How do you explain to my 3 year old why she doesn't have a dad?

My three-year-old has never known her dad—his choice. Recently my brother got home from jail, and my nephews got their dad back. So she’s catching on to what a dad is. Tonight my three year old came up and said she needed a dad. What do I do? How do I explain this?


I do believe there are some children’s books that explain situations like this, I’ll try to find a link if I can. Play therapy is also great, if you catch them playing house you can use that time to explain that sometimes family’s are different! I’m sending love to whoever you are and your family, sometimes things are a bit heavy to handle.


At that age they are still so young. I would just say you do have a dad but he’s just not around. I would also find positive male figures for her (your brothers, father, uncles, ect) for her to look up to and guide her. For now I wouldn’t go into too much detail because it can confuse her and do more damage than good. I wish you the best.


I agree with the girl above. There are some wonderful books that explain households that don’t fit the “norm.” I would just say not everyone has a mother and father, some households only have a mom. Only have a dad. And sometimes only have grandparents or aunts/uncles (if parents are decreased for example). Play therapy I also agree is great. You can kinda do it at home but paying for her to see someone who can do it in a professional environment is wonderful. If you’re doing it at home though, if you can’t afford it, you can act out the scenario of a kid only having their mom etc and use their learning of fantasy and play to instill the knowledge of why some children have different households. It’s subtle. You can slowly make them understand it’s normal, it’s okay.

I almost became an OT myself and anyone specializing in psychology and social work would be great! If your child can talk, it’s never too young to give them therapy. That’s a fact :blush:


I’m sorry at this age your child is not going to comprehend or understand. Whenever it comes time and your child comes and ask the question about daddy you are going to have to be honest but put it into terms that is age appropriate.

1 Like

I’m gonna have to face this someday too. What I plan to tell my son is “you have a dad but he wasn’t ready to be a dad so he isn’t here and he may never be but that’s okay because you have me and I’m gonna keep doing my best to make sure you are loved and taken care of. You don’t have a dad but you have your uncles and I know it isn’t the same but they love you and will always be here for you too so if you have questions about something and don’t want to ask me you can ask them.”
I’ll probably add more to it or tweak some things but this is what I have so far. My son is 15 months so I have a little time yet but he has a sister from his dad too that his dad also isn’t involved with but we are so that is something else to explain too someday. We call them brother and sister because they are but when they start asking questions about how they are brother and sister if they dont live together and dont have the same mom and my son’s sister’s mom has a boyfriend who is her dad (not biologically but yeah) so then we will have to break that news as well when we explain. Its a lot and her mom and I will have to talk about it more when that time comes and figure out how to tell them. But I think the best way is to just be honest and make sure they know they are loved even if it isn’t by their biological father. Good luck hun you got this! :blue_heart:


My son is 5 and never had his dad truly involved ( he periodically pops in superficially) I have always just been very honest with him on a age appropriate level. They understand way more than you think. Books and stories help a lot. He still asks questions and gets upset from time to time about it. I always try to make a point to talk about how families look all kinds of ways and that he is very loved by lots of people. I have found that some time he just need to cry about it while I comfort him. It’s hard to see your kid hurt, I have watched my son ball his eyes out and all I can do is hold him. Good luck. It will be ok.


My sons bio dad has never been a part of his life by his own choosing. I always told my son that sometimes people aren’t ready to be a parent and it’s better not to force them than to have them be there and not want to. I was always sure to tell him that it was never anything he’s done or who he is but just that sometimes people make the wrong decisions in life. My son is nearly 15 now and has fully grasped what type of person his bio dad is and is thankful that he opted not to be around.


My son will be 8 this year. His father doesn’t care to see him or come around. When he asks I tell him some daddies aren’t ready to be a dad yet and some mommies aren’t ready to be a mom but that we all have mommies and daddies. Also most of his friends parents are married so he thinks I have to be married for him to have a dad. And when he asks me to marry someone I tell him I’m taking my time to make sure the ‘daddy’ I give him is a good daddy that will treat us all right.


Neither of my kids have a father who is involved. When my daughter asks this question I usually try to list all the people she knows who don’t have a dad so she understands she’s not the only kid without a dad

But she does have a dad. He’s just absent. And she can’t comprehend the why. Daddy’s not here. Period. When’s he coming home? I don’t know and change the subject.

1 Like

I go through this everyday. I’m so sorry. I tell my older daughter(9) that her dad wishes he could be there and kicks himself in the ass everyday but can’t handle parenthood, but wishes to be better. The truth is he is a drug addict who does not care about her and has a lot of other kids. It will never get easier but you will get stronger🖤

Don’t lie to the kid… don’t talk bad about him in front of her… eventually she will know. Kids are smarter than what you think… I will be telling mine… that your dad is going through some stuff and is making decisions that don’t involve us anymore. ( He chooses not to have anything to do with her…hasn’t seen her since she was 2 months… she is 3 yes. Old) she’s never asked yet, so far.

I had a similar situation today. Went to breakfast with my eldest son (35yrs) and my granddaughter (6yrs). She asked me did her dad have a dad when he was little :grimacing: well his dad and I separated when he was very young. Try Explaining that :grimacing:. All I could say was well yes just that sometimes mommy’s and daddy’s don’t get along and it’s just better to not be together. She’s a very intelligent child. She proceeds to say yeah ITTA dads friends wife broke up with him to :woman_facepalming::grimacing:

Check out Ms. Magazine’s Stories for Free Children. They tackle a lot of difficult topics for kids.

Whatever you do don’t lie to them. My brothers dad would come get him every friday and then bring him home on sundays. When I was 5 years old I asked my mom if my dad would ever come to visit me and take me with him on the weekends. My mom told me that one day my dad would come get me as well. Well, he never showed up and I spent a lot of Friday’s sitting on the steps hoping he would. I didn’t even know what he looked like. The courts finally tracked him down when I was 13 and they did a blood test and he found out he had a daughter. Then I was informed he wanted nothing to do with me. I know when I was 5 and I asked her about my dad that she didn’t want to hurt my feelings but what she did hurt way more then if she had just been honest that he wasn’t ever gonna show up because he didn’t know he had a daughter.


Always reassure your child how loved they are. Some kids can get a complex thinking they arent loved because their dad doesnt wanna be in the picture. I’ve told my daughter so much that she is loved and its worked

All families are different some have 1 mommy 1 daddy, some have only mommy, some have 2 mommies. I could go on telling you about all different kinds of families but our family is just 1 mommy and our family is just as good as any other family. I’d maybe mention that she has a father. It’s different from a daddy bc a father helped make you but wasn’t ready to help raise you.


I had to tell my daughter around that age that her daddy didn’t want to be part of our family, so it was just us and I loved her double instead.


Just tell her she is lucky to have you and you can be the both mom and dad…
I’ve been there, my daughter is going to be 20 this August and never met her “father” unfortunately he passed last year.
It will get harder before it gets easier but just let her know that she is so loved by everyone and when she is old enough be honest with her :two_hearts: hugs mama, definitely not easy …

1 Like