On this week’s Parenting segment, one listener asks whether her daughter should meet her estranged father for the first time.
“She’s 15 and I’ve been a single parent since she was born, but she always knew who her daddy was,” she told Moncrieff.
“He has never been involved in our lives (for his own personal reasons) but over the last 18 months or so, she’s been enquiring more about him and wanted him to know how she’s doing.”
The parent said her daughter began writing letters to her father in the UK, and he replied – and now she wants to fly there to meet him.
“While I was okay with them having a distant relationship, the man I knew when I had her is not someone I would want influencing her, despite how much work he’s done on himself,” she said.
The listener cannot trust him based on her own experience, but she isn’t sure if she should prevent her daughter from having a relationship with her father.
Child-adult psychotherapist Joanna Fortune said it is natural for the daughter to want to meet her father.
“She's in mid adolescence. It's a time of self-exploration and really reestablishing yourself in relation to the world,” she said.
The parent shouldn’t try to squash the daughter’s curiosity, but she should help build as safe a path to meeting as possible.
“Could you move from letters to video calls so they're seeing each other, so they’re talking and structuring that relationship initially and letting it be more fluid,” Joanna said.
The mother should be clear about her own history and caution around the father to ensure things are “as safe as possible”.
“It might be worth attending with a therapist, just to help prepare and process this visit,” Joanna suggested.
“You may want to go yourself for a parent session first [and] your daughter might benefit from talking through with somebody what is a huge life event for her.”
The mother and father should establish clear ground rules and boundaries regarding any relationship with the daughter.
“I would say it’s necessary that you speak with him first,” Joanna said. “Not just a text if it's possible to have a conversation and say, ‘she wants to meet you, are you prepared for that?’.
“There might be a specific reason against this, but he could travel from the UK to see her rather than both of you having to make that journey.
“It might give you a greater sense of comfort or control over the situation.”
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