Dear Dr. Bill,
My four-year-old son has never seen his father. His dad left when I was three months pregnant and we haven’t heard from him since. Joshua has asked about his father several times over the past year, and he’s wondering why he doesn’t live with us. When I explained that I wished his daddy could live with us, Joshua started crying terribly and said, “I want to go to his house.”
What do I tell this intelligent little boy about the father he may never see? How do I explain the situation to him without making him feel unloved, unwanted and insecure? He has my boyfriend and my dad as male role models—and both of these men are wonderful. But what do I tell him about his father?
My heart breaks for you and your son. I would encourage you to affirm Joshua for who is—a special creation of his Heavenly Father. Be honest with him about his dad, and don’t try to sugar coat the truth.
Explain that his biological father has made a lot of mistakes in life, just like he makes mistakes sometimes. One of his dad’s biggest mistakes was that he didn’t stick around to get to know what a wonderful boy Joshua is.
Make sure he understands that his father left because of his own problems, not because of anything he did. Tell him that it’s okay to be sad that his father left, and it’s even okay to be mad at him for leaving. But you should also explain that God doesn’t want us to hold grudges against people.
Even though dad isn’t around, Joshua is blessed to his grandfather and your boyfriend in his life. Their affirmation and attention will help him understand how special and valuable he is.
They can also share truths about God’s love with him, helping him to understand that while his earthly father left him, his Heavenly Father will never leave him or forsake him.
Thanks for writing, Cindy.
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