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12 Mar 2004

Single Parent dilemma
Hi, I brought my child to south africa to raise when I realised that my child's father would never let go of his addiction to drugs, which was resulting in extreme physical abuse towards myself, and most likely towards my child in the long term. Now I constantly worry about what to tell my child about his father - we have no contact except for the occassional birthday or christmas present (when he remembers) and my child was too young when I left him to really understand that he ever had a daddy and I certainly don't give him the presents.

I have never mentioned his father to him and he (at this stage) doesn't realise that he hasn't got a 'daddy' in his life, as he has two really good male role models who are close family relations and fill that gap. He is at school now and I know the subject will come up eventually as the signs are already there that he is figuring it out.

It is important to me that my son grows up healthy and happy - emotionally as well as physically and I'm seriously concerned that if I approach this in the wrong way it will cause more harm than good. I don't want to lie to him, but need guidance in terms of fielding these types of questions from him at the age of 4 or so. Please help! Should I approach a child psychologist for assistance?
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Dear Jo,
Firstly, be reassured that most kids are much more resilient than we expect --- most of those exposed to severe bombing during WorldWar 2 survived as excellent and healthy adults, so a little bad news doesn't usually cause harm. You don't mention your son's current age, but Volcano's advice applies well. Apart from using age-appropriate language, the truth is usually the best policy --- but the truth insofar as it answers the questions the child is actually answering. Always remember the little boy who asked "Mommy, where did I come from ?", and who after a 2-hour presentation by mom on all the facts of life, with illustrations and plastic models, as she'd been long-prepared for this day, said "That's all very interesting, but I meant was I born in Bloemfontein or Joburg ?"
When he worries about the issue and asks if he has a dad, or why he doesn't have a dad, you can say that he did have a dad, who lives a long way away, overseas. And so on.
Actually, the issue I think could be a bit more troubling, is when you say that you "certainly" don't give him any of the presents his dad occasionally sends. Apart from that, you could hardly be held to blame for the separation from his dad. But in time he may well decide to meet his dad, and could discover that there were gifts, which were withheld from him, and this may seem to have been spiteful, and harder to explain and justify. Mabe when you reach the stage at which he asks and you tell him that a dad exists, you could reveal that his dad often forgot about birthdays and christmas, and that you have been saving those gifts until he was old enough to want to know about his dad.
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