My depressed ex worries our child
Q: My daughter’s father and I split when she was 3. That was 8 years ago and she’s now 11. While he and I don’t talk much at all, we’ve lived in the same neighbourhood to make it easy for our daughter to have access to both as needed. We’ve been sharing care week-on/week-off for years.
Unfortunately, he has been depressed since before our separation. He also makes unhealthy life choices and has no social life. This is becoming a problem for our daughter now and she’s starting to ask to spend more time with me.
She is very attached to him and quite torn between her loyalty to him and her own feelings and needs. She craves a ‘‘normal’’ childhood, rather than one where she’s satisfying his needs of companionship. What is the best way for her to proceed with care and selfdetermination? A: It sounds as if you share a very empathetic young daughter. It’s tough for a young girl to feel torn between her parents and I agree you need to tread carefully.
There are some variables that could influence your path forward but you didn’t elaborate on these points. Does your 11-year-old understand that her father has a mental illness? Is her father needy for her companionship or just anyone’s? Is she able to have friends around at her father’s house?
And I also wonder what you mean when you say, unhealthy life choices? This phrase makes me nervous that she could be exposed to his abuse of drugs or alcohol.
It’s clear that you’re all at a junction right now. It’s sad for your ex, that his daughter is wanting to pull away but I think her needs are the most important here and they should be made the priority.
You two, the parents, have had your turn at childhood and we all know it is short and special and we need to nurture this brief time. I think you should start by having a chat with your ex, away from your 11-year-old and see if you can make a new arrangement.
A week-on/week-off is obviously too much time at her father’s but the last thing she needs at her age is to feel guilty and responsible for his happiness. It sounds as if your daughter will want her father’s dignity maintained in this reshuffle.
If you can’t agree on a new plan, then seek some expert help. It might also be a good idea to talk to your daughter about mental health issues, or again, get someone to assist in this discussion.
The main thing is that your daughter feels listened to and her opinions respected. This problem will only get harder as she gets older, so now is definitely the best time to deal with it. ❚ Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written two novels for young adults including
She has a new book coming in March, called
As one of seven sisters, there aren’t many parenting problems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a question email firstname.lastname@example.org with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line. Your anonymity is assured.
She’s torn between her loyalty to her dad and needing to be in a stable environment.