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Question
Posted by: Help | 2003/12/03

Advise needed re children

I am in my late 20's and my bf is in his late 30's. He has a 7 yr old girl from his marriage. He is a very loving father and feels v guilty about the divorce, so much so that I think he over compensates wrt his daughter. I, on the other had don't have any children and nor do any of my family or friends - so all I have as ref's is my childhood (which was a very strict one). Our problem is that we have such different views about was is acceptable & not - and this is causing major problems in our otherwise flawless relationship. So I was wondering if the doc aswell as the ppl on this forum could please give me advise as to what is acceptable and whats not.

His daugher still calls out for him at night (early am) to either bring her some water or to see him. I have got him to leave some water next to her bed but she still calls him to pass it to her. We know that she is doing this to get attention but I feel that this is more of a reason to stop it. She has been doing this for over a yr (that I have been dating him)every other weekend without fail. I want to sleep through - if she were sick or had a bad dream - thats a different story. But he says that he will continue to go to her.

Another one is, he still baths her - I mean wash and dry her in all the girlie places - again he says that he will continue to do it until she says otherwise. I feel that he is treating her like a baby (the other day he held her and patted her bum like you would with a 1 yr old baby). She often says that she'll rather wait for him to pore her juice and cut her food cos it easier than if she did it herself!

He is a v good father and very involved in her life and he probably spends more time with his daugher than most live-in fathers. My bf and his ex have been separated/divorced for more than 3 yrs and the daughter has attended "play theorapy" for at least a 1 1/2 yrs.

Is this normal behaviour for an intelligent 7 yr girl?
Appreciate all comments and advise.
Thanx

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Our expert says:
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Sounds like the sort of good faher many women would love to find ; maybe he's infantilozing his "little girl" not encouraging her to grow up, and she may be unwittingly exploiting this, as kids who feel insecure, for whatever reason, tend to do, including becoming more childish in their behaviours and demands. he may also feel sacred, without realizing it, that if he leaves any demands unmet, the child could side more with the mother, who might exploit any such complaint.
It would still be worth discusing these matters with him, calmly, asking whether he feels that it may discourage her from growing up appropiately, when she is babied in these ways --- especially expecting him to cut up her food for her --- what will she do when she eats at the homes of other kids ? Ask to bring Daddy to look after her ?
And wouldn't this be a good issue to sugest that he raise with the "play therapist" who, by the sound of it ( it'snot one of the types of therapy most established to be actually effective at all ) isn't achieving much so far.
And otherwise, Zeena and Mona have it right

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Our users say:
Posted by: Zeena | 2003/12/04

Your boyfriend's and the daughter's actions are not at all abnormal where a family has broken up. It is due to guilt feelings on his side, and uncertainty or insecurity on the side of the child. Unfortunately our present-day society has made us over conscious of bodily contact between parents and children -- a pity. When I was small, my father used to help me and my younger sister bath properly every nighjt, while mom got supper ready. He and my mom are still married after more than 40 years ... he was just being a good daddy. I was about 11 years old and just beginning puberty when I insisted on having my bath on my own, and that was respected afterwards. I used to lock the door. This girl might do the same thing in two years' time.

The calling-to-daddy in the middle of the night has nothing to do with water and everything to do with the insecurity of a young child whose world had been turned upside down. I know it must be irritating to you, but once you have your own child, you will understand the kid's actions. A child is born into a family unit: mommy, daddy and me. When that unit is broken up, the child suffers a emotionally. The only security she has known has gone.

My advice would be to just let him get up and say nothing. After all it's the middle of the night (I suppose). Pull a pillow over your head and sleep on! Don't do the "nag thing" to force him to choose between you and his daughter. The bonds between a parent and child go deeper than can be described.

The bath thing: you could try and buy a sweet-smelling bath foam, making her a bath, and then inviting her to get in -- while daddy keeps his distance. Be fun-to-be-with, and help with scrubbing her back and reminding her to wash behind the ears. Perhaps if she gets hooked on a "special, female" bath that you prepared, daddy might let go. He's allowed to look in, and to laugh and make a joke, of course. The sooner you make this little girl welcome on your life, the sooner you will all be happy. It's a good sign that your boyfriend is so loving towards his child -- it promises good things for your future together. After all, when YOU have a baby, you would expect your husband to act towards the child exactly like this man does ...

Reply to Zeena
Posted by: Mona | 2003/12/03

Maybe you can take the lead in suggesting a nice bubble bath whilst dad is watching tv and see what she says. My son is 8, and is defenately quite capable of bathing himself, in fact, he is getting quite shy now when i walk into the bathroom, so yeah, i think she should bath herself.
As for the water, maybe she is scared at night and is using the water as an excuse?

Reply to Mona
Posted by: J | 2003/12/03

At her age she shouldnt be babied the way that she is. I can somehow understand that the father is overcompensating becasue of the seperation but at some point he needs to realise that treating her like this will create more problems in the long run.

Reply to J
Posted by: Paul | 2003/12/03

It doesn't sound right to me.

Reply to Paul

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