Dad is Clueless!

Q: My now ex-husband and I were married when my daughters were three and seven. Together we had one son. The youngest daughter is now eighteen and my ex-husband is the only father she has ever known. However, he refuses to claim her as his daughter or help with college, clothes and food. He won't even respond to her phone calls, much less visit or invite her to any family events with his family. She is so heartbroken that she constantly cries, thinking that there must surely be something wrong with her and that no one will ever love her. She is a good, responsible girl who makes good grades and is extremely polite and very pretty. Everyone but her dad adores her. I have argued with him but cannot make him understand how much she wants and needs him in her life. He does things with our son and my oldest daughter, but barely speaks to the younger one. He refuses to go to counseling and I personally think he is ditching her to get back at me just because he knows how much it upsets me. Can anyone suggest ways that we can develop a healthy relationship between the two of them?

Explain that his behavior has nothing to do with her personally. I also had a step-father who stopped calling and contacting me. He had even adopted me. After divorcing my mom, he told family members that he had been forced into the adoption when it was his idea. It took me a long time to realize that I was better off without him in my life. I still have abandonment issues, but I also realize that he has had to live with the consequences of his choices. For now, just support your daughter. She will heal eventually and be stronger for it - Michele in MO

Your ex is placing his revenge before his step-daughter's well-being. This isn't even about her and has nothing to do with her being good, responsible, pretty, etc. The fact that she considers him a parent compounds the damage. Stop focusing on changing this cruel man and instead focus totally on preventing further damage to your daughter. She needs reassurance of her worth and needs truly to understand that this is his problem and not hers. Take her to professional counseling and go along. The sooner you get the focus in the proper place, the sooner you can move forward in your own healthy development. - Lynn in MN

From Jodie: If you are "arguing," then most likely hurtful things are being said and hurtful actions are being taken. This leaves everyone involved feeling emotionally drained and often more confused than when they started. The whole back-and-forth accomplishes nothing and increases their resentment and lowers your daughter's self-esteem. She probably comes away from each confrontation with more self-doubt than the last time. Like anyone striving for someone's love, respect and approval, she's probably racking her brain thinking, "If only I were smarter, nicer, prettier, kinder, quieter, taller, shorter, etc., he would love me." This is not healthy. Most likely, you are dealing with other issues as the result of the divorce besides this one. Seeking professional counseling for the two of you could really help guide you through this difficult time and build strength where it is needed.

Can you help?

#1. Our 11-year-old son failed math last year and made it up in summer school. However, they have moved the teacher with whom he experienced so many conflicts up to teach this year's math class. We approached the principal and followed through with every recommendation he offered. We made a formal and written request and even consulted with the school board, asking that he be placed with a different teacher. They denied our request. Is it possible to appeal a decision from a school board without repercussions or should we meet personally with the superintendent? What could the hang-up be if there are two teachers available?

#2. We just found out that our 7-year-old has dyslexia. After speaking to the principal and teacher, it appears that he will need to attend special classes in school. Nevertheless, when we spoke to the counselor, she suggested that we find a private school where they would not tag him as a dummy. In researching what she meant, we found out that the class that our son will be going to has special needs children who are truly emotionally and physically disabled. However, this is all that the school offers. Is there a class, tutoring facility or any program that he can attend after school and still stay in his regular class? Are we responsible for the tuition or payments or can we get some type of monetary help from our school district?

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