I Am An Absent Dad With An Angry Daughter
My ex-wife and I divorced because of her infidelity 6 years ago. We have 5 children.
She moved the children several hundred miles away making it difficult for me to see them. The stress of losing my kids caused health problems, and I was out of work for many months.
All I ever wanted to be is a dad. After recovering, I took a job overseas so as to make enough money to recoup financially, to pay my child support, and to allow me blocks of time off so I could travel to see the kids for more than a couple of days at a time.
I was supposed to be able to take time off to see my kids if I asked off in advance. Several times my request to the company was denied at the last minute. Over time, my ex-wife has told many lies about me to discredit me to my children. I only find out when one of them gets angry and challenges me about some lie told them.
Currently, my oldest has expressed her intense anger at me for not being part of her life, for missing important events, for not being there like her friends' dads, for not being the dad who was always there as she had before the divorce.
She doesn't see the sacrifice I make when I hop off a plane after traveling halfway around the world to drive 2 days to see the kids. In addition, each trip costs between $2000 to $3000 dollars. I make 2 trips in 2 months for at least a week at a time and then am gone overseas for 2 months. She doesn't believe her mother has misrepresented me for years even though I have proof she has lied.
She doesn't get that my heart breaks knowing I'm not there for my kids. Since the kids are firmly entrenched in their teenage years, they will not consider coming to live with me, now that I could get a job closer to them. Every time I see them I have to break down barriers and start all over establishing a relationship.
How do I help my child sort through her feelings and begin to heal so we can have a relationship not hindered by her anger?
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello, and thanks for telling your story here. Your situation is challenging, to say the least. Many parents have gone through this type of pain and difficulty following a divorce. There are no quick or easy answers, but I'll try to offer some help.
First, when your daughter expresses her anger toward you, reflect what she is saying in a respectful manner, and express empathy for her viewpoint. Do not go on to explain or justify your position. Your only goal at this point is to make sure she feels heard and understood.
The Anger In Teens program will give you the step by step process for this type of communication, as well as many other helpful guidelines.
I think it is also important that you find and pursue other passions in your life. You said, "all I ever wanted to be was a dad." That makes your children too important, and gives them too much power in your life, which is not good for you or them.
As I said, no easy answers. But I think you can do this, if you set your mind to it.
Believe in yourself, and the healing process that your daughter is going through. It may take a while, but she will come to appreciate you and what you have done for the relationship.
My very best to you,
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