.. emotionally, psychologically and verbally abused by their father...

Received Sunday, May 18, 2008- Perspective & Opinion
I am writing to ask for advice and would appreciate any thoughts regarding the following situation: I have been helping to care for two children (ages 11 and 5)for the past year and a half, and I have reason to believe that both children and their mother are being emotionally, psychologically and verbally abused by their father. The older child has been exhibiting feelings of sadness and anger by acting out towards me and the younger child. After the latest episode that occurred this past week, I once again tried talking with the older child about why the child was exhibiting such negative behavior (name calling, mouthing off, ignoring me, showing disrespect). It was apparent that something was bothering this child. I was told by the youth that certain family things could not be discussed with me. Afterwards, the child opened up a bit about the father, who criticizes them (and I'm not talking about constructive criticism here)and who by all accounts has unrealistic expectations of what his wife and children should be like, particularly when it comes to their physical appearance. Both children are healthy; the older one is actually very thin. Their mother is healthy but very self conscious when it comes to her weight (she has mentioned this to me on more than one occasion, and never in front of the kids). I know for a fact that she has gone so far as to take diet pills in an effort to lose weight. I feel a lot of pain in this family, even without anyone saying anything. The oldest was so upset this week that this child started to cry in front of me, which has never happened before. This child also told me that when the father yells at them in the evening, the child can hardly sleep at night. The entire situation is very upsetting to me, to the point where I am now on-line in the middle of the night asking for advice. The older child does not want me talking about our conversation with either of the parents. I agreed to that for the moment since I'm afraid that if I do say something, it will only make the situation worse for the kids. I want to help them, but I don't know exactly how to bring about change to this situation without reprisals directed at the children. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know ASAP. I also intend to speak anonymously with a social worker about this for professional advice. Thank you


marypoppin'pills said...

I think until you can get that professional advice, the best thing for you is to be there for the kids emotionally, since their not getting that from either parent. And yes, I'm including the mom because she can't help them right now, being she's a victim herself. It doesn't sound like you'll be able to speak with the father since he's the abuser, and he would probably just dismiss it anyway as none of your business. You need to get to the mom. She needs to stand up for her children, but I wonder if she's strong enough. From the way you describe her, she emotionally beaten down, too.
Social workers are trained in how to best approach these situations, so I think your idea of going there for help is the best. Hopefully they will give you the tools you need to help this family. It's possible they may think it's grave enough to get involved, so be prepared for that.

This sounds like a very difficult situation for you, and I'm sure you feel helpless. I know I haven't offered much by way of advice, but please know that until this situation is resolved, you will get all the support you need from all of us here.

Best of luck, and thank you for being there for those children.

Marissa M. said...

How about calling CPS- they might asign a therapist

mom said...

How very sad. The oldest child is in school. Maybe you can go in and speak with the teacher about this. YOu could (annymously or not) also contact the school principal, the child's doctor and perhaps the grandparents (on the mother's side.)
The mother is probably too beaten down by now since she has not stopped it on her own. Although you might just offer her some support and sympathy if you see him act badly towards her sometime. If there is any way you can plant a seed in her head about how wrong it is for herself and her children to be treated this way maybe she will become more receptive to admitting the reality of their situation to herself.

Anonymous said...

Op also needs to watch for any physical signs of abuse. Often verbal abusers don't stop with just words. The one thing she cannot tell either of the parents is the conversation with the oldest child. She also needs to start a journal about everything she hears from the child for documentation. There has to be proof before anyone can make an allegation about abuse. Maybe if the mother is "down" some day after a tirade from the husband, the OP can say to her, Gee you and the kids look so depressed today ,is there anything I can do to cheer you up? Do you want to talk to about whats bothering all of you? Maybe Mom just needs to have someone to talk to and when someone reaches out a helping hand to them sometimes they will eagerly grab that hand. Let Mom know you are willing to be there for her. My concern is if she calls the school, the child might figure it out and he won't confide in her any longer. Also if the school calls them in for a meeting this guy will go nuts when he gets home. They never do it in front of someone else, they wait until they have their victims alone. The first words he will say to that child is "now look what you have done, telling lies and causing trouble you little piece of Shit"it will get worse. Verbal abuse is so hard to prove. No one thought Alec Baldwin would say the things he did to his child, until they heard it on tape.
I would rather have a beating than hear some of the things people say to children.
OP too bad you cannot stay there a few nights to witness this.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, you could have been describing my father. From the perspective of a child who was psychologically/verbally/emotionally abused and constantly criticized and held to unrealistic situations, yelled at, shamed, etc...

It is doubtful that speaking to the parents will change anything and may get you fired. One thing you can do is be an emotional bedrock for the kids, and maintain ties with them if you ever leave the job. I thought of my babysitter from age 6-11 as almost like a second mother, and her presence in my life was really important. She invited us to her wedding later and kept in touch until we both moved and lost the thread. Anyway, in a situation in which children are being mistreated by their parents but not to the extent that removal from the home or calling CPS is necessary, I think sometimes the best thing that can happen to the kids is an adult in their lives OUTSIDE the family who treats them with sanity and respect. It gives them an alternate view of the universe other than the shame- and guilt-filled worldview they have in their own family.

Verbal abuse is real and the effects are lasting. I commend you for being such a caring individual. I'd be interested to hear the advice the social worker gives you.

erics mom said...

I was just wondering if O.P. worries about her safety. Could the father turn his anger on her in a violent way?

If someone does try to intervene, will the father think it could have been the nanny that told. And would he turn on her.

Just a thought

UmassSlytherin said...

I agree with eric's mom. Be careful, OP, please.
And good luck. You sound as if your heart is in the right place.

Anonymous said...

I hope the nanny doesn't get discouraged because she thinks the father could turn his aggression towards her.
She is brave, but must follow through to help these children.
She is all they have right now.
There must be other family members that suspect "trouble in paradise", so dad would be ignorant thinking only one person could report him.
Just talking to the social worker right now will do no harm. Nanny needs to know from a professional what she can do for these poor kids! They will lead her in the right direction.

Please keep us posted OP!

Anonymous said...

"Hmm, you could have been describing my father. From the perspective of a child who was psychologically/verbally/emotionally abused and constantly criticized and held to unrealistic situations, yelled at, shamed, etc..."

Me too.

OP: even if circumstances won't allow you to do much, just listening to the kids and then telling them that they are great kids will make a difference. Also, encourage the oldest to study hard and go to college far far away from the parents. That is what my piano teacher did for me and it saved my life.

Anonymous said...

As someone who suffered from child abuse, please just make sure that you did something. When I was a child I fantasized constantly that someone would do something, anything to get me out of that house or at least scare my parents into treating me better, but I was too terrified to ask for help. I hope that you can at least tip off CPS anonymously or something like that. Good luck.

Miserly Bastard said...

Sadly, there is nothing you can do. This family's issues are clearly something deep-rooted and beyond the ability of an outsider to solve. Your best option is to provide the children with as much unconditional love as you can.

Anonymous said...

be there for those kids. be the stability they need. and document everything. you may try to talk further with the older child and see what you can get from him/her. don't push it, but let them know that you are there and that they can always come to you WHENEVER they need to with ANYTHING.

i don't know when a good time would ever be, but you may want to see if you can somehow find out if there is more than just emotional/verbal abuse going on.

please let us know what happens.

Sue Doe-Nim said...

I think you are wise in seeking the counsel of a social worker.

Do you have any contact with the childrens' school? Perhaps an administrator there you can trust? It sounds like Mom is bullied too.

I guess I'm thinking you have it more under control than you want to believe, just some problems aren't fixed quickly.

Keep loving those kids. They need you.

just anonymous said...

I thought childcare workers were mandatory reporters to CPS if they suspect abuse? It's anonymous.

Anonymous said...

How's it going, OP?
Please give us an update.

Anonymous said...

What a brave person to try to help this family. I think it's really smart to talk to some professional annoymously if you feel it's really bad.
From the sound of things, it's hard to tell if it's really serious without being there. My dad was pretty much verbally and emotionally abusive but I never really thought it was a big deal at the time. It's the kind of situation where you just have to trust your instincts.
If it was me, I would probably start to look for another job because I don't like to be in such an uncomfortable and unhealthy environment at work. I also wouldn't want the dad turning on me. Maybe you are much bolder than me though. Good for you.