No, you can’t buy my daughter

My ex is showering our daughter with gifts, and I know he will expect something in return.

How can I deal with this? Keep communicating with your daughter, says our elder, and remain calm and grounded.

Dear EWC

I’ve been in a relationship that I don’t want to be in with my daughter’s father since she was conceived. She’s now 13. He is very controlling and verbally abusive, gets angry and jealous and uses those two emotions to control me. However, over the past year I have managed to move away from him and try to establish myself and refuse to let him into my house. My problem is our daughter. He regularly uses time with my daughter to try to get time with me. Which I usually can avoid. Recently however, we had an issue where I allowed him to take our daughter to stay with him 400 miles away. She was doing well in school, but he said I wouldn’t be allowed to see her unless I spent time with him also.

Our custody agreement doesn’t have a lot in it for me to protest so when I went to ask a lawyer, the lawyer’s advice was to go get my daughter. So I did with the help of local law enforcement. My ex has now left me several irate messages about how I’m a coward and a liar and a bad mother (the usual stuff I endure from him). I’m in the process of getting a restraining order so that all his communication is strictly about our daughter and only written.

My question is, though, since my daughter has been back, he has inundated her with gifts. And minutes after an irate voicemail to me, my daughter said her father ordered her pizza. I know at some point he’s going to expect something from her in return. He always does. Last year, he spent quite a bit of money on her, and when she wouldn’t talk to him by phone he got angry and said to me, “I give a lot, I expect a lot in return”. My response was, “You can’t give her things and then expect her to reciprocate” — you give because you choose to. How can I explain this dynamic to her?

Sageworthy replies

You certainly are in a challenging situation with the father of your child; and your question is an important one, as you are trying to do your best with your daughter, despite her dad being difficult.
My simple advice to you is this… keep lines of communication open with your daughter. It may be overwhelming to her, and to you, to sit down and try to explain everything at once. Situations will arise between your daughter and her father; and you want her to feel comfortable bringing her thoughts, feelings, and frustrations to you. Always remain calm and grounded during your interactions. Never bad mouth her father. Remain supportive, and allow her to vent when necessary. Guide her through problem solving, regarding feelings of guilt, sadness, anger… or whatever her emotions might be. I believe your support, calm, and wisdom, will go a long way in helping your daughter deal with her father. Perhaps, instead of trying to explain the dynamic to her, you could ask her how she feels when her father puts pressure on her. In time, if not already, your daughter may likely understand what her father is trying to do. Helping her deal with the emotions that interacting with her father might bring will be crucial for her mental health.

Another thing I am wondering: In addition to your support, do you think your daughter might benefit from professional counseling? I know a couple children who have dealt with a controlling non custodial parent. They have been helped immensely from seeing a mental health counselor. I know because the two people I mentioned are friends of my children, who are now adults, and they told me so. They both still have their challenges with their parent, but they are happy young adults who are thriving. I hope you will be open to this idea. Also, it will take some of the burden off you, knowing that your child has someone to talk to, who can give them sound support, guidance, and the opportunity for introspection.
I will be thinking of you and your daughter, wishing you both peace of mind, and clear direction on how to meet your challenges. Good for you for reaching out to us for some advice. I think it was an excellent parenting decision.

Letter #: 454910
Category: Children

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