I hung up the phone and sat for a moment in silent anger and disbelief. “Lord, please help me. I can’t do this alone.” On the front porch, my daughters were waiting in happy anticipation of their father’s arrival and I would soon watch their hopes melt into tears. He would not be coming and this would not be their last disappointment.
The cancelled weekends, forgotten birthdays, missed school events, and lack of phone calls would go on for years. As the reluctant messenger of bad news, I continually found myself with a broom and dustpan trying to pick up the shattered pieces of my daughters’ lives.
Disappointment related to the broken promises and unmet expectations of a parent can lead to deep insecurity and confusion within a child. While I could not control the actions of my daughters’ father, I could guide their understanding and response to disappointment. Through prayer and study of God’s word, I learned the necessary steps to offer my daughters security, healing, and hope.
- Speak the truth in love. While anger and frustration may be justified, avoid the temptation to voice complaints in the presence of your children. When conveying difficult news, speak the truth with gentle compassion.
Give children a voice. Listen attentively. Allowing your children to identify and express their feelings, both positive and negative, validates their experiences. Teach healthy ways to express frustration, anger, sadness, and loss. Share also in their joy and excitement when the other parent fulfills promises.
- Model forgiveness. While often difficult for protective parents, modeling forgiveness encourages children to take a crucial step toward healing. Forgiveness does not imply tolerance; but rather provides a tangible lesson in the grace and mercy found in Jesus.
- Avoid over-compensation. When your children are hurting, you may feel the need to offer immediate relief through gifts and elaborate attention. Instead, provide love and support within the framework of consistency.
- Balance expectations with reality. The needs and expectations of children often exceed the reality of what a parent can offer. Discussing and accepting these differences can open their heart to receive the abundant and overflowing love of God. He alone can fill the voids left behind.
- Stand in God’s abiding love and truth. Cover your children in prayer and immerse them in God’s word. Trust your family to His provision and grace.
With the first disappointment, I offered a simple but desperate prayer. “Lord, please help me. I can’t do this alone.” The Lord never intended for me to do it on my own.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11.
In time, I learned to put down the broom and dustpan and trust in God’s strength, healing, and guidance. He picked up the broken pieces of our lives and restored a beautiful, whole, and secure family.
This article (Your Child and the No-Show Parent) was originally published in the January/February 2012 issue of Thriving Family Magazine.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW. How do you share difficult news with your children?