Single Mom vs Deadbeat Dad: How To Deal With An Absent Father

Last Updated on January 24, 2024 by

Children naturally have questions about their dad. No matter how painful it may be to be the one explaining, these questions are not something you can ignore. Prepare for what to say, how, and when—especially when dealing with a deadbeat dad as a single mom.

Although you may not wish to reveal every detail to your child about why their father is absent from their lives, there are some ways that children can feel more secure. 

It helps to plan to achieve this. Knowing your child’s questions and having prepared responses can help you avoid being caught off guard or feeling pressured when they ask about your dad.

The Common Questions for A Single Mom About The Deadbeat Dad

Children often start asking questions about absent fathers when they enter preschool. They usually begin to notice differences in family structures and recognize the differences between their family and their peers. They will naturally have questions. Among the most frequently asked questions by children about absent fathers are:

Single Mom vs Deadbeat Dad: child curious about dad
Children are curious about their dads, for sure!
  • Who is my father?
  • Why is he not living with us?
  • Is he coming home?
  • When can I meet him again?
  • Is he missing me?
  • Why are other children having fathers but I don’t have one?

Also, keep in mind that children are often self-referential and believe the world revolves around themselves. It is common for children to know that you are a single mom and their father is unlovable – a deadbeat dad. Moreover, their absence in the child’s life is their fault. You also want to let them know it’s because of the kid that these happened. So, these tips can help you get through this difficult conversation.

What You Should Do When They Ask

Be Honest, Tell Them The Truth

You want to protect your children from heartbreak and pain. However, it’s not a good idea for them to be lied to or withhold too many details about their father. These are the things you should remember when your child asks about his absent father:

  • Don’t overshare, You can leave out any offensive details.
  • When deciding what to share with your children, take into account their ages. A simple answer is often enough for young children. It can be very comforting for older children to know in concrete terms why their Dad isn’t there, especially when they realize it’s not their fault.
  • Your worries, fears, and feelings should be kept to yourself. These things are not something you want to pass on to your children.
  • Keep it simple, but be sensitive and compassionate.

However, don’t make this mistake: Tell your children that their father has died if he is not absent voluntarily. The truth will eventually come out, and kids often resent their mothers for telling them the lies. So, tell the truth, and do not pretend that Dad isn’t there. Although they may disagree with what you say, they will eventually appreciate it.

Make Them Feel That Their Feelings Are Validated

Listen to your children when they start sharing their feelings about dad’s absence. Do not try to fix the situation, but rather validate what they are feeling. Often, your children will be more comfortable expressing their feelings or thoughts than you are. These comments can be used to show your children that you are understanding:

  • “I can see you are mad.”
  • “I sometimes feel angry too.”
  • “It’s difficult, I know.”

Avoid telling your children to forget about their emotions, telling them that they should get over it, or saying things like, “It’s what it is.” These things will not help your child deal with the many emotions they feel. Eventually, they may start acting out if their feelings cannot be expressed.

Reassure them their dad’s absence is NOTHING to do with them 

Single Mom vs Deadbeat Dad - dad left not because of the kid
It’s not the kids’ fault that their dads are not there!

Although you might think telling children the truth will not be necessary, many children become anxious and blame themselves for their parent’s absence. It can be helpful to assure them that this is not true, especially for older children. Younger children are less likely to make this connection.

What A Single Mom Should Do When The Deadbeat Dad Tries To Contact

If Contact Is Initiated, Take It Slow 

Sometimes absent dads or sporadic fathers are not present in our children’s lives. It can be difficult to determine what is best when this happens. While some people believe that inconsistency is better than no contact, others emphasize the importance of the relationship. Your role is to help my child make it as positive as possible. It is important to slow down when making contact, even if the child wants to go fast. So that if their father is absent again, it doesn’t affect their daily lives.

If Contact Is Canceled, Do Something Special 

It can be very difficult for your child if their dad cancels or doesn’t show up. Try to minimize disappointment by not telling our children about a visit until you are sure that dad is coming, but sometimes this isn’t possible. If dad does not show up when they expect him to, tell them and make a plan for something better. Invite a friend, take the family out for a meal, or go to the park together for some outdoor fun. This will help your child learn how to cope with disappointment. If plan A fails, there are always backup plans.

Remember: Children are just curious. The truth is you are a single mom and he is a deadbeat dad!

So, don’t treat their questions as a reflection on you, telling you that you’re not enough. Oppositely, you are more than enough!

All evidence shows that a single loving parent can be enough to raise a child. You cannot control or force another parent to form a relationship with their child. However, if they have one loving parent, it will be more than enough.

These tips don’t come from an expert. There is no one right way to deal effectively with a deadbeat dad when you are raising your child (children) as a single mom.

However, a few things can help: honesty, openness, and willingness to talk. It’s never too late for your child to discuss the absence of a parent. You don’t have to be worried that you are doing it wrong. If this guide has given you some new insight, you can still use these tips with your child, regardless of their age.

Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!