Dear Richard Madeley: My young girls want to watch the Euros with their dad – but he’s at the pub with his mates

England fans in the pub watch Euro 2024 game
'Before the knockout stages, he'd always come over to watch the football. I think he owes the girls an apology' - Vadim Ghirda

Dear Richard,

My two girls, aged 10 and 12, have a keen interest in the European football championships. Their dad does not live with us but is close to them both, and has done a lot to support their interest in football, taking them to women’s games and encouraging them to play.

He came over to watch several group games on TV with us. Ever since we split five years ago, things have been a bit tense between me and him at times, but we did OK, watching as a family.

Then, as soon as we reached the knockout stages, he stopped coming round, preferring to watch games in the pub with friends. I’m sure it’s more fun in a way, but I can tell the girls are upset. I think he owes them an apology, and maybe some sort of renewed commitment to support their interest in the autumn, but I know if I ask him he’ll get defensive or we’ll just have a row. What’s your view?

— Anon, via email

Dear Anon,

Regular readers of this column will know my preferred approach to resolving family issues is conciliation, tact, diplomacy and a soupçon of flattery, where possible.

Look, Anon. Your ex has clearly stumbled at the ‘C’ fence in the ABC of parenthood – consistency. One minute he’s watching the Euros with his girls; the next, he’s down the pub with his mates. I’m not surprised your daughters feel confused and upset.

But does he realise that? Has anyone told him how let down and hurt his children feel? Going by your letter to me, I’m guessing not. Quite understandably you want to avoid confrontation and a defensive or even hostile response.

So adjust your approach. Drop him an email or WhatsApp, or however you communicate. Flatter him. Say he probably doesn’t realise how much his daughters enjoyed watching the group stages with their dad, and even mention how much pleasure you got from seeing that.

Then tell him how much they have missed him during the latter part of the tournament. Say you know how thrilled they’d be if he turned up ‘as a surprise’ for the final (you might dissemble a little here: say you think he mentioned it to you a couple of weeks ago). As I write this, I’ve no idea how England did in the semi-finals, but the final will certainly be worth watching either way.

Try not to put him under overt pressure or lay any guilt trips on him, Anon. Although, frankly, he deserves it – he’s been thoughtless at the very least. But you want a result, not the empty satisfaction of delivering a telling-off, however well earned.

Think like a football manager – tactically. I’m sure with a little adroitness you can get this player back onside in time for the end of the season.

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