Dear Dr. Bill,
My eleven-year-old daughter has become very angry and depressed since my husband got an out-of-town job, which means we only see him on weekends. Despite our reassurances, my daughter believes her Daddy doesn’t love her and has threatened to run away or kill herself. She’s also become very jealous of the affection we share, and throws a fit whenever she sees us holding hands. What should I do?
It’s not uncommon for children to have a difficult time adjusting to sudden family disruptions. Being separated from a parent can really hit a kid hard, and it sounds like your husband’s absence is very difficult for your daughter. However, your daughter’s reaction to this separation seems extreme, and you are right to be concerned.
My thought is that there may be other issues going on in the family that need to be addressed. It’s not normal for an eleven-year-old to be jealous of her parents’ relationship and to react in anger when they are affectionate.
Also, any time a child makes suicidal threats, parents should take them seriously.
Your daughter may simply be angry about the separation and trying to manipulate you and your husband, but I would strongly encourage you to consult a psychologist or family therapist. It’s important that the entire family be involved in the counseling process
You and your husband will also need to make some hard decisions about balancing career and family life. It’s not a good idea to continue with the current living situation for a long period of time.
If your husband’s job in the other city is going to be a long-term arrangement, it may be wise for you to move the entire family there. Or he may need to consider employment closer to home, even if that means making less income.
Thanks for writing, Marie.
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