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That helpless, powerless feeling

posted 1 decade 3 years ago
Hi all,

I'm looking for advice/reassurance/enlightenment....anything to get rid of this completely helpless feeling! I have major concerns about my 4 1/2 year old niece. I have looked after her on a regular basis since she was 6 months old, supporting mum and dad who were together until earlier this year. Although my husband and I have not always agreed with the way things have been done we have always done all we can to ensure LO had a decent upbringing. Unfortunately this hasn't been easy. From the word go mum has had a problem with alcohol which obviously has an affect on her ability to look after little one. Although we are pretty sure she does not drink during the day when with little one any more we are aware she drinks quite a bit (a bottle of wine or more a night, maybe half a bottle of vodka tend to be the things she drinks the most) on a regular basis in the evenings so spends the next day hungover. As mum and dad have now split up (down to mum's unreasonable behaviour) it is now harder for us to keep tabs on what mum is doing in terms of how much she is drinking, whether she is actually getting up and at least getting LO up and dressed and to school on time, whether LO is being fed a reasonable diet or whether she is being handed chocolate, crisps, takeaways, pot noodles, whatever is close to hand etc, and just generally how well she is being brought up whilst with mum. This is obviously a great concern to us all, including dad but we also accept that we cannot dictate how she is brought up when with mum. I have tried on many occasions talking to mum about her drinking, her depression but I am normally met with a brick wall. I have been lucky on a few occasions where she has confided in me and admitted that she has a problem and wants help but the next day will have shut back down and will not accept that she really does need help. What she cannot see is that the behaviours she is instilling in LO, especially since dad moved out are having an effect on her and causing a negative impact on her little life (i.e no boundaries, feeding her rubbish because it is easier, numerous different men staying over in mum’s bed, still putting her in nappies at night although she is dry most nights at dads where she doesn’t wear nappies etc etc) Since mum and dad split they have been working from the agreement that LO lives with mum and spends weekends and 2 weekdays after school with dad as he works full time whereas mum only works 2 weekdays. There is currently no official agreement for this as mum refuses to make it legally binding as she will lose the majority of her benefits (the majority of which is spent on alcohol, nights out every weekend, clothes for herself and trips to the local indoor play center to 'get LO out of her hair') Don't get me wrong, mum does love LO and will always say she is her priority but sometimes it feels that she is only the priority when it suits mum-if there is a more appealing offer she will take it. Dad is not necessarily happy with this situation but as he can just afford to provide what he needs to on the wages he is currently on (he does not receive any benefits as the girls are not classed as living with him) he has left the situation as it is. Dad has a couple of times raised his concerns with health visitors etc but mum has a very good knack of putting on a front so that she appears to be happy, in control and a doting mum, which is what has come across any time a health visitor etc has gone to visit – either that or she has gone out and says she forgot about the appointment (we’re not entirely sure if this was a genuine mistake every time it happened or whether she was doing it to avoid the visit) The very grim reality is that if you went round to mum’s place the majority of the time you would be confronted by a very dirty, messy house, mum still in her pyjamas regardless of the time of day, LO not dressed (previous to her starting school in sept) and acting like a completely different child to the one we/both sets of grandparents/her dad look after. It sounds awful but she is not a nice child in that situation…the complete opposite to the well mannered, well behaved and generally likeable child when she is with anyone else. LO did not cope with the breakup of her parents very well but soon settled down after she realised that dad wasn’t going anywhere. We do try to be very careful with what we say about mum as we do not want LO feeling she is in the middle of conflict. LO has just started school this September and already we are starting to see cracks appearing…mum takes her to school on the days she is not at work and LO already has a number of marks for being late and 1 day (that we are aware of) where she hasn’t been at all (although we know for certain she was not ill). Mum has a very negative attitude towards school and has often displayed this to me right in front of LO. Unsurprisingly LO has been moved into a class that is specially designed to nurture children who are displaying signs of emotional distress much to mum’s disgust as she says there is nothing wrong with her. Dad on the other hand has been very supportive of this. My biggest concern is that LO appears quite unhappy at the moment and has told me and her dad on a number of occasions that she does not like school. We have both tried to encourage her that the activities she does at school are really fun and all the family are being extremely positive about school in hope that it will change her attitude about it. Mum has said that she is a nightmare in the mornings before going to school because she does not want to go but she just gets cross with LO and expresses her relief that she will not have to deal with her for the rest of the day. Having had LO last night and taking her to school this morning I feel even more worried about her. Any mention of school last night was met with a negative reaction. She was extremely restless during the night last night, having a number of night terrors (in which she talks in her sleep) The bits I was able to make out were all relating to how she didn’t like school and how she didn’t want to go to school and the first thing she said to me this morning when she woke up was that she didn’t want to go. I have tried on a number of occasions to find out the underlying reason as to why but the only thing she has given me or her dad so far is that it is boring. I will keep talking to her when she opens up but as for the minute I am stumped. She was very quiet on the way to school and when I went to leave we had the tears and ‘I want you to stay with me’ I had let her teacher know about the restless night and negativity towards school so they are aware of it. Dad works a random shift pattern so is very rarely able to get to see or speak to her teachers to let them know of the whole situation and any current issues and as I am only aunty I am not seen as being a legal guardian so doubt they would speak to me about anything. Mum doesn’t see there is a problem and thinks the teachers are all patronising and against her anyway. I just feel so helpless that I cannot do more. I know I have no rights legally and I’m just there more to support her dad but can anyone give me any advice on what to do….I feel like I am at the end of my tether after nearly 5 years of this constant battle to provide a comfortable, stable and happy upbringing for LO. We all feel out of our depths.

posted 1 decade 3 years ago
It is difficult as you say with you not being the legal guardian but there will be parents evenings coming up and open afternoons etc. I really think the child's father needs to make a point of going to the school and speaking with the teachers. They may be able to provide some contacts to help with the mother's drinking and behaviour. If the school know there is a problem they can work with the child in a more affective way and it may be that the child's dad can legally take on a bigger official role in the girls life. I know it is difficult being in your situation but you need to get grand parents, yourself, the dad all on side and say or do whatever it takes to get that little girl a better life. Maybe the mum is depressed since her marriage went wrong. Maybe she is mentally ill, or maybe her drinking and behaviour are just a bad addiction ruining her life BUT if she doesn't get help it will get worse for the child as she gets older and becomes more aware of the environment she is living in.

Social Services wont just snatch the child away if that is your fear. They will first try to support the mother and maybe put the child in her father's custody until the mother can sort herself out. Don't be afraid of come back on you, the little girl can't speak for herself and needs someone like you to do it for her. Just make sure anything you say is absolutely 100% true and not just speculation or it will lead to more problems!

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