Divorced Struggling Mom Wants to Know How to Regain Children’s Love

She was once like those damsels in distress in fairy tales who got married to a prince.

But Kate’s story turned into a nightmare, with her rich husband abusing her to the point that she could no longer endure. She decided to leave, but unfortunately, she was penniless and lost custody of her children to their father.

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Kate had to struggle hard just to survive, living in and out of shelters for 6 years.

At last, she was able to slowly pick herself up, and she began wanting to connect with her children again.

However, the biggest obstacle to that dream is her own oldest daughter, who hates her to the point that she would not respect her even as a person. She insults her, accuses her of being a criminal with warrants of arrest, and keeps harassing her on Facebook so that Kate was compelled to block her.

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But Kate keeps the line of communication open to her two younger children, whom she hopes will also try to reach out to her. She wants so much to be a family with them, at least.

But Kate is unsure that day will ever come, and she blames her ex-husband for the ugly reasons her oldest daughter despises her. From Kate’s point of view, the girl has taken after her abusive father.

In her desperation, this divorced and struggling mom has reached out to Newsweek’s What Should I Do (WSID) for advice from family and relationship experts.

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According to Wesley Du, a marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles, “You are right that children pick up the tendencies of their parents (for better or worse) . . . Children act out when they are not being heard or seen, or because they do not have the ability or a safe space to truly express their pain or frustration. Your child is communicating with you in the only way she knows how at the moment. I am so sorry that you are being hurt by her actions, but underneath her rude behavior is a lot of pain that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you about. Underneath her disrespectful tendencies is a very wounded child who probably feels like she has lost her mother in some way.”

He further added, “Children are honest. And if you’re willing to hear your child speak about her grievances, there could be a possibility that the relationship could be salvaged. Your child is only reacting to the pain she is suffering from, and as a parent, it’s important to realize that and lead with your own vulnerability. I imagine you’re hurting as well, and I hope you can express that to your child too.”

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Meanwhile, Peter Lobl, a Clinical Psychologist specializing in relationship issues with adults and couples, with a private practice in New York City, has these words of advice for Kate: “Children can’t always understand why adults do what they do and struggle with expressing sadness and with recognizing their own emotional pain. So instead, they sometimes use anger to cope with difficult feelings. That may be happening with your daughter: her mocking and insulting may express the anger she feels about your leaving. It may be her way of coping with feeling abandoned and rejected. She doesn’t understand what you had to do to survive. She just knows that you left, and she is very angry about that.”

“By ‘walking away,’ I assume you mean emotionally walking away and cutting off contact with her. I would delay such a final decision right now. I suggest you focus instead on what you can control in your contacts with her,” added Dr. Lobl. “When she says or does something that emotionally triggers you, don’t say or do anything until the emotional pain within you subsides. I suggest you adopt this as your default response. But what if you choose to do or say something in response? Think through carefully what you are going to do or say. Keep it short, sweet and true to who you are. Avoid lengthy explanations and commentary. That’s just confusing to children, and they then often miss the main point. Avoid blaming your ex-husband, even if he is to blame. Your daughter won’t be able to hear the truth in it; she will just hear it as an effort to deflect responsibility. Your peace offering should also leave you feeling good about yourself, and it should leave your daughter wondering if there’s more to you than she realized. To do that, your peace offering needs to include empathy.”

What do you think? Should Kate give up on her oldest daughter?

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