I never told my daughter the truth about her mother. My wife left us 7 years ago to begin a new life. She walked out the door and never looked back. She has not been in contact since that day. I’ve heard she started a new life with a new man. For years I told my daughter she’s just gone away for a while to protect her from the truth. Eventually, she stopped asking. Honestly, I think she knew I didn’t really want to talk about it. I was doing the best I could trying to keep up with work and being a Dad. That worked when she was younger, but she is sixteen now and wants some answers. I’m scared she’ll hate me.
You have carried a heavy burden for several years.
I firmly believe that most of us do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time when we are picking up the pieces after a separation or divorce.
You wanted to protect your daughter from the pain of her mother’s choices, and you were concentrating on putting a family life back together.
Somewhere amid that pressure to do the right thing you were also trying to do your own emotional healing. It is a lot for one person. And there were probably some very real unknowns at the time, including whether she might just show up again, or try to contact your daughter. Confusion can often paralyze us when it comes to knowing the next step.
However, that was then and this is now.
Your daughter wants some answers and she has a right to know the facts. It is important to remember there are facts and then there are opinions about what your former spouse did. Stick to the facts as much as possible.
Wrestle down your fear of telling her the full story. She is probably aware that you were doing the best you could. She is probably also aware there is more to the story. Kids have a way of intuiting a lot of the unsaid.
To begin any conversation, start with the fact that she did go away for a while as you did not really know what her next steps might be. Then explain the facts and the reasons why you were not completely forthcoming as time went on.
Give her time to think about it. This gives her some control as she will no doubt feel she had no power over your choices, no matter what you considered was your best intention for her.
Your daughter will have questions and one will be -why did you not tell her the whole story at the time? Before you open the conversation determine all the reasons why you felt it best to withhold some of the details. Say them out loud to yourself.
How do they sound? Don’t get overly complicated. This will help you be as clear and direct as possible in your explanation. If you don’t know the answers to her other questions, then be honest and say so.
One very important aspect of having big conversations like this is that we often forget to listen. We get caught up in what we want to say. Remember to give your daughter time to process the information.
It will most likely not be one conversation. Your daughter will absorb the information and then have more questions. Be open to her questions. She might get very angry. Remind her that you love her and you were doing the best you could.
There could also be the issue of whether your daughter wants to try to find her mother. You will need to consider how you feel about that and what type of support you would feel comfortable offering. If this topic does surface be prepared to explore the different reactions she might encounter if she does find her Mum.
When some time has passed some parents are happy to reconnect and others are not. Your daughter needs to be prepared for every eventuality.
Right now the biggest pressure for you is beginning the conversation.
I would expect you know your daughter very well and you have had many serious and constructive conversations over the years. The longer you put her off, the more difficult it will be. She will most likely get more frustrated and you will too.
It is a difficult situation but not insurmountable. With love, care, and consideration you can help your daughter find her own place in this new family narrative.
If you are in need of a place to seek some advice on a way forward during separation and divorce please write to firstname.lastname@example.org – Reaching out is the first step.
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.