---- — Dear Doctor,
I have just heard from my ex-husband and the father of our only daughter. He has not seen or contacted her for over four years. She is now 12 years old.
Her father asked to pick her up for a visit. I am not comfortable with allowing him to do that since he has had a serious drug and drinking problem in the past. I do not know about the present, and I do not know exactly what to say to her. This is going to be emotional for her, and I hate to see her life messed up.
Somewhere I read that life is a process of losing our illusions.
At age 12, your daughter will be better knowing the truth and your concerns. Family secrets of this sort have greater capacity o harm than the actual facts. She should know of your worry over her father having a drug and alcohol problem in the past and the significance that may have in driving or even where he may choose to take her.
She should also know he has been in touch. Your job is to formulate a plan. His responsibility is to address the plan.
I would recommend you have two people in your life and that of your daughter. One would be a lawyer to give you appropriate counsel. The other would be a therapist for your daughter to see.
The lawyer can help you work out a plan to present to the court. The plan should include supervised visitation for a period of time and in a neutral and safe place. Her Father will likely disappear again.
The therapist can help your daughter deal with her feelings of anger, guiltand puzzlement over the behavior of the major characters in her life. The therapist can also help you.
Life is seldom without complications, but keeping your head and taking one step at a time will help.