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TherapistMarryAnn
TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5839
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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My sister's husband left her for another woman about 2 weeks

Resolved Question:

My sister's husband left her for another woman about 2 weeks ago. My question is related to my 12 year old niece. She is taking the whole thing pretty hard. She was really upset and missed a couple of days of school because she was crying so much. She then got herself together and was doing ok. Her father stated he would see her and agreed to meet her at the park with his adult cousin. He did try at that time to cancel but his cousin made him feel guilty so he did show up. This past Sunday he said he would see his daughter and son at his mother's house. He then called to cancel stating that his car wasn't working right. His best friend said to bring it over and he would fix it for him at his mom's house and he could still see his daughter and son. He didn't want to do that. Other options were given to him so he could still visit his children but he said no. Anyway, now his daughter is crying and unable to go to school the last 2 days again. I think that if he is unable to man up and see her then maybe he should just not even bother being around at all for awhile until she can adjust to the change. It is not only mentally hard on them but he left them with thier utilities about to be shut off so they have alot going on otherwise too. I am trying to do all I can to help but I am working two jobs to help pay the bills and I can't be there physically for them and I don't know what to do.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

It is very hard for children to understand why adults act the way they do. When your niece reacts to her father's rejection, she may be feeling that it has to with her. Children can interpret a parent's rejection as there is something wrong with them.

What you or your sister can do is talk with your niece and explain to her that her father has issues that he needs to deal with but that his behavior has nothing to do with her. Explain that sometimes adults make poor choices or can be confused about themselves and their lives. When they feel that way, they may not make the right choices. Avoid saying anything derogatory about the absent father, even though it is tempting. This would only serve to make your niece feel bad and possibly angry at you or her mother. She may also become defensive about her father and begin to blame you or her mother for her father leaving (if you weren't so mad at him, he wouldn't have left). By keeping your tone and comments neutral, you help your niece make her own conclusions.

Also, emphasize with both children that they are never at fault for what an adult chooses to do. Let the children mourn and express their feelings as much as they need to. Missing school for a few days is fine but encourage the kids to return as soon as they can. This helps them learn to cope and keeps them from focusing on how bad they feel.

Also, allow the kids to ask questions. The more open the communication, the easier it will be for them to heal.

If the kids' father refuses to see them, let him know that the offer stays open but discontinue setting up appointments with him unless court ordered. The disappointment to the kids is too traumatizing because each time their father cancels, the wounds from his rejection are reopened. If he is interested in seeing them, then he can make the effort to do so.

The best thing you can do is to be there for the kids. You may not be able to help them monetarily, but offering to take the kids for a day so your sister has time to work out her issues is an enormous help. It also gives the kids time with another adult who cares for them. Take them for ice cream, watch a movie together, create fun times. The more good memories you can provide for them, the less trauma they will feel.

I hope this has helped you,
Kate

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