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How to I teach my children to be safe when their father is drunk?

(61 Posts)
wallypops Fri 25-Oct-13 13:32:42

My DDs are 7.75 and just 9. I was divorced from their dad 5.5 years ago. He was a drunk when I met him although I didn't spot it. He doesn't drink every day, but will manufacture social reasons to drink. One drink and he cannot stop. He is never hung over. He doesn't admit that he has any kind of problem. He doesn't have very many friends, because when he gets drunk he insults them.

We live in France, he is French, and we have been to court 4 times already including the divorce. And apart from the divorce, never instigated by me. If we go back to court again it will have to be the children's choice, not mine. They will need to write to the judge to say why they want to change the current set up and they will then get awarded their own lawyer. If they choose to do this, they will then get to "choose" who they get to spend their time with. This is just the way the system works here, and in general the system is pretty good and I have had way too much experience of it. Before the summer they wanted to do this, but of late they don't seem to want to.

He has the children every other weekend and half the holidays which is standard minimum in France.

They know that there Dad has a drinking problem, but they don't seem to be able to recognise when he is drunk. He used to live with someone who pretty much protected them, but now he lives alone. In the last 10 days I have had telephone contact with him and all 3 times he has been roaring drunk, and on one of those occasions the girls were with him. Generally speaking he is a pretty hideous drunk. The girls recognise "nasty" drunk better than "nice" drunk, but honestly it is screamingly obvious from his voice, eyes, posture - everything.

What can I tell my DDs to keep them safe when they are at his house? I have read up on information, mostly US, but it is more focused at teens, and the language is complicated. They would need to understand about addiction, abuse, that they are at risk of becoming addicts themselves etc in order to get a grip on the information I have found. They used to take a phone with them but he found it and has banned it, and they aren't willing to defy him (he is bloody scary, so I don't blame them).

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 25-Oct-13 13:36:33

You can't possibly expect children that young to handle a drunk grown man. It's a non-starter. They are being neglected and in danger of harm and I'm amazed that you're even thinking this way. I'm sorry but I would go get the kids, call the police, get it on record that he was drunk again and then keep them home. Let him sue you to get supervised access.... Protect your kids.

tethersend Fri 25-Oct-13 13:40:02

The reason that what you have read is aimed at teens and adults is because it is never, ever a child's responsibility to protect themselves from a drunk adult. That is an adult responsibility.

I think you should contact French children's services (or equivalent), this is a dangerous situation for them and they cannot protect themselves.

Glenshee Fri 25-Oct-13 13:40:36

Agree with Cogito. One incident like this is more than enough. It's unsafe and irresponsible to leave your kids with him. Whether he agrees with this or not is not relevant.

Auriga Fri 25-Oct-13 13:44:21

I was left with a drunk when I was 10 and was far too young to keep me and little sibs safe. Luckily I had sense to go to a neighbour.

If he is drunk in charge of your kids they need to be rescued. You cannot make it their problem. It's a police matter.

ImperialFucker Fri 25-Oct-13 13:47:11

What the others have said.

Your children will love their dad but they will be scared and confused if they are with him when he's like that.

It's your job (since he's the problem) to keep them safe. Pick them up, call the police, tell social services.

Shallishanti Fri 25-Oct-13 13:48:00

agree with all the other posters, they cannot keep themselves safe in his company, BUT they perhaps need some guidance on what to do in an emergency, like go to neighbour, go to police...if they really can't call you...can they use a public phone box?
maybe there are organisations for children of alcoholics in France?

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 25-Oct-13 13:48:01

What Cogito stated; this is a complete non starter and the children are at risk.

They do not warrant this in their lives and they should not actually have any obligation to see him at all; they are being let down here.

wallypops Fri 25-Oct-13 13:49:03

This is France, it just doesn't work like that. I have already written to the judge and the only way that the situation can change is if they write to the judge themselves and I cannot make them do it. The police are aware of the situation and the kids are already on the at risk register. If I stop them going I will loose them, and they will either end up with him full time or in care, it is that simple here. Children are almost NEVER taken away from drunk parents here. I am not speaking for the whole of France but the area I am in. Social services are aware of the situation, and I have friends who work in social services. I need advice that I can use, not a judgement or a drama.

The other point is that the children still actually want to go to him.

dreamingbohemian Fri 25-Oct-13 13:49:24

You need to involve social services, not the normal agency but the one that deals with domestic violence and abuse, as well as any charities in your area that deal with these things. I'm also in France and a friend of mine has gotten loads of help from a local agency who helps women deal with abusive exes.

If you are British, contact the consulate in France and see if they can offer any advice or refer you to any specialists. I don't understand why you can't go to court again?

Beyond that, the only thing you can teach your girls is to call the police when their dad is that drunk. Basically: if you're scared, call the police. I would hope this would trigger a readjustment of your arrangements.

Auriga Fri 25-Oct-13 13:49:47

Lots of adults, including doctors and nurses, are unable to tell when a hardened drinker has had too much.

aturtlenamedmack Fri 25-Oct-13 13:50:16

I agree with the other posters.
I understand that you can't go through the courts again but I would involve the police or child services.
If he is drunk in charge of your children they are immediately at risk. They police should be called.
What if there were a fire or one of them were injured?

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 25-Oct-13 13:50:23

The above is Al-anon's French homepage. This site can be readily translated into English.

wallypops Fri 25-Oct-13 13:50:35

The police were also very clear to me that it has to be the kids that call them and not me. The kids know how to call the police, we have talked to the police about this situation.

wallypops Fri 25-Oct-13 13:52:08

Thanks Attila. I'll contact them.

Shallishanti Fri 25-Oct-13 13:53:01

really? they would not respond to a third party call informing them that a child was in danger?

dreamingbohemian Fri 25-Oct-13 13:54:00


I can back up what the OP is saying, France is VERY different from the UK.

I'm not sure what advice you can get though, to be honest. I realise you're in a tough spot but I think people are going to be ethically uncomfortable advising you how to teach your kids to stay safe with such a drunk.

I think all you can do is tell your girls to call the police EVERY time things are bad. When you say the police are aware, what does that mean? I would hope if they show up and see the situation they would at least remove the kids from his care at that time.

ImperialFucker Fri 25-Oct-13 13:54:48

That's terrible - so your 7 and 9 year old children are in danger because they have to stay with a nasty drunk and unless they themselves make a complaint, nothing can be done?

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 25-Oct-13 13:56:14

How does a 7yo write to a judge? hmm Quite honestly I would write the letter & get them to sign it on pain of death. Stuff ethics... their safety is at risk and you have to play the system to the wire. I'm very sure French people don't follow this ridiculous rule literally.

HangingGardenOfBabbysBum Fri 25-Oct-13 13:57:26

They used to take a phone with them but he found it and has banned it, and they aren't willing to defy him (he is bloody scary, so I don't blame them)

You need advice on how vulnerable children negotiate and manage the behaviour of a grown man who is pissed and sometimes angry?

I have been a small child around drunk adults. It is fucking terrifying. I could tell you things that happened that would ensure you didn't sleep while they were with him.

That's fact. Not drama or judgement.

You need to move heaven and earth to protect them. I do not have the knowledge of French Family Law to advise strategy.

Is he rational sober? Could he have the visits chez his family?

But please believe me that they are not, and should not be expected to be, remotely capable of protecting themselves. That is your job.

The very best of luck to you, it must be a nightmare for all concerned.

EldritchCleavage Fri 25-Oct-13 13:58:05

What a very sad situation.

Apologies if you've already thought of/done this:

Can you give each child a pay as you go phone and laminated card with brief advice and then telephone numbers (police, SS, a Childline equivalent) to take with them to their father's?

They need to know it is ok to go to bed or take themselves off away from their father if he is drunk and distressing them, and to stay together. And ring you, of course.

Also discuss with them where they should go if they feel they have to leave the house immediately (and what kind of circumstances should make them feel that). Is there a nearby household they could go to if necessary, and could you prime whoever lives there to agree to take them in?

EldritchCleavage Fri 25-Oct-13 13:58:39

So, just recalled he found the phone. Bugger.

dreamingbohemian Fri 25-Oct-13 14:02:38

People don't realise it, but it's actually still 1953 in France.

No joke, what my friend has been through is absolutely insane, they don't seem to give a fuck about abused women and kids.

My friend left her partner because he was abusive (controlling and physically violent) yet she still needs his permission to take their son more than 50 km from here, even for a day trip. They have 50/50 care and she has to personally do the handovers because there are no contact centres or anything.

When she called the police when he hit her, they showed up, spoke to him and went to leave. She chased after them saying, can't I tell you what happened? And they said, we don't need to, he told us. And they just left!

So I'm not surprised the OP is in this situation. I just don't know realistically what can be done if the kids won't do anything.

wallypops Fri 25-Oct-13 14:06:20

Thanks Elditch. Some of that is in place. They know never to leave the other one, to stick together, to try and stay out of his way. Calling the police is just dialling 17, so we have practised that. They do know people in the village where he lives, so we could talk that one through too.

Twinklestein Fri 25-Oct-13 14:09:26

Have you contacted SOS Femmes & Solidarité Femmes OP?

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