Coparent Academy Podcast

#99 - Treating the Abused Child

February 12, 2024 Linda VanValkenburg and Ron Gore
Coparent Academy Podcast
#99 - Treating the Abused Child
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In our 9th and final episode of on domestic violence and coparenting we discuss how to work with the abused child to help them recover, including assisting them with the possible reintroduction to the person who abused them.

Thanks for listening!  If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please email us at podcast@coparentacademy.com.  To learn more about becoming the best coparent you can be, visit coparentacademy.com.

Speaker 1:

All right, everyone Welcome. This is episode nine and our series on domestic violence and co-parenting, and today we're going to talk about treating the abused child. And specifically in the context we're referring to today is talking about treating the abused child and helping prepare them for the reconciliation process with the abuser and, linda, I can't think of any topic that's more squarely within your wheelhouse, I mean this is where you live.

Speaker 2:

Is this why you picked that topic weeks ago?

Speaker 1:

Of course, I had a grand plan.

Speaker 2:

Aha.

Speaker 1:

So treating the abused child. So what do we need to understand about this?

Speaker 2:

Well, I know we've touched on some of those things in the last two or three parts of this process, but the first thing that's really critical to a child that's been through this kind of abuse, or at least witnessed it, is a sense of physical and emotional safety in their current surroundings, and this applies to wherever they are with the custodial parent, wherever they're receiving therapy, and there has to be a lot of predictability and really good structure and limits as a counter-white to that chaos that they've been living in.

Speaker 1:

It's kind of like that analogy of swaddling babies. Yes, you're not going to swaddle a toddler teenager what a preteen. But you can emotionally make them feel that same sort of comfort.

Speaker 2:

Well, even with older kids or adults, I've got one of those weighted blankets.

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Speaker 2:

My gosh, that thing feels fabulous.

Speaker 1:

I know.

Speaker 2:

Especially this time of year.

Speaker 1:

Yes, for sure.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a thing, it really is. We really do need that and so many times children have told me that in some kind of environment, either at school. Somebody at school allowed them to go with a parent like me. Another therapist had surprised them with the presence of the abuser at that therapy environment that they had just begun to trust Really, and so they will. You can always tell what that's happened to a child in this process, because when I'm getting them, that's one reason I really hate to tackle a case as the second, third, fourth therapist, because you never know what all they've been exposed to, to and the other parts that have re-tropitized them.

Speaker 1:

I'm having trouble imagining under what circumstance a therapist would surprise a child with a visit from their abuser in the therapeutic space.

Speaker 2:

Because they didn't think I've talked to those people. Wow, Believe me, I've talked to them and they thought the child would be resistant and refuse to ever have that parent present. So they surprised them with them.

Speaker 1:

That shows such a profound misunderstanding of how kids work.

Speaker 2:

Well, in this process too, once again.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, wow, okay, and with the.

Speaker 2:

So with me, then the child has a hard time. Yeah, they'll ask me frequently now, am I gonna be on just with you or am I gonna be on with him? You know I'll go. I will not blindside you with him being there. Every single time I will come on. Even if we're gonna include him in a process and you know, or in a session, you will know about it in advance and then I will always bring you on first. That's one of the good things about doing it this way. They don't have to worry about writing into that person in the parking lot or the waiting room or anything like that.

Speaker 1:

Right, and by this way you're referring to doing the sort of telemedicine, the telecount.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, I have it. I'm still hung up on what you said before, so Wow. So the custodial parent was on board was surprising the child with the abuser parent.

Speaker 2:

I Don't think that person knew either. Wow, that's a risky thing for that therapist to do because when they've done it, they already had the father there in a back office and Took the child into their room and then went and got the parent brought him in, so the child would have already been separated from the custodial parent.

Speaker 1:

I Wow, I can't even imagine the circumstance in which that Would be right. I mean, it's it's almost like princess bride. Level is inconceivable. I can't. I can't conceive of it. Wow, wow, okay, yeah, so alright, so one, we would make sure not to retraumatize the child by surprising them with their abuser Without any forewarning or preparation. Right step one.

Speaker 2:

And Then they need to be with a person who is making the process as positive as possible, which sometimes means that If, if the understandably so, if the abused parent Just cannot facilitate bringing the child to a joint session, it's better if they can have, like an aunt, knuckle or grandparent or somebody Bring the child, and I've had that happen a lot of times when we were doing it in person. So they need to be with somebody that is able to facilitate it, not put their own feelings on to the child, but also be well known to the child and you know they feel good to be with them. They're the same thing with the therapist. They need the therapy environment and the therapist themselves to be able to acknowledge and recognize how painful this is for the child.

Speaker 1:

That takes a high level of self-awareness for the custodial parents to recognize that they lack the capacity to bring the child. That's a pretty profound realization. Yes, do they did? They come to that on their own sometimes, or.

Speaker 2:

Yes, let's say about half and half of the time that they have suggested it, or ask if that's okay and I will Suggest it.

Speaker 1:

Is there some? Does there tend to be some sort of triggering event that brought it to their attention that, hey, I just I can't do this?

Speaker 2:

Sometimes there is. Sometimes they just realized how, if they're in therapy themselves, to recognize that more and separate their own feelings from the child's feelings yes, another really good reason for the abused parent to be getting their own therapy right for sure. It's important for the child, along with that, not to feel responsible for care-taking or continuing to care-take Parent or a sibling or anybody in this setting. Yeah, they definitely have enough on their plate yes, and, as you've said before, a few of these children want to stop all contact with the abused parent. They Want to be able to let that parent know that they still think about them, that they still love them and they really Because, along with that care-taking part that they may have been doing Previously, they want to know that that parent is okay Because, yes, yeah they, they want. I had one little boy say I want to make sure he's not been living under a bridge.

Speaker 1:

Hmm, I Want to re-heard that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's kind of an adult lingo, isn't it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it sure is.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but they want to make sure that they are physically, emotionally safe at the same time that they're doing this kind of work with the parent. They really do have some needs to know that they are okay.

Speaker 1:

Well, kids are so big on fairness, oh yes. And it seems I can imagine a child thinking, yeah, they hurt me, but it's so unfair if they don't get to have a okay life or if they're not safe or if they're sad, right, yeah.

Speaker 2:

And then, depending on the bond they did have beforehand and also the level of fear that the child might have for the abuser then, and maybe sometimes a long period of distance and time between when they've seen them. You know, especially if the abuser did go to rehab or to prison or something like that, their absence itself could have been a source of re-injury to the child and with a lot of confused feelings for the child about that. You know they might have been fearful of them while they were there, but then they also might be concerned about them while they've been gone. Right. And so if they have disappeared from the child for extended periods of time or even were just very inconsistent through a period of time, the child really needs a period of time in response to that, to rebuild trust in the abuser, to make sure they're going to be there. And if during that space of time even sometimes it's just during the reconciliation process the abuser will quit coming, the abuser will no show. It's like the worst possible scenario. When the abuser have started the process, the child has started the process, the first two or three sessions are Done and have turned out better than any of us expected, and then the next session. The abuser doesn't show. You could just say that something that was starting to regenerate in the child's emotional parts just dies. Yeah, it's just, and I know for myself as a therapist who's lived through this rejuvenation with him. I mean, I've got a lot of confused feelings.

Speaker 1:

Sure.

Speaker 2:

I'm so sad for the kid, I was so angry at the person who didn't show up and then it's like all this hard work we've all done has just gone to waste. And sometimes, like I say, that's happened while I was still on the scene, and sometimes it's happened after we've had a really successful conclusion and then I get a call or an email from the custodial parent and She'll say I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but you're probably gonna be eventually getting something else from his attorney or the court saying you're back at it again because he's Totally disappeared on us again.

Speaker 1:

I just can't. Even I'm trying to put myself in the perspective of a child who's been abused, who gathered up the strength and the courage to go into that situation, who gathered up even more courage to be open to a new emotional connection with the person who had abused them and then to have that person abandon them again. This, the feeling of the lack of self-worth, like the feeling that I'm not worthy of this person's attention and maybe I'm only worth something to someone if they're abusing me. So maybe I need to make sure that I'm in a relationship with someone who abuses me, because that way they won't. Does that make any sense?

Speaker 2:

Oh, yes, and then, if and when that person does decide to To come back around, then Not only is that child more resistant to doing it again which is also why I hate being the second, third, fourth therapist to do it, because of course the resistance is way up To the therapist as well as that parent but also the child has gotten older people, right, you know, as we've gone through this process and so now they're in a different stage. You know, I remember Like it was yesterday, but it was a long time ago having a little boy that, and it wasn't that the father had been physically abusive, he was just unavailable. Just it was more of a neglect kind of abuse, and so the the father had done all the rigmarole, it paid everything to have reconciliation. The kid was really young at that point, I think like six or something, and oh, he was so excited to see his daddy, is, so excited to have me back, and it was easy peasy to make all that happen. And then after about three or four months, dad disappeared again. And Then a couple years later, dad comes back to the court saying mom's with hold of visitation and they're going where have you been? And so they send them back to me and so I talked to the kid of that kid is kind of not sure, but he's only eight at this point. So, okay, he's still a little boy. What's his daddy? So we reunite him. It does. Well, dad goes away again. Dad, where you comes back about two years later and at this point the kids about 10 or 11, and Now dad is remarried and has another child, a new baby, and all the dad can want to do in reuniting the kid and the kid realizes this is the reason dad's back this time is because he wants me to meet my new brother. So it's not even about me, it's not that he wants to spend time with me. The dad kept saying is it okay if I bring his little brother next time? You know that kind of thing. And it was not what the kid had in mind. The kid just wanted his dad himself and so they kind of went back together. But then the dad didn't keep showing up. We're back again where the kid is like 13, 14. At this point, when I just talked to the kid alone, he got us Linda, we've been doing this over and over again and I'm like, yeah, we have, I've been there and he said I'm a teenager now. I could care less what he's doing at his house, how many new kids he's had. Do I really have to do this again? So and the dad didn't seem to realize when I told him that the kid was not open to this process ever again. He's like he was clueless. He really seemed to not get it that his kid had matured many years past that six year old that actually wanted to know his dad.

Speaker 1:

Well, that's the self-centeredness of someone who's willing to leave his kid four times to not realize that it's a person distinct from himself who exists outside of his mere presence. So wow that poor kid.

Speaker 2:

It boggles my mind every time.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, do you do anything? Is it appropriate to in any way prepare a child for the prospect that the process won't work?

Speaker 2:

There are ways I've done that. For example, if it is a repetitive thing and I'm not the first therapist on the list if they bring up that inconsistency, I'll say, well, I'm sorry, but yeah, I can't predict whether or not they'll stay around this time either. They just have a right to request getting to see you again, and this is the first step to do that. So, yes, there are times like that where it's quite possible. We talk about things like you know, a parent's past behavior sometimes does show you what's going to happen in the future, and I can understand your need to give them some time to see if they'll stay in there with us. And that's sometimes what you know like. If the parent is having a hard time paying for something up front, then if they can't even pay for, let's say, the father has to pay for the entire process his intake, mom's intake, kids' intake, all that then I want to make real sure that they're going to be able to pay for the rest of the steps going forward, because I don't want to get halfway through it either and then, like I had one a while back where I stopped the process after the adult intakes to have the parent figure out whether they could afford to go forward or not. So I think that's a really good way to get a timely way, without like two or three months in between each session, so that they would be able to show the child that they could be consistent. So I try really hard to because I know some people can't afford this, but I try really hard to make it a palatable kind of thing for them so that they can show their best light to the child.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I knew one attorney who would assess the complexity of the case, make some determination about what he thought it was going to cost to get to the end, and then would not take the client on. And then the client agreed to secure a line of credit at a bank for that amount that they were not permitted to stop unless without the attorney withdrawing Because, right, you know, didn't want the person to get down the road and kick that bear and Then, not be enough, not be able to outrun it once you kicked it right and then right, this is kind of that same kind of thing.

Speaker 2:

And I know that's why sometimes therapists who do this will get a retainer. I just feel like people have had retainers everywhere and at that point and they're just really not, you know, prepared to do that with me too. But then we just go at the pace that they are able to take care of it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah and that's where it becomes really important for the custodial parent not to interfere, not to explain to the child. Why is the pace that it is? You know, I think a lot of times as parents we feel like we know our children better than anyone else can, but that's not always true, because our children don't show us themselves the way they show themselves others. I mean, you know my, I have one of the best kids, I think, ever, but he can be Surly and rude and short. You know cuz he? Because it's safe to be at home, but outside the house he's, you know, always a perfect gentleman and we had nothing but compliments. Because there are different people in different places, just like all of us are, and so that's why I tried to explain to clients, when they say that to me, you know the child, that your child is with you. Your child is a different child with other people, and so sometimes we need different perspectives.

Speaker 2:

Right, but one more thing I'd like to say about the child on this is and it kind of covers all these bases We've just talked about I think that Hopefully, the therapy, and even the reconciliation therapy, supervised visitation, etc. The steps of doing this are going to be Assisting the child, educating the child, helping the child, practice, being more aware, and it will be more difficult, going forward, for the rest of their life, for anyone to abuse or manipulate. That's a great point.

Speaker 1:

That's a great point teaching them boundaries what's safe emotional touch in addition to what safe physical touch?

Speaker 2:

And if it's with those cases as I've had a few where with an abuser they haven't done anything To help themselves to change to do anything differently, they're still very Obnoxious to reoffending with their child. I have stopped the process and only done one other session and only done one other session with the child where the child gets to just Say what they needed to say. They get to just Confront everything they wanted to confront with that parent and usually they're teenagers at this point. But I have watched them leave the room after doing such a thing. Of course they're well prepared by me to be able to do it and usually they're therapist at Divas or some place at the same time but they leave that room looking at least two inches taller than they walked in. Yeah, yeah, I've they have a way different. Take on how to stand up for themselves, how to confront something that isn't right, and then that's it. That's been our last time to try it.

Speaker 1:

I've heard you refer to that as the letting go session.

Speaker 2:

Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, and actually it could be one or the other. The letting go is more where the parent is letting, this is the child letting go. Oh okay. This is the child saying you know, not, not, we're not even at that point because the parents already shown their true colors. So we're not even at that point waiting for or allowing any feedback from the parent about what the child's perspective is. The child's just going to get to say everything they feel and leave to the room. Wow, and we're done.

Speaker 1:

Well, there you go, there you go, okay. Well then, I've not experienced that with you yet. I've had a few of the letting go sessions with involved with you, but I've never had that.

Speaker 2:

For the parent has finally come to a point of just saying, okay, this has gone as far as I think it needs to go, and I just want you to know I'm not going to fight it anymore, but I'm always going to be here for you and hope that I'll get to see you.

Speaker 1:

That's the letting go right, yeah, okay, well, is there anything else you want to let everybody know before we finish this episode?

Speaker 2:

I think those are all the important points. Okay, quite a bit of them.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure. Okay, well, that wraps up, unless we think of something else that wraps up our domestic violence and co-parenting series. I know that we're going to have some future episodes where we talk about how to continue to co-parent with someone who is controlling and manipulative and uses abusive languages, or bright topics for us to get into. I believe that we're preparing some additional courses for the Co-Parent Academy dealing with communications, complicated communications like that, dealing with those kinds of co-parenting interactions. You know, if you are getting involved on one side or another of reconciliation counseling, do yourself a favor and check out Co-Parent Academycom. We have an extensive reconciliation counseling course and I'll tell you why it would matter to you. If you are the parent who's the custodial parent, you need to know what to expect and how not to screw it up, because you need to do the best you can to keep your child safe. That's your goal. But you may be going about it wrong unless you have all the information. And if you're the parent who's being reintegrated with the child, whether you're an abuser or not, you don't have to have been an abuser to be in reconciliation counseling. If you're getting into reconciliation counseling as the parent who's been estranged or who's been absent from child's life. You only get one real shot at this and you can't mess it up. So you're going to save yourself time, money and heartache by checking out the reconciliation counseling course. It's fairly inexpensive I think it's about $40 and it will save you so much time and money and it'll preserve for you your one best chance at reconciliation, and for both the custodial and the parent who is not in possession. It'll give you both the tools you need to keep your child safe during the process. So I encourage everybody to check it out. I can tell I'm not a big salesman, so I must be passionate about this one, because I just sold the heck out of that reconciliation counseling course. But it is. It's a good one. It's totally worth it. You imagine you're paying an attorney $300 an hour or you're paying a good counselor $150, $200 an hour. If you spent $40 or so to take a course to listen to a reconciliation counselor and an attorney talk about the process, for what? Three or four hours or five hours, whatever that course is, it's just, it's a pittance.

Speaker 2:

So Well, until that. In fact, that's the reason why we're doing all this, why we have a co-parent academy, because we used to talk about how many times we repeat ourselves with our respective clients. And you know, if we had the same client, you'd be telling them what to expect, I'd be telling them what it's about, and it still would be nearly as in depth after they'd paid each of us for an hour at least to really understand it all. I mean, it goes into far deeper crevices on what to expect than your eye had ever been able to do before, For sure.

Speaker 1:

Yes, everybody check it out If you know anybody who's getting into reconciliation counseling point in that way. In the meantime, we hope you have the best possible week and we will talk to you next time. Take care.

Speaker 2:

Goodbye.

Treating the Abused Child in Co-Parenting
Rebuilding Trust and Parental Inconsistency
Letting Go and Co-Parenting Concepts
Co-Parent Academy and Reconciliation Counseling