My son is almost 9 years old. I've had sole custody of him since he was 2. I have given his father chance after chance to be in his life, and everytime he has hurt my son. He is in and out of jail and on and off drugs my son's entire life.

Now he is out of jail and living in a sober living house and now he wants to call my son. He has not tried to contact him for the past year. I talked to my son and told him his dad would like to talk to him, and he got upset and doesn't want anything to do with talking to his dad.

What should I do? I don't know if I should make him talk to his dad or just leave the whole topic alone and keep living our lives? Any advice?

  • For what purpose, when "every time he has hurt my son"? It sounds like it will take many many years for your son to get over it, if ever.
    – Jeff Y
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 12:46
  • How long has he been out of jail / sober? Like, is this a real change or just another in / out, on / off situation? Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 20:38
  • My response will not be particularly rational, hence this is a comment rather than an answer. Honor your sons wishes here. I wish I had never been convinced to spend time with my father after my parents separated. At 9 he is old enough to know a bad deal when it slaps him in the face.
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 23:56

4 Answers 4


Your son has been hurt by your ex. It is completely understandable that he doesn't want to interact with someone who has caused so much pain.

Relationships don't come equipped with a magic reset button. Just because your ex has made some changes in his life doesn't mean he gets a pass from your son for the last 7 years. He has lost your son's trust. If he wants it back, he has to earn it. The problem comes when your son won't interact with your ex to give him a chance to regain that trust.

I believe in trying to forgive others, especially when people are trying to make amends. That being said, forgiveness isn't always easy, especially for deep hurt over a long time. As such, your son may not be ready to forgive your ex just yet. So don't force him to talk to your ex. He's not likely to see those interactions in a positive light if he feels forced.

You do have a choice here, though. You know your ex. You know if these changes seem genuine and if they are likely to last. You can evaluate if a relationship between your son and your ex is likely to be a good thing or just another setup for pain and disappointment. If you feel that your ex has made real changes and that such a relationship would be worthwhile, you can work to help your son begin to forgive and give his father another chance. Talk to your son about the changes you've seen in your ex. Let your ex have some indirect contact (birthday cards, letters, etc.). Help him to see that your ex is becoming a better person and can be a positive person in his life.

If you are feeling brave, you may want to talk to your son about the pain he feels because of his father. Talk about how he feels, what he's most upset about. It's not going to be a happy conversation. But letting all that out with you (someone he feels safe with, in a safe setting) will help him to heal. Keeping it bottled up inside won't allow forgiveness to happen. And even if he never feels ready to forgive his father, talking about it will help him come to terms with it. He will learn how to accept it and overcome it.

Finally, both you and your ex need to realize that this isn't going to happen overnight. It will probably take some time for your son to warm up to the idea and to forgive and heal. Just be patient and encouraging, but don't force it. I wish all three of you the best of luck.


You might try allowing contact via email (or "snail" mail), a way which is safer and hopefully less threatening for your son than face to face or a phone conversation. Maybe you could invite your ex to write your son an email (through one of your addresses so you could monitor what is going on) and if your son eventually wants to write back (don't give him the impression that you expect it) you can let him do so (still using your email address). The nice thing about emails is it gives your son more control over the contact (he can choose not to read right away, and later change his mind, there is no pressure to answer immediately, if at all, etc). Don't give your ex any strong expectations that his emails will be answered, but invite him to share his current life with his son. It might be a good idea to ask him to keep it light at first (day to day activities, funny things that happened to me, reminiscing and questions about people they both know) until a relationship has been established.

This will give your ex the outlet, to make him feel that he is reaching out to his son, but allow for the fact that your son may not want to participate at all. At least not right away. You might even print your ex's emails and leave them someplace where he could read them "when you're older, if you want to". That way if he wants to sneak a peak but not admit to doing so, he could.


It seems like your son has a valid reason to be upset. Maybe if his dad demonstrates changed behavior over a long period of time, your son will be ready when he's older.


Your sons father is an adult. He hurt his son, and is now suffering the consequences. That's what "being an adult" means: He is responsible for his actions, and has to suffer the consequences. And, you don't owe this person anything.

Your son has been hurt by his father, he wants nothing to do with him out of fear he will be hurt again, and probably because his father is just a person that he doesn't want anything to do with. He is actually upset by the idea of talking to his father.

I think you should respect your son's wishes here. Do you want to force him to talk to his father, when the idea of it is already upsetting him? You are supposed to protect your son, so protect him. Forcing him into contact with his father will hurt your son, and make him distrust you.

One answer talked about forgiveness: There cannot be forgiveness between unequal powers. A nine year old boy cannot "be the bigger person" when the other party is an adult man. Maybe when he is 18.

Consider this: If the father went to court to get access to his son, the son would be asked by the judge about the situation, and the judge would decide what's in the best interest of your son. Do you think that forcing your son to talk to his father is in your son's best interest? Please note that you have no obligation towards the father whatsoever.

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