independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

David Coleman Column: My son is confused and refers to his grandad as 'Dad'

It is a good thing your son has a man he considers to be a dad.

I AM a single parent to my five-year-old son. His father and I were only seeing each other a few months when I became pregnant. He didn't want to know, so we broke up and didn't see each other until my son was two-and-a-half.

At that time I wanted him in his son's life but he was very reluctant to get involved and wasn't giving it 100pc. I gave him an ultimatum, either he was in or out, and he opted for out. He is now in another relationship and has a son with her.

My son has an amazing role model in his grandfather, who he adores. We currently live with my parents who have been a great support.

I told my son that my dad is not his dad, he is his Papa, and that he has another dad. But he still calls his grandad 'Dad' sometimes and also sometimes looks to see his actual dad.

I don't know what to do because my son is confused and yet I don't want his dad in his life. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

It is a good thing that he has a man whom he can consider to be a dad

YOU are in a lucky position that your son does have a good male role model available to him. Your father – his grandfather – is, in fact, taking on the role of dad. It makes sense then for your son to refer to him as his 'dad'.

What may help you and your son is to think about the language you use. You might want to try differentiating between a father (who is the biological father) and a dad (who takes on the fathering role of rearing children).

In this way it is perfectly possible for your father (and dad) to act like a dad for your son.

In fact, you already have the experience, when your son was younger, that his actual father was inconsistent and uninterested in him. He never wanted to be a dad to his son.

I think you made a good choice, at that time, to keep his father separate from him. Your son was likely to have been regularly let down and disappointed by his father and this would probably have done more harm than the possible benefit of him having a father in his life.

That said, your son may, increasingly, have a desire to know his father. We all like to know where we have come from and why we have certain traits, mannerisms or physical features. Knowing our parents often helps in this regard.

You may find therefore that, in the next few years, it will make sense for you to contact his father again to see how he is now doing. I know you don't want him in your son's life right now, but he may have changed even in the three years since you last spoke with him.

Especially if he now has a son that he is raising, he may have become more responsible and more understanding of how important it really is to be a dad. He may have a new perspective on his role with the son he has with you.

If you do make contact with him, then you need to judge his current level of commitment to your son before you would consider reintroducing him. You'd need to know that his father is going to be around permanently.

In the meantime, don't worry too much about your son calling his grandfather 'dad'. It is a good thing that he has a man whom he can consider to be a dad.

To minimise his confusion, you can differentiate his father, who isn't around. Acknowledge that your son may feel he misses out by not knowing his father and then reassure him about how much he is loved by you, his granny and his grandad.

Irish Independent

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