feel like I would die to change it for her.

I'm sad.
post #13 of 31
I don't have a psychology qualification but I've worked with children i different roles for years.

Personally, I'd try to change the room-mate, to a female one, if you really have to have one, or ideally find another way of raising income and not have someone else in the home. Then I'd look for someone stable in dd's life to do the fatherly stuff with her - can a relative do this? Grandpa? Can you arrange activities for her to do with a male relative regularly?

I watch dds with dh, and I know that their interactions are different to theirs with me. Eg, they play rough and tumble, far far rougher than I ever would! They talk differently, he expects different things, and the relationship is just fundamentally different to their relationship with me. Not better, not worse, just different.

I agree that although it's not always a popular viewpoint, children fare best with both parents and strong healthy relationships with people of both sexes. Each relationship provides for different aspects of emotional growth. Of course, good female-only or male-only parenting is infinitely better than a poor female-male parenting, etc etc. And a female-only home can also provide male influences and relationships for a child. But ideally, a child needs both role models to develop strongly across the board. If your home is only one sex, you need to find relationships for your child with the other. An uncle, grandpa, or close friend can fill the need for male company for your dd, if you work it out.

Hope that you get this sorted out and reach a place where you feel comfortalbe.
post #14 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Britishmum
Then I'd look for someone stable in dd's life to do the fatherly stuff with her - can a relative do this? Grandpa? Can you arrange activities for her to do with a male relative regularly?
We have no relatives, no mom dad brothers sisters cousins aunts or uncles.

We are alone. Just for the record...

I know it's not the best but the roomie has to stay. I had a schitzo female before him who lasted two months and drove me nuts and caused problems. He's a saint in comparison and as long as I'm poor he stays. We have no choice on that - unless we get evicted then the red eyed drunks at the shelter can be her role models.
post #15 of 31
I don't think she is drying for a "daddy," that is a social concept which she is most likely too young to have formed yet. It sounds like you may be projecting your guilt about her not having a dad and your desire for her to have a dad onto her.

She may be crying for more people; some children thrive on a variety of people. Do you have close friends? If not, work to get some. The number one predictor of happiness is not solid marriage, lost of money, or exciting career, but a social network (see NY times magazine article a couple of week agao about human satisfaction). You want a close suportive social network (whatever teh gender) for you child and for yoruself.

And most of those studies about children and opposite sex role models are looking at pre-adolecent kids and adolecents - elementary aged and beyond.

I LOVE the idea of playing "house" with stuffed animals to help her learn that different people who lives in her houde do different things and have varrying degrees of interest in one another. Children used to regularly grow up in houses with "help" - butlers and maids, farm hands, etc who lived there but weren't related. Read any book about the first half of the 20th century and you'll see how common having borders was. It was how people lived before the mid-century boom in housing and wages, and we are heading back towards it, espeically in high rent areas like San Francisco (another NY TImes or Washinghtonpost article) - though the modern twist is to remodel the room into a small efficiancy apartment with a separate entrance.

Good luck. Don't be so hard on yourself. But don't be alone. Get a set of close friends. Make it a job or yours.
post #16 of 31
oh, and why aren't you getting child support? Is it because you don't want interferance with your parenting of DD? If he has lots of money, the court could force him to pay quite a bit a month, which means you have a barganing chip here. Agree to a much lesser amount on teh condition that his interaction with DD (always optional) is minimal and supervised. Get a lawyer.
post #17 of 31
Thread Starter 
I appreciate all the feeback here.

I want to stay clear and on topic though please. this is an extremely important matter to me and I don't want this to spin off into a dicussion on other topics.

DDs biological dad is not a subject for discussion.

Believe me - it's all been said and done and he is not part of this.

post #18 of 31
Maybe an organization liek Big Brothers/Big Sisters? I don't know if they woudl be willing to match her with a male mentor, but it's worth a call.
post #19 of 31

Hang in there.
I agree with mamawanabe that you may be projecting your own feelings of her having a dad or whatever onto the situation. I'm sure that brings up lots of emotions for you to deal with. I know I struggle with things like that from time to time, especially being a single mom.

I think there have been some good suggestions here of play and such. I think that she could have become just as attached to a female roommate too.

Since your situation is the way it is and you are not in a position to change it -- I think the play & honest, simple conversations about roommates, will be the best way to go. If you can find other adults & trustworthy people to be around that may help give her more social options whether they are men or women.

The "right" men will come into her life over time. I wouldn't push certain people on her because they are men. She will have many opportunities to learn about those relationships over time & I truly believe that when we are open to things, they tend to come our way.

I've been through lots of difficult situations and look at them as opportunities for growth & learning. Perhaps this is happening right now so you can address some of your feelings about a dad role model and other things so that you can put it behind you -- and then be ready to move forward.

It seems like this has been very difficult for you & I can appreciate what a struggle it is right now. You're doing the best you can & keeping a roof over her head and keeping her safe takes precedent right now.
You can email or pm me if you need someone to vent or share with.
Peace & love to you both ~ L.J.
post #20 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys

I called Big Sisters and dd has to be 6 for that, She is on the list for a female mentor from a Jewish service here in LA but the has been waiting for 20 months on that - we wait...

LJ I think you are right too. Though she does suffer I probably compound that in my brain from projection a bit. I had no dad - the deadbeat zero that he was, and I think my feelings of loss over that project onto her. I'm not perfect I'm sure but I think I do much more for her than either of my parents ever did for me, and I think I am much more attached. It's just a bear. I have two job interviews this week and it's like how the hell am I supposed to keep up with my mommy duties, go out and find something to wear (I haven't gotten "dressed" for two years!!) and then find someone who will watch her in the middle of the day. talk about impossible! Plus I have this business that was doing great until two months ago and clients are still calling and needing me. It's insane. I mean it. No one should be expected to keep this up.

Anyway - I digress. Thanks for the tips. I think I will need a therapist for her when she's verbal. Even if we ever can live without a roomie. I feel badly for her but I probably hike it up a notch with my projections - who knows, maybe it is terrible.

Thanks though.
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