Daughter is afraid controlling father

by Cathy
(Arkansas)

how can I help my daughter stop being so afraid of her controlling father? He is very controlling and she is not getting to have a normal kid life at the age of 12 1/2? What can I do?


Ben's Answer:

Divorces are such messy business. Best option, if your ex really has his daughter's best interests in mind, would be for the 3 of you to do some family therapy sessions to talk it out. I've seen miraculous changes happen in families who do this.

But if he's unwilling to do that, you may need to discuss it with him on your own. And if he's closed to your opinions and concerns, the next best thing you can do is to empower your daughter to be assertive with him. Assertive doesn't mean defiant - it just means expressing your true feelings, clearly - even if you are angry or hurt. This is scary for many 12 yr olds with their fathers. But it's a rite of passage - a big step towards adulthood - to learn to speak your mind.

The problem is, that some parents, if they are very controlling, can't respect or tolerate their children standing up to them and speaking their honest feelings. You have to help her navigate that relationship, but without putting down her father or venting your own hurt or negativity to her. Let her come to her own conclusions about her feelings regarding her dad, and be careful not to play the "good" parent, while casting dad as the "bad" parent. I've seen many families of divorce do this, with very bad consequences.

She might benefit from seeing a therapist herself, just to learn to be more confident and assertive. Sometimes kids are more willing to listen to another neutral adult, than they are to their parents, even when we mean well.

Good luck,
Ben Schwarcz

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