Raising Resilient Children? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 11-30-2005, 07:06 PM - Thread Starter
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x-posted to single parenting

For those of you co-raising children with an inconsistent and emotionally or physically-unavailable ex, how do you raise your children to be resilient to the psychological scars?

I have two boys, ages 6 & 3, who are feeling the pain of dealing with an inconsistent biodad. He disappears for months, reappears for awhile (usually with a new gf), makes promises he doesn't keep, is late or a no-show for visits, doesn't pay child support, etc. I can see that they are having a hard time with this.

He has recently reappeared and wants to "get involved for real this time." I want to be able to prepare them for the fact that he will probably flake out again. I don't want them to hate or resent him.

But how do I help them just accept him for who he is and what he can give?

If you can share any resources, I'd appreciate it. A book or an article. Or maybe I should send them to a therapist? TIA.

Mom to : DS1 (11), DS2 (8), DD3 (4), : DS4 (1), and : : :
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#2 of 6 Old 11-30-2005, 08:14 PM
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My son's father was the same way. I just bit my tongue and told him to enjoy his dad when he's with him. I decided to let my son figure his father out all on his own. He was about 10 when he did. His father continues to float in and out. My son enjoys him when he's hear and doesn't think about him when he's gone.

I'm sure there are more proactive ways to approach this than the one I had, but at the time I didn't know any other way.
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#3 of 6 Old 12-01-2005, 06:52 AM
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You can't. All you can do is offer your own unconditional love and a listening ear. They will figure it out on their own, and you will watch your childs heart be ripped in two by the person who gave him life, and there is sod all you can do about it.

Stinks, doesn't it?

Helen mum to five and mistress of mess and mayhem, making merry and mischief til the sun goes down.
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#4 of 6 Old 12-01-2005, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by cymbeline
But how do I help them just accept him for who he is and what he can give?
You can't. That's not up to you at all, that's up to them. They might grow up not liking their father and not accepting him one bit, and honestly, what's wrong with that? They may feeled wronged by a man who's supposed to be there for them, nothing wrong with not exactly being his biggest fan, right?

It would probably do more damage to teach them how 'okay' it is for theit father to walk all over them, and have the final say, IMO. Let them feel how they feel, be angry if they want, 'hate' if that's what they feel, and please don't push them to 'accept' this man... My grandmother tried pushing me to 'accept' my mother for who she was, and well, it just made me angry with grandma ontop of the hate I felt for my mother...

Let them feel how they feel, and just worry about YOUR relationship with them. That's all you have control over...
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#5 of 6 Old 12-01-2005, 10:29 PM
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As a child of divorce here is my thinking-

Have empathy for their feelings but never suggest what they may be feeling. So tell them you love them and hug them when they are sad but don't say "do you feel disappointed that your dad let you down again?"

Never hide the truth about something. Don't bring up info they don't need (like CS and maybe adult issues from your marriage) but don't hide things either. But by the same token never answer a question with what you think. Instead direct them to ask the person who would know- so for example "why doesn't dad see me?" your answer should be "I don't know, (maybe -you should ask him)- I think he is missing out! Now how about a hug." Don't say things like "I know he loves you very much he is just busy" instead just stick to what you know- and honestly you don't know his mind.

Don't predict his future failure to be involved. THe child wants dad to be involved and will be mad at you today for predicting failure of his father and later be mad at you for being right- and he won't be any more prepared for the failure because he will defend against your earlier statment with high expecations of you being proven wrong- and if you are once proven wrong it will only get worse next time when you are right.

You really have to let your kids come to thier own conclusions about thier other parent. Any idea you put in their head later on can backfire.

Hug them often and do all you can to make them self confidant. Talk about issues of "people who are dependable" and how to deal with undependable people in the abstract- not about thier dad. But give them the tools and let them translate them to dad.
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#6 of 6 Old 12-02-2005, 02:50 PM
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As a child of divorse and a mom to 2 boys who are definitely lacking in the "father department", I've struggled with it, too. I was almost 25 when I finally accepted my dad for who he was and what kind of relationship I was going to have with him. We are really close now, but it was my own journey to get to that point.

One thing I've made very clear to my oldest (and this may be considered "bashing his dad" by some people here) is that the way his dad behaves is not how I want him to behave when he's a dad someday. Luckily, my family is very close to my kids, so they have tons of really good male role models. I think being a great mom to your kids is the BEST way to make sure they grow up resilient in the face of an absent father. That and be honest and validate their feelings, it's OK and actually healthy that they are disappointed in their father's bahavior (it means that they know they desearve to be treated better than that and that being a family means keeping your promises)
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