How to explain to my toddler that she has a dad but we don’t/can’t see him

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  • #57849 Report


    My ex was/is abusive mentally and physically – I left just after my daughter turned 1 and we have zero contact. She’s now just over 2 yo and talks a lot about everything!! Obviously she isn’t yet asking about her dad, but I feel the need to explain that she does have one. I just have no idea what to say. It is painful that I can’t say anything good about him. He’s an abusive, narcissistic psychopath – but he is the only father that my daughter will ever have. I know that she’ll ask about him as she gets older – but should I even bring him up right now?! Has anyone else been through this or in the same situation rn? Any advice would be greatly appreciated – I’m calling the helpline as soon as I can but I have minimal childcare options and don’t want to make the call in front of my daughter. TIA x

    #57869 Report


    Hi Tia x

    I had a very similar experience with my kids so called ‘father’, & felt exactly the same in the beginning. – gingerbread were a great help! 🙂

    It can be so hard to find the right words or know how to navigate this. For me what seemed to work was normalising lots of different family set ups & leaving it until being asked & answering according to what mood/ reason my kid was asking… for e.g; if they are asking if anything is wrong because he’s not here or just general inquisitiveness …  in the end I chose to be honest when they did (obviously PG version without details)… I didn’t want my kid to blame themselves, develop unhealthy acceptance of abandonment or of tolerating abuse… or that anything is wrong with a single parent set up or surviving these circumstances!

    I always try to emphasis we are a wonderful, whole & a perfect little team as we are & lots of kids have different parent set ups; some only have grandparents, two mums/ two dads/ just one, some kids are adopted … all these kids can be just as healthy & happy as anyone with two parents, & literally millions of families are the same as ours. – with lots of examples! – that worked best for the toddler years 🙂

    when asked why we broke up or where he is… i try to describe a healthy relationship first & say people can separate for lots of reasons sometimes people just growing apart & are not friends anymore & that’s alright, but sometimes people are just not very nice, like bullies. (usually using example of bullies from books/ tv shows/ – generally in keeping with how nursey/ schools teach about bullies. I try to de-shame; bullying can happen at school, at work, in the street, online, from friends or family & its never anyone’s fault if they get bullied, but if bullies don’t stop & don’t get help to change or fix their behaviour it’s important to not be around them because everyone deserves to be safe, respected & loved. … not exactly like this, but words to this effect.

    The take-out i try to give the kids is knowing they are loved & protected, it can happen to anyone, but its important to be in places people respect & are nice to eachother… its healthy to leave if people cant do that. 🙂

    ofc reality is at some point kids overhear convos, sometimes things caught me off guard & i’ve struggled to answer/ palmed them off with ‘talk about it later’ so if this happens .. it’s not the end of the world!

    for quick answers have a ref of single parent in a cartoon they like can help; e.g we are just like Busters family from Arthur or something etc..

    Respecting this is a very personal, with many valid choices of how/ what to say if anything! i chose to describe it in this way to my kids because i grew up with an abusive intermittent father… mum went from mud-slinging tmi to denial & unhealthy acceptance/ blame/ shame etc… it had very harmful effects that has taken a lot of therapy to overcome! if i’d just been given an honest basic understanding of healthy relationship &/ healthy reactions (like leaving them & living the best life without ’em!) … i feel it wouldn’t of informed issues down the line.

    In balance i have friends who didn’t say anything until their kids were adults & everything worked out well for them, & friends who’s parents didn’t tell them & they still resent them for it… so i don’t know if this helps… but hope it takes the pressure off a bit, maybe lots of different rights ways for each circumstance!

    all the best x


    #57908 Report


    True. I’ll need to tell mine that men and adults are dangerous  and he he has no trust anyone and I don’t know his father who wasn’t very kind enough  to live  with us . But everyone  has father only not every  can be good in it.

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