Suggestions? 2+ years since separation, 11yr old DD wants nothing to do with her dad - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 15 Old 02-02-2013, 10:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This may get long, as I try to explain the situation.

Ex and I were married 10 years. Oldest was 9, youngest was 3 when we split. Ex rarely did anything with us when we were together. Looking back, I think it was because he didn't like me, but I have no idea for sure. Anyway. So oldest grew up with a non-involved father living in the home with us. His weekends were spent cutting wood and doing various farm chores outside. He came home from work and would often work outside until bedtime, sometimes not seeing the girls all day. We never fought or argued. I just did my thing and he did his.

Oldest was/is sick a lot. She missed 8+ weeks of school each in K and first grade. We decided to homeschool 2nd grade for fear of her falling behind with so many absences. We home schooled and loved it. DD had her healthiest year ever (other than H1N1). Anyway, I am trying to explain that DD was used to me being around 24/7, and rarely seeing her dad.

The divorce was a huge shock for her. She never saw us fight or argue. I am very laid back and easy going, so rarely said anything to ex. He is not a very nice person, a bit military-like, and very much "his way or the highway". Not physically abusive, but possibly verbal at times.

He moved in girlfriend #1 just 2 months after we moved out. She was awful. Not bad to the girls, but not child oriented at all. DD heard her talking about me several times. #1 moved out after a year. Ex was single for about 4 months, in which time oldest stopped crying and actually seemed to enjoy the visits. Then on Father's Day 2012, he took the girls camping. Introduced girlfriend #2 who he kissed in front of the girls, but who slept in a different camper. I thought that was nice, other than him leaving the girls alone in his camper for half the night (DD called me because she was scared). 2 weeks later, the girls show up for a day visit on 4th of July, and girlfriend #3 is already moved into his place. The girls had never even heard of her before that, and they were just there 2 days before. 20 days later, #3 moved out. 3 weeks later, he introduced girlfriend #4. we actually like her, she is down to earth and great with the girls.

DD cried every single night for almost 2 years. Sometimes for hours. Only because she didn't want to go to her dad's for his weekend and Wednesday evening visits.

Somewhere between #3 and #4, DD started having panic attacks about his visits. He still made her go. He took them on a vacation in august 2012 that he had to cut short because DD cried so hard while they were gone. I had to talk on the phone with her for over an hour each night to try to calm her down. He went to bed and left her up crying and on the phone with me. When I told him to sit up with her, he refused. He cut the vacation short and stopped his overnight visits with her, just taking her during the day on his weekends. It didn't help her crying. She wanted nothing to do with him at all.

The last time she went was in October 2012 for a day visit. He was picking them up at the soccer field. She had a complete panic attack at the public field. I had to physically put her in his car. It was awful. She was crying and begging not to go. I told ex I would not be physically putting her in his car ever again. If he was going to force the visits, he would force her in the car. She has not gone since.

She is in counseling. The counselor can't get anywhere. We do not believe there is abuse, and it's been discussed deeply. She says she doesn't like her dad because he is mean. She lists details of how he is mean, but none equal abuse. He is not currently forcing his visits, but he could. She is not old enough to stop her parental visits. DD says she WILL run away if he makes her go anywhere with him. She means it. She will run away and call me to come get her.

I have never talked bad about him at all. Ever. He says I am turning her against him by talking bad about him. I do say if he made a poor decision, but I do not talk poorly about him.

Youngest goes on the visits by herself. She handles it pretty well. Current girlfriend has only boys, so DD is very spoiled while she is there. Oldest actually has a harder time with youngest being gone. Ex doesn't have her call home at all while she is there. Even when she was very sick (vomiting for 12 hours) he didn't call or text and didn't even tell me when I picked her up. She told me on the way home.

My question is how do I help oldest DD? I want her to have a relationship with her dad. How can I help her?
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#2 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 01:19 AM
 
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I'm exhausted but wanted to respond. Can she do joint counseling with your ex? Since her current counselor isn't getting anywhere, that could be part of the problem (or she just may not "fit" with that counselor). A good Marriage and Family Therapist is crucial for these types of situations. Though he is flaky with women, that isn't enough of a reason for her to be so upset. She may simply not like him, and that is okay, but she does still need to see him, which is a great lesson to learn, too. Not in a harsh way, but we all have to deal with people we don't like. It sounds to me that she has some issues with him and because she is young, she may not even be aware of what they are. She could resent him, she could be angry, etc. All which are normal, and can be worked through. At this point, she is learning that she doesn't have to go if she doesn't want to, and she isn't facing any of the real issues, not even in therapy. So I'd say, to help her, get her to a therapist that has experience dealing with these types of issues, and ideally, she should go with him and they should have joint therapy together. Encouraging her to talk to you when she feels like it may help, and also, letting her know that her emotions, whatever they are, are normal. She may feel that there is something wrong with feeling the way she does, and it's easier to just not see him then to deal with what seeing him brings up, if that makes sense. Hope this helps :)


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#3 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 04:19 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Sunshyn74 View Post

...DD cried every single night for almost 2 years. Sometimes for hours. Only because she didn't want to go to her dad's for his weekend and Wednesday evening visits.

Somewhere between #3 and #4, DD started having panic attacks about his visits. He still made her go. He took them on a vacation in august 2012 that he had to cut short because DD cried so hard while they were gone. I had to talk on the phone with her for over an hour each night to try to calm her down. He went to bed and left her up crying and on the phone with me. When I told him to sit up with her, he refused. He cut the vacation short and stopped his overnight visits with her, just taking her during the day on his weekends. It didn't help her crying. She wanted nothing to do with him at all.

The last time she went was in October 2012 for a day visit. He was picking them up at the soccer field. She had a complete panic attack at the public field. I had to physically put her in his car. It was awful. She was crying and begging not to go...
She is in counseling. The counselor can't get anywhere. We do not believe there is abuse, and it's been discussed deeply. She says she doesn't like her dad because he is mean. She lists details of how he is mean, but none equal abuse... DD says she WILL run away if he makes her go anywhere with him. She means it. She will run away and call me to come get her.

I have never talked bad about him at all. Ever. He says I am turning her against him by talking bad about him. I do say if he made a poor decision, but I do not talk poorly about him.

Youngest goes on the visits by herself. She handles it pretty well... Oldest actually has a harder time with youngest being gone. Ex doesn't have her call home at all while she is there. Even when she was very sick (vomiting for 12 hours) he didn't call or text and didn't even tell me when I picked her up. She told me on the way home.

My question is how do I help oldest DD? I want her to have a relationship with her dad. How can I help her?

It sounds right to have her in counseling.  Would you consider trying a different counselor?  

 

Your daughter's hysterical aversion to her father, that is out of proportion to her specific complaints about him, does sound like parental alienation, so it's understandable that your frustrated ex blames you for poisoning her against him.  (If you're lucky enough not to be familiar with P.A., it basically means the favored parent - you - do/say subversive things to manipulate the child into irrationally hating the other parent and clinging to you.  The subversive things may be overt or very subtle.)  

 

H-O-W-E-V-E-R, if you were trying to alienate your daughter against your ex, it would be more far more typical for you to write to a forum like this (where we don't know you in real life and will tend to believe whatever you say) and defend your daughter's hysteria (ex.:  "He abuses her, but her counselor won't believe me and our biased judge won't let me terminate his visitation rights!  I can't say exactly what he's done to her, because she's so traumatized that she won't tell me, but I know he's done something and I must protect my daughter!")  It would also be very strange, indeed, that you support your younger daughter's relationship with him.  So - based on what you've written - neither P.A. nor abuse are the problem.  

 

That leaves your daughter herself and her ability to handle change / disappointment / uncertainty / other people's difficult personalities.  If that IS the problem, then the importance of her learning better coping skills extends far beyond her relationship with her father.  You don't want her, for example, feeling overwhelmed by the stress of semester exams in college and having no skills for dealing with it except to subconsciously avoid them altogether, by having panic attacks that land her in the hospital.  Thus, if her current counselor isn't making any progress, she may need someone with a different personality and approach.  You need a "failure is not an option" attitude about this.  That said, I'd be very, very reluctant to let someone prescribe anything for her (and I'm sure some professional out there would recommend medication).  She's either starting puberty or only a few years from starting it.  Except in the most extreme cases, I think it's imprudent to diagnose any type of mental/emotional disorder in a child who may simply be very hormonal.  This is the time for kids to begin learning how adults manage their strong emotions, not that we have no control over them and can only mask them with mood-altering substances.  

 

Not knowing your daughter, I can't form an opinion about whether the certain drama of forcing visitation is better than letting her skip it, which reinforces that she controls whether or not she sees her dad.  Visiting him becomes a higher and higher wall to scale, the longer she goes without doing it.  I can see arguments both ways.  That's why it would be nice to have a counselor you feel IS making some progress with her, then he/she could recommend what to do.

 

Like you, I sometimes acknowledge to my kids when I think my ex (their dad) has made a poor decision.  I think it teaches kids to doubt their own sound judgment, if they witness a parent make a mistake or a poor judgment call, but are told there was nothing wrong with it, simply because the adults in their lives are afraid to admit that parents are fallible.  Yet, given your daughter's oversized reactions to things, I'd recommend tempering your acknowledgment of your ex's faults with a heaping dose of compassion for him.  Perhaps only you can teach her that her father is worth knowing and spending time with, despite his faults.  For example:

 

1- Obviously, the revolving door of girlfriends around his kids is undesirable.  But plenty of men who miss being married and miss their kids jump quickly into a new relationship - and if that one doesn't work out, they jump into a the next one.  You see this a lot with older men who lose their wives.  People are dismayed, thinking this means the man isn't mourning his spouse.  Instead, having her around may have given him such a sense of comfort and stability (even if he didn't show it) that he just can't stand being alone after she's gone.  Some men do this after divorce, too.  A divorced man who yearned for the freedom to sleep around will simply do that.  But a man who's quick to have a new girlfriend get involved with his kids, to move her in, to date women who will bring more children into his home misses having a wife and kids around.  Your daughter may believe her father didn't value family life because he didn't engage in it and express himself the way you do.  But his behavior - if you can look past the distasteful side-effects - indicates the opposite.  

 

2- Obviously, it would be better if your ex seemed more motivated to see his oldest daughter; or if he had handled her hysteria differently during his visits and vacations with her.  But clearly he's not wired to deal with hysterical women.  He chose to marry someone so even-keeled that you became sufficiently dissatisfied with the marriage to divorce him, without any of the usual screaming, yelling, fighting and crying.  Your personality is what he can handle, what (at least once) felt comfortable for him.  He may be every bit as incapable of dealing with your daughter's crying and panic attacks as she is, of dealing with his reserved, distant personality.  That doesn't mean he's not hurt or upset inside, about the lack of a relationship.  It'd be nice if he could change, but the older people get the less likely that is.  Your daughter is young and can certainly change.  Her life will be better if she can find a way to connect with her dad as he is - limited, imperfect, but not abusive and still her father.

 

3- It sounds like it bothers you that your ex doesn't have your younger daughter call daily when she's with him and that he didn't discuss it with you when she was sick.  But if she's only away from you for a couple nights at a time - and if she wasn't sick enough to go to the doctor, just a routine childhood vomiting jag - it's perfectly acceptable for you and your ex to have different approaches to these parenting issues.  Of course you feel your instincts are best, because they're yours.  Let your older daughter know that doesn't mean her father's instincts are wrong.  If you dropped off your kids for the weekend at a babysitter's house, the kids would be "away from home".  The absent parent(s) would be constantly in the back of everyone's mind and the sitter would be likely to maintain frequent phone contact and to call the parents back the second one of the kids became sick.  It's good that your daughters' father doesn't look at his parenting time that way.

 

While you acknowledge your daughter's disappointments with her father, also try to teach her that even people who are limited and hard to understand can still be worth knowing and loving, especially when they're family.  And sometimes the best parts of a limited person's character and motivations are best seen in their most basic actions, not their words or the superficial aspects of their behavior.  She's old enough to have such discussions and begin to understand what you're saying.  Even if it doesn't really sink in until she's older, it may help her move toward a healthier relationship with her father, long-term.

 

Hats off to you, for seeing past your own understandable disappointment and frustration with your ex's limitations and recognizing his inherent importance to your children.

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#4 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 05:22 AM
 
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I agree with what the other posters said. I would try a different counselor, since this one is making no progress. Having Dad involved is also a good idea, and the right therapist will help integrate him into it. Bigger than that, though - your daughter needs to develop tools to deal with situations she's not thrilled or comfortable with. Tools more appropriate than hysterical crying. She will encounter many more people she doesn't like or want to spend time with over her lifetime. Only being able to cope with tears will cripple her.

 

In the meantime, I would try talking to your ex about starting over w/visitation for your oldest, but perhaps slowly with some lunch dates, maybe a movie, some time at a park. Building up to longer times, and eventually overnights. She needs BOTH of you to present a united front. She needs to know that getting hysterical and crying is simply not going to work any more. Dad needs to learn how to help er deal with the upset without calling you do calm her down. And you need to step back from that scenario, as it is no longer an occasional upset, but a regular method she uses to get out of interacting with her Dad.

 

You can also help her yourself, by role-playing different situations. When mine would come home with various complaints (but said that they hadn't talked to Dad because: he didn't listen, they didn't know how to, they were afraid he'd get mad, etc.), I explained to them that Dad couldn't help fix a problem that he didn't know existed or understand. Just as I couldn't. And sometimes, we have to talk to different people in different ways to make ourselves understood. Even if/when it didn't help with a particular person (cough), it still helped them feel empowered.
 

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#5 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 06:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank-you for your replies! I so appreciate it.

A few things to mention...they did one joint counseling session together (ex and daughter), it took us 3 months to make it happen as he kept canceling to go out of town with his girlfriend. It went ok. DD addressed many things he had done to upset her. He ignored most of those things, not even saying he was sorry. On a couple of them, he said he made a mistake. Anyway, that was about all that was accomplished. He was supposed to make an effort to talk to her more...when he picks up youngest say hi and ask about school, call her to talk, write her letters. He has done none of that.

DD was not crying every single night for manipulation not to go. The tears started long before we stopped the visits. The tears went on every single night for well over a year. We had no idea that not going was even an option. She wasn't being manipulative, she was sad that she had to go.

The counselor is the one who finally suggested stopping the visits. It wasn't worth having DD cry every single night to have a visit with her dad where all she did is cry and he yell at her for it.

This counselor is the one who was recommended by our Friend of the Court. I have thought of switching but ex disagrees with me. He says just because I don't like the way she is doing things, doesn't mean we can just switch to one I like better.

I didn't mention it, but I did not file for divorce...he did. I never would have left him because I knew it would be hard on my kids.

I am upset about not getting daily calls while youngest is there. I do see what you are saying about him being the parent. I just have a hard time with it. I just want to talk with her once a day and tell her I love her. The sickness not being mentioned really upset me. He could have texted about it...or at least mentioned it when I picked her up. "Hey, she was pretty sick and still isn't feeling that well". He said nothing. Then got mad when I mentioned that he should have. I have full custody and I always text him when the kids are sick. I have recently stopped doing that. I guess if he doesn't care to do it for me, then I was just wasting my time.

The counselor has grilled DD over and over about abuse. The counselor feels that there is no way DD can have these harsh feelings of there has been no abuse at all. Verbal is a possibility, but it is a fine line.

I am not pushing to start visits again yet. I am not ready to deal with crying every single night about an hour visit with her dad. I need her to be ready before we force it (if ex forces it I can't stop it anyway, but so far he isn't).

Ex has mentioned putting her on medication. I argued that. She is perfectly fine with everything else in life. His visits are the only reason she is upset.

We all believe DD is extra hormonal right now. She hasn't started her period. But she is more emotional than normal. Ex thinks that if we give her a year, she will mature a bit and handle things better. The counselor thinks if we wait a year DD will never want to go back. I am not sure what to think. I have a hard time with it all because I am the one who has to deal with her crying when this does take place again. I want to help her so she WANTS to go, and crying becomes a non-issue.

I am currently checking into counseling though the school. I currently drive 45 minutes one way. For one, that is expensive. For two, it takes a whole evening every week. I cannot do the school thing until I verify our insurance would pay (our Friend of the Court has paid all counseling so far, but only because we are using their counselor). I also have to get ex to approve. I also worry about DD getting the counseling at school. She does cry sometimes, depending on the topic discussed. I will only do it if I can get it done at the end of the school day.

She is doing great in all other aspects of life. Enjoys dance, getting all As in school. She is not over social, but she is pretty quiet. Her teacher says she is happy and a joy to have in class.

She is very clingy to me for her age. If I were on the outside looking in, I would suspect PA for sure. The counselor makes me leave her with my parents regularly just to make sure she doesn't have separation anxiety from me (she is fine with staying there...no worries at all). She does worry about me though. She asks where I am going and when I will be back. I think she is scared that if something happens to me, she will have to live with her dad.

She is not a "drama" type. This is very unusual for her. She is a quiet bookworm type child. She just doesn't like her dad.

Thank you again for your responses. I will work on the school counseling idea, but I don't think ex is going to approve.
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#6 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 07:42 AM
 
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Well... Not going really is NOT an option, if Dad wants it to happen. The only thing keeping you from a contempt finding is his not pursuing visitation as he's allowed. The therapist does NOT get to contravene a court order. Nor does the FOC. The ONLY way to legitimately and legally not follow the visitation order is by getting a different order. If Dad had wanted to pursue his visitation, you would likely be found in contempt.

 

So... How are you helping your daughter? And I don't necessarily agree that your daughter was not trying to manipulate the situation - after all... she got what she wanted. Not going to see Dad.
 

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#7 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 10:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How do you think i can be held in contempt?

There is no way I could or would be held in contempt. I was NEVER responsible for her not going to her dad's, nor would i ever not follow our court order if he chooses to enforce it. She is available for the visits if he chooses to enforce them. I will have her present for those visits if and when he enforces them. The counselor SUGGESTED to her dad that he not enforce visits at this time and he followed that suggestion. DD cries so hard at his house that she cannot breathe properly. These are more like panic attacks rather than manipulative temper tantrums.

Yes DD "got what she wanted", but she didn't even know that stopping visits was possible. She cried daily for over a year because she really truly hates going with him. The situation did not get better with time as I thought it would, it got much worse as the panic attacks started.

I truly don't know if I am helping my daughter at all. That is why I posted here for suggestions.
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#8 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 11:55 AM
 
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Which is why I said IF he were to want to enforce his visitation, you could be found in contempt if you did not make her go.
 

And while she may know have "known", she sure as heck got what made her happier. Not going to Dad's.

 

Honestly, if I had been talking with Dad? I would have told him not to forsake his visitation. And a few other things (in addition to a smack upside the head). But he's not here, and you are.

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#9 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 12:24 PM
 
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I'm so sorry you and your daughter are going through this. I can see how from his perspective, it probably does look like you are alienating him from her, while from yours it looks like there must be some kind of abuse.  You sound here at least like you are willing to make her go if it comes down to it and that you are trying to find a solution.  He does not sound willing to meet you in the middle for whatever reason, so it wil be tough to find a solution.  I'm glad that at this point he is putting your daughter's needs first and isn't forcing visits. 

 

How do you think she would react if he came to see her at your house?  Or if you went with her to visit with him at some neutral location (or his house, if you and he were comfortable with that)?  Is it just being alone with him, or seenig him in general?  You said she is comfortable at your parents' house-would they be willing to "supervise" visits just for moral support for her? would he allow that?  I have to agree that if you go a whole year with no visitation at all, it will be really hard to start again, particularly as it sounds like she is a preteen/young teen who will probably get less likely to want to go rather than more. 

 

What does your youngest think of all this?  Does she think her dad is "mean" like the older one as well and just tolerates it better, or is your older more sensitive? What if she goes for a day and isn't forced to interact with him the whole time (i.e. she agrees to eat meals together, but is allowed to read a book or watch a movie or whatever the rest of the time?)

 

I think it is great that you are working hard to find a solution-it would break my heart to have to send a child who cries every night about it away when she doesn't want to go.  I can barely leave my kids when they are crying even when I know they will stop in a minute once I am gone!  Best of luck. 


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#10 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 02:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I would make her available for the visits if he forced it. I would NOT physically put her in his car. If he is forcing her to go then he will have to get her in the car himself.

That being said, I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is. Truly heartbreaking. She is not a drama queen child and this is not something she does for attention, she truly has panic attacks about going with him.

As for me being present at visits, or even my parents...the counselor suggested this. I said I will try whatever ex decides. He was not very open to the idea 'right now'. I told him to let me know if he changed his mind. I think dd would be ok with me being there. She wouldn't like it, but I don't think she would cry about it. Right now she avoids all contact with him. He really is not helping matters by not trying to interact and it limits what I can do for the situation.

Youngest dd is much more resilient. She was only 3 when we split (she is 6 now). She doesn't remember how it was when we were married. She is a very "go with the flow" type child.

Oldest is much more sensitive and knows he is not nice. He can still influence youngest with fun trips and new toys. It doesn't work with oldest.

Oldest calls him out on things and it makes him mad. His ex GF talking about me, dd said she shouldn't be. He rold her it was none of her business. He was watching a violent show and dd took youngest into the bedroom to play so she wouldn't be scared...ex went in and got youngest to watch the show, yelling at oldest that he was the dad and he would decide what was appropriate. This is the norm at his house. I could go on and on.

I think it is easy to look at the situation and just say to force it. I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is to have your normally happy child cry night after night because she has to go spend time with her dad who she doesn't like at all and who doesn't act like he likes her either.

I cannot tell you how tiresome it is to always bite my tongue and say that he loves her and wants to spend time with her when he never says these things himself.

It is very frustrating greensad.gif
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#11 of 15 Old 02-03-2013, 03:04 PM
 
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You don't have to tell me. BTDT. So I do know. But you don't want to hear, That's okay. Best of luck to all of you.
 

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#12 of 15 Old 02-04-2013, 01:27 AM
 
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I can only go off what you wrote, and based on that, she needs a new counselor. It's silly to drive that far for a counselor who isn't working. My younger son had some anxiety issues and while he liked the counselors, it took us a few to find one who really worked. A counselor who tells you to stop visits but also says if she doesn't go for a year she never will doesn't even make sense. The counselor may be good, but they aren't working well with her, and that is okay. She is a LOT like my dss, and dss needed a counselor who challenged him, not who will just accept "I don't like my dad and don't want to go".

 

I totally understand that it is heartbreaking making your child go somewhere they don't want to, I dealt with it in a different area. However, her Dad's house, while perhaps not ideal, is not a bad place. She needs to learn to deal with doing things that she may not want to do, and to address the emotions that are making her feel that way. Plenty of kids don't like a parent but they don't cry every day because they have to go over. That is the root of the problem; she needs help dealing with her emotions, does that make sense?
 


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#13 of 15 Old 02-04-2013, 06:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It definitely makes sense that she needs help with her emotions. She also needs help with dealing with her dad, who really is an a$$. I am not sure how to move forward with changing counselors. I will need ex's approval. This particular counselor is being paid for by FOC. I think ex's insurance will pay for a licensed therapist, so I will discuss it with him and move forward from there.

Thank-you again for your responses.
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#14 of 15 Old 02-05-2013, 03:51 PM
 
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I really hope it works out and that you can get a different counselor. Most employer provided insurance plans cover counseling, and it sometimes takes a few to find a good fit. Heck, even as a adult it takes a while to find a professional counselor/doctor/etc that we respect and trust! I would think that if you ex is not open to a different therapist, that the court can order it. Clearly, the current one isn't working, so trying another one isn't negative or detrimental and most judges want the child to get help. Of course, there are bad ones out there as well as ones who are plain wacky, I've seen it all in various family courts.
 


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#15 of 15 Old 02-05-2013, 06:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The current counselor has said DD can stop her counseling sessions for good if I put her in a DivorceCare class for kids (through a church). I think the class is a great idea (not available local right now but should be soon). I just think she still needs counseling as well. I am contacting the counseling agency that works with the school to find out my options there before I approach ex. Through the school would be a huge time and money saver for me, even if it was before or after school instead of during. At this point, I would just be happy to have something that was helping her, preferably local, school or not.

It is nice to have someplace to come to discuss these issues. Thank-you for your suggestions.
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