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Enmeshed preschooler -- increasing confidence in her?

Started by DecentDad, Dec 01, 2003, 10:48:09 AM

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Hello Dr. D,

I'm hoping you may be able to provide some insights into how I can best support my 3 and a half year old daughter.

I currently have approx 25% custodial time, which has been in place since she was a year old.

Biomom meets criteria for borderline and histrionic personality disorders.  She's overreactive to every potential trauma in daughter's life, including speculative and imagined ones.  I've received one to two new allegations every week from her about how I'm damaging our daughter.

Biomom apparently still nurses, and it took nearly three weeks before she would leave daughter alone at preschool (i.e., beginning last month).  Preschool staff is excellent, btw.

We're currently under-going custody and psych evaluations with custody trial in three months.

I got married two months ago to a woman who has been in daughter's life for two years, and they have a playful, affectionate bond.  Likewise, daughter seems affectionate and comfortable with me.  During my custody time, we've focused on consistency, structure, and routines; in which she seems to do best.

Since the wedding, the seemingly passive poisoning from biomom has turned active.  Daughter now recites phrases about me that presumably came from biomom (i.e., a three year old wouldn't otherwise come up with such things).

Daughter shows increasing difficulty with new people, especially her peers.  She literally shuts down, looks down, doesn't talk, and freezes.  She can't handle being around new people without my wife or I at her side.

On top of that, just as her mother is focused on her fears (i.e., every week, our daughter allegedly has a new fear that her mother blames on my home), our daughter likewise seems to come from a fear-based place.

In her comfortable surroundings (e.g., my home), she's a boisterous, affectionate, and self-initiating little girl who fixates her play imagination on mamas and babies (i.e., with dolls, the baby is always crying and needing mama).  She enjoys this play with us.

It's clear that her mom hasn't encouraged her to find her own independence and confidence, and I'm really seeing it all come to a head now as she's forced into peer relationships.


While I'm comfortable in what I'm wanting to come out of the evaluations and trial, what can I be doing during these three months to help my daughter overcome the fears and apparent difficulty with developing new relationships?

Any book recommendations or counselors in the Los Angeles area with whom I can consult (i.e., as a parent, not for the purpose of entering daughter into therapy)?

Thanks very much for your thoughts.



If you haven't already been informed on Parental Alienation Syndrome, you may want to become very familiar with it. I've learned that if you think it can't get worse, it can, so be totally prepared and by gawd don't act on emotions or anger. You have to rely on yourself for information and know-how. It will be one big legal mess that will be drawn out for years if you don't get ahead of the game and be smart. Remember your daughter is just a child, practically still a baby, she's very fragile.

Dr. D

Dear DD;

There are a ton of good books out there.  Not knowing you though, I would first advise you to follow your heart.  Try not to counter the ex's "poison" with explanations and rebuttals with your daughter.  Simply, address any "poison" with affirmations that you love her and hope she can feel the truth behind that.

It is not uncommon for a 3 y.o. to not know "how" to feel especially when receiving mixed messages from parents.  Usually, a loving and supportive parent can get that message through with time and consistency.  The more time you spend with your daughter the easier it will be for everyone.  

Through your daughters' play she is telling you something.  What is that?  If the baby is always crying -- ask her what makes the baby cry? How does she react to her crying doll?  Engaging with her is the key to opening communication.  Do not sit back and passively watch....get involved and ask questions.  Make sure the questions are related to what is going on at the time and do not assume answers.  Listen and you will learn.

You can learn a lot and calm your daughter a lot in three months.  Can you be involved with therapy with her?  This would help.

Stay involved.