Question of the week:  What should I say when a child asks where his father who disappeared at birth is?  


44249634 - sad mother and daughter sitting on bench in the park at the day time.

When a child who’s never known or doesn’t remember his father asks, “Where is my dad?,” keep in mind that a lot of issues may prompt this question. The child might not be looking for different information than you think he is. Or the child might be asking more than where his dad physically is today.

I recommend first talking to the single parent and seeing what the child has been told about the other parent. Some single parents think that if they don’t talk about the other parent, the children will never know there was another parent on the scene.

When children are exposed to other families in preschool or kindergarten, however, they begin to figure out that other families are different than their family. They begin to search and ask questions such as:

  • How come my dad doesn’t live with us?
  • How come Parker lives with his grandparents?
  • How come my mom doesn’t live with us?
  • How come Rosa lives with a person she calls her foster mom? Where are her parents?

Children naturally want to be like other children. When they are raised without a dad or a mom on the scene, it raises a lot of questions in their minds.

Children who ask where the father is and have never seen their father may have a lot of other questions they want answered. Here are a few I’ve been asked:

  • Did my dad leave because of me?
  • Did my dad love me?
  • Did I cry too much when I was a baby, or did he get mad at me?
  • Do I look like my dad?
  • Do I talk like my dad?
  • Where are my dad’s parents?

The questions can be endless. Basically, at some point, children come to realize that there were a mother and a father involved in their birth. The children want to know if these two people loved them and, if not, then why not.

A good example of this situation comes from a DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) group I was leading. We had a fifth-grade boy who was sullen and didn’t want to come, but his wise mom thought that he should be there and insisted that he come very week.

One night when I was reading a story, this kid was in the back of the room. He had stretched out on the floor, with his head on a small pillow. I read, “When Luis asked his mom about his dad, she explained that his dad’s leaving had nothing to do with Luis. His dad was afraid to be a dad. His dad decided he wasn’t grown up enough to be a dad, so he left. ”

As I finished that sentence, my fifth-grade friend sat straight up and said, “So that’s why I don’t have a dad! He was afraid to be a dad. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t because I cried or didn’t cry or anything. It wasn’t ME!”

This kid changed in that moment. Once released from the burden of not knowing, my fifth-grade friend became a different kid. The huge weight he had carried for years was lifted. He became funny and lighthearted. All of a sudden, he wanted to help the other kids in the group. One night, he asked to lead one of the games. The entire group ended up laughing at his antics. All of the leaders joined in, and it was probably the most fun evening we had. What a joy to see this kid blossom in his own way!

The best thing single parents can do is sit down their sons and daughters and talk to them about the other parent. Encourage single parents to explain the reasons why the other parent left. If they don’t know why the other parent left, encourage them to tell that to the child.

It may be a hard conversation for single parents to have. You might need to sit in and gently help guide them through the conversation.

Help the children realize that it is not their fault the other parent didn’t stay to help raise them. Then let them know they have a heavenly Father who will never leave them.


DC4K blogs posts are great to use for training children’s leaders and volunteers and they are free.  Subscribe to the DC4K blog here.

Want to learn more about how to start a DivorceCare for Kids group for the hurting children in your community? Click here.

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