Some fathers make the choice not to be involved in their children’s lives. They decide not to be involved when the child’s mother becomes pregnant or they leave when the child is very young. Sometimes these same men decide later that they want to get to know their child. It is difficult for a mother to allow a man in her child’s life that previously abandoned their child.
There is little a mother can do if a man exerts his paternal rights legally and is granted visitation. If you and the father decide not to go court to establish visitation rights, you have the ability to provide your child with the time and love they need to adjust to a life that includes their previously absent parent.
If your child’s father contacts you after not seeing your child for the first few years of his or her life, you are likely to be skeptical. You will want to do all you can to ensure that this man has truly changed. It is necessary to try to determine for certain if the man is now ready to be a parent and if he plans to stay in your child’s life permanently now.
You will want to talk at length with your child’s father. Talk to him on more than one occasion. Take the time to ask him some hard questions. Why was he not in your child’s life previously? What has made him decide that he now wants to be in his or her life? What has he been doing and what has happened in his life since you last heard from or saw him? Does he plan to commit to being in your child’s life for the rest of his (the father’s) life?
If you hear anything from your child’s father that concerns you, talk to him about it. Perhaps it is something you can work through and perhaps it is not. Express your feelings and your worries with your child’s father. You need to have as many deep conversations with him as you need to determine whether it is a good time for him to meet your child or not.
You might determine that your ex is sincere in wanting to get to know your child. He might have matured and made positive changes. If this is the case, you will need to start the process of introducing him to your child. The first thing you will want to do is to let your child know that their father wants to meet them.
Give your child time to adjust to the fact that they have the opportunity to meet their father. Allow them to express their feelings on the matter. You will want to discuss their emotions and thoughts with your child. Listen to everything they have to say. If you determine that they do want to meet their father, you can start to proceed with the next step.
It is not always a good idea to have your child and his or her father meet in person right away. You might want to start with some phone calls or even a few cards in the mail. Give your child the opportunity to adjust to the fact that they are going to meet their father. Provide your child and their father with the opportunity to start getting to know one another without needing to meet face to face.
When you determine that your child is ready for an in-person meeting, plan something very low-key. It is often a good idea to have the first few meetings in a public place. Your child might feel overwhelmed if their father comes to their home. And it is not likely that your child will be ready to go to his or her father’s house right away. You can meet at local parks, the mail or even for a bite to eat at a local restaurant. Do not plan long visits. In the early stages, you and your ex might want to play visits that only last for an hour or two.
Stay with your child during the visit. The security of knowing you are there can help your son or daughter to relax enough to get to know their father. Work with your child’s father to be able to communicate well in front of your child. Even if your relationship is long since over, your child will adjust better if he or she sees you being on civil terms with your ex.
Drop into the background when you and your ex determine that your child is ready for the next step. For example, you can sit on a bench at the park while your child goes to play on the rides at the park. Head to the mail and ask your son or daughter if they want to go to a store with just their dad or even just another department in the store. Look for opportunities to give your child and their father a few minutes to bond together without you at the forefront.
Before you try the above step, you will want to be confident that you can trust your child’s father with your son or daughter. You should also consult with your attorney before proceeding with regular visitation. If your child is having any adjustment issues, you should talk to his or her pediatrician. You can also ask for a referral to a counselor if necessary.
Continue to listen to how your child feels about developing a relationship with his or her father. The process is not going to be successful if you or your ex tries to rush the relationship. Give your child the time and space that they need. You might find that some visits go well and others do not. Talk to your child’s father about allowing some time in between visits if your child is struggling.
If you work together you can make the process of introducing your child to their previously absent father go well. Consult with professionals if there are any problems or if your child is not doing well.