My 12-year-old daughter has complained that she never gets to see her dad. Our two children are at his home every other weekend and 2 weeknights every week. He is not always there, and they end up spending time with his live-in girlfriend. He travels often for work and can also work very late hours. How do I start this conversation with my ex?
– Wanting to help
Dear Wanting to Help
The impulse to step in and help your daughter is understandable. It might be time to consider that your daughter is old enough to talk to her dad on her own. This is about their relationship. Your role is to be as neutral as possible, while supporting their independent relationship.
You can prepare her to have this conversation. Let her know that you are sorry she’s feeling hurt, and that no one, including moms and dads are ever perfect. Encourage her to schedule some one-on-one time with her dad to let him know how she feels. It’s important that she identify the outcome she wants. Is she looking for an apology, a specific time each week for dad-daughter time, or just more dad on the days she’s at his home? This will help her to have clarity when she is speaking with her dad.
Set your daughter up for success by reviewing and practicing conflict resolution dos and don’ts:
- Assume her dad loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her
- Use I statements, “I feel . . . “
- Let her dad explain himself, and actively listen to what he has to say
- Be calm
- Interrupt while her dad is speaking (this can be a hard one)
- Jump to conclusions before asking questions to be sure she understands what he is saying
- Bring up old conflicts – stick to this conflict (it’s okay for her to ask her dad to stick this one too!)
- Name call or make blanket judgements
This is a great opportunity for your daughter to get closer to her dad and practice skills that will help her throughout her life. Your support and help will demonstrate to your daughter that her relationship to her dad is important to you.