A mother is worried about her young daughter whose behaviour has changed after her father left. She’s asked FamilyPoint for advice on how to deal with this in this week’s A Problem Shared.
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I have a 3-year-old daughter, nearly 4. She’s recently been coping with her Dad and I breaking up and her Dad leaving the family home. Since him leaving she’s become frightened of him as she’s really intelligent and she can sense his anger toward me. Her behaviour has changed for me greatly during this and I’m becoming more and more worried about her as the time goes on. I’ve tried contacting my health visitor and others in the area but am not getting through to anyone and am just looking for some advice.
I’m really sorry to hear about the changes in your daughter’s behaviour since her dad left the family home and that it’s causing you so much worry. It’s great that you’ve reached out for some advice on how to cope with this, and I hope that you find the following useful.
As you’ll be aware, parental separation can affect children in all sorts of ways, including changes in behaviour, feeling sad and confused, feeling angry towards their parent(s), and more. This is a natural reaction, and does usually get better over time. You seem like a really caring and committed parent who wants the best for your daughter. I’m sure this will help your daughter to feel secure as she goes through this difficult experience. Partnership for Children has a page that talks specifically about how children can be affected by separation and divorce.
Separation is very painful for parents too, so children’s distress comes at a time when both parents are themselves struggling to manage difficult feelings. At times like this, reaching out to family, friends and people within your community can be a great source of help, both for you and your child. If you haven’t already, you could think about asking trusted people to spend time and/or do things with your daughter. This will help her to feel valued and supported within her extended family/friends network as well as give you time and space to take care of your needs and feelings.
You could also create some quiet time and space, perhaps doing an activity together, such as drawing, to see if she wants to talk about her feelings. Click here for other useful suggestions of how to help children through separation.
Dealing with feelings
You mentioned that your daughter has become frightened of her dad since he left and that she can sense his anger towards you. I wonder if this is something that you’ve been able to discuss with him? In spite of this being a difficult time for all involved, it’s essential that her dad understands the importance of managing his feelings when he spends time with his daughter. If this is something that you don’t feel able to do yourself, it might be worth having a think about asking a family member or trusted friend if they could speak to him.
If that isn’t an option or doesn’t work, and the current situation continues, there is a mediation service that parents can use for discussing contact and any issues relating to it. The Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service (Cafcass Cymru) has useful advice on what parents can go following separation. It appears as though the mediation is part of court action to agree contact arrangements. If you’re not planning on doing this, you could still contact a mediation service on the Family Mediation Council website.
I’m sorry to hear that your health visitor and other services haven’t responded to your requests for help with the changes in your daughter’s behaviour. Families First in your area might be a good starting point, as they offer early or preventative support to help families who are going through difficult experiences. If you’ve not had any success contacting them, our Helpline Advisor Advocates (see contact details below) can help you to access their support. We could contact them for you if you wanted. We can pass on your details for them to call you or we could even create a 3-way call where you can also be on the line, we can explain what support you’re looking for and then leave you to chat. Your doctor can also make a referral to Families First.
I really hope that things begin to improve for you and your daughter, and that you get the help you’ve been hoping for. As mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to call us for help to access support. I’m sure that with your continued love and support, and hopefully her dad’s too, she will adjust to the separation. There may be times ahead when the situation gets you down. If you feel you want to chat to someone you could try Family Lives, a charity for parents. They have a helpline and lots of good resources.
All the best
The FamilyPoint Team
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
A Problem Shared… is your space to share both your problems and your advice with the FamilyPoint community.
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