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July 25, 2007


Homeschool Mama

My kids don't know my dad either. I told them when they were young that he wasn't a very nice person. Then lately (4 & 5yrs), I have moved to you guys are so lucky to have such a wonderful daddy who loves you and plays with you. They don't ask too many questions, really. Now that my oldest is 10, we talk about her value as a person and how it isn't wrapped up in another person. She's wonderful no matter what. I plan to talk to her soon about how my dad was very hurtful emotionally to everyone and take in the direction of making sure if she finds someone in her life that makes her feel sad, she should come to me and know that it's that person's problem, not hers.
I would just be matter-of-fact without too much detail. "My daddy isn't a very nice person. We don't go to his house because we have lots of people who love us and ARE nice to us so we like to spend time with them. Can you think of someone we love?" Then the next time they ask, just remind them of all the people who are their friends. They'll start listing off friends and family and be totally distracted hopefully. Good luck.


I've got some pretty heavy issues with my dad (alcoholism among others), although we are still speaking. He lives about 2 miles from my house but I only see him a few times a year (usually at the obligatory family gathering) and he doesn't make much of an effort to see his grand-daughters. I think we'd see him more if my step-mom was not in the picture and I resent that he doesn't have the cojones to stand up to her to spend time with them. I'm past caring if he spent any time with me (after many tears shed during my formative years) so I understand where you're coming from on that issue. It is what it is and I'm thankful that my daughters will get to experience the father-daughter relationship with their father that I never had with mine.

If it were me I would say exactly what you're already saying, that you don't see him because he lives far away. I'm assuming that he really does so that's good, I wouldn't be able to get away with that excuse. My dad drives by our house every day on his way home from work. Number of times he's "dropped by" to see my girls since we've lived in this house for the past year and a half? 2, although I've told him repeatedly that the girls would love to see him and he's welcome any time.

But, I didn't mean to make this all about me and I'm sorry that you're in this situation. The father-daughter relationship is so important and it sucks when that relationship is damaged. I'm curious to see what others say. Also, lucky for you that you've got your brother to bounce things off of, how cool to have a shrink in the family! You've got me thinking though that once the girls get older they may be wondering why they don't see their grandfather much, I better start coming up with a strategy to address any questions.

Haven't commented in a while so just wanted to add that you look great and I can't wait until you open the baby poll! :)


My dad was a major alcoholic who recovered (but you know he claimed he didn't have a problem because he recovered) but still was not a very nice person. I stopped speakign to him in 1989 when he told me I'd better marry my husband quick before he forgot me. i didn't need that in my life and so cut him out of it. He died in 2005 when the girls were 2--he never knew about them.

They ask about my dad--I have a lovely stepfather whom i call pop and so I tell them That my dad was sick and the sickness made him not very nice to be around, but we have pop and he is nice! I guess it also helps that my father is no longer living. I did tell them (in answer to their question) that they had never met him because he wasn't very nice. When they get (much) older I'll explain further. Right now that explanation is honest and age appropriate--which is really what I go for in answer to all their questions.


I have not seen my father since I was three. He disappeared from our lives to avoid paying child support. Amelia (she is three) has not asked where he is yet. My FIL who was a wonderful person, passed away the year before Amelia was born. His picture is hanging up and we talk about him a lot and how he is in heaven watching over us. I think Amelis doesn't understand that she had two grandfathers. I am interested to hear everyone's responses to this issue! I never gave it much thought, but I bet she will have questions soon.

liz s

My Mother-in Law committed suicide when my daughter was almos three and I was pregnant with my son.

We told my daughter that she had a bad sickness that made her die. That wasn't so good when a month later my grandma said she was sick. Not know what we had told K, she said it was a bad cold. K asked her when she would die. Ooops. We had to re-explain that grandma V had a really really bad sickness.

My new mother-in law has always been their grandma since it has been 12 years now. But we still talk about grandma V. As they have gotten older and know about mental health, we talk about depression and suicide. We tell them about her good times and bad times.

Thats a bit different from the person being alive still. But mainly, keep it simple, answer the questions and give them more info as they get old enoough to understand.

Good luck. You are an awesome mother!


DH has no contact with either of his brothers. Major issues. I'm pretty close to both of my brothers. I'm not sure how we'll explain to our kid that he/she has 4 uncles, but only 2 are in their lives. The "lives far away" thing applies to most of the family, so that's not the best answer. I'm enjoying everyone's responses on this issue. I'm hoping to be able to convey to our kid that estrangement from siblings isn't normal, and that they have a lot of control over their future relationships, but it's going to be a tough issue to address. Thanks for asking this question!


I would be interested in hearing what you come up with. I'm expecting my first kid and my husband isn't in touch with his dad at all, and hasn't been for over 20 years and likely won't be. Unlike my family who is very close and sees each other often.


My mother was an alcoholic, but she died when I was 24 (2 years ago) of a sudden heart attack. I don't know how involved, if at all, she would have been with my children (I don't have any, yet).

I can answer your question through my own experiences because my mother's side of the family was full of bitter people who "disowned" members of their family, for whatever reason. Since your kids are young and they're going to want to know about familial relationships, obviously you're going to explain that you have a dad.

Now they want to know why they haven't met your dad, and I think that it's wise to just tell them a version of the truth: that you and your dad aren't able to get along because he's not kind, but that you still love each other (I wouldn't use the word "nice," personally, because I think "nice" is a lukewarm descriptor of things we don't really like).

I think this has the effect of letting your kids know that parents and children don't always get along, but that they still love each other when that happens. When your kids get older, you can choose whether to get into the intricacies of the situation, and how much you want to divulge.

I don't know if your family is anything like my own, but people sometimes don't speak to each other for years (my mom didn't speak to her parents for eight years) and then suddenly they will want to make contact again. You have to be ready for all those things to happen, unfortunately, and they're rarely easy.

I don't think I've ever commented here before, but I wanted to say that your posts about your mother really affect me. My mother's death was sudden and devastating on me, and I really envy that you were able to say goodbye to your mom. On the other hand, I understand that it's a sort of blessing that I didn't have to watch my mother suffer at all, so it is really a jagged edge of a two-sided coin.

Congratulations on your upcoming new baby. I live in Wisconsin... too bad Michigan is so far away!

Abra Leah

I emailed you. :)


Oooh, good question. I have had issues with both my mother and stepmother. I am, however, currently (and for nearly 10 years) estranged from my stepmother. Seems like a weird thing, since she's not my "real" mother, but the whole thing is weird anyway. (My Dad died when I was 18 and at the time, I lived with him and had for years.)

I find it unnecessary to give my children too many details about the past, including whatever theories I have about why there is estrangement. For the most part, I just tell them (half-truthfully) that the reason we don't see Grandma *** is because we live so far away. My children have seen pictures of her (there is even one picture of my older daughter as a baby, being held by her) and question who she is. If they ask why she never sees them, I respond with something like, "She doesn't make good decisions sometimes and can hurt my feelings, so we don't visit with her."

I suppose I will eventually say those same things about both my parents' alcoholism. It's more about the choices they make than whether or not they are nice - at least that's the way I try to look at it and teach my children.

Best of luck. And for your sake, I hope he really is far away, it makes it easier - less questions from the little ones.


I had issues with my Dad. Now I don't. I don't remember what I told Natalie about him before I was ready to make peace (like you, we weren't really fighting, we just weren't). I just know she once saw his picture and was like: THAT'S YOUR DAD? THAT'S MY GRANDPA? The surprise and excitement in her voice was a bit tough to take. As my father and I started communicating and he met my girls, etc. it just became easier somehow to talk about him. He lives far away so that helped during those times because you know, out of sight, dot..dot..dot.. I will say this, things like that don't appear to linger for kids as they do for us. So just answer their questions as you have been and I bet to them it will be a non-issue. It really is for my kids. (But again, I think the distance thing helped greatly with that.)


I have a rocky and difficult relationship with my dad but am lucky to have a great mom and great in-laws so my kids have great extended family relationships with them. I have a 1 year old, 3 year old and 8 year old so I obviously share different information about our family with each child. I find that my 3 year old really doesn't ask many questions, just accepts that he sees some family and doesn't see others. With my 8 year old, I've told her an upbeat version of the truth - that my dad became a dad when he was a teenager and that he wasn't ready to be a dad at that time. I told her that he tried but he wasn't really able to get close to me or Nana (my mom, they're long since divorced) and that he chose to move away and focus on his work (he's a writer). I fail to mention the numerous other women he also focused on during their marriage. Since I've become an adult my dad has made some efforts to get to know his grandchildren and I never discourage this because I don't want my baggage or resentment to deter him from caring about his grandkids. Fortunately, my dad doesn't have addiction or abuse issues - I'm sure if he did I would feel differently about him having a relationship with my kids. Anyway, I always point out that Grandpop cares but that he's just different from our other relatives in that he likes to have his privacy and not see family all the time. As of now, this seems to satisfy my daughter and until she delves more deeply I'll just leave it alone.

As a school social worker I'll give the standard advice for talking with small children about any difficult situation. Provide information in a concise, easy to understand way. Don't go into too much depth or detail and try to really respond to the question that they're asking rather than jumping ahead to speculate what they might be thinking or worrying about. Assure them that they're loved by many people in their family and that that will never change.

Hope it helps!


I'm interested in these responses as well. My kids have no grandmothers. My mom died before they were born and D's hasn't spoken to me since I became pg with them. The tricky thing is that she does still speak to D on occassion. Although that relationship is not very involved and very "polite" on the surface with nothing more beneath. The sad thing is, she quit speaking to me because of the kids. So that's tricky. She didn't beleive in fertility treatments and she did not beleive we should have kids since we are disabled. Also, since their father is not biological (due to IF treatments) she does not recognize them as her grandchildren. It is very difficult and I'm not sure what I'm going to say yet. I just think maybe the "not very nice" thing or that she has an illness (a mental illness) might come into play.

I didn't think my kids were savvy to the whole Grandma terminology until a friend of mine stopped by one day. This woman is only a few years older than me, but one of my kids called her grandma. I about cried. She handled it well, though and said, "Well, I'll be your unofficial grandma then." So that was nice.

When I was young, I didn't really have grandparents. My father's parents were Jehova's Witnesses and he excommunicated so they were not really allowed to have a relationship with us. We did see them occassionally though. They tried to convert us a lot. My mother's parents were just mean people. Her father was an abusive alcoholic and her mother was very transient and also had drinking problems. I think my mom was very straight up about them. She said, they didn't treat me very nice. We did have other nonbiological "grandparent" age folks that we were close to, and I do think that helped out a lot.

I think kids need some other adults that adore them that are not their parents. If they have one or two of these, I don't think grandparents are missed all that much. I don't really remember missing mine. I never had them so I had no concept of having them in my life.


I would be content to not speak to my parents again, but with our family dynamics being what they are, that would mean limiting contact with my sisters, which I am unwilling to do. So I try to maintain some level of civility. And I don't talk about the bad stuff in front of Max.

The easy part first: there is not, nor will there ever be, any unsupervised time between my parents and my kid(s).

I will probably rely on the distance explanation for as long as I can. Problems are going to come up when the Parental Units are in town and they don't make time to see the grandkids. They did that to me and it was horribly disappointing, so I wouldn't make promises about what they're going to do...i.e. I wouldn't say we're going to the zoo with the grandparents, because it's likely they'll back out at the last minute.

I personally, based on my family, wouldn't offer up a "but we still love each other." Mainly because my mother once told me that she didn't love me (oh, actually she said NO ONE loved me). Obviously, that particular line still haunts me a bit.

As the kids get older, though, I would start to offer up some more details. My mother had some whacked relationship with her father (who adored us, but who we were rarely allowed to see). He's passed away now, but my sisters and I still have no idea why she didn't get along with her father and brother, and it eats away at all three of us.


My situation isn't with parents or siblings. There was a person in our lives that we spent a great deal of time with and my son loved going out to his house to play with his grandchildren and whatnot. When this 'friend' made a pass at me when my husband was out of town, we cut ties with him. When my son asks about going to see him, we explained that we don't see him anymore, he was a bad man who said something he shouldn't have to mama, etc. Not quite the same situation, tho.


My father comitted suicide when I was 19. He was an alcoholic and ran out of money and booze so he killed himself. My brother is also an alcoholic and currently in jail for his 4th DUI. (Would you beleive he got his drivers license back this time?) My brother is 10 years older than I am and started drinking and doing dugs when he was 11. So, my entire relationship with him has involoved him being high or in rehab. Now that I have a 1 year old I know that I do not want him in my sons life. I do not want my son to think that the way my brother lives is in any way acceptable. My brother is 47 and incapabale of making good decisions. I think his brain is damaged from all the drugs and alcohol. The rest of my famly understands this even if they don't agree with it. I will be interested to read what others say on the subject because I don't want to scare my son into thinking my brother is a monster but I want him to understand that the life my brother leads is wrong.


My parents were divorced when I was three. My dad left - and never came back. Didn't send child support - didn't help in any way. It was hard when I grew up and had a family of my own, but the way I explained it to my girls (and will my boys when they are older) is that he didn't love me because he didn't love himself. He is a sick person - like someone with a disease and until he gets better, he isn't going to be good as a part of our family.

Honestly? I wish I had a dad - someone to be part of my and their lives, but I don't want him in my life if I was so easy to dismiss... it blows, but it makes us stronger.

Jen A

There isn't much I can add to what others have said. My mom was estranged from her mom for most of my life. When I was younger, all I knew was that Grandma lived very far away--which was true. As I got older, my dad explained that Grandma wasn't nice and didn't get along with her children, so we didn't see her. I'm not really sure why he explained it instead of my mom, but it was enough explanation for me. It wasn't until I was an adult that the details were explained to me.


This very subject just came up at the dinner table a few weeks ago. B and I believe in honesty with our kids (almost 6, 4 and 10 mo.). So I knew this day was coming.

I told them that when I was a kid someone my mother loved hurt me very badly and my mom didn't believe me. In order for me to be happy and safe, and in turn them, then I didn't want to be around the person that hurt me. So that means that I don't get to have a relationship with my mom.

They asked me if I was sad about that. I told them no because I have them. I told them that their love feels really good and it doesn't hurt and that makes up for everything else!

Michele S

I don't speak to my father either. I'm okay with it too. It makes my life so much less complicated. Although I was shocked beyond speech when the phone rang a few weeks ago and it was him. Apparently having a grandchild with a brain tumor and impending brain surgery was enough to warrant a phone call. I don't expect to hear from again any time soon.


I'm not estranged from either of my parents, but I am estranged from my brother, and I'm not yet certain how I'll handle that when the time comes. I know that my brother tells people he simply doesn't have a sister and I flat out refuse to follow suit. I suspect that I'll just tell them that my brother and I don't get along very well and that sometimes not everyone gets along perfectly.

My kids probably would have had extremely limited contact with my father-in-law, if any contact, and we weren't sure how to handle that either, except that he didn't live close by. But he passed away unexpectedly two weeks ago, which is a little easier to explain. Very sad when a death actually makes things easier to explain.

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