I live in London and I separated from my daughter’s father over ten years ago and for a short time (about a year) he continued to see my daughter under an informal agreement of every other weekend. He then moved away to live with his new wife in Wales and soon after stopped having any contact with our daughter. Now, nine years later he has split up with his wife and has returned to London and has asked to see his daughter again. My daughter doesn’t understand who her father is and is unsure about seeing him. I am also very reluctant to allow this to happen as I have no confidence he’ll stay around for any length of time and may well be emotionally damaging for my daughter. What can I do?
A parent does not really have a “right” to contact with a child; rather the right belongs to the child, the right to have a meaningful relationship with the absent parent. It looks pretty much as if your daughter’s father completely failed to give her the opportunity for that meaningful relationship which is so important for a growing child. The critical question is whether re-establishing contact now is going to be a good thing for your daughter or not. You are certainly right that if her father just briefly reappears in her life and then repeats his earlier behaviour by dropping contact altogether, this would be worse than not starting again.
Your daughter is still at a vulnerable age and that might seriously undermine her confidence in herself, as children tend to blame themselves for things that go wrong in their lives. I think the best starting point would be for you and your daughter’s father to attend professional counselling. That would give you the opportunity to see whether he is really committed in establishing a relationship with his daughter, and it would bring home to him the seriousness of his responsibility to make it work. The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships would be a good place to start.