Dear Dr. Archer,
My daughter is an A student and has just entered high school. She hasn’t seen her father in over a year, and has not spoken to him in over six months. He has made no attempt to see her, and though she says she doesn’t care, I believe she is angry about it.
The last few times she spoke to her father, he was emotionally abusive towards her, so at this point she wants nothing to do with him. I’m trying to fill the shoes of both mother and father, and it’s emotionally and financially draining.
Do you have any thoughts on how children in single-parent households can deal with their anger? I wouldn’t want this to affect how she feels about men in the future, because not all men are like him.
There are so many teens with absent parents, and this must be a struggle for them. Also, I’m sure there are many single parents trying to be both mom and dad who would love to hear your advice. Thank you for your help.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 14 million single parents raising children today. Some non-custodial parents are extremely active in their children’s lives, while others, unfortunately, are not.
Single parenting is not all bad. Solid parenting has less to do with having two parents in the home and more to do with the quality of the parent in that home. Your daughter needs guidance, attention and quality time, and you should be there for her. Make sure she feels loved every single day. Kiss her, give a gentle hug, and tell her how much you love her. Surprise her with a little note tucked away somewhere where she’ll find it at school. Show your daughter that you can move forward from the past and that you don’t hold resentment. Sometimes, we’re overwhelmed and believe we lack the parenting skills to do a good job.
The most important fact for you to understand here is that no matter how much you wish otherwise, you have no control over what your ex does.
What you can do is keep the lines of communication open with your daughter.
Point out that what her father is doing is inappropriate and that, indeed, this can be a lesson to her in terms of what not to look for in a man. As she enters high school and begins to date, stress to her to look for boys who have integrity. She should learn that a boy’s outward behavior is a reflection of his personal values. She should look for boys who will honor those values when it would be much easier to make other choices. Other values to look for are faithfulness, loyalty and honesty — all essential to building a successful relationship.
All people are not like her father, and she must learn to discern the good traits that make healthy, fun, meaningful relationships. She can make up her own mind whether or not she wishes to affiliate with her father, but she should always know that you will be there for her.
Dear Dr. Archer,
Why is it so important to my self-esteem what other people think of me? I’m concerned about how they perceive my behavior and how I look. How can I learn to be more confident in life?
I look at the mistakes I’ve made, and this has been going on for years. I can’t seem to make correct choices, and it takes me a long time to decide on anything. Maybe it had something to do with my parents being overprotective of me for years. However, now I am afraid of almost everything in life.
I am presently in a long-term relationship that doesn’t make me really happy anymore. However, I can’t end it because I’m afraid of being alone, and of feeling depressed and guilty.
Thank you so much for helping others.
The first thing you must do is learn to be happy by yourself and for yourself. This means achieving goals that you set for yourself and living up to your expectations.
We live in a couple-centric society, and many folks believe that if they aren’t in a relationship, they’re different or not as good. From what you wrote in your letter, you are merely comfortable, not even happy, so why in the world would you stay? The answer for most people is the same one pointed out: fear. This is because so many people are terrified of being on their own and discovering who they are and what they really want out of life.
My advice is simple: You must learn how to be happy alone, so you must end your relationship and then focus on you. Put more effort into your job, start working out, spend time with family and friends, develop new hobbies, or volunteer for the needy. Whatever you feel like doing, do it. You’ll be amazed how quickly you start to like yourself and your life. Not only that, you’ll quickly learn what you want in a boyfriend. Ironically, the happier you become with yourself, the more others will like you and want to hang around you.
Oh, by the way, your parents being over-protective has nothing to do with this.
Dr. Dale Archer is a board certified psychiatrist who founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Southwest Louisiana. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN Headline News and other national TV programs and the author of the New York Times best-selling book Better than Normal. Visit him at DrDaleArcher.com.