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Brad The Therapist
Brad The Therapist, LCPC
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 549
Experience:  10 years of experience in working with youth and adults
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I most certainly believe myself and my children are victims

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I most certainly believe myself and my children are victims of my ex-husband's NPD...the question is...we're divorced, my kids both struggle emotionally...(oldest has been on anti-depressants for a year, 7 yr. old has terrible rage/anger issues), they're forced to visit him every weekend (reluctantly...it's been 5 years, and they still cry when they have to go to dad's place)....

How do I help my children cope with this monster? It's hard enough for me, an adult! I'm seeking out some support groups in my area, but what can I do for my children who are exposed to this abusive personality disorder?

Slowly, slowly...after 5 years of researching this disorder, I need to start believing that it's not just MY diagnosis of a nasty marriage/divorce...this is real...all the signs/symptoms are there...and my emotional recovery is STILL going on...trouble is...you don't even know you're still in the grips of the abuser...then one day (today!)...you decide...that all your research, reading, analyzing, etc...proves that you're right...your ex is NPD...now what?

My youngest, who's 7...has fear/anxiety around school...(the stress gets to be too much...not every day...he can handle school in "small doses")...

This is a problem with the public school...he's missed so much school, we're being threatened with truancy, and my ex believes (since I have the children Mon.-Fri), that it's simply my lack of parenting skills in getting my kids to "obey"...

We've been through family therapy...(brutal to be in therapy with a narcissist), individual therapy for my oldest son (total school refusal...now does on-line school from home), medication to manage my oldest's extreme depression/general anxiety), and now I'm FINALLY facing the fact that the youngest has big issues too...with rage and anger...Pediatrician wants to start youngest on Prozac for a brief time...not sure about that.

I n eed to add that I've been treated for Depression since 2000..(same med...Prozac for me, and Prozac for my son...)...Dad never believed he needed any medication for his anxiety/mood disorder through our 22 years of marriage, and now 5 years since our divorce..(typical narcissistic belief that he's not sick...he feels if he eats right, exercises, etc...he's great! My ongoing feeling is that ..."dad doesn't believe in medication for himself...so EVERYONE else who deals with him needs to be medicated"!!

He's a bully, and likes to intimidate/threaten me with going back to court to get full custody of the children, because I'm so inadequate to parent...(he won't do this, of course, because he doesn't want the children even 50% of the time/nor could he make it happen...the children are really just an "inconvenience" to him...but, he likes to be nasty at any chance he gets with me.

Tomorrow we meet with my youngest son's public school to decide what to do about his school attendance problem...I DON'T want to be at this meeting with my ex, since he completely dominates any discussions, and uses any opportunity to tell people in power how inept I am.

I believe that an alternative schooling situation..(some form of a co-op school situation/some type of charter-school "homeschooling" situation) would be a worthy try...but ex is ADAMANT that this child WILL ATTEND public school...

Meanwhile, pediatrician wants to start meds, I'm still deciding if that's an alternative...( I think my alternative school option would be a LOT less dangerous), but I can't handle my child anymore in the public school system...the system won't allow for him to take 1-2 "mental health" days off per week!

Any suggestions would be helpful...I'm NOT just a complaining ex-spouse describing bad behavior from her ex husband...this behaviour of his is real, and pathological...and I need some way to prove that I'm dealing with a sick man, who continues to victimize myself and my kids....

thank you...

jackie
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Brad The Therapist replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your question, I apologize to switch to the Q&A forum as I am having technical difficulties. I definitely sense your strife that you are experiencing from your ex-husband and the way this has affected your children. Have you considered having your youngest son see a therapist? What does the youngest say why he doesn't want to go back to school? What is his fear/anxiety? After your response, I will be able to provide you with suggestions. I will be online for the next few hours.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Well, my youngest seems to be explaining to me the same "symptoms" that my oldest had when he attended school...(FYI...my oldest resisted school since preschool...and I accompanied him to Kindergarten most every day...volunteering in his classroom, and working with the teacher to help him separate from me...not much success...better in 1st grade-3rd grade. Grade 3...dad up and left the family, and his struggles with school started to get worse..continued through grade 5...Then improved in Grade 6...(new school...Middle School...liked it...then Grade 7...problems again)...

Both boys seem to have a certain tolerance for their stresses/anxiety, and then their "cup overflows"...

Granted, I've been exploring a lot of homeschooling alternatives, and with his older brother now homeschooling/online school, he would like to try it too...I think it would be a good fit...

His dad insists that the youngest is "different" from his older brother, and doesn't need an alternative school...FYI...it was blood, sweat, tears to get ex to FINALLY understand my oldest's school refusal wasn't a "behavior problem"...but an emotional one....unbelievable...he wanted the middle school to send a truant officer to our house to fetch my boy and make him go to school...whatever it took...(of course, I would never allow that...but, being this victim of his NPD, I figured it WAS my fault that my son wasn't going to school..(not enough of a disciplinarian/give my kid too many choices...all ideas fed to me by my ex...and I've been "listening" to his opinions about who I am for the past 25 years!.....so I actually WANTED the truancy officer to come take my kid to school...thankfully, that never happened..

hm....did I answer your question?? Ask away if not....
Expert:  Brad The Therapist replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your response. Have you considered working with a therapist to have your youngest son to return to school? A theory around school refusal that is well documented in literature is for a child to gain control of one's life after feeling "unsafe." What do you think your youngest son is trying to communicate to you by not going to school?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Well, a couple of things;

1. I think you're right about the "unsafe" feeling of school...he's told me his weekends are spent with dad..being punished for his misbehavior, etc....then comes back on Monday to school, and faces that situation all week...then the weekend comes again, etc...

He said..."mom, how would you feel"?? I'm stressed at dad's, and you don't love me either! He's very verbal, and articulate...both boys are...now, of course, he's been around his brother all his life with his meltdowns and tantrums, so he's been exposed to a lot of scary behavior from his brother too...so, some "mimicking"(not to sound dismissive of his feelings, etc...)

Also, he likes the idea of homeschooling. He doesn't refuse school every day...just seems to handle it for only several days in a row, then needs a break.

We recently moved him from his other public school that he attended K-1...just moved him to the public school my older son attended K-5...(it's more familiar, he expressed interest in going there, etc...only reason he WASN'T in the same school as his older brother, is that we're in the lottery system here in CA, and didn't get our school choice when we enrolled youngest..

So, a new school in the past month is, of course, very stressful, and a change mid-year would affect any kid, under the BEST of circumstances...of course, he LOVED the month here at home while the red tape took place to transition from one school to another.

I don't know..the longer I've been researching, the more I'm in favor of the learning environment that a homeschooling/alternative/co-op school offers...kids have a more "self-directed" learning, and more "choices"..all seem to work with my kids..we (my oldest and myself...hopefully his father) are attending a Homeschooling Conference this summer to learn about children's different learning styles, etc...hoping it will be helpful...but, I don't know how it will get my ex on board...he has one way of thinking, and very difficult to change.

Expert:  Brad The Therapist replied 2 years ago.
Do you feel that your decision of wanting to home school the youngest is based on your negative feelings towards your ex? (I did not mean to sound judgmental about your choice for home school...just wanted to see if it had anything to do with your preference). The only drawback of homeschooling is the social aspect and getting to attend school functions. If you feel that your son has a well-rounded life and will be able to focus on his education because he will have less anxiety, then you may be making the right decision. Have you considered having your youngest see a therapist? The reason why I recommend this is for your son to learn coping skills in managing his anxiety. Although you may be able to ease his anxiety while he is being home schooled, but what would happen when he becomes an adult or goes to college?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My push for homeschooling has NOTHING to do with negative feelings with ex...simply, I feel we've given public school a more than fair chance to work with the kids...it's hard to explain the whole homeschooling philosophy to people that haven't explored it...it can all sound very "hippy dippy", etc...I used to feel the same way about homeschoolers...

In fact, there are about as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers out there...and the social isolation issue is one of the biggest concerns people put out there...When, in fact, these homeschooling groups have more activities to have kids interact than we would have time for! The group is FULL of former educators that believe the current educational system is broken, and hard to fix...

Indeed, my son could benefit from how to deal with his anxiety...in NO WAY do I believe taking him out of public school would "cure" him...I just mean that the anxiety of THAT particular aspect of his life could be very reduced...as I said...school is OK 3 days out of 5...2 others he asks..."mom, could I just please take today off?" When I remind him that we MUST go everyday, the rage begins...he hits his brother, shouts terrible t hings at me and his brother...his brother is now crying because he can't handle all the emotional chaos, and we're all in a state...I physically had to drag him to school most of last year...when we got to school..(IF i could get him in the car), I would have to call the parent liason person to come out to the car and get him out...(no counselor there...another reason to switch schools)....

To me, there has to be another way to help my kids cope...new learning environment, therapy, life coping skills...but, my real question is...how can I possibly get my kids through this life of dealing with their dad...I'm not over-exaggerating his condition...all 3 of us are scared of dad...it's fruitless to try to talk to him, reason, etc...I bend over backwards to be kind, take the kids on weekends he gets an opportunity to get extra work, etc....all to try to get him to be more civil...and you know what?? I'm simply feeding into the NS, as usual....

No, no negative "backlash" to ex...I just feel I have a right to make some decisions with these children...especially since I'M the one who makes sure they get to school Tues.-Fri, and the divorce has the visitation split at 65% to me, 35% to dad...(in reality, he has them much less than that)...I'm only stating these facts because in this hellish world of divorce, it's all about the legalities, etc...I feel theh "bullying" by my ex needs to stop...It's really all about what's best for the kids...or SHOULD be...but, when you're dealing with a narcissist...the kids take a big 2nd to dad's desires..

Brad, this is a man who was having extramarital affairs for 6 Years before he told me...I DIDN'T KNOW A THING...then 1 day, after a month of ex being moodier than usual, he came home in 2007, told me he had been having one night stands with 7 or 8 women since 2000, and that he would get started on the divorce.

Naturally, PTS set in for myself, and oldest boy at the time...it's been a hellish 5 years...we've ALL FELT powerless, etc...and we're reminded almost daily by ex that HE IS THE ONE IN POWER, and makes the decisions...

Oh, God...this is SUCH a thumbnail description...
Expert:  Brad The Therapist replied 2 years ago.
I did not mean any judgment about homeschooling...I have clients who are being home schooled and doing well. In terms of dealing with the ex with NPD, I encourage your child to express what they want from their relationship from their father. If they feel that they do not want any contact with him because of his NPD, i urge you to try to get sole custody of your children. Do you feel is emotionally abusive towards your children? If they are scared and fearful, this is something to consider.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The boys both express that they would like to be able to talk to their dad and have a say in decisions, etc...not just told what to do always...he micro-manages them, and the stress level is really tough on both of them...

Oh, undoubtedly, this is emotional abuse for my kids...but, how, pray tell, could I possibly document this?? I'm not th ere...I only have the explanations my kids tell me about...(mostly, just my oldest...I don't know about these incidents from my youngest...but, my oldest is very articulate and candid with me..

The oldest says..."What's the point of trying to talk to dad?" It's his way or no way"...and he's right.

How could I possibly take this to court and prove that ex is emotionally abusing the kids?? could you please let me know?? What's so funny, is that he just threatened to take ME to court a few weeks ago to get full custody, as I mentioned earlier..

I was a full time stay home mom before the boys were in school, then for the past 5 years since the divorce, I've only worked part-time (10-15 hrs/week)...during the school hours, so that I could always be here for the kids...my kids come first..and their emotional well-being has been a TREMENDOUS source of stress for me...needless to say. And, with all due respect...the therapists that we've had (first family therapy, then individual therapy for my son with a Psychiatrist) hasn't been TOO helpful...it's very difficult for therapists to "see" the narcissist in front of them, I think...and, the 3 or 4 therapists we've had have all been very young. (sorry if I'm offending you...just that, I feel in a case with my ex's disorder, you really need someone with experience with this personality disorder, and the chaos it inflicts...normal, psychological methods haven't worked...we're all the happiest when dad isn't involved in our lives...but, of course, I want to be fair, I want the kids to have a relationship with their dad, and of course, I'm legally bound to have him in their lives...oh, and that brings up the child support/spousal support issue...this is a MAJOR problem for him...he feels he's "giving all his money to me"..(not to help raise the kids, mind you...it's ME who's taking all his money), so it's a very tumultuous relationship...one I try to really put the boundaries up...but then, (again, no offense), all the shrinks say I need to keep ex in the loop, let him know what's going on, communicate with him, etc...

I keep communication to text/e-mail so that I have documentation, and also so that I don't have to put up with his abusive words. This, in turn, makes him angrier, and then I really start to feel afraid of what he'll do.

At the beginning of this awful 5 years, he was so angry that the children had lots of cavities (he blamed this on their extended breast-feeding...no proof exists of such an allegation, but the way), and threatened that the dentist would report me to CPS if the children's next dental visits weren't "better"...he came to family therapy armed with a huge stack of "evidence" about how my breast-feeding" was harming my youngest..

The girlfriend he left me for was sending annonymous emails to me telling me her son was being "tramatized" after hearing from my oldest that his little brother was still nursing! She wanted to "meet and discuss" how to deal with it, and threatened going to the principal of the school...(neither happened)...actually, could have been the ex too...who knows?

I've got other stories...the only reason I'm telling you is because I have ONE MAJOR hurdle to overcome in dealing with this ex...he seems dangerous to me...not physically...(he never physically hurt me...seems like that would have been "easier" or more concrete to show his abuse.

I have very little money...live on the support/my part-time job, and still get help from my wonderful parents...it was AGONIZING to get the divorce done...(took 3 years...only officially divorced since 2010)...the thought of a court battle just doesn't seem possible, even though I would LOVE to have full custody so that my kids could get out of this abuse...but, he would NEVER agree to giving up any parental rights...even though he doesn't have the money to fight either...so, don't know how either one of us could afford to go to court..

maybe you have a suggestion?
Expert:  Brad The Therapist replied 2 years ago.
If you feel that there is emotional abuse going on with the father when he has custody, you can contact Child Protective Services to do an investigation when your children are with your ex. This way, any emotional abuse will be documented. In terms of legal action towards your ex, have you considered finding an attorney through legal aid? They typically offer free legal representation in custody battles as well. If a CPS case is open, testing can be ordered on your ex as well and testing may show his NPD.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
First of all, thanks for taking time with me, Brad. Just got back from some errands.

You know, I wouldn't want CPS to come to my house out of the blue with allegations I'm abusing the kids...you wouldn't be able to "see" the abusive behavior; for all intents and purposes, it looks like he's the upstanding father...these narcissists know how to look good...I don't think CPS dropping by would see anything untoward...as is the modus operandi with narcissists...their damage is much more insidious...kinda always there...you just don't know why you feel so bad when you're around them, and continue to feel bad after you leave them!!

I don't know...maybe if I start to explain my theory on dad's narcissism to my oldest, we can start to strategize. I've always wanted to show their dad in the best light as possible, and didn't want to "poison" or influence their feelings about him negatively...but, perhaps the 13.5 yr. old is old enough now to discuss the ramifications of living with this personality disorder, etc...they have enough distain for him on there own.

I continually encourage my kids to talk to their dad about their grievances; I've learned the hard way that there's very little I can do...I'm the punching bag as it is; relaying their feelings to him just makes him angrier, and gives him more reason to blame me...it's a dilemma I'm not sure what to do about.

So, you've taken quite a lot of time with me. I'll speak to my attorney about the issue, and get some feedback from others as well..I will definitely get the younger one into some kind of therapy so that he can work through his anger and learn more acceptable coping strategies...

Thanks for your time and suggestions.

Expert:  Brad The Therapist replied 2 years ago.
I believe seeing you attorney is the best thing to do at this point. If you decide to obtain full custody, please consider having a custody evaluation to be completed to have your ex evaluated. Such an evaluation will show you husband is narcissistic. Another suggestion is not to strategize with your oldest and just continue to encourage him and your other children to express their feelings towards their father. They will eventually decide that they do not want to spend time with their dad if things gets worse.

I wish you and your family all the best. Please consider pressing the "accept" button for me to receive credit for this question.

Thanks!
Brad The Therapist, LCPC
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 549
Experience: 10 years of experience in working with youth and adults
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