Dear Dr. Norquist:
I’m very upset that my daughters (ages 10 & 11) don’t seem to want to spend any time with me. Their mother and I divorced when they were young (5&6). I was in a bad way back then and didn’t keep in touch with them much (although my ex-wife still got her child support). Now, five years later, I’ve rebuilt my life. I am no longer depressed. I now realize how much of my daughter’s lives I’ve missed and I feel terrible about it. For the past year, I’ve been trying to see them but they will hardly ever pick up the phone when I call. When I do see them, they just aren’t interested in doing anything together. I don’t know what to do. Is there any way I can re-connect with them, any way to make up for all these lost years? Thank you.
Dr. Norquist responds:
This must be so painful of you. My heart goes out to you. The question is how can you rebuild a relationship with your daughters after being absent in their lives for several years. A biological father is very important in any child’s life. You do not know what they were told, how they understand your absence in their lives and therefore, how they have come to view you. It will take an enduring, consistent effort on your part to prove to them that if they let you in, you will not disappear from their lives again. Emotionally, the stakes are high for all of you.
The burden is on you to develop a relationship with your daughters. This is not their responsibility. You must be creative and unobtrusively persistent in finding a means to be there for each of them with love and acceptance. No doubt you will also need to enlist the support of their mother for assistance in re-establishing a positive relationship with your daughters. This task will help you to grow in your ability to love and to forgive.
Try to discover who your daughters are now and what is meaningful to each of them. Where can you help out? … with transportation? … with assistance with their studies or sports activities? … with a particular interest or hobby? Offer to help with anything you think they may need. I’d also suggest that you ask your ex-wife how you can best be of assistance in their lives. Hopefully, for their sake, she will be open to this.
Adolescence is around the corner for them and having a dad they feel they can depend on can be extremely helpful in navigating these years. Mostly, they need to know, unquestionably, that you love them dearly and that they mean the world to you. This will serve them well in choosing a loving partner for themselves when they emerge into adulthood.
This will take much patience, endurance and dedication on your part – probably over a period of several years. Remember, it is never too late and the results will be life changing for all of you!
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2019 Chaitanya Counseling Services