To be startled at the advice given to DD..

(27 Posts)
spudalicious Mon 23-Sep-13 13:14:46

My husband and I separated at the beginning of the year. Lots of reasons but primarily due to his alcohol dependency and emotional and verbal abuse.

My DD (7) is struggling to come to terms with the separation and has been seeing a counsellor.

My ex sees her regularly (3 times a week) but is not living somewhere he thinks is suitable for a child to visit so comes to see her at our house while I go out.

It's not ideal but it's all I've been able to arrange. Terms of court order specify that he cannot come to see her if he has been drinking. I do handover in order to monitor as best I can if he is in fit state.

He regularly gets sad and cries or shouts at me when he leaves after visits particularly if he thinks I 'have not been nice enough to him'. This obviously distresses my DD and so both of them end up crying and this is the primary discussion point in her counselling sessions.

In my catch up with counsellor she said she had advised DD to try not to get too upset when her dad goes so he doesn't get too upset and the end of the contact is better. I am a bit shocked by this and queried it at the time as I feel that my DD takes too much responsibility for his feelings already (that is partly his historic EA and my behaviour during our relationship and partly the way of all children of separated parents feel I guess). I appreciate it may be a practical way of dealing with the situation but I can't help but feel it's not great for my daughter's counsellor to be reinforcing that sort of behaviour. One of my reasons for leaving was watching DD start to modify her behaviour to manage her relationship with her dad as I did.

So AIBU to think that this advice suggests a lack of expertise in the dynamics of EA relationships and to consider whether this counselling is in my DD's best interest?

I should say that she enjoys her sessions very much and likes the counsellor a lot.

edam Mon 23-Sep-13 13:26:56

That's odd. I'm no expert on counselling but agree with you, there's no way the counsellor should be making a 7yo responsible for an adult's behaviour, let alone her own father. Especially manipulative, selfish behaviour.

What did the counsellor say when you queried it?

I would question contact continuing if your DD is being emotionally damaged by it, tbh.

It looks as though an agreement needs to be drawn up between your ex and you, similar to one that would be insisted on when attending a Contact Centre, about parental conduct.

This needs to stop now.

The nature if a counselling session is a listening ear for children, to start with and then if any damaging behaviour is picked up on, then the counsellor should be part of a plan for the damage to stop and the healing process.

I think you need a strategy meeting, is the school involved?

Having re-read your post, I think that it is important for your DD to see you put boundaries in place and you need to keep re-enforcing that both you and your DD are entitled to feel how you do and insist on better behaviour from your ex.

This is in danger of setting her up to be responsible for the feelings and behaviour of abusers at the expense of herself.

spudalicious Mon 23-Sep-13 13:42:58

That she was trying to help my DD find practical ways to deal with the situation.

I said I felt that the most practical solution (as well as the one that put the responsibility where it belonged) is for me to tell my ex that the crying and shouting are beyond the pale and any further instances will make me reconsider the current arrangements and unsupervised contact generally if he cannot control himself.

She then repeated her normal advice that it is generally considered best for children to remain in contact with both parents except in cases of abuse.

I then pointed out that, frankly, I considered the emotional manipulation of a 7 year old (whether due to emotional incontinence or deliberate act) to be abusive in and of itself.

She then gave me the impression that she thought I was the sort of person looking for excuses to stop my child seeing her dad and just repeated the statement about research showing it was best to have contact with both parents.

In actual fact, I feel I go further than a lot of people would - out of some sympathy towards him - and that contact 3 times a week in my house and daily phone calls (that I have to pay for as he will not) are a reasonable arrangement. Particularly as they don't happen unless I push them.

I think I may be cross.

WilsonFrickett Mon 23-Sep-13 13:46:05

I think you're right to be cross. It's victim blaming, isn't it? Putting the responsibility onto your DD for XP's behaviour. I don't think it's on.

Can you change counsellor? Or raise it with her supervisor?

spudalicious Mon 23-Sep-13 13:47:58

Thanks birds. Counsellor is provided through school. I don't know how linked they are.

I struggle to be honest to know whether cutting contact or allowing it to continue is more damaging. My DD loves her dad and to be fair he loves her but he is seemingly incapable of prioritising her over his rampant emotions. She would hate not to see him.

I regularly reinforce that it is not her responsibility and I do think that is going in. She did tell me the other day that she 'doesn't think it is fair for daddy to make me feel sad when he goes' which seemed a healthy thought process to me.

Belchica Mon 23-Sep-13 13:48:08

Why can't your ex be privy to the outcome of counselling sessions? I'm guessing maybe he's not in a place yet where that's possible. But if only he could hear (and understand!) from the counsellor the sort of things your DD discusses and the impact his behaviour has on her. He sounds very immature and you sound like you're doing a great job for your DD.

Yorkieaddict Mon 23-Sep-13 13:52:14

I think you are right to be cross! You sound like you are bending over backwards trying to do the right thing by your DD. That advice sounds very worrying from the counsellor! Common sense surely dictates that a parent should be able to control themselves well enough to act in an appropriate manner around their children in all but the most extreme situations. I think you would be right to be seriously considering whether unsupervised contact is of any benefit to your DD.

spudalicious Mon 23-Sep-13 13:52:41

Yes - I really feel like it is victim blaming.

She said she was doing it a subtle gentle way and still saying that DD was not responsible but that it might make things easier. I still think that saying she is not responsible is not enough if you are showing her you think she is.

WilsonFrickett Mon 23-Sep-13 13:56:01

You know, a friend of mine had serious issues not long after she left uni and went for counselling. She took her mum for moral support in the first introductory session. The counsellor was awful. After the session DF's mum said 'You know, if you had told me how bad that counsellor was I wouldn't have believed you. I would have thought you were exaggerating to get out of doing the sessions. You aren't going back.' (she did find another counsellor who helped her greatly).

My point being, like anything in life there is good and bad. This counsellor quite honestly sounds bad to me. I would remove your DD from her service.

IShouldNotBeHere Mon 23-Sep-13 13:57:31

Its the sort of advice you might give to an adult to protect their child, not the other way around.

Its hard enough as it is for the children of alcoholics. They usually end up taking on a parenting role of the sick adult. But Im sure you know this.

IShouldNotBeHere Mon 23-Sep-13 13:59:10

Wilson. I had a bad counsellor recently. I kept thinking the problem was me even though my instinct was telling me he was rubbish and actually making things worse. (Should listen to my instinct more)

spudalicious Mon 23-Sep-13 13:59:32

Belchica (SP changed that to belching - just caught it though!) - there is no reason he can't be. He thinks it's 'fucking stupid' that she is seeing one and that they are all 'rune-shakers' but I am going to tell him what the counsellor has told me. I have to pick my moment though - when he is mostly sober and not raging at me. I don't suppose it will make a difference though - me telling him has had no effect.

To be fair she offered to follow up with him and I'll tell him that too but me just giving her his number would result in him phoning me and accusing me of ambushing him with the situation.

buildingmycorestrength Mon 23-Sep-13 14:06:46

Spud, the counsellor is completely wrong and your husband is being a total prick who should absolutely be told in no uncertain terms to shape up during contact or it stops.

If the counsellor can't see that she is being unprofessional and you should consider asking to see how she interprets child protection, and ask for a new counsellor. Your daughter might be better off without either dad or counsellor.

I am very angry on your and your daughter's behalf. angry

Oh, and this is just my opinion, not a professional in this field, don't know all the ins and outs, etc <disclaimer>.

LaRegina Mon 23-Sep-13 14:10:10

I agree absolutely that you DD should not be made to feel responsible for her father's 'issues'.

I may be speaking out of turn here, but IMO, your daughter is not old enough to know what is best for her. She will love and want to see her dad whether he is emotionally abusing her or not; sadly children do not just turn off their emotions because it would be better for them to sometimes sad. It sounds to me like you need a better framework to give any contact your ex has with your DD more structure and formality, and the support of other people being around them. Hopefully then he will realise he has to behave himself or risk losing out completely.

Are you happy with contact taking place in your home with no other adult around? If you trust your H enough that's fine, but if you don't, could you look into having contact take place at a contact centre or other neutral setting with maybe another family member (one you trust) also attending? I would say that your DD has already suffered enough manipulation at this man's hands and needs to be protected from any more. Could you tell your solicitor that you want a review of contact arrangements as they are not working as they are?

And with regards to the counsellor - she sounds completely unprofessional and I would stop the sessions immediately in your position.

I hope you manage to sort this out somehow smile

LaRegina Mon 23-Sep-13 14:12:20

building absolutely I agree that the DD could well be better off without any contact whatsoever but sadly it seems an absent parent can get away with just about any behaviour; all because it is supposedly 'in the best interests of the child' to keep in contact with both parents....

buildingmycorestrength Mon 23-Sep-13 14:15:07

People don't understand that maintaining contact may well be better when there is no dysfunction, just the sad ending of a marriage, but bring in abuse, addiction, etc... sad.

EldritchCleavage Mon 23-Sep-13 14:21:50

Sounds like a shit counsellor. You can say this to an adult, and it's pragmatic advice. But to a 7 year old? Completely wrong-headed, in my opinion.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 23-Sep-13 14:22:36

My DD was 8 when she ha counselling when my marriage ended to her
Dad. There was alcohol and an affair with DD satying over with OW staying over night 3 days after he left.
He has cried and told DD he misses her an he is so lonely.
The one thing the counsellor has reiterated to DD over and over again is that it is not her job to make Daddy happy, only Daddy can do that. This what I would expect from a counsellor. She also reassured DD that it was okay to be sad and cry about all of this, but in no way was it her responsability. This was also a school counsellor.

LaRegina Mon 23-Sep-13 14:23:31

There are so many cases like this, and many much worse sadly. I have always said that in cases of abusive ex-partners, contact should never be an assumed right - the onus should be on the abusive parent to prove they can behave themselves on a regular and long term basis, rather than for the resident parent to have to prove there might be problems and to have to fight tooth and nail just to keep their child safe sad

LaRegina Mon 23-Sep-13 14:24:11

Sorry will get off my soapbox now blush

WilsonFrickett Mon 23-Sep-13 14:31:05

Sorry to hear that Ishouldnotbehere. It's a real issue for me, because poor counselling can make people worse, it's not even a case of people staying in the same situation, it can make them go backwards. As I think it will do in OP's DD's situation angry

spudalicious Mon 23-Sep-13 16:33:13

Thanks all. Am impressed by consensus! I am going to speak to ex about his behaviour and what the counsellor said and am going to speak to school about the counsellor and follow up with them.

cestlavielife Mon 23-Sep-13 16:47:37

what lonecat said..
counsellor is wrong .
what training has she had?

" is not her job to make Daddy happy, only Daddy can do that. This what I would expect from a counsellor. She also reassured DD that it was okay to be sad and cry about all of this, but in no way was it her responsability. ."

dds also have had family therapy and they were never ever told/asked/suggested to do something to make dad happy.

it is so wrong on all levels

she cries because He does the crying first right?
so why is he not being advised to keep HIS emeotions in check ?
he is the adult.

"He regularly gets sad and cries or shouts at me when he leaves.... This obviously distresses my DD and so both of them end up crying "

the crying instigator is the DAD not the DD .
consellor has got it so wrong.

you coudl speak to counsellor and make sure she understands the sequence of events. who is crying first.... .
but really dd needs a dierent counsellor...

cestlavielife Mon 23-Sep-13 16:50:37

and op it is probably pointless you asking him to change.
if he abisve he ahrdly goign to lsiten to you...best you can do is usher him out asap and have him cry outside...

or you going to ahve to cahnge to he sees her outside your home so drops off can be amde easier and quickr.

you coudl say - if he wants to conitnue to visit at your hosue he has to cut the crying.
one more chance - otherwise visits/contact HAVE to be elsewhere . so you can get dd in and he can go cry elsewhere

JamieandtheMagicTorch Mon 23-Sep-13 16:58:43

spudalicious

A nice but missguided/inexperienced counsellor is no use to your DD. I think you should stick to your guns. You speak perfect sense

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