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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

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11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

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9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

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Effects on the Child

Verbal Abuse Effects on the Child

From: Roxanne
Sent: Monday, June 28, 1999 7:17 PM
Subject: Effects of verbal abuse on children

Dear Dr. Irene,
I am a 26 year old mother who is recently divorced.  My husband was verbally abusive.  The courts say our son has to spend half time with me and half time with his father.  The problem is the court isn't realizing that his father is abusive.  What effect does the verbal abuse have on a child after separation.  We are noticing a lot of problems when he returns from his dads.  Is there a pattern of abuse to the child??  And what effect will it have on our son if he continues visitation with his father?  He father is telling his son that I am a bad monster, I am going to replace him (dad), we have problems with wetting and pooping, I find it a struggle to keep my relationship with my son.  When I confront his father he denies having said any of those things.  How can I make his father realize he isn't hurting me he isn't hurting himself but he is hurting his four year old son!!!
Also, how can I get the court to understand the situation that I left?

Sincerely, Roxanne

Dear Roxanne,
It is sad that your husband appears to involve your child in his anger with you.
There is absolutely nothing you can do regarding your husband's behavior. Stop accusing him of badmouthing you since it may not be true, and it won't help anyway. If he is guilty, the more he thinks he is upsetting you, the more his angry behavior is likely to continue. If there is any way you can improve your relationship with him, do so. Consider co-parenting counseling with him for your son's sake.
Please seriously consider family counseling for yourself and your child if your ex won't participate. 
Minimize the damage your ex-husband's accusations may be having on your son by assuring the child that you cannot replace his daddy; that each kid only has one daddy forever, etc., etc. Tell him that even though mommy and daddy don't love each other, they both love him and always will. 
Ask your son why he thinks mommy is a "bad monster." Tell him it is OK for him to think whatever he thinks and that you love him anyway. As the child gets older, do not "protect" him from his dad's accusations of you. Without badmouthing his father, let the child know why you and your husband separated. Simply provide your version of the truth at a level he can handle and allow the child to talk about whatever emotions he feels without telling him "that's not true" or "you don't really feel that way".
If you continue having problems, especially the "pooping" part, have your son evaluated by a child psychologist. Tell the evaluator what you suspect is going on. Or, bring your issue to the Court. Talk to your attorney about the possibility of petitioning the Court to order testing and an assessment of the child's environment.
Good luck to you,
Dr. Irene