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Irrevocably damaged parent child relationship?

(5 Posts)
OneLadyOwner Thu 07-Dec-17 01:32:32

I am looking for some insight into my situation. Not sure whether to post here, on the MH board (possibly triggering) or in Relationships, but this seems the best fit.
When DD1 (7) was very little, DP suffered a major depressive episode with periods of psychosis. His recovery has been slow, with some shorter relapses into depression and anxiety, but overall, with medication, counselling and learning to manage triggers (such as changing seasons) he is well. However, it has been tough for us, the first few years of DD's life in particular, during which I was effectively DP's carer for long periods, and he was at times quite unstable. DD did at times see, despite our best efforts to shield her from it, DP at his worst (unresponsive with depression, crying, agitation, acute anxiety). Our relationship has suffered in as much as I am always aware of the possibility of a relapse. DP still gets overwhelmed easily and will regularly take himself off someplace quiet, even if he's in the middle of doing something.

DD1 is wary of her dad. If you saw them together, you wouldn't think anything was amiss; DP adores her, they play and talk a lot, she enjoys doing 'jobs' with him, confides in him and is comfortable to argue with him about homework and meal preferences etc.
But she'll sometimes say things like "Is daddy coming home for dinner? Urgh..." or "Will daddy be coming to the Christmas fair? Oh no..." When I ask her about it, she says she doesn't like him. When drawn on it, she has mentioned the odd incident from the past: "I didn't like it when daddy made that scary face when he cried." If the two of us disagree within earshot of DD1 she gets very worried and says "Why don't you just split up?" It is as if when they're actually together (which is a lot as he does half school pick-ups and drop offs, and she often chooses to do weekend activities out and about with him), she enjoys his company, but her base-line perception is that she doesn't like him. I should mention, to avoid drip-feeding, that DD2, who is 4, (who has not had the same early experiences of her dad) doesn't have any of this going on at all and has a very sunny perception of him.
My worry is that their relationship is irrevocably damaged and that no matter how much quality time they spend together, she will always feel this way. She is entitled to her feelings and I don't want to coax and cajole her into thinking she 'has to' like her dad. But how do I support her? I have wondered if she's picked up on something about my attitude to him, which makes me feel a bit guilty; I'm not mean or disparaging about him, but I probably do a bit of 'managing' us around him, which may undermine her confidence in him.
Apologies for such a long post, just thought I'd cover all angles.

Andro Thu 07-Dec-17 13:29:37

You start by understanding that your DD1, unfortunately, understands that her dad cannot be relied upon - as you acknowledge with your concern about relapse. I suspect that 'doesn't like' is the closest she can get to articulating 'doesn't trust him not to ruin', and some of that is possibly being fueled by your distrust. She sees him as a destabilizing influence in her life, and that scares her.

None of this is your fault, it's just the way the cards fell! Her relationship with her dad will have been shaped by her experiences, early lessons are learnt well and are rarely forgotten. Give her space to talk freely, be the parent she can rely on. Beyond that, it may be that she will need some specialist help as she gets older to unpick what she is feeling.

OneLadyOwner Fri 08-Dec-17 01:56:50

Thank you for taking the time to respond. You are very perceptive, I actually wrote that I try not to rely on him, but edited it out as I thought the relapse-comment would suffice. And the 'not to ruin' observation is very poignant; I know this is how she feels sad This is so hard to talk about; when DP first became unwell I was painfully aware of the stigma surrounding mental illness, when communicating with workplace, childcare provider etc. But it feels like it's not a patch on trying to talk about dysfunction in ones family. Until finding myself in this situation, I would likely have suggested packing up and leaving, had I read a post like mine. For someone like me, who adored my parents as a child, the thought that DD1 has conflicted feelings about her dad is really sad. I can also tell that she is at best confused by, and at worst resentful of, her younger sister's easy, trusting relationship with him. I feel it is a tricky balancing act, as I want her to feel, like you suggest, that she can share her feelings freely, and that they are completely valid (and indeed to let her know that I can very well understand how she has come to feel like this), while at the same time allowing for the affection she does have for him to also be seen, and to be OK, holding a space for a future awareness that the two can coexist. I worry that she is very 'tuned in' to me, and that her feelings about her dad are informed by her perception of how I feel about him; they came to meet me after work this evening to go for a bite to eat, and mindful of my reflections and your response, I thought I would make explicit how pleased I was to be taken out, how I appreciated DP for his nice initiative and how much I looked forward to an evening out together. DD1's little face lit up and she skipped along, holding his hand all the way to the restaurant, before spending the meal perched on his lap, playing battleships on a napkin and drawing 'mean' cartoons of him. She seemed so relaxed and content, as if it was OK because I had 'declared it so'.
Oh boy, it is another late night rambling. I'm not getting around to checking in with MN until late as this is a busy time for me professionally and I've only just finished the work I brought home...
Thanks again.

sammysoo Fri 08-Dec-17 17:56:53

So, after poor and deteriorating behaviour at school recently. Ds 15 yrs was given consequences until his behaviour has improved. No xbox . His behaviour at school was better but for science where he wont stop taking and even copying the teachers accent. The teacher phoned me twice this week . I warned DS that if behaviour didnt improve in science he wouldnt go to football practice tonight. I got a call from history teacher today saying that he was off task and unfocused. So, although Ds behaviour wax better in science today he wasnt ok in history and so he cant go to his beloved practise tonight. He swore and insulted me and threw the remote control at me so hard it would have broken my nose had he actually had a better aim. I felt frightened as earlier in the week he physically attacked me. The situation escalated with him swearing at me and going mental. The problem is that i am worried that if i dont take a stand with his school behaviour albeit that he did imrpove with one subject . then its the wrong message but his outbursts really frighten me. I dont knowwhat to do for the best and am feeling really trapped. Has anyone come across a good strategy and help for this difficulty and or some therapist for anger management? Thank you

sammysoo Fri 08-Dec-17 17:58:43

Sorry i misposted my message

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