Any advice on how to deal?(10 Posts)
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Last night and this morning was very difficult. DSS (5) stays over 1 night a week and every other weekend. Normally pick up and drop off to school. This was agreed to cut down on problems at handover.
I have never been at handover, but DP's explanation is that his ex is rather manipulative and controlling and at handovers will upset/ lead DSS into playing up and attempt to put DSS in the middle when there is something that she doesn't agree with DP over. As I said, I have no first hand knowledge of this.
Last night was unusual, as due to a work commitment DP had to pick DSS up an hour later, from the Ex rather than School. By the time they got home (15 min car ride) DSS was very upset.
I asked DP what was going on. Apparently DSS was upset when he picked him up. On asking him what was wrong DP was told by DSS that 'all I want for Christmas is you and Mommy to be back together'. DP gently told DSS that this was going to happen but that didn't mean they don't both love him and would always be in his life - trying to re-assure him. This then turned into 'the only wish I have for Santa is that you will let me change my name so that I can be the same as Mommy'. Again DP tried to reassure.
The upset went on all night, in different levels. Every time DSS was asked to do something, or told an answer he didn't like he got upset and teary - turning into full on hysteria at some points. I honestly have never seen a child so upset. He was even sobbing in the middle of the night and this morning - but more in reaction to things not going his way/ being told/ asked to do things.
DP is convinced that this is further manipulation from the Ex, and that DSS would not be thinking these things on his own. DSS was 6 months when they split and so hasn't ever really had any time when they were together - so DP thinks the ideas have been put in his head. DP says that he will continue to reassure DSS, but also will not be swayed by DSS getting teary every time something doesn't go the way he would like or he is asked to do something.
I'm not entirely convinced DP isn't being a but hard on him. His Ex's grandad has just died, and Ex has a history of exposing DSS to very adult themes and situations so I'm wondering whether some of it isn't triggered by that. I'm also worried that DSS is getting upset and don't want him to be getting upset every time he comes over.
Anyone got any advice as to how to support DP and DSS in this?? I just don't know where to begin!
I suggest that your DP seeks the support of either the school or family Dr to find some age appropriate play-led counselling for your DSS.
I believe that all children who are living in a separated family environment benefit from therapy and my own experience is that there are certain ages where DCs struggle more with the realities of life.
It would be great if his Mum is supportive, but even if she isn't, your DP doesn't need her permission (assuming that he has PR) and it will help your DSS not just now but in the future if he learns techniques and skills to express and cope with his emotions.
Sorry, I should have said, because of previous situations (that DP fully believes are down to mainpulation and being exposed to adult situations by the Ex) DP has previously spoken to the school and DSS has been seeing a counsellor for play-led counselling.
Unfortunately DP had to agree this with the school without the Ex's consent, but the school did inform her what was going on. We then went through a little stage where DSS was being obstinate and saying things like 'my counsellor says I don't have to do anything I don't want to, and I don't have to see you (Daddy) if I don't want to'.
We were very at this, as we were under the impression a counsellor at this stage would not identify themselves as such to the child. DP went again a couple of weeks ago and spoke to the Head and Counsellor, who agreed that they had not told him this. They also said DSS was getting on fairly well, however at recent parent-teacher evening, DP was informed that DSS's emotional development is a bit behind where they would expect/ want him to be.
So you can see that there are some questions DP has about what information is being fed to DSS, and how he (DP) could actually do anything to counteract that.
For me, the important bit is about his emotional development. Which is why i'm a bit hesitant about effectively 'brushing off' some of what is said and simply reassuring, and also continuing to firmly make clear when behaviour is not acceptable. I'm wondering if it's all a bit much for him!
I will tell DP to get back in touch with the school and counsellor though. They should know about the Exs grandfather situation, and the fact that he was very very emotional I suppose.
I wouldn't automatically assume that these ideas have come from his mum, I don't remember my parents together but I remember feeling like I wanted them to be together...I wanted a 'normal' family.
I think at his age he's probably now coming to realise that most families consist of mum, dad and child living together.
He's maybe reached an age where he's started to go and play at friends houses and sees that they have mum and dad together and wishes he has the same.
That feeling will probably always be underlying no matter what you do or say, I think it's pretty normal for any child from a separated family to feel like that.
I'm sure with stability and consistency these feelings will subside but when things upset him (like mum and dad arguing at handovers) then those wishes for a 'normal' family may resurface again.
All you can do is carry on loving him and supporting him
Poppy - yes, I did say to DP that it wasn't necessarily his Mum, and it could be more to do with wanting to be the same as other kids at school etc. That's why I wonder if a more, I don't know, investigative (?) approach with him would be better. DP does ask why he feels that way etc and just gets told 'because I do'. I wonder if this is because he isn't yet old enough to verbalise what he is feeling and why, and that maybe we should be doing more to explore it with him? I just wouldn't know how!
The situation between DP and his Ex is quite messy, and I know this doesn't help. Obviously nothing I can do, I don't get involved at all where that is concerned. I'm not convinced it's my place to, and I don't think DP would want me to. The picking up from/ dropping off to school was put in place to avoid all of that happening, and works on the most part.
How do you respond to the question about surnames? I'm not sure he even really understands the situation?
I wonder if this is because he isn't yet old enough to verbalise what he is feeling and why, and that maybe we should be doing more to explore it with him? I just wouldn't know how!
the counsellor will be able to do that much more effectively, and he is more likely to be honest with someone he isn't emotionally attached to, as well.
The thing is, at that age, they make the most unlikely links between things; and things that you think will phase them they take in their stride but other things you don't even notice send them completely off kilter!
Keep the therapists informed as to what is going on, and try to maintain as stable and loving environment as possible for him - we've been battling negativity from DSS mum since he was five, and even now, he has periods where he will seem to reject me or DP and it usually traspires that it is nothing whatsoever to do with us, but linked to something he has overheard, misunderstood or even just assumed his mum things/feels. Regardless of how his mum behaves now, his memories of her being mean about DP has led to a situation where he presumes that his Mum will disapprove or disagree with something, even though she has
very slightly mellowed now.
NADM is right, it's something which the counsellor is best to explore, after all that's what she is trained to do.
DP is 38 and still if I was to ask him if something was wrong or what was troubling him he'd struggle to express his feelings. I'd just get ''nothing, I'm fine'' so to expect a 5 year old boy to be able to verbalise his feelings is a big ask. I can even struggle with it at times and I've been trained in counselling!
Little boys often don't even know their own feelings, they just feel anger and hurt and I think they often don't even know why they feel how they do.
Just carry on supporting him and loving him, maybe get DP to express his concerns to his ex in a mature way eg ''I think us arguing is affecting him, for his sake we need to stay civil in front of him''.
My DSS also was a baby when his parents split up, and has no memory of them being together. We have a great relationship with his mum and her partner, there is no chance she is 'poisoning' him in any way. Yet around age 5 DSS started to suddenly get tearful at handover and say quite often that he wished mummy and daddy lived together.
I think it came from the fact that he was old enough to compare his situation with others for the first time, and realise it wasn't entirely 'normal' (for want of a better word). And having to consciously process all that for the first time. Also before at handover he was too young to have any real concept of time, but he had suddenly started to realise that he wouldn't see mummy or his little sister for a whole three days and making that transition was hard for him. It also worked in the other way, ie tears when daddy dropped him off again and he had to say goodbye.
So I wouldnt assume the ex is necessarily the one prompting all this, to a degree its just natural and to be expecting, though its distressing that he cried all night. The surname thing does sound more suspicious, but again he could easily have latched on to the significance of surnames from something he heard at school.
There's a book called Two Homes by Claire Masurel that's geared towards this sort of thing. I'd really recommend buying it for your DSS - it was my DSD's favourite bedtime book for years.
My DH actually bought a copy for her to keep at Mum's house too.
This little boy and his mum have just suffered a bereavement - it's no wonder he's a little more sensitive and emotional than normal surely? And it isn't rocket science to think that the loss of a grand parent will open up all sorts of thoughts and fears about losing other adults in his life, hence questions about needing mummy and daddy to 'be together' or having the same name as mummy.
I don't think you need to rush into doing anything at the minute, apart from make sure that he's reassured and gets the love and support he needs to get through an emotional time in his life. Maybe point his dad towards some info about childrens reactions to grief and bereavement ?