MOTHER MUST PROTECT KIDS FROM EX-HUSBAND
Q: Years ago my former husband was convicted of molesting our daughter (now age 9), and his parole will be ending soon. Our children (we also have a son, age 11) haven’t seen him since 2002 and neither one remembers him. I’ve been told he’s in a good church and is doing well. I’m trying to decide if he should have any contact with our children — even letters and pictures. I’m not comfortable with this and I don’t want to risk hurting my kids again after we’ve made so much progress. But I also don’t want my kids to hate me or blame me for not letting them know their dad. What do you think?
Juli: Your situation is such a difficult one! It sounds like you’ve had to walk through a lot of pain. I can understand your hesitancy to reconnect your children with their father, even in light of the healing and growth he appears to have experienced.
The parent-child relationship is sensitive. A child is in a completely vulnerable position, trusting a parent to provide safety and love. When a parent violates that trust in such a harmful way by abusing or molesting his children, he rightfully forgoes the privilege of parenting.
As harsh as it might sound, I would discourage you from initiating contact between your children and their father right now. They’re too young to understand that dad may love them, but may not be a safe person for them to be around. Perhaps you could encourage a relationship when they’re older (late teens or early adults) and less vulnerable to being hurt by their dad. In the meantime, their safety and innocence are your top priority.
Your children may be resentful that you’re withholding from them a relationship with their father. But parents sometimes need to make difficult and unpopular decisions that are in the best interests of their kids, trusting that with time they will understand.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, host of the Focus on the Family radio program, and a husband and father of two.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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