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Upsetting Children


I just wanted some advice and any thoughts are welcome on this matter.
Our child has just started seeing my ex for access visits, no overnights though. I send our child off in a good mood and although sometimes it's hard when she doesn't want to go, I encourage and tell her it will be great and Mummy will be fine and she'll have so much fun. All the things I think she needs to hear when she's feeling like she'd rather not go. I ensure the actual exchange takes place quickly and she's off without too much time to get upset - if she's feeling that way (she not always feels that way).

On return though, she has been coming back sad and emotional. My ex is prolonging the exchanges with extra cuddles, not letting go,more cuddles and has said things like this to her -

"Are you ok?" "Are you sure" "Oh, you don't want to go home" and the most distressing thing is "Be strong for daddy ok mate".

This can't be good can it? It's so much pressure on her (she's 6) and he seems to be using her as his emotional crutch and projecting his feelings onto her. It's heartbreaking when rather than coming back from a visit excited and wanting to talk about all the fun things they've done, she seems like she has an enormous burden to carry to protect, care for and be strong for her father.

Am I wrong to be concerned about this?

Any advice or similar stories please? :(

Isn't saying "Mummy will be fine" basically portraying the same message that you're complaining about?
Hmmm, I guess in a sense it is MikeT but also not. I'm responding to her concern for me, this is not something I've given her any reason to worry about though. I never say things such as "I don't want you to go" or "What will I do without you", "I'm going to miss you so much" etc etc.

Perhaps I could choose my words a little more carefully though although is it not a natural reaction of children to have concerns for both their parents after they separate? Whether it's rational or not, kids worry and if rather than reassuring them you're ok when they do seem worried, you come back with things like "I need you to be strong for Daddy" and the other things I mentioned, it makes the worry all the more.

It seems that ex is saying things to prolong the worry, concern etc rather than a kiss, a cuddle, a love you lots and bye. Kind of like ripping off a band aid.

So in response again, yes I could choose my wording more carefully but I don't think they are the same thing.

Thanks for your reply MikeT.

Actually Ukelele, what Mike said struck me as well. The easiest thing would be not to mention yourself.

Just ensure that when you hand the child over, your farewell is short and brief. A bit like when you hand them over at childcare or school. It is the lingering that upsets the child, unfortunately. Maybe something along the lines of okay honey, have a good time, see you in two days, then give her a hug and a kiss goodbye, and a see you later.

In our situation, the mother would hold onto the child, not letting him go, and would turn away from the father etc, not allowing dad to take the child. Of course the child would by that time be crying etc. But once we were around the corner, about two houses away, it was all over.

Uke, just make sure you are doing the right thing, and not prolonging the farewells, keeping things neutral. You never know, by osmosis, the ex might change their pattern of behaviour.

And whatever you do, don't say to the child that you miss them when they are not with you. Sadly, it makes the child feel guilty, and they have enough to deal with.

Chin up, hopefully it will get better sooner rather than later.
Hi Boots,

Thanks also, I agree and I do actually make the farewells from my end as quick as possible, like I said it's a quick kiss, cuddle and bye bye.

It's when the return occurs that my ex is doing exactly as you say the mother of the child in your situation did also, and is prolonging the return, holding onto her/letting her go/another cuddle and over again. One return went on for 15 minutes, which ended in our daughter being so confused and upset. Also though, once around the block all was fine.

Thanks for the advice though, it's all so helpful and I've taken on board your suggestion to not mention myself at all. My chin is up and I'm sure it will all get better, thanks again.

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