Q: I got full custody of my kids after a long battle. Their dad has ADHD and impulsive disorder and can’t control his emotions. I would like help on raising a teenage daughter (although she is 10). She is upset that she will not get to sleep at her dads even though he is living in a truck with a camper. She says we all make her dad look crazy. I let her know that I want her to see her dad as much as possible but stability and safety is first for me. I don’t think it is ok for the kids to sleep with their dad and girlfriend in the same bed at night. Her dad needs alot of time to work on himself. My son is six and much calmer since the switch to my home full time. Really just want advice on my daughter as she seems closed off.
A: I’m sure that was a very challenging battle for everyone. Continue to encourage her Dad to seek the growth that he needs to be a better father and maintain your commitment to avoid villifying him. Even though it may be difficult, try not to take her feelings personally. She just lost her guy! Even if he’s not the best guy, he’s her guy. She is entering her tween years and this is a time when girls start to romanticize their fathers – in healthy way – she is going to miss that regular (albeit unreliable) masculine presence, the regular love from her Dad and feeling that she is special and vitally necessary in the life of a man… at a time when she is starting to develop into a young woman who needs that contrast in her life. Unfortunately, she can’t get this directly from you. You mentioned that her Dad has a girlfriend, but you didn’t say if you have anyone in your life. If you do, definitely encourage him to notice special things about her and make an effort to really SEE her as an individual. If you don’t have a special person in your life, once things settle down for her it would be great if you could connect her with a man that is safe for her to spend time with that she already knows, like a grandfather, uncle or the father of a close friend — someone safe and stable that she could pattern her future choices for a mate after. She doesn’t need to spend time alone with them, but she will need loving, yet safe, male attention. She’ll be fine without it, if you don’t have anyone like that for her right now, she needs you more than anything else, the challenge comes later when she may start to seek it out on her own in ways that are less than ideal. I am excited for you on this new journey, it sounds like there are already positive changes happening, and many more on the way.