How to talk to your child about an absent parent

By admin
23 June 2014

Parenting an autistic child comes with its own set of challenges, but when you have to do it mostly by yourself because your child’s other parent doesn’t want to get involved, it becomes extremely difficult. Here’s expert advice on explaining an absent father.

A SuperMom in our Facebook community recently asked for advice for her autistic son whose dad is absent from his life. She writes: “My son started asking about his father and why he never visits. My partner has played the role of a dad and they have a great relationship. I can’t tell him his father said to me that he couldn't have created a disabled child.”

We turned to an expert to help this mom, but of course the advice is applicable in most situations where a parent has to help their child cope with an absent parent.

Elise Fourie, an educational psychologist from Pretoria, says this mom is right in not telling her son the truth as it wouldn’t be constructive. “It will only hurt his feelings and make him feel rejected which could lead to feelings of worthlessness and a bad self-image.”

It’s extremely important a child should never feel like they aren’t worthy of their father’s love, says Fourie. Her advice is to explain the situation to the boy like this: “Your father isn’t able to be a dad to your right now because he doesn’t know how. Until he learns how to be a dad he can’t come to visit you because he might hurt your feelings. We hope that someday he will learn to be a dad.

“Help your son to understand that it is okay to let your partner be a father figure to him because lots of people have mentors who are like parents to them,” Fourie adds.

Try to put it like this: “You are such a luck boy because (your partner) is a part of our lives and he really wants to be a dad to you. He wants to protect you just like dads do with their sons. Don’t you think he has been a good dad so far? You guys do all sorts of dad-and-son things together like (give a few examples). It’s okay if you love him like a dad. If you want to, we can even think of a special name you can use for him to show him how special he is to you.”

-Shané Barnard

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