Daughter's father no longer in our lives, unexpectedly, after some sad times. Daughter (5) now a stressed little kid. Therapy coming up, but… ?
posted by anonymous to human relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My ex-partner has some redeeming qualities, but struggles with alcohol and drug abuse issues. After a booze-related ultimatum I threw him out when our daughter was a baby, and for the next four years he gave us financial support and spent Saturdays and Sundays at our house. The visits dwindled and ended over the summer -- offers to meet up with him wherever he was didn't fly -- and, anyway, now my mortgage is in arrears and we don't see or hear from him in any fashion. He has had the predictable run-ins with police -- DWI, domestic violence, drug possession -- and a restraining order is in place right now after he broke into our house (we weren't here) after a crack bender.
Our problems from the abrupt financial aid cut-off are pretty severe and I am under intense stress, which is an awful place to be right now when my daughter is dealing with this much trauma. We have appointments pending with a well-recommended private therapist who will get squeezed onto the credit card, and with a publicly funded free children's counselling service (who are taking a little longer to see us). We do have a pretty good support network. I homeschool in a small community and we are surrounded by very lovely friends and neighbours and so on. Still, this is…bad.
I need advice on how to help my daughter. I am particularly interested in hearing from adults who went through this sort of loss as children, and what the adults in their lives did or did not do that helped (or made things worse), and in hearing from people dealing with or observing similar situations.
Right now I have little reason to believe that her father will resume meaningful fathering. He was increasingly grumpy when he came to visit, to the point where our daughter just sent him on his way more than a few times. Under the alcoholism and depression was a guy who did try to do his best, though, and who offered a great deal of verbal what-not about how important she was to him -- very difficult, I think, to hear X and then get behaviour Y. She has many good memories of him mixed in with the bad. The other night she said he 'has the heart of a monster! Or maybe a devil!' and then went on to draw/write him an affectionate card. She is very hurt, very angry, and very heartbroken.
She was a mind-blowingly well-behaved kid; now there are bouts of "acting out." I wish there was an easy fix for the behaviour but am well aware that fixing the reason for it is the only cure here. Yet I don't know how you "fix" a loss like this.
I have stressed that: her father's problems/absence are not in any way her fault, that it is a good thing to have good thoughts about a person even when you are angry with them, that she can trust that I will never leave (quite dreadfully she wanted to know if there was any chance I would ever make her leave the house, as I did with her father!), that the outbursts/negative behaviour do not make her a bad person or mean she gets any less love, that her father is an aberration and [discussion of the many people in our lives who have never been ill-tempered or unreliable, etc] not the norm, that he tried but isn't well enough to be a father right now. None of this feels like enough.
Any insights on what I might hope for from counseling would be appreciated, too, including "beware of X; not useful," and anything I can do to prepare her/us.
I am trying to give us little treats and diversions and so on, but this is increasingly difficult with the disastrous financial situation -- we may lose our house, which she has lived in all her life and is quite attached to, and the loss of not just the house but the immediate community around it will be profound -- and we spent some time away after the break-in, but it was only partially "fun trip" and partially "I am angry with Dad for scaring us out of our house," which was of course not how I had framed it but I suppose an inevitable conclusion for a bright five-year-old. Ouch. Anyway, with the empty wallet and preoccupations with family law attorneys and the like, and my own stress, I feel like I am out of ways and means to make life nicer, which hurts. I know sitting down to play Lego with her is more useful than buying a new box of Lego; I suppose I am also looking for tips on how to manage my own stress to be able to offer her a more useful mother. Prior to the recent upsets with her father I was a relaxed, tuned-in parent who thoroughly enjoyed parenting and I am irate at the damage that's been done to that, and desperate to return to the previous status quo there.