My daughter will have been having alternate weekend contact with her father for 3 years in a few months time yet each time, her behaviour pattern is the same. A few days before contact she is upset and doesn''t want to go, on the day of contact she refuses to eat and is lethargic and upset, when she returns she is rude/moody/completely different for at least two days and her sleep is disturbed for at least three days as a result of staying up late/napping/watching films that are too old for her. So much of my time with her is being taken up by these negative effects of contact and I''d hoped that almost 3 years on that things would have improved. Instead, her behaviour on her return just worsens. Her father doesn''t ever tell her off, and tells her that if I do (which of course I do when she comes back from his and misbehaves) then he will come and pick her up. She doesn''t even want this to happen, but does say it to me. He also asks her each time if she''s seen my family (whom I''m estranged from, which he knows) and my partners children (who he currently isn''t seeing, which he knows) and leaves her upset and confused each time, telling her it''s because they don''t want to see her/that we''re secretly seeing them when she isn''t here. He does/says so many things that it''s like he''s trying to goad me into telling my daughter that he''s an idiot, which I will never do, but it is having a really negative impact on our daughter. He won''t sit down and talk but I don''t want the effect on our daughter to keep worsening as she gets older. He thinks that if he causes issues here then he''ll damage her relationship with me, but realistically he''s just making her associate contact with being unhappy before/after. Any advice?
Have you spoke to her Gp at all? Or to her teachers?
If your ex is still beaving in this way after 3 years it seems unlikely he is going to change any time soon. It may be that you and your daughter would benefit from some professional help - possibly family therapy or for your daughter to have a counsellor or mentor so she has someone who is not involved in the situation whom she can discuss things with. A family therapist might be able to helpyou find ways to support and reassure your daugther without turning it into a situation where your daughter is ''piggy in the middle'' between you and your ex.
They might also be able to invote your ex to be part of the process- if he acetps, thn having some independent input into how he is affecting his daughter may encouraeg him to change - if not, bit you and your daughter would know that he has been given that opportunity.
if you don''t want ot go down that route, it may be worth sitting down with your daugther and explaining to her that sometimes things get confused because you and her Dad don''t always get on very well.
Reassure her that you want her to see her dad and to enjoy herself with him, and be very clear with her that you will always be hoenst with her and will tell her if you see, or plan to see, your family or your partner''s children.
Explain to her that Daddy may get things mixed up sometimes (you don''t have to be rude about him - you can explain that becuase he doesn''t live with you any more, he doesn''t know who you see or what the relationship is like between your partner and his children) but that if she asks you about seeing people you will always be completely honest with her. You can say to her, if it is something that bothers her, that you will tell her straight away if you see members of her family and if you see your partner''s children.
In the long term, she will learn that you are reliable and will do what you say, and that her dad isn''t, or won''t. But it is tough for her.
Does her school have a nurture group or counsellor at all? Or is there a teacher or other adult who she trusts? Sometimes having someone who isn''t directly involved but who can talk with her can be incredibly hepful as it allows a child to ask questions or to talk about their concerns without worrying that they are ''betraying'' one paent to the other.
She is four and a half. I have spoken to her teachers but she has suspected selective mutism and so any outside help isn''t really accessible to us. She will not speak/has not spoken to anyone except myself, my partner, his family and her father and so professional help wouldn''t really work. This is also something that her father isn''t helping with as he asks her repeatedly each time he sees her if she has spoken to anyone yet and if she is going to, calls her odd etc. Thus adding to her reluctance to do so and in the meantime meaning that she will never repeat any of the things she tells me about him to anyone else. My ex and I attended mediation and I explained about how our daughter is affected but he thinks he should have the right to do/say what he wants as her father and that I''m trying to control him by asking him not to do/say certain things.
He asks me each time he sees me if I''ve seen my family/partner''s children (he thinks it upsets me) so my daughter knows that I''ve made it clear to him that I haven''t seen them, so saying he gets mixed up doesn''t really work. She is very perceptive and gets that he isn''t asking in a ''nice way.'' I have told her that I will always be honest with her about who I see/what I do when she isn''t here and she is reassured by that but still confused by what her father says. She is learning that I am reliable and that her father is not so much - he promises her presents and trips each time that don''t materialise. However, when she points this out to him he is now starting to blame me. We went away to the seaside for a week at Easter for example. I''d asked her father if he wanted any extra contact during the Easter holidays and he declined. However, he then told our daughter that he''d planned to take her to Disneyland (even showed her it on the internet) but that I said she couldn''t go. It''s hard to explain to her that things aren''t true as she then asks outright ''is he lying then?'' but I don''t want to say yes and be the one to label him a liar if that makes sense?
Jenna, don''t discount the impact a well-trained and perceptive psychologist or counsellor may have in this situation if the school is willing to make a referral. Your daughter may well be choosing not to speak but professionals have been trained to deal with issues like that and can, ultimately, have an enormous impact on your daughter''s emotional and mental well being. It may also be instrumental in getting some support in dealing with your ex who clearly isn''t going to let up.
Mumtoboys - Yes, I suppose it would be worth a try. It''s just her not speaking other than to the few people mentioned is so extreme that she won''t even talk or tell anyone she''s hurt if she falls over/gets hit at school; at her childminders house she''ll go 6/7/8 hours without going to the toilet if her childminder doesn''t ask her, just so she doesn''t have to talk. I find it hard to imagine anyone breaking through that, but would be willing to try. I have to take her back to the GP next month if she still hasn''t spoken and then he is going to refer her.