Dear Dr. Bill,
I recently became a single mother of three children under the age of 6 when my husband left us and moved in with another woman. This is especially difficult because this other woman had been a family friend. My 4 and 5 year-old daughters are very confused about what’s going on because their Dad isn’t being honest with them and is contradicting what I’ve told them about our separation and where he is living now.
Recently my husband has begun to miss visits and other events with my daughters. They respond with screaming tantrums and by lashing out. And they’ve confided to me that they have “a lousy Dad.” What should I do?
I’m sorry to hear about your situation and the way your husband’s actions are affecting your daughters. It’s understandable that that they would be confused and angry about what’s happened.
It’s important to be honest with your girls about the situation, using language that a 4 and 5-year-old can understand. Resist the temptation to badmouth your husband, which will further alienate him from his daughters.
I suggest you sit down with your daughters and explain to them that mommy and daddy haven’t been getting along, and daddy has made some bad choices that are hurting the family.
If they ask about the other woman, answer them honestly, and let them know that it makes you very sad that daddy has moved in with her.
Most importantly, reassure your daughters of your love for them and let them know that you understand how painful this situation is for them. Encourage them to express their feelings of sadness and anger, but don’t allow them to engage in aggressive or destructive behavior.
I’d also encourage you to seek out a family therapist who can help your girls cope during this time of stress.
Thanks for writing, Kathy. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.
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