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What to tell child about absent dad

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Updated: February 22, 2014 5:24PM



Dear Abby: I have an extremely bright 7-year-old daughter, “Amy,” from a previous marriage. Her biological father, “Jake,” and I separated when she was an infant. He lives across the country, so while we shared custody, Amy usually saw him only once a year. For a while I called him “Dad” when talking about him to her, but when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to be involved in her life (and because I was going to be remarried), we switched to using his first name.

My current husband formally adopted Amy last year, and she couldn’t have been happier. Now there’s a baby sister, and Amy is overjoyed.

Recently, though, Amy has started asking me why Jake never visits and when she’s going to see him again. I don’t know what to tell her. I feel it would be crushing to her to say that Jake isn’t interested in her anymore, but I also don’t want to lie to her.

How do you tell a 7-year-old she should just forget her biological father because he’s never going to be there for her?

— Anxious in Houston

Dear Anxious: Your daughter needs to come to this realization in stages, and her questions should be answered in an age-appropriate way. Understand that Amy may always be interested in knowing about her biological father, and by the time she is in her teens, she will be computer savvy enough to search him out on the Internet.

For now, tell your daughter that the reason Jake doesn’t visit is because he is “busy,” and you don’t know when he plans to visit. It’s the truth.

Dear Abby: My brother “Jared” is dating a woman, “Dawn,” who is about 10 years younger. They have been seeing each other for about a year. She seems nice and is polite at family gatherings.

I have noticed, however, that whenever I’m spending time with my mother, Dawn is constantly texting or calling her. I’m a grown woman, too, but I never communicated to that degree with any of my boyfriends’ mothers.

Jared has told both Mom and me that he isn’t even close to wanting to propose marriage. Do you think it’s peculiar that Dawn contacts my mother multiple times daily?

— Taken Aback in Georgia

Dear Taken Aback: Dawn may not have a mother of her own and need a mother figure, which is why she does this. Or she may be attempting to ingratiate herself to her boyfriend’s mother because she thinks it will help her land your brother. Not knowing Dawn, I can’t say for sure — but this technique has worked for other women.

Dear Abby: My husband and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary this year. We’d love to invite a group of our friends to celebrate with us at our favorite restaurant, but we won’t be able to pick up the tab. Is there a sensitive way to ask friends to celebrate with us, but get across the message that it’ll have to be dutch treat?

— On a Budget in San Antonio

Dear on a Budget: If these are close or longtime friends, I’m sure they won’t be shocked that you’ll be celebrating your 50th — especially if some of them were at your wedding. I think the best way to approach this would be to be honest. Tell them that as much as you’d like to entertain everybody, you are unable to, but that you would love it if everyone could meet for dinner at your favorite restaurant and go dutch treat.



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