XP, his new relationship, and my poor little DS(15 Posts)
DS recently made some pretty grim revelations about his stays with XP and the new girlfriend. They argue all the time, shouting and swearing all hours; the girlfriend hit XP; she threatens to call the police and have XP taken away; DS has been woken up by the arguing and not been able to get back to sleep until it finishes. It was this latter that brought it to a head I think - he was exhausted all day at school and told me that evening. This was the first I'd heard of him being unhappy to stay at his dads. I did know that XP and new GF had an incredibly dysfunctional relationship but I didn't give it much thought because it wasn't my business and I, apparently naively, assumed XP would be shielding DS from it as she did not live there and DS is only there twice a week. I agreed with him (DS) that he didn't have to stay there for now, and tellingly Mr Argue-The-Toss-About-Everything complied without debate. I have since heard from a mutual friend who lives very close to XP that one night things got so bad the police were indeed summoned to remove the GF and that XP trashed his flat so badly DS had to spend the morning with mutual friend while XP dealt with it.
(God it is horrifying looking at this all typed out like this)
DS behaviour has been pretty hideous over the last few months but I've just had a baby with new partner and i put it down to that - bought some parenting books and felt awfully guilty and miserable and so on. Since he told me about this he's been like a different child - well more accurately he is the same child he used to be. So I think I can drop the guilt now (although I think the book has improved my parenting which can only be a bonus!) but today DS had a bit of a turn that looked like it almost bordered on a panic attack, and now I'm wondering if he needs more than help than I can give. It probably goes without saying that my relationship with XP was pretty dysfunctional as well, but DS was 3 when it ended and although he had been starting to show signs of suffering as a result of his environment he did seem to recover quickly and has been a happy child since.
So I'm wondering really if anyone has any similar experience and can help me understand what I need to do to make sure I'm adequately supporting DS through what seems like a really difficult, scary time for him? I'm not sure what will happen about access either - XP is content with no overnight stays at the moment but DS loved going to stay with his dad and I'm so cross that XP cant put him first for two measly nights a week. I'm sorry this is all rambly and incoherent, I'm just so cross and sad for DS who is such a lovely boy and deserves so much better. It makes me feel sick thinking of him lying terrified in bed over there with all that going on in the next room. Do I need to get him some professional counselling even, maybe? Would I just approach my GP for that? I have to go out shortly but will be back later and just so grateful for any suggestions.
Sorry to hear what ds has been through, it must be so upsetting for you all.
A really good book to add to your shelves is When Dad Hurts Mom. It is more set up for children witnessing abuse within your relationship so it won't all be relevant. But it should make you feel better because it stresses the best thing you can do to help them recover is to live in a safe, calm, loving environment. Has bits about how to let them process what has happened etc.
I think it is really important to tell him he did the right thing by telling you what happened and that he wanted to stop overnights. And that what ex and his partner were doing was wrong, the fault lies with them. Once he starts to miss his dad he might feel guilty about what he has done. Can you arrange Skype or days out with his dad (if you think it is safe)?
Yes I'd go to GP, some areas have access to family therapy. Maybe mention it to his school in case they can help too?
I don't want to make you feel responsible but the new sibling could have thrown him a bit too, so if you can, make sure you get some one on one time with him regularly. Let him pick what to do as feeling he has no control over what the adults are doing will be scary for him.
Take care of yourself as well as you need to be strong for him and the rest of the family.
Thanks Purple - I've ordered the book and some great advice there, much appreciated. I don't doubt the arrival of new baby has had a big impact but he does seem to have coped well and absolutely adores her. I will have a chat with his teacher and our GP in the week.
Sorry that sounds hard. My DCs have had similar experiences at their dad's recently - not quite as bad I don't think as the police haven't (to my knowledge at least) been involved at all. But it has got as far as screaming rows between my ex and his DW in the middle of the night, and things being thrown at each other. DD cam back today saying she'd had a bad night as they'd had a row at 11pm and her dad had moved her to the living room to sleep as a result (she normally shares with him and DW)
This happened before a year or so ago. I didn't stop contact (though can completely see why you did - as I said I think maybe you've had things worse than we did) but I did speak to my ex about it. Like yours, he was pretty meek and apologetic about it. Guess it is hard if your relationship's in a mess to just decide when to have your rows. Anyway, I asked ex if he wanted to keep on having them as much as he did, and he said he did. I then said if he ever wanted to not have them or for me to come and pick them up any time in order to protect them from fights, then that was fine. He did once bring them back early in the midst of a row with his DW.
My DCs do find it hard. DS tells me very little but DD (9) tells me when they've been rowing and tells me if it's upset her. She's worried they'll split up and she'll lose contact with her baby brother I do also worry what kind of a view she's forming about marriage and relationships. Just have to hope I can do better myself to show her a better way of treating your partner.
But it's not a situation you can do much about. Their relationship with their dad is important - I don't want to stop them seeing him. But you have no control over your ex's new relationships.
The other thing I do do is to make a point of asking the DCs regularly how their dad and DW are getting on. To make sure they do get the chance to tell me when there are problems.
Daytime only contact sounds a good option for you for the time being at least. Hopefully he'll sort things out one way or the other with his DP.
Yes I think you can get counselling for your DS if he seems really stressed or is having panic attacks. I think you speak to your GP first, or you could try the school nurse.
wow your poor ds, but you know you sound amazing and really intent on helping him that alone is the best start!
Could you talk to school? they were the first people i spoke to when dd's behaviour deterioated due to her fathers behaviour, they have an onsite counsellor though and it really helped if nothing else they might be able to point you in the right direction x
Thank you. I will definitely have a word with his teacher in the week and see what she has to say. She was keeping an eye on him anyway, with the new baby arriving, and hasn't flagged up anything untoward so I hope that means it's not affecting his school at the moment, but hopefully she can point me in the direction of further help for him as well.
Purplesroses, it's interesting that you say you make a point of asking questions about what's going on at dads. I had consciously avoided anything more really than 'did you have a nice time' because I thought it might be unhelpful to seem like I was probing - but in light of what's going on I need to rethink that as DS obviously struggles to share things he needs to talk about. It's good to know it helps your children.
As far as access goes, as long as DS is happy I think I will leave it at daytimes for now and let XP broach the subject of starting overnights again when he thinks he's sufficiently sorted his priorities/life/whatever. It does mean he'll only see his dad once a week instead of twice, so I might set up a skype account so they can videochat once a week.
Thanks again. Greatly appreciate the input although it is sad to hear of all these children having to put up with crap like this.
It is hard - but unless you do something like report this to the Social Services or bring the matter to the attention of a court there is not a lot you can do.
I emphathise - my ex moved in with her new bloke within months of abducting him, taught our son to call him `Daddy' (and me by my first name) and they both smack him whilst denying it.
If I reported it however I would be labelled as `controlling', cut out of his life and unable to protect him at all.
I don't think I have enough concrete information to do anything like approach SS or the courts at this point but will see what the professionals say when I speak to them (teacher & GP). I sincerely hope the situation is not that severe but am well aware I don't know the half of it. I am willing to do whatever it takes to protect DS from his dad's crap and if that means Social Services then so be it. I just don't understand how XP can't see how destructive this is to DS and want to protect him from it. I've been told to just 'slowly freeze him out' of DS life but I can't and won't do that - I think even a pretty shit dad is better than no dad and tbh there is part of me that suspects XP would just love that anyway - none of the responsibility of parenting and all of the sympathy of 'she took my precious child away' and damned if I'll give him the satisfaction. I've decided he can collect DS and take him out for the day for his access, rather than me dropping DS up to his flat where he just plays sodding Minecraft all day - so I wouldn't be surprised if the increased effort required by XP is too much for him and the visits trail off on his part. I do hope not though, DS loves him so much and that will hurt him so badly. ARGH poor DS honestly he is just such a NICE boy, I just think I failed him so badly by having XP for his dad [sigh]
Sorry I meant to also say I'm really sorry about the smacking going on at your exs. It must be very difficult for you. If I got wind of XP or his girlfriend laying a finger on DS I expect I'd end up in prison for assault myself.
I think the day visits and skype are a good idea. I
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I dont think it would benefit ur ds to b complately cut off from his dad.
The day visits should just b him & his dad for the moment as well.
DS now has his very own Skype account (bugger having XP on my own contacts, and DS is obviously supervised while doing internetty stuff).
I agree it wouldn't help to just cut off their relationship, but it's hard to know what the right course of action is. It's my responsibility to look after DS wellbeing, which his dad is compromising! How do you reconcile that with helping him to maintain the relationship with his dad?! Of course what we really need is for XP to get a grip and sort his life out, but it'll be a cold day in hell...
It's really tough isn't it? I think you're striking as good a balance as you can between supporting the relationship between them but doing your best to protect your DS from witnessing stuff that's going to distress him.
Hopefully your ex will sort things out, but then I thought that mine had done that a year back - he even told the DCs that they'd sorted out their differences - but now more fights.
Do think from what you say though that your ex probably is aware that it's not good for your DS - as you say he put up no opposition to not having him overnight. And I'm sure I can't be the only person on this board who can remember their own relationship falling apart and not always managing to keep the rows out of earshot of the DCs .
Best if you can stay on reasonable terms with your ex as it's better if you can agree together what you need to do to keep DS safe from it all - and accept that neither of you wants DS to witness fights. As the alternative is to have your ex start fighting you for contact, denying what's been going on, putting pressure on DS to cover it up (whilst you put pressure on him to tell you), etc - which in itself would also be very distressing for your DS. But do completely understand how frustrating it is to see your DCs hurt by a relationship that you have no control over.
Thanks Purpleroses. It's nice to hear people think that the way I'm dealing with it is okay. You've neatly articulated my concerns about falling out with ex over this. I'm pretty sure he does know how bad it is as he has been unnaturally polite and compliant since this came to my attention. I think the thing is that ex is an abusive twat, so while I know it was terrible that DS did see or hear us argue towards the end - this is almost reassuring in that it demonstrates that the problem lies with ex and not me because I am sure as hell not replicating those patterns in my new relationship. I also cling to the knowledge that you do the right thing in leaving and demonstrating that it's not an acceptable way to behave/be treated. Anyway I am doing my bit to keep things smooth because you're right, the last thing I want is to make into a battle with DS in the middle.
I've been to the school today and had a chat with DS teacher who is going to refer him onto the school's counselling service. She also told me that our area has great resources for families so I'm going to check those out, and will have a chat with my lovely health visitor when I next go to the baby clinic as I know she knows oodles about this kind of stuff, and she was my health visitor when DS was a baby too, she remembers him fondly. I was pleased to find that teacher had nothing to report other than that DS is 'such a lovely boy' <melt> so it's not affecting him noticeably at school which can only be a good thing. I've also had a chat with him about how well he did to tell me about it, how hard it is to talk about feelings and how good it is that he did, all that sort of things. He's enthusiastic about seeing someone who can help him with his feelings.
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