Tips for Father’s Day with An Absent Dad

Father’s Day

If you’re raising a child without their father, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.4 million children, 1 in 4, live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home. A sobering statistic in and of itself, but what if your child’s father is not present in their lives at all? And holidays like Father’s Day coming up can pack a particularly hard punch, but here’s what you can do to help.

The Impact of An Absent Dad

Regardless of how amazing a parent you are to your child(ren), if their father is physically and/or emotionally absent from their lives it can impact them in ways that include:

  • Behavioral issues – Trouble finding friends and/or adjusting in school, poor school performance, and bullying to hide emotional pain may also be an issue.
  • Attachment trauma – This may lead the child to want constant reassurance they are loved and/or they may have difficulty trusting others.
  • Struggles with mental health – This can range from low self-esteem to depression and anxiety.
  • Risky behavior – Children may try to cope with their emotions in risky ways such as substance abuse, and/or petty crime. Plus, a search to fill that void left by their absent dad may lead them to promiscuity, and/or making friends with the wrong crowd.

Successful Parenting on Father’s Day and Beyond

Father’s Day

While educating yourself on how an absent dad can affect your child(ren) is the first step, the next is to learn ways to lessen that impact to make sure you give them the happy, healthy, fulfilling childhood they deserve. That’s why on Father’s Day, and every day, these tips are so important.

  • Tell the truth – It’s natural to want to spare your child(ren) from pain, but ultimately it could do more damage to your relationship with each other if you lie or withhold information as it will eventually come out. Instead, share the age-appropriate truth about their absent dad. Stick to the facts in a sensitive and caring way, yet make sure you don’t project your personal feelings onto them. 
  • Be open and approachable – One conversation with your child(ren) about their dad’s absence shouldn’t be the end of it. Make sure they know you’re there to answer questions and to listen whenever they need it. A big part of this is to also validate their feelings. One way to do this is to mirror what they’re saying. Statements like “I can see you are angry,” and “I know it’s hard,” are examples of this. But be careful to avoid minimizing or trying to “fix it.”
  • Reassure them – Many children believe they are to blame for their absent dad; that they did something to cause him to leave and/or that they are unlovable. Do everything you can to reassure them that this was not the case, and do so as often as necessary. And make sure they know they are loved unconditionally by you and the rest of the family.
  • Avoid bashing – Oh, this is so hard, we get it. And this isn’t because their father doesn’t potentially deserve it, but rather because you don’t want your child(ren) to think they’re “bad” too. What’s more, if there is a chance that they could have a relationship with their absent dad in the future, you don’t want to be the reason they are unwilling. Instead, if there are positive memories of their father, share them. Why? Because as they age and wonder how they may be like their father, they’ll have some good things to draw on too.
  • Routines – For one, single-moming is hard and routine can help make everyday life easier in general. But also, structure instills a sense of discipline and helps kids understand limits that help them feel safe and secure.
  • Avoid the urge to spoil – It’s such an easy trap to fall into because you want to make up that any lost affection from their absent dad. However, don’t overcompensate by giving into your child(ren)’s every demand. It will hurt them more later when they realize the world doesn’t work that way.
  • Identify their father figures – While your child(ren)’s dad may be absent, make sure to point out the father figures that are in their lives such as grandfathers, uncles, neighbors, and or close family friends who can help fill that role. These supportive and encouraging people in their life can help them accept that just because some families are different, they are still loved and not missing out.
  • Make sure they have tools to cope – Having an absent father is not something you “get over,” rather it’s more about coping with it in a healthy way so it doesn’t keep your child(ren) from thriving as they should. The best way to do this is by giving them tools such as journaling, meditation, and/or prayer as an outlet. You may also consider additional help such as family counseling or professional therapy.

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