I’m a man who was paralyzed in a sports accident six years ago, and use a wheelchair for mobility. My ex and I have two children.
My 11-year-old daughter’s behaviour has been escalating in recent years. At school, she’s refusing to do work in class, having long emotional outbursts to avoid completing tasks and requirements in school, during extracurriculars, and at her mother’s home… but not at mine.
Then, last May a simple conversation caused a melt-down here - uncontrollable crying, screaming at me and my partner, waking up the other kids.
She then screamed on the street at 10pm that she was scared of us, that we were terrible people. Neighbours called the police who had children's services get involved.
Since then, she’s told a counsellor and her mother that she never wants to see me or my partner again, and that she’s scared of me (after many sessions nothing’s been determined to justify her fear or even saying it).
Her mother is happy to let my daughter refuse to see me.
The counsellor hasn’t made our issue a high priority, so I’m seeking a new psychologist for my daughter to discuss these things further.
The longer she refuses to see me (and her mother doesn’t help it happen), the harder it’ll be to resolve our relationship, which didn’t have any apparent issues before the night in question. How can I get my daughter back?
Sad She’s Gone
Something’s happened. But you may not know what for a long while.
It could be awareness of adolescent body changes disturbing her, an incident (bullying, abuse?) with someone who scared or shamed her. Or something someone said about you and/or your partner, etc. It’s anybody’s guess.
A good psychologist may effectively encourage her to release these burdensome feelings that so deeply affect her. Or, maybe not yet.
Meanwhile, your role is to still be her Dad, whatever way you can be. Try every form of contact, but don’t overdo it.
A cute card wishing her a happy Hallowe’en, a music video you think she’ll like, an email saying you miss her (only if she hasn’t overreacted to your previous outreach).
But first, ask the psychologist to help you explain to your ex that your daughter needs both of you in her life to have a healthy self-image, and confidence to get through whatever has changed her behaviour.
If possible, a session or more of joint counselling as parents can be a benefit to everyone involved. If she refuses, get the help for your own pain.
I live with my in-laws because that’s been our family tradition for generations.
But my passive-aggressive mother-in-law has an opinion on my every decision (child rearing, wardrobe choices, etc.).
When I don’t comply, she acts as if I’ve disrespected her.
My husband’s supportive of me but doesn’t say anything to his mom, out of respect.
I want to live my life my way, without constant nagging and outside opinions.
What Do I Do?
Your mother-in-law is unlikely to change. She doesn’t have to if it’s her home, and this “tradition” is all she knows. Change must come from you and your husband.
Either he’s willing to sit down with her and you together, say how you two intend to raise your children, and that he supports your wardrobe and other choices. OR, you two consider moving.
It likely means giving up the available babysitting, the lower costs of house and food, etc.
FEEDBACK Regarding the mother-in-law whose daughter-in-law (DIL) is spending years on her PhD (Sept. 18):
Reader – “Since she’s still working on it, she must believe that she’s succeeding with it.
“But her in-laws measure success in years-to-completion (rather than the quality of the thesis) and this is a source of friction between them and their DIL.
“I know an Oxford professor who took 10 years to do his PhD.
“There are many reasons to draw it out, e.g. research setbacks or even opportunities worth waiting for. Also, thesis advisors who retire, delays due to having children, and the need for revisions.
“When near the end, the last five percent of the work is really difficult and often requires extreme discipline or high adrenaline.
“It’s MIL’s role to say and have the most supportive and least judgmental thoughts and sentiments.
“When she decides to make amends, she should applaud some of her DIL’s accomplishments in her field so far.”
Tip of the day:
A deeply-upset, distanced adolescent needs gentle outreach and ongoing counselling, to discover her hurts/fears and start to re-connect.