Talking to your child about an absent family member

It is an unfortunate reality that all families don't get on but explaining this to children can be difficult

Family life isn’t always easy and sometimes there will be disagreements so big that you may stop seeing certain extended family members. While you may understand why, and be happy to move forward, your child can be affected. Your child may be used to seeing this member of the family and will potentially miss having them around so you must be open to telling your kid in the easiest way possible why their loved one isn’t around anymore. If this is something that has happened to you, here are a few helpful ways to deal with it. 
  • Keep it simple- There may be a lot of ins and outs into why your family member is no longer around but your child can only handle so much information so for now it is best to keep things simple. Avoid going into the reasons and instead explain simply that you both had a disagreement. 
  • Answer questions as honestly as possible- Your child will probably want to know what the disagreement was about and you must decide if your child needs that information or not. If you decide to share, be as honest as you possibly can and be mindful of your kiddie’s feelings. 
  • Stop short of berating the person- The person you have had a disagreement with could very well be back in your life very soon and you should be careful not to annihilate this person to your child. 
  • Consider the future- Everyone would hope that any problems you have with a family member can be sorted out once the dust has settled but in some cases this isn’t feasible. Plan for the future without this person and don’t let it hold you or your child back. Life must go on for the time being. 
  • Don’t over talk the issue- Once you have had the chat with your kiddie you should put a cork in it and try not to bring it up again unless your child does. There is no need to over talk about the issue and make it bigger than it needs to be as this isnt good for your child who may be upset at not seeing their relative. 
  • Repeat if needed- Kids are kids after all and your child may come back to you in the future to reiterate what happened. It is perfectly fine to tell them again if they ask and keep it simple like you did before. 
  • Accept reality- The harsh reality is that disagreements amongst family can cause a huge divide and sometimes there is no way to fix it. However much this may fill you with sadness you must move on and get on with life as much as possible especially if you believe you were warranted in your argument. If it is the case that you were the instigator, consider apologising and discussing it with your absent family member. Remember there isn’t just you to consider anymore. 
Written by Emma Hayes. Emma is a writer with Family Friendly HQ and also writes her own parenting musings over at


Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes is a busy mum to two girls aged 17 and 11 and is married to her childhood sweetheart.

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