Quantcast

How To Talk To Your Child About An Absent Parent

Honesty is the best policy.

Motherhood

Communication (and life) in general can be difficult. Okay, let's be real. It's f*ckin' hard work! While there's no guarantee you'll get it right, previous experience allows us to safely navigate through some of life's unforeseen trials and tribulations. Oftentimes without scathe. But, for a child both green and naive to the wonderfully chaotic ways of the world, carefully cruising through the unknown can seem nearly impossible. No matter how bright or resilient the child, they simply lack the life experience to blindly steer, nonetheless articulate how they feel. (Then again, does this ever change?)

This brings me to a recent conversation with my youngest who's six years old; let's call her "T" for the purpose of this article. As we entered a new season, it was only natural the topic of "daddy" would resurface. In fact, I anticipate this "talk" of sorts ahead of many milestones. It was the first day of school -- as she intently watched her peers gently embrace the men in their lives, before nervously tiptoeing into the great, big, scary world -- she turned and with her big, bright brown eyes gleaming up at me, asked, "Why didn't my daddy ever hug me like that? Why doesn't he ever call?"

At the moment, my heart broke for her. I fought back tears -- even a major bitch fit. Still, as painful as it can be to man these conversations alone, avoidance is NOT the answer. Here's how I talked to my child about her father's absence. Take note.

1.Honesty is the best policy.

Shutterstock

Now, I'm not saying get down to the nitty gritty as this can be extremely damaging depending on the circumstances. Instead, advocate for the truth. For example, previously I've explained to my daughters that "parenting is a lot of work. It requires dying to self and living for the benefit of another, day in and day out. Some parents aren't ready for this." Of course, with age, you may need to be more forthcoming. They may not like what you have to say. But, they'll appreciate that you kept it real. That said, whatever the approach, don't pretend he doesn't exist. This is the equivalent of telling your child that his/her father is dead. No bueno!

2.Do NOT by any means bash the other parent.

Please remember, your child is looking for reassurance! They want to know life will be an effing turnup, despite the absence of their father. They need to hear it's not their fault. Even more, they want to know YOU will ALWAYS be there! So, keep it positive people.

3.Share positive memories.

Shutterstock

I don't care how far you gotta reach; dig deep sister! Personally, I revisit the joy of discovering I was with child nearly seven years after I was told I'd never again know the joy of motherhood -- she was a blessing within a storm. Or, the look in her father's eyes the moment he first held her. At the end of the day, your tot will hold these memories close. They will build an impression of who their father is as a person -- likely even aid in shaping who they are as they grow into adulthood.

4.Acknowledge and validate their feelings.

Whatever you do, check your emotions at the door. This is not about you. I'd have to admit, initially this was a challenge for me. "Am I not enough?" "What am I doing wrong?" Before I knew it, by taking it personally, I was indirectly writing it off like, "Well, it is what it is." Though I never expressed this verbally, my inability to take this topic head-on said otherwise. Of course, I quickly learned the significance of simply listening, acknowledging and mirroring their feelings. In turn, helping my mini me articulate her feelings in a healthy way.

5.Identify positive “father-figures” in their life.

Shutterstock

Growing up one of ten children -- seven of my siblings are men -- I'm hip to the gravity of having positive "father-figures" in your life. Whether family, friends, a co-worker, even a romantic partner; these men should serve as pillars of excellence. By this I mean, they are trustworthy, respectful, reliable, kind, fair, accepting, and honest -- all characteristics they should seek in others as they begin to forge relationships of their own.

Is this to say the questions won't resurface? No! But, if handled with care and blanketed with love, your babe will walk away feeling loved, maybe even at peace. More importantly, they will feel valued. You listened. You acknowledged. You withheld judgement. You were there!

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here to receive our latest articles and news straight to your inbox.

Featured image by Shutterstock

While Jay Ellis’ claim to fame is starring in Insecure as Lawrence, the 40-year-old actor racked up many acting credits prior to and after the iconic series. He starred in The Game and currently, he’s promoting his new film Top Gun: Maverick where he plays the character Payback. The role could be considered a full-circle moment for the actor since he was a military brat.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Five months into 2022 and already it feels like it has been a year. New levels come with new devils (new stresses) and though we are proud of our accomplishments in the year so far, as a team, to say we aren't in need of a vacay is an understatement. A part of recovery from burnout includes being intentional about how we approach our self-care practices. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, the xoNecole team decided to put better mental health into practice. And what better way to prioritize our mental health and manage our stress levels than through the use of CBD products?

Keep reading...Show less

Last year, Meagan Good experienced two major transformations in her life. She returned to the small screen starring in the Amazon Prime series Harlem, which has been renewed for a second season and she announced her divorce from her longtime partner DeVon Franklin.

Keep reading...Show less

Mental health awareness is at an all-time high with many of us seeking self-improvement and healing with the support of therapists. Tucked away in cozy offices, or in the comfort of our own homes, millions of women receive the tools needed to navigate our emotions, relate to those around us, or simply exist in a judgment-free space.

Keep reading...Show less

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts