Hi Martha Moo,

I have two boys. My ex was horrible to our eldest and started on the youngest.

Yet, since he has gone, he has tried his best to turn them against me.

In small moments, it seemed he was winning. It I kept telling myself, do to take it personally- the kids are ring manipulated, as we were, but deep down they know the truth.

The thing that is preventing them standing up to their dad and making them cop this dictates is fear, guilt and obligation.

You can bet that your ex is playing the poor me card, that he is making them feel obliged to do as he says as ‘he is their father’ and that they are frightened of the consequences if they don’t do as he says.

My DV worker told me to try to rise above it. Allow the kids to get it out. They are testing you. Abusers put all kinds of things into to their kids heads about you- prove him wrong. Show your son you are constant, positive, strong, that you move on from any argument and don’t hold on to negative feelings ( a refreshing change from the abuser- abusers hold grudges!). Let him know you love him whatever, but be firm on the ground rules for your home regarding behaviour. Show him you love him, but be clear about what normal resort culture behaviour is. Kids feel safe with clear boundaries, even though they pretend they hate them. It is scary having an abuser for a dad, as he teaches that there are no boundaries in life- too overwhelming for a kid.

A lovely lady on here, Roseanne, told me when I was going through the same as you that we need to ( without directly mentioning our exes names) teach our kids how to step up to bullies. Clarify what bullying is, what choice is, and how to approach bullies. Encourage your child to engage in positive activities, sports etc, that will help him to devil his confidence and assertiveness and a personality saw partake from his father’s. Dominant abusers try to monopolise their children ( mine does).

All the while, he will have your unconditional love and softer, gentler but firm moral values to learn by. He will prefer these to his dad’s, especially when his dad starts to let him down.

‘Kids go where they are loved the most’ my counsellor told me. Time spent with our abuser is all about them: their needs, their interests, their preferences. Let your son know that you value his individuality and want to help him achieve it. He will feel safe with you and his fear of his father will lessen, as his individual strength increases.

Growing kids want their parents to recognise that they are individuals. Be that parent!

Low him sullen and moody moments. Boys ( and girls) are like that at the best of times. Many boys find it hard to express their feelings. Without being overwhelming, have short and opportune light conversations where you ask him how he is, or if anything is worrying him. Get him to try to name his feelings if he seems upset, and ask him to think about what he should do about it ( thus developing his own healthy coping mechanisms and ability to think out problems for himself.

Show him feelings aren’t bad, even bad ones, they just ‘are’- it is what you do with them that counts. Show him healthy ways of managing negative feelings – how to express them in ways that don’t harm others. How to hp him feel better about himself- sport, etc.

Car rides area good time to a monosyllabic boy! A car is a safe, contained and private space and you are both looking ahead. Kids might feel overwhelmed by too much eye contact, and many find it easier to open up on a car drive!

Also importantly, do things to hold your own peace, strength and confidence, so your child will see you as strong and safe. Your strength will put eat your abuser’s. Abusers are cowards underneath.

Believe that your mother-son bond can’t be broken.

All of the above I tell myself!

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