28th May 2021 at 9:55 pm #126449
My husband has been emotionally abusive for a few years, but I only realised it once he’d been physically abusive a few months back. Since then I have been trying in a non confrontational way to persuade him to move out for a trial separation, which he has finally agreed to do.
I am so confused about what the right, least harmful thing to say to our two young (detail removed by moderator) children is. I am sure there are lots of you on here who have been through this – I would love advice about how you explained the situation, and what you said so they weren’t frightened or felt guilty, but also are a bit prepared for their Dad’s potential future behaviour.
Here’s a bit more background in case it helps you give advice:
Both kids have seen my husband’s explosive temper, and a couple of times my eldest has told him off for frightening me. This was one of the things that made me realise he had to go. It breaks my heart that they feel like they need to defend me, that’s an unforgivable position to put a child in. Part of me is really proud that they understand right from wrong and are brave to stand up for their principles and the people they love. But still, the situation is so wrong.
Despite this both kids are wild about their Dad and miss him a lot when he is away, which is actually quite often (lockdowns excluded). I know they are going to be devastated about him moving out.
I want them to understand that he’s going as a consequence of his unacceptable behaviour so that they know they never have to tolerate being treated badly. I was thinking of telling them I asked their dad to leave because he frightened me, and you should never do that to someone you love. But I also don’t want them to think that I might kick them out when they are naughty, and if they aren’t scared of their dad right now I don’t want them to be. But equally he is already manipulating them, and he does have angry outbursts at them, so I want them to protect their hearts a bit too. aargh! I am so confused! Please help!!!
29th May 2021 at 7:50 pm #126462LisaMain Moderator
I can hear how tricky the idea of talking to the children about your separation is. It must be a really difficult and confusing time.
Children are incredibly intuitive, and it sounds like your children are already aware of your husbands behaviour towards you and how he makes you feel. Ultimately, you are the only person who can make the decision about what to tell them and how, but sometimes it can be an important lesson for children to know that abuse is not okay, so in this context, honesty can be really useful.
Eventually your children will form their own opinions about their father, and they will likely recognise his behaviour for what it is, in the meantime it might be an idea to look into options for support for them to express their feelings about things. There are services that offer support for children and young people, such as your local domestic abuse service.
Hopefully other users will have had experience of this and should be along to advise soon. There is some more information on the Women’s Aid website too: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/the-survivors-handbook/how-can-i-help-my-children/
Take care and keep posting,
29th May 2021 at 8:18 pm #126465
Thanks Lisa, I appreciate your advice – it is a heartbreaking time. I am dreading talking to the kids. I would love to hear from others with kids in the (detail removed by moderator) age range about what worked, or didn’t work with their own kids
29th May 2021 at 9:48 pm #126467OceanParticipant
I’m so sorry you are going through this. Well done for setting boundaries. I had similar experiences when my children were younger and my eldest attempted to stand up for me. It breaks my heart that I was so brainwashed and took the blame. I decided to stop confronting his abusive behaviour as it made him explode. It took many more years for me to get out.
Maybe think of ‘I’ statements and stay away from saying anything about their father. It’s difficult wanting to be open with your children so they know what’s going on. But abusive men can accuse us of alienation if we say anything about them.
Have you reported any incidents of abuse to the police?
Will the children be visiting with him alone now? That was one of my biggest fears when considering separation.
Have you heard of parental responsibility? It means you have the right to protect your children from danger.
Do you know what their father’s intentions are for contact?
Sorry for all the questions. I’ve been through this, and their father seems dangerous so I’m hoping you can get the protection you need.
I hope you stay safe xx
30th May 2021 at 9:49 am #126476
thanks so much Ocean. Maybe if I don’t mention their dad at all, that might be the way to go, and focusing on the positives, rather than saying what I don’t want or highlighting the negatives. So saying things like “I want to feel happy and safe and loved in my home, and that’s why I have chosen to live here just the three of us”?
hmmm, I am not sure they will let me get away with that. Also the last explosive anger moment was a few months back now, so maybe won’t feel that salient to them. They won’t be aware of the manipulation and gas lighting that has been relentless, as I am in the “love bombing” phase while he tries to where me down
But if I say “we don’t love each other and make each other happy anymore” then that totally glosses over the abuse part. Thing is I know my husband is telling them he does love me, so it’ll make me into the bad guy. He’s also manipulating them to put pressure on me to “get along better with daddy”…so I need to counter act that pressure some how too? Or do I? Do I just accept that I might have to be the body guy in their eyes for now?
But maybe I don’t have to lump it all together in this first conversation? Is it better to let the kids bring up the abuse as and when they are ready, because we will have a life time of coming to terms with what has happened?
30th May 2021 at 11:40 am #126479ISOPeaceParticipant
Hi Muddyboots. I’m in a similar position – similar aged kids, both have tried to protect me. When I was still in the family home I tried to explain that Daddy wasn’t respecting my boundaries (in a way they’d understand) and my oldest would say if Daddy is being mean I can go in their room, and I’d be ok because they’d say he wasn’t allowed in. My youngest has said “I’ll say Daddy don’t be mean to Mummy”. It’s heartbreaking but it’s a great reminder that leaving was the right thing to do.
I think the best thing for you to do depends partly on your parenting style/philosophy, because whatever you do has to feel right for you. I firmly believe that children are highly intuitive and pick up far more than we’re aware, including whether we’re telling the truth. They may not know we’re lying but they can sense something isn’t right. I therefore think that honesty is very important. It doesn’t need to be brutal and explain all the gory details. I completely agree with you that glossing over the abuse doesn’t feel right and I want to respect that they love their dad. I try to focus on the behaviour towards me rather than making any generally critical comments about him. I also think it is a really good opportunity to show them that you’ve set a boundary and every person has a right to do that. Here are a few of the things I’ve said:
“the way Daddy behaved towards me made me feel very unhappy. If somebody treats you in a way you don’t like and when you try to talk to them about it, it doesn’t get better, it’s ok to choose to not be around them. You don’t have to let anyone treat you badly”
“Daddy being angry a lot wasn’t nice for anyone. We’ll all be much happier now that Daddy won’t be getting so angry”
When one of my kids was upset about us not all living together “I know you’re really sad that we’re not living together. Sometimes grown ups have to make decisions that feel upsetting but that are best for everyone. We weren’t happy all living together. There were lots of bad bits that won’t happen now”
“I know Daddy says he loves me and he won’t be mean again, but he’s said that a lot of times before and then has been mean again. Nobody has to let other people be mean to them and that’s why I’m not going back”.
And of course lots of “Mummy and Daddy still love you just as much and you haven’t done anything to cause this”.
I know I’m biased because I’m in a similar position to you, but I don’t think you’re the bad guy for being honest about your husband’s behaviour. I hadn’t considered that kids would worry about their own behaviour, but even if they’re naughty I think they know they don’t frighten you. Or maybe you could even explain to them that his behaviour isn’t the same as theirs because they don’t frighten you.
Apart from when we first left, I haven’t brought the subject up. But I’m not sure it’s the best approach. I’ve just ordered a Lundy Bancroft book (When Mom Hurts Dad) on how to help children who’ve witnessed abuse. In the sample I read, he says children often don’t bring this type of thing up, but that doesn’t mean they’re not affected by it. His website has various blog posts, which you might find useful.
I hope that’s helpful. I probably sounds a lot more together about this than I am. It’s much easier to write things here than actually do them consistently! xxxx
31st May 2021 at 9:31 am #126488
this is such an amazing response, exactly the sort of thing I was looking to find on here, thank you so so much.
b****y hell this is so hard isn’t it.
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