Mumsnetters aren't necessarily qualified to help if your child is unwell. If you need professional help, please contact your GP or local mental health support services.
Mumsnetters aren't necessarily qualified to help if your child is unwell. If you need professional help, please contact your GP or local mental health support services.
Child mental health
uncomfortable about questions counsellor asking
worriedmama72 · 22/01/2022 12:55
I'm looking for advice and hopefully others experiences as I'm worried about something my 13 year old DD's counsellor has asked her. She has counselling because of difficulties in her relationship with her Father (my ex), there's a massive backstory but I'd prefer not to go into it. The aim of the therapy is to help her deal with overwhelming feelings she has thus far been unable to and have caused a lot of anxiety, outbursts, lack of sleep etc.
The therapist apparently asked her if her Father had an affair with her step mother. This led to her confronting me with the question and outlining that from her point of view the timeline of our separation, their marriage etc did not add up etc. In short, she had already reached the conclusion her Father may have had an affair.
Is anyone able to help me understand why on earth a child therapist would ask this kind of question or what the therapeutic value doing so would be? This has opened a huge can of worms, more questions and I cannot see how this ''helps'' her or supports a better relationship with her Father. It feels unethical.
Caughtavibe · 22/01/2022 14:01
I think it’s relevant.
If she’s having issues with her relationship with him the counsellor was probably trying to pin point if she’s angry because he cheated on you/broke up the family.
Ohsugarhoneyicetea · 22/01/2022 15:10
Because she already suspected it and therefore having it confirmed rather than covered up and denied is preferable to gaslighting her. I think allowing her to talk about her reality, how its impacted her, and letting her know its acceptable to feel how she does about her father is really important. Some parents dont deserve their childrens unconditional love. The goal is for her to understand what a good relationship is, what is unacceptable and to be able to identify poor behaviour in future relationships. Its great that you are helping her to do this.
Sirzy · 22/01/2022 15:12
The questioning has helped your daughter to talk about an issue that was obviously playing on her mind. As tough as that is right now long term that will hopefully help her.
For counselling to work often the can of worms does need to be opened a bit to get to the cause of the issues.
NoSquirrels · 22/01/2022 15:17
If the counselling is specifically to unpick issues in her relationship with her father, then the background to her father leaving the marriage is relevant, I’d think.
Why are you worried by this?
oncemoreunto · 22/01/2022 15:17
For your dd to have a relationship with her father she needs some space to honestly reflect on what has happened in the timeline of their relationship.
Over time she may separate her feelings for her father as a father over her feelings about him as husband to you.
But to do this it may help to be able understand how he has behaved while he was living with her and since he moved out.
Counseling is opening cans of worms, it is often messy at the start.
NoSquirrels · 22/01/2022 15:21
This has opened a huge can of worms, more questions and I cannot see how this ''helps'' her or supports a better relationship with her Father. It feels unethical.
In counselling things often get worse before getting better. From your POV the counselling is to help her have a better relationship with her father. But she can’t have that relationship if it’s built on lies or half-truths. Anger and overwhelming emotions are coming from somewhere, to deal with those the counsellor needs to let her express uncomfortable things.
I can see it would be confronting and embarrassed and painful for you to discuss private things that hurt you in your marriage, but you can’t shut that door entirely if you want her to understand her father and reconcile her emotions about the split and her relationship with him.
worriedmama72 · 22/01/2022 16:00
Thank you so much to all that have replied. I am careful to make sure she knows that it is ok to feel however she feels about her Father. I'm just not sure that any affair he had is material and it rather feels like pouring petrol onto a fire to introduce the suggestion this may have happened. It's reinforced a sense that she already has that he ''rejected'' her and continues to do so - despite the fact they see each other regularly and always have since we split when she was a toddler. She was angry that I 'mis-led' her by indicating to her as a very young child that we mutually agreed to separate. As I say, this led to more (worse) questions, the answers to which do not portray her Father in a positive light. My reluctance / refusal to answer was taken by her as an answer in itself. This left me little choice to either lie or to be honest in the most conservative way I could as I feared what she might fill into those blanks if I did not. I worry this discussion was not good for her and I may have made things worse. All of this appears to have stemmed from the therapy & I cannot see what good will come of it.
worriedmama72 · 22/01/2022 16:05
@NoSquirrels Thank you, I should clarify she was so young she has no memory of our being together. This was all over a decade ago.
I am not concerned for my own comfort rather my fear is that new knowledge that she would otherwise never have had makes the situation worse.
Eatsleepgamerepeat · 22/01/2022 16:11
From your update, it sounds like you and/or her partner haven't been 100% honest with her about the reasons why your relationship has ended. It sounds like you have been intentionally trying to avoid this conversation or control how much information she has to try and protect her. But it's not working. She is at an age now where she can find out the truth in an age appropriate way. In order for her to trust her parents, she needs more than anyone for you both to be honest with her.
It will be uncomfortable for you to dig it all back up again. But she deserves the truth.
Eatsleepgamerepeat · 22/01/2022 16:13
I also want to say that you may not think it's important or relevant, but she is telling you that it is to her. You don't get to decide.
Tal45 · 22/01/2022 16:29
Time to stop trying to protect her and her father and be honest about the whole thing. She feels like her life has been a lie and that is not a nice feeling. You need to explain to her that she was very young when it all happened and so it wouldn't have been appropriate for her to know exactly what happened but if she feels like she needs to know now then you are happy to be honest with her about it.
When you explain be clear that it was you he was leaving/didn't love any more, not her, and remind her that he has seen her consistently ever since.
worriedmama72 · 22/01/2022 16:47
@Eatsleepgamerepeat I am in no way suggesting it is for me to define what is important or relevant to her. I don't deny having tried to avoid this type of conversation or having tried to control what information she has but not for my own comfort but to protect her from things that would be considered harmful (the affair aside that is). This question however led to many more all focused on his conduct to me. I am still struggling to understand why this therapist felt it helpful to go there or what this achieves to unleash this line of inquiry. It feels reckless.
Roseau18 · 22/01/2022 17:22
Can you ask for a joint session where you explain to your daughter with the councellor there?
WildPoinsettia · 22/01/2022 18:32
You want her to have an improved relationship with her father. That's what you want. Have you considered the possibility it's not what she wants? Maybe the feelings she has for her father means she doesn't want to have any relationship with him. Either right now, whilst she works through this, or perhaps permanently. Maybe to consider a relationship she needs answers, the truth about what happened. It's her life and her decision.
You should face the fact she's growing up to be the person who she is, which isn't necessarily the person who you want her to be. You say you want what's best for her and I don't doubt that, but I do wonder if you're going about it in the wrong way. A misguided sense of trying to protect her maybe.
All your posts scream out that you want her to suppress her emotions and "be fine" with things so that she can have the improved relationship with her father that you want her to have. Maybe this is a subconscious desire on your part and you aren't aware of it. Maybe suppressing her feelings is what's lead to her failing mental health in the first place.
Therapy isn't about learning to tolerate the bad things people do. How many women on these boards growing up with less than ideal parental relationships and ending up in abusive relationships themselves? Going into the rights and wrongs of how decent respectful loving people behave with her therapist could help her to not end up another domestic abuse statistic. It's natural then to look back at the past with the new knowledge and start seeing things differently and to question past experiences. She grew up with the narrative that you both fell out of love and now you live separately. She grew up with a lie, it would seem. Your mistake is in thinking it would never come out. It's not the therapy that's the problem, it's the lie and perhaps her father's behaviour at the time too.
You're speaking as if her emotions are the sole problem. As if she's having overwhelming emotions and outbursts and anxiety, therefore she has a problem to fix, so that she can have the relationship with her parents that her parents want her to have. That's putting it all onto her, which isn't fair. Yes, ultimately she's responsible for her emotions and behaviour, but that doesn't mean she has no right to have questions or to want answers, or to perhaps want something different from what her parents want. Your failed relationship with her father has harmed her psychologically. You don't get to decide when, how or even if she gets over it.
NoSquirrels · 22/01/2022 19:21
It's reinforced a sense that she already has that he ''rejected'' her and continues to do so - despite the fact they see each other regularly and always have since we split when she was a toddler.
That feeling stems from something. She needs to understand and articulate it to get to the root of it. In a way he did ‘reject’ her, yes? He left his marriage - and her - to live with someone else.
She was angry that I 'mis-led' her by indicating to her as a very young child that we mutually agreed to separate.
You did mislead her. Through the best of intentions, undoubtedly, but you ‘indicated’ it was a mutual decision- and it wasn’t. She’s sensed this lie throughout her life and she’s struggling to process what is the truth and who is telling it.
As I say, this led to more (worse) questions, the answers to which do not portray her Father in a positive light.
If there is more to the split than just an affair, which you hint at, then perhaps trying to fix her feelings about her father - to convince her he’s a good guy, a good father - is actually inappropriate? Perhaps she deserved a less sanitised version in order to make sense of her life.
I assume that, like most separated parents, you aren’t in a position to observe their relationship with each other, their interactions (and have not been for a long time if you split when she was a toddler and now she’s a teen). Perhaps he’s not a good father? Having contact doesn’t mean much if it’s not supporting good interactions. If he’s controlling, for example, or cold, or unreliable in some way, then are her feelings justified? If you don’t think they are, why not?
I think you’d probably benefit from a counselling session too, if only to understand where the therapist is coming from.
worriedmama72 · 22/01/2022 19:29
@WildPoinsettia She has grown up with a lie yes. This is a lie that I was advised by social workers, and the court, that it was not in her best interests to know of the abuse her Father subjected me to. I was advised that a child should be protected from adult matters. This has been reinforced to me every time the courts have been involved since the original time. It is a lie I agree with because I don't want her to know these things. I accept that is what I want and want she wants / needs is separate. I was also told it is absolutely crucial that she have a good relationship with her Father and it is my role to support that. I want to support my child and do what is right by her. I have taken the guidance of professionals onboard and tried to follow it. I cannot understand where the idea such things happened came into her mind - only 3 people know aside from the professionals involved including myself and her Father. She was too young to recall, he would never admit to this and I have certainly never given her any indication that might suggest he was abusive. Regardless you are right, I have no right to define anything for her and if it appears that I am then I need to take that on board and step back.
I thank you for your comments, blunt and difficult as they are to read they are helpful. You've certainly given me a lot to think about. I am now questioning my entire approach to this and I am not sure what else to say as.
LowlyTheWorm · 22/01/2022 19:36
I think you were badly let down by those people telling you that your story wasn’t important and that you had to hide what he did. Abuse is awful and I’m sorry you had to go through that, but it can be discussed rather than hidden from children….but on a simple level like. Daddy was being unkind and hurt mummy…and then added to at the age appropriate time.
You say she was too young to recall- yet I have memories from the summer I was 18 months. So is she really too young to recall?
Allow the therapy to work and perhaps ask if a joint session would be appropriate or therapy to support you to support dd.
worriedmama72 · 22/01/2022 19:43
@NoSquirrels As I have tried to explain in my reply above, I have tried in earnest to do as I was advised was in her best interests.
She has felt rejected for year for reasons completely unrelated to this information. She has struggled with his behavior, his expectations of her and disinterest (as she sees it) in her.
I am not in a position to observe their relationship at all. All I have is her reflections (and behavior) when she returns from her time with him. When very little she seemed to much enjoy her time with him but it soured from ~ age 7 onwards and has just deteriorated since. I won't go into details but her chief complaint in recent years is his controlling ways, her sense 'he does not care' how she feels and how she feels ''punished'' if she does not do / behave as he wishes. I am not saying her feelings about his behavior towards her are not justified - they are and I make sure to call out inappropriate behavior on his part. He has been told he needs to stop, that he is damaging her and that she is struggling emotionally. Her relationship with him is poor, it is in tatters and it is tearing her apart. The therapy (and direction to him to adjust his behavior) aims to repair what is a very broken relationship. It was a mess without this information hence why I was questioning the value of adding it.
oncemoreunto · 22/01/2022 20:16
What it shows is pattern of behavior from her dad.
Knowing this could help depersonalize for her some of the emotionally abusive controlling behavior he is engaging in.
If for example she partly blamed herself for the state of relationship being able to honestly assess what the nature of his other relationships are and were could help reduce her personal feelings of blame.
It may be that what a healthy relationship with her father looks like in the future is a more boundaried and limited one.
Catsstillrock · 22/01/2022 20:46
Men that are controlling and abusive to their partners are highly likely to be so to their children.
She is right to dislike his behaviour.
She is entitled to back off from their relationship or end it entirely if she chooses to.
It sounds like he hasn’t owned his mistakes or daughter to change at all.
Support her exploration of what’s going on, and whatever choices she makes armed with full information.
Maybe watch Maid on Netflix to help see her position / point of view.
Catsstillrock · 22/01/2022 20:47
Hasn’t owned his mistakes or tried to CHANGE at all, that should say
Clymene · 22/01/2022 20:53
So he's a controlled and abusive man who is behaving exactly the same way with her as he did with you? While the advice at the time of your relationship ending may have been intended to prevent parental alienation, your daughter is now a teenager.
I think the suggestion to ask the therapist if you can have a joint session is an excellent one. She is old enough to know the truth (in an age-appropriate way). The big risk if you continue to lie is that she will feel that she can't trust anyone or anything. And she needs to trust at least one of her parents.
worriedmama72 · 22/01/2022 21:16
Thank you for all the replies. I answered her questions honestly, albeit conservatively, as it was clear to me at the time that she needed answers. She knows now that he did not treat me well, still does not. I was shocked by the fact her therapist asked about the possibility of an affair and it felt to me that was the springboard which led to the other questions. I have been worried I did something wrong and made her situation worse. His relationship with his wife appears to be happy, but I am not really in a position to judge.
If it helps her de-personalize the dynamic with her Father, develop healthier boundaries with him and not be so negatively impacted by his behaviour then maybe this is a blessing in disguise. I appreciate all the replies, thank you so much.
villamariavintrapp · 22/01/2022 21:33
So the truth is that he's a horrible/abusive man who is now treating her as he treats everyone. But because of the lies she believed that he was a nice/good man treating her badly. I think that must have been very confusing for her growing up, wondering why/what she did wrong etc. No wonder she's been losing sleep! I'm sorry but I think you were given poor advice at the time, lying hurts everyone, but I know you were doing your best. Hopefully once she's had a chance to process all of this she'll feel better.
Clymene · 22/01/2022 21:56
I would also be honest about why you did what you did. Maybe not now but she needs to know that you were following professional advice. I think it's very poor advice personally and certainly not in children's best interests but I vehemently disagree with children being forced to maintain relationships with abusive men.
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