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I don't know what to tell my children(62 Posts)
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Short version. DH and I married 10 years. DH caught having affair just before Christmas. Him and OW were discussing how they would raise our DC and also sharing many photos of them online at work and using social media. I kicked him out and we booked relate, went a few times in Jan. He secretly kept seeing other woman and vanished in mid Feb. At Easter I reached out and he was upset and desperately wanted to go to relate. I booked and paid for double session. He didn't show - found out he was at hers. Solicitor filed for divorce. He never showed to mediation. Shit got weird. He has been warned for harassment. Finally showed to mediation so now we are going some time in August. He's not bothered with either kids birthday, never asked how they are or told them he loves them. The OW is spouting off at work (we have a mutual acquaintance) about the bitch of an ex wife (me) who won't let him visit his kids and she can't wait to be the best step mummy in the whole world - bought outfits for them etc etc
Kids (2 & 5) not seen him in 5 months, oldest has little communication - all relevant agencies involved state no contact until ex agrees to work with dc1 needs and it would start with supervised contact. Both DC 'clingy' and hysterical if I leave, comes in waves but oldest is very anxious about change and has been described as disturbed.
But they want to know why daddy left. And after 5 months I have run out of patience with waiting for ex being able to 'develop a story together', I am adamant I will not lie to my children and so far have with great restraint not spoken badly of him.
1) Keep repeating current line - Daddy made a bad choice (this is used at school) and sometimes when we make bad choices we feel very sad inside and have to hide for a while
2) Daddy decided that he didn't want to be married to mummy anymore and made some other friends
I can't say he has been poorly (as my DC will worry, especially the oldest), they don't buy the line he is at work, and when he went that awful day in December he foolishly told my oldest that he had hurt mummy very badly and had to go. They only saw him 4-5 times after that (although I did make him visit on Christmas Day) because he just wasn't bothered to arrange anything. I am absolutely terrified if I make the wrong decision now then I will lose them to lies when they get older. They are still so very young I feel I have to tell them something.
What worked for you? Especially if this happened to your parents - what do you wish you were told or not told?
My DC were older but I always think that an age appropriate version of the truth works best.
I would go with 'mummy and daddy love you both and will always be friends, but we don't want to live together any more. Daddy lives in a different house and has a new girlfriend'
Is there any truth to his claims that you won't let him see them? If it's a lie could you stop it in its tracks by telling him in writing (text, email) that he can visit them at your house anytime. If it must be supervised for now, surely this is the least confusing and distressing for them, even if it means you having to put up with him hanging around.
The best outcome from all of this is two happy secure well-adjusted children who have two homes where they are loved and safe. Working towards that will ensure that they don't harbour any resentment as adults, and if he derails it, well, all documented that you tried.
FWIW I hate the story that daddy made a bad choice and has run away to hide. Very confusing message. The 5yo will be fretting about what the bad choice was and thinking allsorts, and they will both be wondering whether they'll also have to go away if they make a bad choice.
No - absolutely no truth at all in his claims, long paper trail both in my messages to him and via solicitors letters. He cannot visit us at the house - the gap has become too great.
The choice story - I didn't say he had run away, just that sometimes people feel bad inside and they want to hide away a while. This was something which came out of the schools intervention with dc1. They bring in a counsellor for any child with emotional needs beyond what they can support in the classroom and so thats where the 'story' came from and hence why it has continued. Its never been embellished but I was told it was a way to ensure the dc don't see themselves to blame for the split. I feel that in this I have taken onboard so much advice but don't really see ourselves any further forward.
Right now (and what has prompted this thread) is the somewhat delayed but incessant asking of whether I will leave. And to that I always say no. I also feel uncomfortable telling them that daddy loves them, given his behaviour and the fact he has simply never asked after them I don't want them to be told for years he loves them and then them figure it out when they are older he doesn't give a shit.
We were TTC when he left, planning Christmas, new jobs all round - a standard family unit (with some SN for dc1) but nothing could have prepared me for the last 7 months!
p.s. thank you for your comments - I couldn't agree more with the best outcome
Definitely the second, the first I think would be very confusing.
DP went through this with his DC - first time their mother walked out for 3 years, second time she came back into their lives wanting to be involved again they were 5 lasted two weeks (we had just started our relationship at this point), it was always an age appropriate version of the truth he gave and now we do the same when she suddenly has "plans" for her court ordered visit or just doesn't turn up for her contact time. It's really hard sometimes as you do very much want to protect them but they also need to figure out their own minds. He tried to encourage their mother to see them for ages, and it was just like flooging a dead horse.
He was also "stopping" her, seems a fairly common theme with some absent parents which he wasn't at all, she has never bothered with birthdays or Christmas either. Just screen shot all messages and keep all emails/record of phone conversations because it will be needed at mediation/court.
With the daddy loves you, I do understand where your coming from - my mum always told me my dad loved me, DP did say this to his DC but now three years or so on it is up to her say this to them directly when she speaks to them. I figured out my dad did on some level love me it was just different to how my mum and my stepdad loved me, kids are rather smarter about these things sometimes than we give credit IMO.
Good outcome here two very happy very much loved well behaved
terrors this morning children
Kittens can you give any examples of age appropriate? I think thats what I'm struggling with the most. They are not naive as such but the phrase 'new girlfriend' won't mean much really. I did wonder whether 'daddy met someone called x and decided that he would prefer to live with her rather than us, its very sad but these things do happen and we're a great team and anyone fancy a cuddle?'
Worrying about the repercussions of choosing (ha) the wrong option to say keeps me from falling asleep at night. I'm so bloody shattered after this long flying solo, working and juggling finances and a divorce with someone who has done a pretty good job of vanishing.
Sorry for what you are going through.
I think 'daddy doesn't want to be married to me because he has met a different lady' would be honest enough. I would keep relating it to living with 'you' not 'you and kids' ie he has left me rather than 'he has left us'. God that sounds awfully harsh. I hope you know what I mean and I mean it with all kindness so kids don't feel abandoned (as much) by the dickhead.
You could say that daddy will always be their daddy. You can change your husband or wife but you can't change your mummy or daddy. You can never be sure what another person is thinking in their own head. So you can't explain what daddy is thinking, but you can promise from inside your head that you will never leave etc etc.
Gosh yes I agree with pp, definitely not 'daddy preferred to live with her than us'!
I think you have to bang on and on and on about the fact that he loves them and left because he didn't want you any more.
You need to do that even if it's not true, even if he doesn't show it, even if they work out for themselves in later years that he is a dick.
Right now they need to hear that their daddy still loves them, do it for them not him.
Can I ask why professionals have said that he should only have supervised contact? Fine if you'd rather not say. I wondered whether he disagrees and thinks that their views are being coloured by you, which might explain the fact that the ow is saying that you don't let him see them. What contact has he been offered?
DCs were 5 and 3 when their dad left. I told them that Mummy and Daddy still loved them but sometimes adults aren't friends any more.
6 weeks later they met his gf (I had no idea she existed) and when they asked me if just reiterated that we still loved them but not each other and daddy loves some one else now.
It seemEd to work out fine.
'daddy met someone called x
is factual and fine
and decided that
he would prefer to live with her -
just say he wants to live with her /now he is living with her.
rather than us, -
not needed - anyway it s you he doesnt want, not necessarily his dc...
its very sad
not necessarily - he may be much happier with this person
dont tell them how to feel...
so dont say it ..if they say "i am sad" you can say yes it is a bit sad to not have daddy living here but you will see him soon.
but these things do happen
and we're a great team and anyone fancy a cuddle?'
anyway it s you he doesnt want,
Jesus - that's fucking brutal!
I wouldn't even meantion another lady or him living with her. Just say that you two have decided not to be together a more but still love them.
That is really brutal. There's no need for that when the OP is suffering enough.
Mine found it easier to accept if someone else was living with them - they understand about breaking friends and having new friends from quite a young age, though mine were older than the OP's.
I wondered whether, if you just stopped talking about him (given they aren't seeing him) that might help? They'll get used to the new normal of just living with you and soon they won't even remember living with him.
Well having ignored the utter drivel from that poster up there I shall attempt to answer the Q.
I can't detail why it has to be supervised contact but the fact they are both so young and he has been out of contact a long time has contributed to it. He was given 3 opportunities to talk about contact arrangements, one with me and two via neutral means, and he ignored them.
I don't bring up his name but if they ask I don't stonewall them. I never ever want them to feel they can't talk to me about something which is worrying them.
I really don't want to go down the route of saying we didn't love each other anymore. Because I did - I was as in love with him as I had been the day we married. I wasn't a fan of the way he had been behaving in the months leading up to me finding out but I very definitely still loved him. In fact I think I still love who I thought he was. Just not who he turned out to be.
Maybe just "daddy went to live with someone else - anyone up for a hug and some TV?"
Just to remind folk that Mumsnet's here to make lives easier.
Peace and love
my apologies, didn't mean to upset...op's h was brutal and it i clearly his doing - but we also need to protect our dc from adult stuff.
from dc point of view they only need to know the basic facts (who is living where) and that they will see daddy again soon.
I know cestlavie's point came over harshly, but I do think it's important to drop the 'us' and keep the split very much about the marriage, not the family, if you see what I mean. I think "he doesn't want to live with us" might make the dc wonder why daddy doesn't like them.
But they might not 'see daddy again soon' because over the last seven months I have worked tirelessly and at some considerable expense (solicitors bills so far are around 3k) to try to find some means by which contact can be established however he simply has not engaged with the process. I don't wholly feel children should be protected from all adult things although I do think they should be made age appropriate. The difficulty I have is that he is not cooperating at all with how we talk to the dc.
I spent some time today with a friend that this happened to when she was older (late teens) and while her parents stayed together it was a very unhappy almost separate relationship until both died.
She suggested focusing on what I don't want to tell the DCs and also where we might be at Christmas (a year on from D day) and next summer (a year from now).
Thus I feel it is up to him to rebuild his relationship with his DC, I won't behave like a fraud and tell them they have two parents that love them as I can only speak for myself. I don't tell them how to feel or whether or not they are hungry nor should I tell them how he feels about them. I will not stop in my efforts to ensure he is at some point involved with their lives.
Nor will I tell them mummy and daddy didn't love each other anymore. Because I did. Very much. And I don't want them to have that in their head as a lie.
I don't speak badly of him to them. Ever. I answer questions like what was daddys favourite colour or food.
But by saying things like 'mummy still loved daddy but daddy didn't love mummy' and 'I don't know when you'll see daddy again', and refusing to tell them that they have two parents who love them, you are not speaking to them in an age appropriate way; you are giving them the brutal unvarnished facts when they are too young to process it.
The impression you are giving them is that he hurt you, left you, may not love them and may not see them for a long time; you are turning them against him without meaning to and whilst he probably deserves it, they don't.
All of it might be true but I can't help thinking that their little minds might be more at peace with a more sanitised version of the truth.
And yes it's his job to look after his relationship with his children, but as primary carer, and particularly while he's awol, you could, for their benefit, let them think they've got a daddy who loves them couldn't you?
And one day when they're older they'll form their own opinion of him and reflect back on how you tried so hard to make him sound like a better father than he was.
I agree with Happy I just think they are being a bit blunt but essentially a 2 and 5 year old can't understand 'I care but he doesn't' without feeling like its something to do with them.
If you say to a young child I don't know if /when you'll see Daddy you are leaving that child open. Young children need straight, simple answers as they aren't advanced enough to deal with scenarios/consequences etc.
I'd go with something like:
Mummy and Daddy love you very much but Daddy has made another friend who he is going to live with'
If they ask 'does daddy love me still?'
You say yes of course, just because he doesn't live with us doesn't mean Daddy doesn't miss/love you.
If they ask 'will Daddy come back?'
I'd say no, Daddy likes his new house.
Very factual, not too emotive and not putting words/emotions in their mouths.
So sorry to hear about what this man has put you and your children through. I hope he either steps up or stays away forever- no father is better than an inconsistent one.
They will reflect back on how I lied surely?
And then they will I am sure wonder what else I lied about?
saying things like 'mummy still loved daddy but daddy didn't love mummy' and 'I don't know when you'll see daddy again', and refusing to tell them that they have two parents who love them, you are not speaking to them in an age appropriate way; you are giving them the brutal unvarnished facts when they are too young to process it.
As yet I've said nothing. I certainly don't say 'mummy loved daddy but daddy didn't love mummy' but neither do I say 'mummy and daddy don't love each other'. I've come here to ask people who have been through this long enough ago to see how various ideas have worked out or who have been through it as a child and can reflect as an adult.
Since it became apparent in February he was not returning (I was willing to try reconciliation) then I have been searching for advice on what to tell them. One 'expert' who is a child counsellor was the one to suggest a bad choice by daddy but that has been slated above as you can see and I can also see why.
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