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11 year old daughter's relationship with father

Posted by: Anonymous
Fri 27, Dec 2013 at 3:35pm
After Separation

Hi there

I split with my ex 5 years ago. We have a 50/50 care arrangement, agreed informally. My priority has always been that my kids have a positive relationship with their father. He moved in with his partner a year ago. They both drink but function. I don't think their drinking puts kids in danger.

A couple of weeks ago I told my ex that my kids weren't happy with some of the things his partner says and with her drinking. He said he would ask her not to say those things and not to drink the days the kids come. Then on Christmas day I realised that his drinking may be out of control too. I emailed and said I'm concerned about his drinking and her drinking when the kids are there. I said if I can support him I will. He didn't reply of course.

I also said I think we should go to mediation. I've asked him before to do this because occasionally my daughter asks to stay an extra night with me and he explodes into anger, says I have put her up to it. He seems to be more and more angry right now. Christmas day was awful. My daughter just texted me and asked if I could pick her up from his earlier than arranged. When I texted to ask him if that was agreed with him he said 'no she is confused, it's still 4'.

I don't think it's fair of him to try to control her in this way. But I also want to respect his right as a parent but it's so hard when he doesn't act like an adult.

I feel as if we are all doing what he wants because if we don't he will have a tantrum, and that doesn't seem at all right.

My daughter says she wants to live here but see her dad, she is struggling living in two houses since starting high school. She has a room at her dad's that he is supposed to be doing up. She loves it when he's engaged and nice to her, and she'd love living there too if he could put the extra effort in. She is terrified of stating what she wants because she is convinced he will stop loving her. She also seems to not really know what she wants and who can blame her for that? So hard for her.

My son just wants us all to be happy. He seems really angry with the girlfriend, thinks it would all be great if she was gone, but he can't say anything to his dad because he is scared of upsetting him.

Any thoughts/advice gratefully received.

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  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    That's a really difficult situation for you and your children. It is so obvious you want the best for them. You are also obviously aware that your daughter does love her Dad, you say 'she loves it when he is engaged and nice to her'. So I can imagine how difficult it is for you and for your daughter if it feels like you have to walk on eggshells to avoid him having a tantrum. Difficult as it is, you are right in thinking you need to take action. Mediation may well be the answer. What was his response to your recent suggestion that you go to mediation? If he agrees to this it will be a safe place to renegotiate your care arrangements. You have done so well so far in having successfully managed the care. it is inevitable that there will be ongoing changes in care arrangements as children grow older. If he does not agree to mediation, then it may be that you might get in touch with Womens Aid. at It is better to reach an accommodation informally that suits your daughter as she grows up, but in the end if she is afraid to express her wishes and have them responded to if they are reasonable you may need the help of an outside agency. What do you think?

    Fri 27, Dec 2013 at 5:57pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    Hi there and thanks for reply- it sounds extreme to go to womens aid. He will say I am being a drama queen and being over the top and that makes me wonder if I am. He gets angry and says the kids should just talk to him. I say they can't because he gets angry, that just makes him say well of course I'm angry now.

    But I think my children should be able to say 'can I just spend a few extra nights at mums while I'm settling in to high school', or 'I don't like it when your girlfriend calls me that name, or swears in front of us' . I've tried to gently say I think it would be alright if they said those things nicely but they just won't. And I'm scared to on their behalf because I'm sacred that he'll get angry at them but then maybe I'm just over reacting.

    He has never hit them or me but it just feels scary when he gets angry. He has a really nasty way of talking sometimes. At christmas dinner my daughter was talking about a friend she was having problems with and he said 'just tell her to F Off'. His mum was really shocked; it's just not the way I parent or he was parented which is why I think mediation is needed too. I asked him a few times by email last time and he just absolutely ignored them. It's what he has done this time. I can't say it to his face because I don't want to get shouted at.

    Fri 27, Dec 2013 at 6:22pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    Every time it's time to swap houses before school in the morning, my daughter cries and says she doesn't want to go. Each time I offer to talk to her dad or that she can come to my house instead. She says he will stop loving her if she doesn't go and that he will get angry and that it isn't fair for him. I've tried to say that parenting isn't about being fair for the parent and that he and I want what is best for her. She has said it would ruin her life if I say anything to her dad. I did say to him that they didn't like his partner's drinking and some of the comments she made to them at times. I'm worried this might stop her feeling she can talk to me at all.

    Sat 28, Dec 2013 at 9:53am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I think I can understand why you don't think you can go to women's aid but on the other hand, even though, you say your ex has not been violent, he is using power and fear of him to control the situation. It's already stopping you from talking him directly about the kids.

    Sat 28, Dec 2013 at 4:02pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    Thank you. Yes I thought about this a lot. I so want to see the good side of him, and there is a good side. He really tries to be a good father and really is a lot of the time. But we have all been focusing on his partners drinking and ignoring that he has been acting pretty horribly on and off, or that the kids have to pretend everything's fine when it clearly isn't.

    I spoke to the nspcc. I told them the whole thing about his drinking And her drinking and his anger. The worker said she thought it sounded like the way it was being managed had worked do far but wasn't working any more and things are escalating and things might not really be safe for kids. I don't think they are really. She made a referral to social services. They can assess and decide. I am really scared. Scared in opening a massive can of worms.

    I suggested today that I get the kids at 12.30am on New Year's Eve. I said that I wasn't going to be drinking and I knew he and his partner would be, so I should get them and then there would be no hangovers for kids to deal with. He said no. I said I thought it best and wasn't going to discuss it further and that I still think we should go to mediation. I have never said no to him before. He said 'fine if that's the way you want to play it I won't have them at all'. He also then sent me an email saying I owe him money for Xmas and he will cancel the maintenance payment for January. I haven't yet worked out the final cost of everything and I said I would let him know so it's not fair of him to bully me into that. I have cfs and struggle with mental work but can do things in time. I asked him not to cancel the maintenance payment as it's separate to Christmas presents. I've said if he does that I will go to the CSA.

    I have the children at mine now but they know something is wrong. When I picked them up my ex told my son to stop me coming in ( I never go in the house anyway) and my daughter noticed him talking to me angrily. I've asked them if it's ok to spend New Year's Eve with me and they seem happy about that ( my daughter was worried about sleeping there) but want to know why. My daughter wanted to know what happened and adje if dad was in a mood. I said he was in a mood with me because I was worried about his drinking and I have said that to him. My daughter has been upset on and off all evening. Said at one point her dad has gone. I said I thought maybe its alcohol and tried to talk a bit about that. I don't feel I'm handling it well. At bedtime we just chatted about other stuff and had stories and laughed.

    I'm really worried that my kids will lose their dad. He will punish me by withdrawing from them and blaming me. They will feel pulled in pieces.

    Sat 28, Dec 2013 at 11:10pm
  • Pc Bern Flag

    What a great mum you are - it's so admirable how you try to see the good in your ex and how sensitive you are to this very tricky situation. You really want to make things work well for your children. The fact that he won't go to mediation means that you have had no where to go to sort out the problems so don't let him blame you for seeking help and advice!

    Upsetting though it is, sometimes things have to come to head before they can be sorted. Maybe that's what's happening now for you. I know you're worried that the kids will loose their dad but it sounds like he does care for the children - do you really think he'd abandon them just to get at you?

    Sun 29, Dec 2013 at 7:51pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    No- I don't think he would. I'm just scared of his anger. If he feels he's not getting his way he lashes out. I feel like my suggestion of picking them up after midnight on New Year's Eve wasn't unreasonable. But now he isn't having them at all and it already feels as if that's hard to explain to the kids. I've had to try and explain its because I've asked him and her not to drink. Now they have told me that on Boxing Day a lot of friends came round and they were drinking and swearing a lot. His ex partner was drinking wine out of the bottle at one point. My ex's parents were there. His mum doesn't drink and they never swear. My son said it 'disturbed' him. My daughter said it wasn't great but it was 'fine'.

    Things have never been so bad before. We have all worked around what he wants but I don't think I've really acknowledged it before. He can't control my daughter any more and he can't control me or my son. Things are out of his control and I don't know what else I can do. The kids can't stay there when there's that level of drinking going on. I just feel bad because it's been going on for ages and I should have acted ages ago.

    Sun 29, Dec 2013 at 8:53pm
  • Pc Bern Flag

    I guess if you've never stood up to him before, it is scary. Just because things are bad now, doesn't mean they have to stay like this but how you go about sorting it out is important. Let your ex know that you don't want to come between him and the children but you have to know that they are safe and that their time with him is good quality. No parent would disagree with that.

    Do you have people around you for support? What about his parents - would they back you up?

    Mon 30, Dec 2013 at 9:30am
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    I've let nspcc make a report to social services now. I don't think k I can say an y more to him.

    Mon 30, Dec 2013 at 9:47am
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    I said 2 weeks ago the kids didn't like his partner drinking- he said it would stop. Them when I saw how bad he was on Xmas day I emailed and said I was worried about both their drinking. I also asked him again to go to mediation. No response. I've then emailed to say I want to get the kids after midnight on New Year's Eve. I said I thought it best as they will both be drinking and it won't. He said no. I said I wasn't going to argue but that I wanted to do that and that I didn't want to discuss it more except through mediation- that was the point he said 'fine - if that's the way you want to play it I won't have them at all' since then he's just emailed about money for Christmas as we said we would sort out the final bill by 31st.

    I do not think I can now go back to him. He will just say everything is fine and the drinking is fine. I don't believe it is. I think I need to take action. Am I over reacting? I just hope social services can assess and that they know what they are doing. I have spent years trying to make it all ok for my kids but I can't do it any more. I just don't think they should be around that level of drinking but I do not want to stop them seeing their dad. I do know that's not good for them at any level. I just can't be the one to make it alright any more. It's not working. It's not helping them. My daughter is taking on that role now and I don't think its healthy for her pretending it's all ok but then crying and saying to me 'I don't like it mummy' I don't want to go there' but then saying 'but I want to see my dad'

    Mon 30, Dec 2013 at 10:36am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    If the NSPCC have made a referral to social services . then hopefully you will get some support so that the right decisions are made for the children

    Mon 30, Dec 2013 at 3:42pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    Yes' thank you for your support and advice- it's been really helpful. Feels like a nightmare

    Mon 30, Dec 2013 at 3:49pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    I've come back on as I'm really stressed and I've got nobody to talk to. I usually cope alright with stuff. Been in therapy for a year, learning to manage stress better, look after myself more. But this is really hard. Social Services rang me. The Social Worker said I should have a conversation with him, say i was worried and give him the chance to reassure me, if I was reassured she could close the case and take no action. I spoke to him, said I was worried about his drinking. He said various things 'did I have a spy camera' and how did I know. I said I only knew what the kids told me. He said I shouldn't listen to 11 and 8 year olds. He did say that he and his girlfriend possibly drank too much at times but that he was doing something about reducing that. He said that they may still have a glass of wine at weekends though. When I said 'so just one glass of wine?' he got really nasty. He said 'I'm not going to go through a unit by unit account, is that what you want?' He was swearing throughout. I said I just wanted to know the kids were OK. He said of course they were.

    I also tried to say that the children and I were both scared of talking to him about things and he wanted to know what things. He kept saying 'you have to give me specifics'. I felt so scared. I feel like I've broken my children's trust. I said that my daughter struggles to get to sleep at his house and says she is scared to come down because he might shout. He says that's nonsense. He says she came down the other night and he took her back up and gave her a cuddle. I said yes she said that was lovely but that other times he has said she's being a baby, she just needs to get to sleep on her own and she doesn't need shepherding off to bed. He said well she doen't need mollycoddling. I said I did think she needed some extra support but that our parenting views were so far apart now that's what mediation could help with. He said why is it that she says all the negative stuff. I said because that's what sticks, because she's a kid. Maybe that's what we could talk about in mediation. He said what is this 's**t you keep on about 'mediation'. I said I thought it could help.

    It just kept going round in circles.

    In the end he got nasty over the drinking issue, I'd also asked if I could get them at 10 on Saturday morning after he has them for next three nights. They are back at school on Monday and I need to get them back into a school routine as they have been staying up late. He said he is perfectly capable of getting them up early but I can't get them at 10. I asked why not. He said because it doesn't fit in with him and I shouldn't have talked to the kids about this already (My daughter has been really worried about her sleep so i said I'd ask if I could come and get them early). He said it's typical of me going behind his back. He said and by the way he no longer wants to do xmas and birthdays with me. It would be much easier for me if he didn't- it's incredibly difficult for me getting through those days! But that's just hurting the kids.

    The Social Worker is phoning me today.

    I still have part of me that feels like this is all my fault and I'm over reacting and should just keep quiet and try to keep on managing everything because this is all going to explode into the most horrible mess.

    Am I over reacting?

    Am I mollycoddling my kids?

    Am I excluding him?

    The excluding thing isn't by choice and I wouldn't do if he acted like an adult but it feels like it's an impossible balance to keep. Early on New year's eve.evening i texted him to say I wasn't sure if they would be up at 12 but that I would text if they went to bed early (they usually stay up and whoever doesn't have them speaks to say happy new year), otherwise I'd get them to ring him. He replied 'I don't need to speak to them'. I wasn't thinking about his needs- I was thinking about theirs!

    Thu 2, Jan 2014 at 12:06pm
  • Pc Bern Flag

    Well, considering how hard that conversation must have been, it sounds like you did a really great job. You could easily have avoided raising your concerns but you were honest with him and your children will thank you for that.

    If you take away the emotion and his attitude, some of his responses appear to be positive.
    1. He's accepting that they drink too much.
    2. He's prepared to do something about the drinking
    3. He can be sensitive and loving to your daughter if she can't get to sleep
    4. He's offered another solution to the school routine issue, I.e. He'll get them up early
    5. You both agree that having separate birthdays and xmas's will be better ( children never say no to the prospect of 2 parties and will probably enjoy it more if you're relaxed!)
    6. Maybe his txt re the NY phone call was just meant to reassure you that you didn't have to worry too much about this.

    I'm not saying that you don't have reason to complain about your ex's behaviour but it helps sometimes to keep in mind the things that you do agree on. The bedtime issue is one that lots of parents disagree about it. There's arguments for the 'get tough' approach as well as the other softer approach. (Personally, I'm the softie and my children's dad is the disciplinarian.)

    I think it was v brave of you to tell him that he scares you. Judging from his response, he doesn't recognise what he does that you find intimidating. Can you think of what he could do differently to come across less scary? If you could tell him, ( eg that he doesn't raise his voice or use bad language) then he's got an opportunity to change.

    I think that you're doing a fantastic job in trying to improve things for your children. Have you looked at the Programme on this site yet.? Would be worth a try....just click on Programme on the left hand side of the page.

    Thu 2, Jan 2014 at 5:49pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    How did your conversation with the social worker go?

    Thu 2, Jan 2014 at 8:20pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    I said that I didn't think they were in danger and that, amidst all the nastiness, he has said that he does recognise there is possibly a problem with the drink. I came back on here and the moderators response was pretty similar to my thoughts today. Except that I don't think I should have to take him being so nasty- that's really hard as I worry he is like that to my kids at times too. But that doesn't mean Its bad enough for social services to take any action. I am constantly balancing between a situation that feels rather chaotic but not quite bad enough to take action which could make it worse for the kids if their relationship with their father is further damaged by the authorities getting involved. I asked social services if there were any organisations they could signpost me to for parenting support but they couldn't. I think I just need to give it time and keep watching the situation. I have tried telling him his swearing and shouting at me isn't nice- he just seems to respond by upping it some more until I just say I can't do this and put the phone down. I have said when he gets like it I'm not swearing or shouting or having a go at you. He just says 'what a load of shit' or something similar. I am trying to think its just his defensiveness and hope that he will process it and put his kids first. It is incredibly hard to take all that and still be the one making all the moves to be nice to him when he is being so horrible. I don't actually think I've responded to him with emotion. I think I've been trying to keep it all too nice for a long time and I will go back to doing that. There is no other choice.

    Thu 2, Jan 2014 at 8:38pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    Ps. None of his actions are to reassure me at the moment. I told my daughter he had said not to worry about talking at 12 and he will say happy new year when he sees them. She said 'that's probably because he will be drunk'.

    Thu 2, Jan 2014 at 8:41pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Just to say I think you are doing a great job and sound like a wonderful mother. You have taken the brave action of letting your ex know that there are boundaries he must stick to when he is looking after the kids - you have reminded him that he has to behave like a responsible father and you will put up with nothing less. I can see this has been so difficult for you but nevertheless you have done it for the sake of your children. It does seem he is actually taking notice of you and loves his children. You need to continue with this approach - you don't have to be 'overly nice' be firm but polite and agreeable where possible and try to find a middle path.

    You mentioned parenting support earlier and I was wondering if you have any Children's Centre's in your area - if you go onto your county council website you may find one listed in your area. There are several in my area and they have offer support for parents.

    Fri 3, Jan 2014 at 12:21pm
  • User-anonymous Maria1 Flag

    Since my last post things the situation has deteriorated. I went to Kidscope after your suggestion (took a bit of finding and sorry I didn't get back but thank you) which helped me a bit to get clear about the issues. My daughter got the courage up to say to her dad that she wanted to spend more time here after ringing childline one day. His response was to say 'Just because you want it doesn't mean you'll get it'

    He has become quite punitive toward my daughter in what seems to be an effort to control what he sees as bad behaviour. He has cancelled her phone contract and stopped her allowance. The first time he did that he said it was because she was behaving in an ungrateful and disrespectful manner. I said I thought he needed clear warnings about that sort of consequence and she needed to know what it was exactly she was doing so that she could remedy it. I said I didn't think she was badly behaved, just pre teen. He just told me not to text again.

    She has become increasingly uncomfortable at his house but he won't accept seeing her anywhere else. She has now been spending more and more time at my house and this last time was after she ran off on the way back from his birthday meal and came here. The day before he rang me and became verbally abusive because he hadn't like me asking if the kids were staying at my house (we hadn't arranged pick up and my daughter didn't want to stay there but was scared to tell him- it was my usual night to have them). After his phone call I asked him by text not to call me any more and that we could just arrange things re kids by text or email.

    When she ran off he wanted me to send her back to 'face the consequences' and I said i agreed she shouldn't have run off but I had seen him be nasty to her when he is angry (she tried to have a discussion with him with me there about staying here more and he was just horrible to her, calling her a liar and saying she just liked staying her because I mollycoddle her and she just needed to make an effort at his house and stop being sensitive when his partner 'joked' with her. Anyway I wasn't prepared to send her back to that sort of stuff. I went to collect her school uniform and he'd packed a bag with her bedroom door plaque and ornaments and posters and the calendar from her room. Really hurtful. She then got a text saying her phone was cancelled. He said it was for excessive internet usage. She had gone over her allowance that month but he'd told her not to worry about it before.

    He didn't speak to her or make any attempt to for nearly 3 weeks. She was texting him and he would occasionally answer. Then he said he wouldn't take her on a planned trip to see her grandparents but he will take our son. When I questioned this he says it's not a punishment it's because he can't trust her not to upset his grandparents or endanger her safety. She tried to call his mother on mother's day but he was there and took the phone, told her if she carried on 'causing mayhem' he would never speak to her again.

    I've tried reasoning with him that he can't treat one child well and the other badly and it isn't good for either of them. I spoke to his mum and she said if he doesn't take them both she doesn't think he should take my son but I don't know if she has done anything. They are due to go on Tuesday.

    Today my son was due to come to my house but my ex changed the plans at the last minute and said my son wanted to stay with my ex's partner while my ex went to work. I said I wasn't happy with that, even though my son was saying he wanted to. That felt really hard but I don't trust her to look after him in the holidays and not drink, and there's no reason he should stay with her. I worry that he just tries to please us all. I was so close to letting it go but his sister isn't there to look out for him now and it all just feels too unsafe. When I went to pick up my son my ex came out first and threw my son's stuff threw the car window at me and was horribly abusive.

    My daughter arranged to go round for 2 hours this evening. She thought if she tried to go in all smiles it might just mean she could at least go to her grandparents and spend some time with her dad alone (she feels the situation is much worse since her father moved in with his girlfriend just over a year ago). However, the girlfriend was there in the taxi when he came to pick up and she said she was there all the way through the 2 hours she spent there.

    I feel as if I should stop my ex from taking my son to his grandparents but that isn't fair on my son. However it feels like it's actually using that to abuse my daughter and that can't happen. I don't know what to do.

    Please don't suggest mediation. I have suggested it, many times over the years, he won't entertain it.

    Sun 6, Apr 2014 at 11:41pm
  • Pc Jamie Flag

    How awful to feel you have to protect both your children and deal with your ex's behaviour.
    It sounds as if your daughter is crying out to be heard in all of this. Have you considered speaking to her school as schools can often support children going through a difficult time .
    There are tough decisions to be made. Clearly you do want your children to have a good relationship with their father but alongside this you need to consider the impact this has on them and their safety.
    I noted that his mother seemed to acknowledge the feelings of the children. Could she or anyone else facilitate a discussion between both of you?
    It's such a shame that he isn't prepared to attend mediation a s that would be the ideal place to have that conversation with him .
    I suppose ultimately if you feel that something has to change , you could apply to court to have the arrangements looked at? Do you feel it has reached that stage ?

    Mon 7, Apr 2014 at 6:20pm