Q&A: coping when kids only want Dad
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: My husband works away and we have two young boys. They are very attached to their Dad - he has to do everything and Mum is just left out. They will all be holding hands and I will be walking alone 'cause no-one wants me. Being the only female in the house I am the most affectionate and need constant love and affection. My husband is great and does not leave me out at all and always says "Someone hold Mummy's hand" but that just makes it worse. If he says "I am going to hold Mum's hand" they cry 'cause they can't hold his hand. I am not sure how to deal with this, any suggestions please?
That sounds really hard! I’m really pleased to hear that your partner is aware of the issue and does his best to help.
You mention that you need constant love and affection, and it sounds like you are someone who really loves physical touch (holding hands and hugging and that sort of thing). Maybe there are other ways that your kids show their love for you? Sometimes we can be so tuned in to one 'love language' that we miss other ways that people show us love. You might be interested in having a look at a book called The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, for examples of other ways that children can show their love (and be shown love).
Also, I’m really sure that your boys don’t intend to hurt your feelings. Kids at this age aren’t really very aware of what their parents need or want - they are more focussed on their own feelings and needs than on anyone else’s. I know it’s really hard, but I’d like you to try not to take the boys behaviour personally.
I’m worried that you might make the problem worse in the long run by drawing too much attention to it in your own mind, or by talking about it too much to the boys. Perhaps have a look at your thinking when this happens. It’s likely that you’re thinking something like "They don’t love me", or "I’m not important to them", and I’m sure neither of these thoughts are actually true.
Perhaps try to change your thinking to look more at the positive side of things, for example "It’s so great that they have a great relationship with their Dad", and "When he’s home I can get some time to myself". Or, you could think something like "I don’t like how things are, but they don’t mean it personally and I’ll be OK".
With any of these thoughts you’ll probably still feel a little sad, but try to get busy doing something else and the feeling will soon pass. You could also try doing something fun on your own, and see if they want to join in with you, or engaging in some fun and physical activities as a family.
A couple of really practical ideas that have worked for other FIFO families include getting your husband to encourage family hugs, which kids always love, and developing a roster system for when you're all on the couch. If you and your husband sit in the middle, the kids can take turns sitting on either side of you both.
If your feelings of sadness persist, or if you find it very hard not to take your boy’s behaviour personally, please consider going along and having a chat to your GP or a counsellor about how you’re going. I’d hate for things to continue to be hard and upsetting for you.
All the very best.
To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.