Dear Therapist: My Daughter’s Friends Aren’t Allowed to Play at Our Home | #predators | #childpredators | #kids

Dear Anonymous,

What you’re describing is discrimination in the form of gender profiling. The parents of your daughter’s friends are assuming that because you’re a man, you’re also a potential pedophile. What’s especially strange about this way of thinking is that these women will happily marry and raise children with men, but don’t want their children around other people’s husbands or fathers because, since they’re men, they might be pedophiles.

I can see why you’re frustrated. The danger here isn’t the threat you pose; it’s the effect of this gender bias on your children and you.

This is exacerbating a common challenge kids face in divorce: the adjustment to two separate households. There’s the back-and-forth, the missing of the other parent, the new home or homes, and the more complicated logistics related to their social lives. “Can you hang out after school?” involves a new calculus of where the child will be on a particular day and whether that parent, without the assistance of the other, can make those arrangements happen.

The more “normal” things feel during this transition, the more easily kids adjust. In other words, if kids feel that they can continue their normal routines at both parents’ houses, they’ll be less affected by the changes. Not being able to have friends over is, of course, anything but normal for your daughter. It means that her friends will never see her bedroom at her new house; she’ll never watch a movie with them on the couch, bake cookies or eat pizza with them in the kitchen, hang outside with them in the yard, do their hair with them in the bathroom. She’ll spend half her childhood in a place where the only other kid she sees is her sibling. She’ll witness the double standard of her brother being able to have friends over at both homes because her mother isn’t considered a danger to his friends the way her father is to hers. When she graduates from high school, she will have exactly zero memories of growing up with her friends in that house because her home has been deemed dangerous—and her father, whom she loves, has been made a pariah.

For you, there’s also the loss of something so basic about being a parent: watching your child interact with her friends as they grow up together. Instead, you’ll only hear about her interactions with her friends. If your daughter stays in touch with these friends, they will be an integral part of her life milestones as an adult, but they’ll be strangers to you. And you’ll never have the experience of laughing with your daughter and her friends about “that hilarious time when such and such happened”—because every hilarious thing that happens will take place somewhere else.

Bias always perpetuates exclusion. It’s not just the divorced dad and his child who suffer. What happens to the widower with a daughter whose mother has died? Does this grieving child never get to have a playdate or sleepover in her own home unless the dad remarries? What about the child with two dads?

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