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What do kids see and feel?

Old 04-27-2011, 09:45 PM
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What do kids see and feel?

After reading HoopNinja's thread I've been wondering about something.
My therapist said I was an empath, meaning I can pick up on emotions. (I also take ownership of them but that's a different thing.)

There have been times when I was stressed out. Probably angry with my AW. She loved to wield my boy like a axe or use him as a shield in the bad times. She'd make comments to me that my son is picking up on my energy and it's making him upset. I never liked hearing that because I can believe it. Even more so based on the comment my therapist said.
Skip to current events. I've noticed that when the AW is out doing her thing, my son is a sweet little boy. He doesn't wine. He's happy. He plays. He helps me do stuff. He's only 2 by the way. The moment the AW gets home he turns into a crybaby. Wants to be held. Won't go to bed. Gets naughty, etc. I suspect much of it has to do with inconsistency between parenting styles. He knows he can push his mom and she'll cave to his every whim.
The biggest and more extreme mood shifts with him happen on those nights when I suspect the AW is on the sauce. So here's a few questions. If you believe in people being empaths, do you think a child gets that from their parents? If so, do you think my son is reacting the way he does because he knows his mom is "off"? Ultimately, is this why, as others have stated, a child will eventually see through the BS of the drunk parent? They learn that the sober parent is good and the drunk one is bad? Even at a young age?
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Old 04-27-2011, 09:55 PM
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Speaking very generally, at his age, they don't see good parent/bad parent. They want security and who is the parent that gives them that security; that is what they respond to. So if your wife is inconsistent, it would make sense that he would act out as he isn't secure with her at times.

If she has always been that way with him then no he won't really see her as being 'off', he just figures this is how she is. He has figured out one way to act with her and another way with you to feel secure.





Originally Posted by Shellcrusher View Post
After reading HoopNinja's thread I've been wondering about something.
My therapist said I was an empath, meaning I can pick up on emotions. (I also take ownership of them but that's a different thing.)

There have been times when I was stressed out. Probably angry with my AW. She loved to wield my boy like a axe or use him as a shield in the bad times. She'd make comments to me that my son is picking up on my energy and it's making him upset. I never liked hearing that because I can believe it. Even more so based on the comment my therapist said.
Skip to current events. I've noticed that when the AW is out doing her thing, my son is a sweet little boy. He doesn't wine. He's happy. He plays. He helps me do stuff. He's only 2 by the way. The moment the AW gets home he turns into a crybaby. Wants to be held. Won't go to bed. Gets naughty, etc. I suspect much of it has to do with inconsistency between parenting styles. He knows he can push his mom and she'll cave to his every whim.
The biggest and more extreme mood shifts with him happen on those nights when I suspect the AW is on the sauce. So here's a few questions. If you believe in people being empaths, do you think a child gets that from their parents? If so, do you think my son is reacting the way he does because he knows his mom is "off"? Ultimately, is this why, as others have stated, a child will eventually see through the BS of the drunk parent? They learn that the sober parent is good and the drunk one is bad? Even at a young age?
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Old 04-27-2011, 10:09 PM
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I definitely believe that kids can pick up on the emotions of the people they rely on to take care of them. Security, predictability and daily rhythms are so important to little ones. Those are hard things to come by with an active alcoholic in the home.

When something is up to upset their sense of security, children will react. When one of their caretakers is unavailable or upset or... they will react.

Continue to be the great Dad that you are, Shellcrusher. Make sure your little guy knows he can count on you by continuing to provide that sense of rhythm (your bedtime routines, etc.) and being available physically, mentally, emotionally, for him.
Wishing you peace and continued strength.
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Old 04-27-2011, 10:12 PM
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I've seen alot of stories where the drunk parent is viewed as the good parent by children, for many reasons. Primarily because the sober parent was obsessed with the drunk's behavior, and they had become irritable and unreasonable without knowing it, and inadvertantly taken it out on the child. For instance, when all the kids see is the wife yelling at the drunk husband and they aren't aware of/are too young to understand his wrongdoings, all they see is angry mommy all the time. Not at all insinuating that this is your situation, just an example.

I don't have kids, but I do know how easily some of them can read situations, and determine how to make them work to their advantage. I also know that when situations make them uneasy or insecure, they revert back to a needy, whiny stage. In my years of training dogs, i've discovered the animals act the same way. They don't know exactly what's wrong, or different, but they feel a different energy, and act accordingly.

As an ACOA myself, I know that I was affected constantly by good times and bad at home, and those experiences have stuck with me. I may not remember all instances specifically, but I know that each and every one of them helped me become the person I became. And I have a lot of work to do in order to become the person I want to be, instead of the person that living with the disease made me.

Some children never see through the bs of the drunk parent, and actually become drunk parents themselves. You just never know.
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Old 04-27-2011, 10:25 PM
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I think kids do react to a the mood of a parent, the tension in the room, the ambiguity of a parent (alcohol induced, insecurities, inconsistencies). I think they respond to the vibe that is sent back and forth between parents. Different parenting styles matter, one or two adults in the room makes a difference.

FWIW at 2yo my kids pretty much all responded to my coming home by whining and crying and carrying on to be held etc. Their dad used to say the same thing about them being angels for him and turning terrible when I arrived on the scene and he'd gloat and I'd waffle between wanting to sob and rip his face off - so I'm sure that vibe didn't improve their behavior any.

ETA: I'm not saying that to imply it goes on in your house. That was my house. My husband was mostly a benign, buzzed, unengaged tired (ie passed out very early) parent that was sometimes fun and usually a bit neglectful but not in a way a young child would notice. I was a frazzled, unhappy, crabby, rigid, worried, beyond stressed, rule maker and so any bad things they got from our dynamic mostly came from me. I offered security, health, love, dependability etc but again - small children do not see that. They just care how the evening went. I'm so upset about it now but I can't go back and undo it. One of my kids will never let me forget it either because he is basically a small, angry, rigid, unhappy boy version of the mother I was for such a long time.
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Old 04-27-2011, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Thumper View Post
My husband was mostly a benign, buzzed, unengaged tired (ie passed out very early) parent that was sometimes fun and usually a bit neglectful but not in a way a young child would notice. I was a frazzled, unhappy, crabby, rigid, worried, beyond stressed, rule maker and so any bad things they got from our dynamic mostly came from me. I offered security, health, love, dependability etc but again - small children do not see that. They just care how the evening went. I'm so upset about it now but I can't go back and undo it. One of my kids will never let me forget it either because he is basically a small, angry, rigid, unhappy boy version of the mother I was for such a long time.
Thumper, this is me and my son. He is now 6, and it scares me how much of myself he reflects back to me. In the past, it has been a burden almost too much to bear. I recently received a lot of hope at a meeting. In our reading, it said that "Victims create more victims. Recovery creates more recovery". Me and my kids are in recovery. They come to meetings with me and get to feel the love and support my Al-Anon family give us. They get to see me practicing recovery tools...

Also, I have to add that my children gave me the strength to leave a very verbally and emotionally abusive marriage. The fact that my son was colicky, difficult even as an infant tells me that he KNEW something was wrong from the very beginning.

One day, my friend asked me if I was okay. All i could say for myself was, "Well, I don't know, I can't figure anything out, blah blah blah". Then she asked me if my kids were okay. I realized then that NO, they were NOT okay. Crying, hitting, screaming, constant tantrums. It was a life of total chaos, terror, anger, isolation, and fear. I realized then that I had to leave for my kids. I had been sitting at my bottom for quite some time. There was no more questioning or doubt. My kids did not deserve a life that looked like that. They deserved much much better. And I eventually came to realize that I did, as well.

As hard as it is to accept that my son has taken on so many of my negative behaviors, I feel that it was part of his purpose in coming to me. To help wake me up! And now, I am getting better, and he is, too. I will not berate myself about what is past, and what his perceptions of the world are. I am here to take care of myself, take care of my kids, and be the best mom and role model I can be with who I am TODAY.

Shellcrusher, I relate to the empath situation and how difficult it can be to separate my feelings from what others are throwing at me. Al-Anon really helps me see what is mine, and what is someone else's. I also met a healer and she gave me a piece of black tourmaline that helps to block other's energy from interfering with mine. It worked. That piece of rock is always a good reminder to me to be aware of what I am feeling and not take on others' pain/joy/anxiety/etc...

Also, I am into astrology and I am a cancer/cancer moon/scorpio rising. My father is a cancer/cancer moon and ACOA. My son is a cancer/scorpio moon/scorpio rising. He also has the same birthday as his other grandfather. There is a LOT of emotional reflecting/needy/clinginess going on here! Lots of emotional intensity all the time. So yes, I believe the empath thing is passed on. In my case, I see it through astrology.

Thanks for listening. Hope there was something useful in there.
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Old 04-28-2011, 12:06 AM
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My two cents:

When your son is with you, he's content and comfortable because his world is safe and predictable.
When his mother is around, he's pulling her attention toward himself because he's not all of the above.

My children haven't seen their father for 2 weeks. They are calm and happy and peaceful. Every time they see him, they turn into little bombs of neediness and meanness that explode all over the place.
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Old 04-28-2011, 04:27 AM
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My D's 5 and 3 get along with one another well when they are with just me or when their father is home but outside, or asleep. When they are with him they are giddy and excited to play with him but the fight like cats and dogs for his attention and act much younger than they are. They do this is T too. The T has told AH and I both that they are doing this out of anxiety most likely bc AH is pretty unpredictable. That hasn't gone over well. AH pretends to understand and care about the girls feelings while we are there and then I get laid into after we leave.

So, I think kids pick up on a lot, spoken and unspoken and learn at an early age how to act around the parent who is not "safe" (either emotionally or otherwise).

I set limits and am fine with the girls being upset with me for doing so-- I'm their mom-- that's my job. AH wants to be their buddy and there are no rules with him. I don't think he sees that by having no limits he's setting them up to never know what to expect...
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Old 04-28-2011, 05:40 AM
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Shell crusher,

My kids are d5 and s3.... There is so much going on with them. Some of it is age related (separation anxiety/abandonment is very normal from 2-3), some of it is due to AH and me. I try no to read too much into their temper tantrums... But I am also very acutely aware that when I get spun out, they see it and are learning it. That has been a huge motivator for me to work extra hard on my program. When I am calm and detach from the insanity, I'm a much better mom... And am much better equipped to handle them and teach them how to process their emotions in a healthier fashion.

I do agree with previous posters... My kids are good alone for me, they can also be good alone for my husband... The minute both of us are in the room.... GAME ON. It's bizarre, and I don't know if it's the tension between us or them just being kids. I do remember having the same issue about a year or so ago before the drinking/tension ramped up so while some of it now is the tension... Some of it is them just being kids.

And, the whining and wanting to be held... Some of that is because she is mommy. My kids do the same thing to me... It drives me insane, and we are working on curbing that (their whining, and my insanity!!!).

Honestly, this post is exactly why I feel so strongly about divorcing and getting away from my AH. It's hard enough to raise kids.... throw active drinking in the mix and its just a baffling mess.

Focus on you, and being the best dad you can be... Thats what I'm doing here for the past 2.5 months and I have noticed a big improvement in the kids temperament.

Sending thoughts and prayers your way!
Shannon
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Old 04-28-2011, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by GettingBy View Post
And, the whining and wanting to be held... Some of that is because she is mommy. My kids do the same thing to me... It drives me insane, and we are working on curbing that (their whining, and my insanity!!!).
Agreed. My DD is 2.5 yrs old, and with other caregivers (my parents or her daycare providers), she is an angel. As soon as she sees me, all the worries, the frustrations and insecurities come pouring out. Instead of getting a happy "Maman!" when I walk in the door at 17h30, I get a "WAAaaaaah, I fell down at daycare and got a booboo and it made me saaaaaaaad!".

When we were still nursing, she's almost tackle me to the ground and start undressing me just to get to my breast. A solid five minutes of nursing, touching my hair and cooing, and then she'd be more..."centered". It's almost as if she's saving up all her discontentment and lets it out with me, despite the fact that I am by far the strictest among her parental figures.

I do agree that being around the alcoholic parent was a destabilizing factor, at least for my daughter. She'd come back from her visits with her father completely confused, fussy, overexcited (but maybe that's from him feeding her chocolate and chips). It always took a good 2 days to get her back to normal. Even though I had no control over what occurred during the visits, I always did my best to provide DD with consistency and love, so that she knew what to expect with me.
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Old 04-28-2011, 09:07 AM
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YES they feel the tension, they can't name it, or disect it as they have nothing to compare it to...to borrow a Dr.Phil quote ..it changes who they are..childrens lives depend on being able to read/communicate nonverbally..they are hyperaware of the "energy" going on in the house..
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Old 04-28-2011, 09:14 AM
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Agreed. My DD is 2.5 yrs old, and with other caregivers (my parents or her daycare providers), she is an angel. As soon as she sees me, all the worries, the frustrations and insecurities come pouring out. Instead of getting a happy "Maman!" when I walk in the door at 17h30, I get a "WAAaaaaah, I fell down at daycare and got a booboo and it made me saaaaaaaad!".
I am pretty sure you weren't trying to be funny but this made me lol because if I didn't know better I'd think we had the same child. Wow. I can hear Clara (D3) saying that exactly!
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Old 04-28-2011, 09:30 AM
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In answer to your question:

I believe some people are more sensitive than others in terms of sensing energy, and I have good reason to believe that it is an inherited trait.

I am entirely too sensitive, have been told so by many...

I know my son feels my energy, I know he senses my anxiety.
It has become increasingly obvious, that even while I am keeping phone contact with RAH to a minimum while son is present, that he senses that I am emotionally "disheveled" when he comes back around me.

He has cried uncontrollably when I felt scared that my A was on a bender and was scared myself of what might happen to him, and this was when I was truly putting son first, and shoving all my fears onto the back burner.

i think he in tuned in to the back burner, maybe even more than the face I am putting forward, sometimes, and he reacts to the underlying energy.

All I can do is keep trying to detach, and to find happiness in our space, and to REALLY learn it and REALLY allow myself to feel safe, free, and let go of anxiety as much as I can, so that he feels free, too.

He says he wants to see his daddy, to talk to him, but I KNOW he is better without the chaos and when I stay safely detached.

Not saying I am there, but, I am saying I know more than I used to how much he is "getting" from my energy.
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:58 AM
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I agree that children can sense it but can't verbalize it. It comes out in different forms. For me, when my EXAH really started hitting it hard was around when my daughter was about to turn 2. When I put my her down for bed I had to sit in her room with her until she fell asleep. Additionally, she rarely slept through the night. I thought it was due to our move into a new house but it never got better until DD and I moved into a house of our own. From day 1 she has fallen asleep without me and slept through the night...without fail!

I agree with the previous posts and Thumper hit it home. "I think they respond to the vibe that is sent back and forth between parents." I wasn't comfortable (even though I probably thought I was), therefore DD wasn't either.
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Old 04-28-2011, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by rdy4change View Post
I agree that children can sense it but can't verbalize it. It comes out in different forms. For me, when my EXAH really started hitting it hard was around when my daughter was about to turn 2. When I put my her down for bed I had to sit in her room with her until she fell asleep. Additionally, she rarely slept through the night. I thought it was due to our move into a new house but it never got better until DD and I moved into a house of our own. From day 1 she has fallen asleep without me and slept through the night...without fail!

I agree with the previous posts and Thumper hit it home. "I think they respond to the vibe that is sent back and forth between parents." I wasn't comfortable (even though I probably thought I was), therefore DD wasn't either.

Currently, I'm the only one who can get my son to go to bed and he also wakes up every night. Last night he was up at 11pm. Wife never heard him crying.
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Old 04-28-2011, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by rdy4change View Post
I agree that children can sense it but can't verbalize it.
And 20 years later its a pain to try to identify those feelings, verbalize them, process them, let them go... well, that happened to me when dad left and I was 3... even when I write this down I feel the rush of pain in my heart, something that goes very very deep.

Another way to "make this up" later in life is repeating the drama and neediness in romantic relationships...

My humble view is to ask a professional and if needed, get the kid to therapy... I know therapy helped me and my sister when we were getting mixed signals from our parents.
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Old 04-28-2011, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Shellcrusher View Post
Last night he was up at 11pm. Wife never heard him crying.
This is heartbreaking but I am glad you are there for him, Shellcrusher.
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Old 04-28-2011, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Shellcrusher View Post
Currently, I'm the only one who can get my son to go to bed and he also wakes up every night. Last night he was up at 11pm. Wife never heard him crying.

We went through the SAME thing with our 3-yr old son... it started right after the choking incident. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why a child who was so good about going to bed would suddenly stop going to bed, and start waking up every hour or two.. screaming for Mommy! It went on for about a week or two, when it hit me...

He doesn't feel safe anymore.

The anxiety in the house had become too much for this little person to bear. He needed me to get a hold of myself and make him feel safe and secure again. Same thing here too, AH would sleep right through all the night time events... and accused me of making the whole thing up.

I know what I know... I see what I see... and when I stabilized myself... the kids quickly followed. He's watching you Shellcrusher... and he's looking to you to make him feel safe, secure, and loved.
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Old 04-28-2011, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Shellcrusher View Post
Currently, I'm the only one who can get my son to go to bed and he also wakes up every night. Last night he was up at 11pm. Wife never heard him crying.
Ditto. I used to wonder- evidence here of how oblivious, stupid or in denial I was- when both girls were babies how it was AH NEVER heard them throughout the night. I mean, it wasn't fake sleeping on his part waiting for me to get up. It was OUT COLD asleep. Usually on the couch. I truly believed he was a "heavy sleeper". Unreal.

So, no wonder when they wake nowadays they only want me. I can count on one hand I think how often he got up to soothe them as babies. At the time I had moments of envy that he was not sleep deprived but in the end I feel sad for him and more so for the girls that they didn't get that bonding time with him that I did (bonding with them-- not him!).

Your son is lucky to have you Shell! Really lucky.
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Old 04-28-2011, 01:01 PM
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Well, baby care always fell to me, even before AH was drinking. The kids look to Ah to buy them things(not necessary things mind you) This morning, it was handing each of the younger boys a cookie he had purchased.

I did talk to 8yo the other day, how he will probably be going to a new school next year, because we need to move out. He asked me if it was because of all the beer AH drinks, so yes, I know they pick up on it. he did understand that what went on the other day was because I was trying to keep him safe.
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