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Q: My ex-partner, the father of my child, chooses not to be involved in my daughter's life (ever since birth). She met him once and has experienced nothing but broken promises and unfulfilled dreams from him ever since. Why won't she realize that he is the loser in this relationship (if you could even call it that)?
I pray every day for her to realize he's a deadbeat, but it seems there will always be a part of her that wants him. I don't know if I should get involved in the communication between her and her dad, but I don't want to force him to be there if that isn't what he wants. What should I do?
A: Many children who have trouble with this type of nonexistent "relationship" seem to have the most difficulty with it during adolescence. Your daughter is working out for herself what relationships between men and women should be like, and at this time she especially wants her father in her life. As she moves into her twenties, the need for a father-relationship should diminish.
Does she have any contact with her father's parents? They may be able to serve as go-betweens for you, finding out if her dad has any interest in being involved. Nothing will be served by forcing him to communicate with her if he doesn't want to. If you learn that he still does not want any contact, try not to let her get hurt over finding out. She will know that he is not around for her without you being put in a position to hurt her over it. Continue to support her and be there for her just as you have been; one strong, supportive parent can be as meaningful in a child's life as two parents who are not both supportive.
Keep a watchful eye as she moves through adolescence. Some girls who do not have a father in their lives look for a father-like male as they begin to have boyfriends. Encourage her to be friends with boys her own age rather than older young men.
Talk with the school counselor and ask if he or she could give your daughter some individual time. If she needs additional help, the school counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your community.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.