I am a single mother with a one-year-old son. My son’s father doesn’t want him, doesn’t see him, and doesn’t come around. I want to know if I should legally seek to establish paternity. I am afraid that, when my son is older, his father will say that he didn’t come see my son because I wouldn’t allow it. What should I say to my child when he begins to ask questions about his dad?

Dear Friend,

What a sad situation for your son, yet it happens all the time! When a man and woman choose to engage in sexual relations before marriage, their unexpected children become the consequences of their foolish choice. And many times, such as in your case, the man walks away and pretends that he has no responsibility for the child.

We are glad that you are responsible and are caring for your child. But your concerns are very valid. Your son’s father may someday lie to your child about you and about the circumstances.

So we recommend that you research all your legal options. There are professional services in almost every country that specialize in cases such as yours. These four steps usually need to be taken: establish paternity using DNA, seek child support that is mandated and enforced, ask for a formal visitation agreement even if your son’s father doesn’t want one, and keep meticulous records regarding all communication, finances, and visitation. Some countries have systems in place to make all of these steps easier, so be sure to take advantage of every possible recourse. Don’t give up when it gets difficult or when other people try to talk you out of doing the right thing. Don’t get discouraged if there is another woman or other children in your son’s father’s life.

What should you tell your son? Always tell him the truth, but put it in a context that he can understand. In the early years, the answer is, “Some children have daddies who live in their house, and some children have daddies who live in other places. Your daddy lives in a different neighborhood. Some day you will probably meet him.”

Don’t ever let your son know about any of the legal matters that are going on, nor any of your feelings about the situation. Children ask more questions when they sense that something is wrong, so be careful to guard your emotions and to never talk about the situation with someone else when your child could overhear.

Your son needs a close relationship with his Heavenly Father so that he can grow up with no feeling of abandonment. The best thing that you can do is to find a church where the people have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and they live according to the teachings of the Bible. Many churches have groups for single parents and activities for their children. As your son grows up, the growing knowledge of God can help both him and you to deal with every obstacle. And the fellowship you have with other single parents can give you valuable support and advice.

We wish you the best,