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What can I tell my children when they ask "why can't I stay with mum tonight?"

I am a single father of 2 children aged 6 and 9. I have had full care of both children for the past 2 years while their mother has dealt with drug addiction and mental illness. Their mother is now back living with her mother and step father. The step father sexually abused our children's mother when she was aged 10 - 15. She now says he is a changed man and would not do anything to our children. Although I hate it, I allow the children to visit their mother 2 afternoons during the week and every second weekend days at their grandmothers - but I do not allow them to stay overnight as it is the step fathers house and he is usually there. My 9 yo daughter is now asking, sometimes in tears, why she can not stay overnight with her mother at her grandmothers. I have recently put the children through a Protective Behaviors program but I am still struggling to give my daughter an answer that makes sense to her.

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This is tough, you can't really tell them why. Simple as possible. "We sleep at home in our own beds, we will see her again..."
Maybe you could arrange back to back visit so she's sees her the next morning and the sleeping over part isn't an issue. Good luck!

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Say "Because Mommy is sick and needs to rest."

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Thanks for the answer Tony - said that a few years ago but it's now not about their mother being ill, it's concern over the stepfather.
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There is an age appropriate means to tell a child almost anything. You have to understand what works best for you kids. Anything you do, do not lie. At times we think we ought to have the answer to all the questions kids ask but it is just as powerful letting the kids know what you don't know.

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Totally agree Dave. But the answer "because your step grandfather sexually abused your mother and I don't want anything to happen to you" wont be age appropriate for many more years. What can I say today?
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Perhaps you can tell the kids their grandpa will not be around today
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I would be honest with them. "Because Daddy doesn't trust grandpa for reasons you'll understand when you're older."

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If you trust the mother enough, why not let her come stay with the girls at your house a few times a month, this will satisfy your childs need for mommy and your need for their safety.

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Tell her mother to explain it to her because she needs to cooperate and work with you on this in order to have her visits right?

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No. Do NOT let your children stay there. If they wanna see her have them all go out to eat

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