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Bonnie, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  and pediatric nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience counseling parents.
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My daughter is ten years old, and her biological father has

Customer Question

My daughter is ten years old, and her biological father has never been in her life. He was completely immature, chronically unemployed, and just not a good guy when we dated, not to mention he has manic depression. He was always in trouble with the law. I was 17 when I got pregnant. Since, I have gotten an associates and a bachelors degree in accounting, and have been a positive role model in her life. When she was two, I met the man whom is now m husband She knows my husband as "daddy." He has been a great dad to her since introduced to her, and she knows how much she is loved. I have brought up now and again the fact that he is her stepfather, when the opportunity presented itself to ease her into the idea. I know that she deserves to know the truth, and I would never pass my husband off as her biological father, but it seems the idea didn't stick, probably because of her age; she just didn't understand.
Recently, her father contacted me through Facebook wanting to know if he could possibly see her. I know he has held a steady job for the past few years, is married, and has a 3 year old daughter with this wife. It looks like he has grown up a lot in the past few years and as far as I now, has had no legal problems. It seems as if he has gotten his life together.
A few nights ago, my daughter asked me about me meeting daddy when she was two, so I went through the conversation again about how mommy had a boyfriend when she was young and that is her father. He wasn't ready to be a dad when you were born, and lives 3-4 hours away presently, etc. She knows my husband is her stepfather. I asked her if she had any questions about her father. She had none. Did not want to know his name, where he lived, no details. She said she was fine with what I explained to her.
The question of whether to bring up the fact that her father wants to see her has been consuming my mind for the last few months. Is he mature enough, will he be there, or is this a one time deal to squash his guilt? What kind of relationship can she have w/him if he lives that far away, and will it confuse/damage her more if they see each other once or twice, then he disappears again.
My daughter does extremely well in school and is just overall a great kid. She is caring, loving, and well adjusted. However, she is sensitive. I am of what something like this may do to her emotionally. I also know she runs the risk of having manic depression herself genetically.
Is it more damaging to her keeping her from her father, or giving in and risking him not being there. I just don't understand what kind of good relationship they can have w/him living so far away after not being there all these years. This has been an incredible burden for me since his email. I have never seen a dime of child support for her, so what real concern can he have for her well being if he's never contributed anything to her emotionally for financially?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Bonnie replied 6 years ago.
Over and over again, I see biology win out in these situations ( I don't mean the Manic-depression but the biological drive to connect with people with whom one shares their DNA).

In this day of technology, they can have a relationship by webcam, for instance. You are right, it is the predictability and consistency that matters. I understand your need to protect her from disappointment. However, she is already wondering (at an unconscious level) why he abandoned her in the first place. Did it mean something is wrong with her?

I would suggest having a discussion with him to find out his intentions (does he want regular visitation, regular phone or internet contact) and to set boundaries with him. "If you have contact, it must be consistent and predictable with no last minute changes. Daughter must know exactly what to expect and when. Is new wife ok with this? or might she sabotage it (making it hard for him to comply). you might end up needing to have a legal agreement (which may include child support....only fair!)

Daughter does have a right to a relationship with him (and her 3 year old half-sister). If it works out it will be wonderful for her. If it doesn't she will be no further ahead than now (wondering where he is) but no further behind either (children are resilient).

Change and the unknown are always hard. If he is going to take on a fathering role and you know have a co-parenting relationship with him, you might want to have a few sessions with a co-parenting therapist (you can find one through a lawyer who practices Collaborative Family Law). If it goes this far, and it might, also see the website called OurFamily as a communication tool between you and him.
I know I am jumping too far ahead but just trying to be thorough.

I hope this helps and all the best,