Regardless of your feelings about your co-parent, your child likely has a special bond with them. This bond does not break during a divorce or separation. Even if you have custody due to the other parent’s mental, legal, or physical issues, your child may still experience feelings of loss when they cannot spend time with them.

Your job is not to make excuses for the other parent’s absence. Instead, you must help your child cope with their sense of loss or rejection. Your actions could help your child deal with their immediate grief and make them more emotionally resilient for the future.

5 Tips For Helping Your Child Cope With an Absent Parent

Every child faces a unique situation. Before you can help your child, you must understand what bothers them about their parent’s absence. 

Some issues you should explore with your child include the following feelings:

  • Confusion
  • Abandonment
  • Rejection
  • Sadness
  • Grief and loss

Sometimes, the child is simply confused about the situation and will benefit from discussing what happened. In other situations, the child feels rejected by their other parent and requires reassurance.

Once you identify the child’s concerns, some tips for helping them include:

1. Be Honest

Do not deceive the child. Your child will eventually get old enough to figure out what actually happened. If you lie to the child, they could harbor resentment against you.

For example, suppose that you tell the child the absent parent is sick when they have been barred from visiting by a protective order. You will eventually need to explain the true situation and face your child’s disappointment.

2. Explain the Issues

Do not dismiss the child’s concerns. Their feelings may be exaggerated or misplaced, but they are genuine. Discuss what the child is feeling and explain the situation in terms they will understand. Therefore, you may need to explain difficult issues. Addressing their concerns will often produce better results than dismissing them.

3. Reassure the Child

Children rely on their parents for everything from information to financial support. Often, losing a parent produces feelings of uncertainty and fear. Reassure the child that you will stick with them and that the other parent still loves them even though they are not around.

4. Avoid Criticizing the Other Parent

One of the most difficult issues you must navigate is explaining the situation objectively. Specifically, you must try to discuss the other parent’s absence without letting your feelings creep in.

Criticizing the other parent could cause lasting emotional harm. It can also create legal problems. Parental alienation happens when one parent tries to turn a child against the other parent. Some courts view the alienating parent’s actions as a form of emotional abuse. 

Some behaviors that can cross the line into parental alienation include:

  • Restricting time with the other parent
  • Unfairly criticizing the other parent
  • Making false accusations of neglect or abuse
  • Withholding affection from the child when they talk about the other parent

Even when a parent is absent, the custodial parent cannot manipulate the child against them. Instead, they must deal with the problem openly and honestly and let the child decide how to feel about it.

5. Seek Professional Help If Necessary

You can get help from therapists and counselors if you need it. In many cases, depression, anxiety, and acting out can be traced back to the child’s grief about the other parent’s absence.

Helping Your Child Live Their Life

You cannot fix other people. If the other parent is absent, you can only deal with how you and your child handle the situation. Helping your child process their feelings will give them the tools to live a full life with or without the other parent. If you have questions about how the other parent’s absence affects your custody arrangement, contact a lawyer.

Contact Our Family Law Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego family law lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC, today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108