Kids visiting rehab
August 12, 2018 11:23 PM   Subscribe

My ex husband is in an inpatient facility to treat his problem with alcohol. What (if any) arrangements do I make to have our daughter visit?

My ex husband has a problem with alcohol and he went to inpatient treatment in a location 3-4 hours away. He will be there for another 45 days, and due to his multiple diagnoses his stay might be renewed for another 50 days as needed. My ex is in a very expensive private residential facility, 30 men and 30 women, with visiting for a few hours each Sunday.

My daughter is 11 and she resides primarily with me. I separated from my ex two years ago due to his problems with his temper and his attitude towards his mental and physical health problems. Since the separation my daughter has seen her dad maybe once or twice a week, with some 1-2 month absences when he was having problems. The visits took place mostly at his parents house. His parents report that he is quite withdrawn when he is with her. She still loves her dad and expressed an interest in visiting due to his long stay in rehab.

My questions:
  • Is it a good idea for kids to visit their already somewhat absent fathers in rehab? I get that it's good for the addict, I wonder if it's good for the kid.
  • While I can drive her to and from the facility, and get her to the front desk and talk to the staff, I cannot supervise the visit with her father due to the nature of our relationship. Is rehab a suitable place for 11 year old children to have unsupervised visits?
  • Is my daughter likely to be upset by what she sees? She hasn't really been exposed to a group of people with addiction problems.
  • My daughter's grandparents could take her when they visit. However they enable my ex and they think it's ok to tell my daughter that her dad is getting treatment for his physical and mental health and skip the part where he's in rehab (I filled her in). Do you think she will suffer any harm by dealing with their delusions during the visit and debriefing with me when she gets home, or should she only visit if I'm there?
  • posted by shock muppet to Human Relations (14 answers total)
    It's not a locked mental ward, nor some grim inner-city methadone clinic. There may well be some people there who don't look incredibly well, but patients are not going to be wandering the halls shooting up and leering at little girls. Why don't you call the facility and ask what provisions they make for visitors? At an expensive place, there is most likely some reasonably hospitable common space for them to be with their loved ones, away from individual patient rooms.

    I don't think you should force her to go, but if she wants to, you should let her. Unless there is some other reason for her visits to always be supervised (not sure from your post whether there is), you don't have to presume you must babysit your child when she's with her own father.

    they think it's ok to tell my daughter that her dad is getting treatment for his physical and mental health and skip the part where he's in rehab

    I'm sure your ex's addiction has made your life enormously difficult and tapped out your reserves of sympathy. He may also have underlying defects of character, apart from his addiction, and I don't want to downplay those, either. But addiction is a form of illness. He is there to get better, not to do penance for his sins. He's still her father; the less punitive and disgusted attitude you can take towards him (and other addicts), the better for her. If she loves her daddy, and she probably does, she is likely to be confused and upset and ashamed if you radiate contempt for him, no matter how much he's loused up your life together. If he ends up being a terrible father, trust me, she'll work that out all on her own.
    posted by praemunire at 12:03 AM on August 13, 2018 [30 favorites]

    If your not comfortable sitting in room in a hospital with your ex, why would your daughter be comfortable?

    The facility likely has a whole setup fort his with rules and procedures just ask.

    Family therapy (even phone sessions) are offered at these places.

    It may be worth to advocate before you conciser bringing her to see him that you, your daughter and him discuss in front of a therapist patenting expectations. Obviously you aren't going to resolve every family issue, but it a chance to explain impacts and what his daughter needs and what is required to be able to see her regularly.
    posted by AlexiaSky at 1:10 AM on August 13, 2018

    In terms of supervision, it is still a hospital and every staff member IS a mandated reporter of abuse. It's also a supervised facility, there isn't alot of privacy even when they have a little, and usually not for very long. Now, that doesn't mean they'll report if he says something manipulative or crazy. But if he did something illegal (like hits her) they should (are legally bound to) report.

    The facility itself likely won't be traumatizing , nice facilities are nice! People will be wearing their own clothes and walking around and interacting.It's not medically scary looking .

    The relationship dynamics dad says this, grandparents say this, mom says this are likely to be more of an issue. It is hard to formulate context (and the family session should do this for your child)when all the adults are saying different things.
    posted by AlexiaSky at 1:24 AM on August 13, 2018

    Considering that your daughter has already had some intervals of a few months in which she hasn't seen her father, and has apparently weathered these times okay, it's unclear to me why it would be good experience for her to spend six to eight hours traveling to/from a facility where she will spend maybe two hours with a father who is dealing with some heavy stuff and has been described as "withdrawn" with her during the best of times. Given your other concerns, this seems like an easy hard no to me.
    posted by slkinsey at 4:27 AM on August 13, 2018 [18 favorites]

    I have been in inpatient rehab, although not the fancy kind, for alcohol addiction. Do rich people not get DTs, too? Because it’s been over a year and I, a 39 year old woman, am still haunted by the agonized howls of one of the other patients there with me. If you can’t be there, I’m a hard no. (To be clear, it was difficult for me to process that much pain, it wasn’t a stigma thing. Obviously I was there for the same reason.)
    posted by Ruki at 5:40 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

    My daughter's grandparents could take her when they visit. However they enable my ex

    This is what your life is going to be like being the ex of an addict and I am sorry, a lot of difficult choices none of which are very good.

    Your daughter has expressed an interest in going and I think that should be the main point here. They can go for a walk along the grounds or maybe have a meal together depending what the environment is like. Rehab is, while not a really pleasant experience, an indication that someone is trying to take care of themselves. Your daughter may want to see what this involves.

    You could also ask the facility if there is some sort of procedure for unaccompanied minors, I am sure yours isn't the first set of divorced parents they've seen there. I grew up in a family with a parent with an addiction, I feel like being open and honest about what is going on is important. If your daughter was shruggo on it I'd feel differently. If she wants to go, I'd find a way to make that happen.
    posted by jessamyn at 6:02 AM on August 13, 2018 [12 favorites]

    My dad was in a similar facility for a month when I was 11. I went to visit and it was a little like a summer camp, except for the part they had us sit in on an AA meeting (terrible, awful idea). I remember lots of people smoking and standing around drinking coffee.

    I wasn't really aware he had a problem at the time and it was pretty traumatic to see him sad and vulnerable.

    The one thing I would say is to make sure no one makes your daughter feel responsible for his recovery (i.e. her dad is getting better for her). In my experience, that first time and the 2 next times he was in rehab, 4 and 7 years later, all the people really emphasized how important my participation and encouragement was to his recovery, and it took me a long time to get over my feelings of guilt and responsibility when he ultimately could not stay sober.
    posted by elvissa at 6:29 AM on August 13, 2018 [15 favorites]

    If he's reached the point where he realizes that his child is more important to him than the alcohol I say let her go.
    posted by brujita at 6:47 AM on August 13, 2018

    Having visited someone in inpatient rehab, and also being a mother, I don’t think it’s an appropriate place for a child. Kids want to go lots of places that aren’t appropriate places for children so I don’t really think her wanting to go is particularly important since she doesn’t really have any idea what she’s asking for.
    posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

    In my experience, this would be an excellent question for the family therapist at rehab facility. There often is a family therapy program or resources for family members and they would be able to help you figure it the best approach for you and you daughter. It doesn’t sound like the grandparents would be a good option since they are rugsweeping and not speaking honestly about the problem, which could b confusing for your daughter.

    Something else to consider, do you and your daughter have a safe space to process the impacts of alcoholism on your family? This can be confusing and painful for your daughter to go through and I would consider the possibility of therepay or support groups for you both.I’m an adult child of an alcoholic and wish I had the chance when I was a teen to realize my parents alcoholism was not my fault, and that I was not alone. Some good resources to look at might be alateen or Alanon. I hope this was helpful for you, and send you best wishes moving forward.
    posted by snowysoul at 7:17 AM on August 13, 2018

    Inpatient rehab facilities have specific days and times set up for children of participants to visit, often with group therapies and moderated activities. You can call them up and ask, and I would recommend going with her rather than leaving it to her grandparents to manage. You are her mother and have the day-to-day duties of parenting her through good and bad, her grandparents are primarily focused on their son right now.

    Your daughter might be a little young for Alateen depending on your local groups, but it's worth calling them up to find out because it's a program that could help her a lot.
    posted by juniperesque at 9:57 AM on August 13, 2018

    I called the facility as many of you suggested and they will not release any information to me about my ex husband. I was not allowed to get his counselor's contact information so that we could facilitate a visit and arrange services for my daughter. Clearly the only way that she could visit would be accompanied by her grandparents.

    It's good feedback from praemunire that I need to work on my tone and message when discussing my ex husband's stay, and I agree that the aim is for him to improve his physical and mental health. Her grandparents did not lie. However I think that given the nature of the facility it is important to provide the reason for admission - the problem with alcohol - in advance of any visit and my daughters' grandparents withheld that information from her. Last time her father was admitted to hospital we thought it was for his physical health and he turned up in a locked psychiatric ward, an unpleasant surprise if I had not called ahead. Her grandparents will keep secrets like that, and I will not.

    I am leaning now towards not letting her go and arranging a safe space for her to process this experience in my hometown. Is individual therapy the right thing for that (for both me and her), or should we be going together?
    posted by shock muppet at 3:42 PM on August 13, 2018

    I would not take her and I would take both of you to a family therapist. My daughter is adopted from foster care and we have had a relationship with her mom for most of her life. She's an addict. My daughter is 11. Your ex sounds like he's dealing with a lot more than just alcoholism and I would find a therapist now who can guide you through this. Art therapy is great for this kind of situation. You job is to keep your daughter safe and give her plenty of room to love her dad. But that doesn't always mean seeing him. There is an impulse in these kinds of situations to *do* something, but a lot of times with addicts the best position is to just sit with it and wait to see how things progress.
    posted by orsonet at 7:33 PM on August 13, 2018

    Speaking as a former child of divorced parents, who went to therapy a couple of different times while I was growing up, I think it would be good, if possible, for her to see an individual therapist as well. There are feelings and issues that you're both dealing with regarding your ex-husband/her father that a therapist can help you with. She'll also be having feelings about you, and it would be valuable for her to have a safe space with a good therapist to work through them. Trying to do everything in joint sessions might result in her feeling constrained in what she can say, or you feeling hurt by something she says that she hasn't really processed yet, or similar things.
    posted by Lexica at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2018

    « Older Help me understand the fin de 60s   |   Best Outdoor Lights Without Electrical Outlet Newer »
    This thread is closed to new comments.