DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a single mom and have been taking care of my son ever since he was a baby. His father hasn’t been in the picture much. Now that my son is growing up, he is asking about his father and requesting that he get to spend time with him. He wants to have his dad in his life. I am very worried about encouraging this, as my ex has been unreliable in the past. I would hate for my son to get his heart set on being with his dad only to get his feelings hurt. How can I manage this situation? -- Needing Daddy, Detroit
DEAR NEEDING DADDY: Start by having a conversation with your son’s father. Be kind and hopeful in your tone. Tell him his son has been asking to spend more time with him, that he needs to know his father. Without trying to guilt this man into building a relationship with his son, be practical and point out that it would be great for them to get to know each other -- on terms that your ex can manage. If he agrees, ask him to schedule times when he is sure he can commit to spending time with his son.
For your son, manage expectations by saying his father will try to be more available to him and that the two of them should take it slowly. Note that this is new for everyone, so it could be bumpy at first.
For you, intervene if the dad is a no-show. You have to manage the development of this relationship.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)