Mr. Comfort

Dear Mr. Dad: I work pretty long hours and love playing with my 2-year old daughter as much as I can. But whenever she gets hurt or upset, she screams for her mommy. I know she’s not deliberately trying to hurt my feelings, but it still stings. Is there some way I can comfort her without needing to get my wife involved?

A: You’re absolutely right to try not to take your daughter’s behavior personally. And it’s great that you’re not giving up. Since your daughter spends more time with mom, it’s perfectly normal for her to have designated mommy as “the one to go to when something’s not right.” She’s probably put you into a different role: “playmate.” That said, it’s still important that you learn to help her—and that she learn to accept your help.
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Explaining the Unexplainable

Dear Mr. Dad: I am a single mom of a 14-year-old daughter. Throughout much of her childhood I suffered from severe depression, which went undiagnosed until very recently. I’m getting treatment now, and I’m feeling much better. However, my daughter thinks I was pretending to be sick all those years. That really hurts, but how do I explain to her what was really going on?

A: What a difficult situation for both of you. I get a sense from your letter that she either doesn’t know that you were depressed, or simply doesn’t understand what depression is. Or both. As a result, she believes (mistakenly, of course) that depression isn’t a “real” illness and that it’s “all in your mind,” or something you should be able to just snap out of.
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