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lammers1980

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Lately I have been thinking a lot about my unique family situation. I feel somewhat like I am caught in the middle of a strange situation and I don't really know what to do. Here is the situation.

My family consists of myself, my wife and two children. One of them is biologically mine, while the other is a stepson whose biofather who has been institutionalized for the past year or so.

For the first few years I was with my wife, the biodad played virtually no role in my stepson's life. He would maybe call a couple of times a year at most, and they might have spent a few hours at most together in a year. From my viewpoint he seemed to have no interest in him.

Fast forward a few years...The biodad became seriously delusional, and ended up acting on his delusions, which first landed him in jail, then in the mental health system. He has been there ever since and shows no real sign that he is getting better. All of a sudden he becomes interested in his son again. In fact, so interested that he starts calling every day, sometimes more than once. For the most part he would talk about mundane things with him, such as the newest shows, etc. However, we noticed that he would start sharing his delusions with him as well. He would tell him which channels were okay to watch and which were "controlled" so to speak. He would also sometimes hint at his religious-based delusions (which I find to be racist and distasteful) and also imply that my stepson is to carry on some sort of mission that the father had "started".

In response to this, my wife called the hospital and requested he stop calling, which they now enforce. He no longer calls, although he tries to convince this mother (stepson's grandmother) to reinstate his calling privileges. He tries to play the guilt card, that he just wants to talk to his son. This is hard to believe given his lack of interest before he became ill.

I have told my stepson that if he ever wants to talk to his biological father that he can, no problem. He has never taken up on the offer. Also, when asked specifically if he wants to call his biodad, he always says no. He is 9 years old.

Anyways, that is my situation. I have a stepson who was virtually abandonned by his biodad, a biodad who suddenly takes interest in his son after he becomes severly delusional, a mother who would rather he have no contact with his biodad, and a stepson who is indifferent at best towards his biodad.

All this leaves me not knowing what to do. Is it right to restrict the biodad from talking to his son? I guess I feel torn because I as a dad I would have a hard time not having any contact with my son. Then again, the circumstances of the biodad's newfound interest seems suspect. What to do, what to do...
 

HA

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stevel said:
For the first few years I was with my wife, the biodad played virtually no role in my stepson's life. He would maybe call a couple of times a year at most, and they might have spent a few hours at most together in a year. From my viewpoint he seemed to have no interest in him.

Hey Steve,

Glad you joined us over here in the land of the strange! Strange can be good.

One reason that your sons bio dad may seem to have no interest is due to anhedonia and avolition which are two of the negative symptoms seen in schizophrenia.
As mention previously, schizophrenia is a disease with many different symptoms. Two more symptoms, which can be seen in schizophrenic patients, are described below.

"Avolition" is when a person lacks energy, spontaneity and initiative.

"Anhedonia" is a term used for describing a lack of pleasure or interest in activities that the patients once enjoyed.
From http://www.hubin.org/publicfamilyinfo/signs/signs_9_en.html

Another reason may be that he is so ill that he is spending all of his time and energy with his hallucinations and delusions. It would be kind of like listening to really loud music 24 hrs a day without being able to turn it off and trying to lead a normal life. You would become consumed with listening, distracted by listening or consumed with how to shut it off. Time flies when your that consumed with something.

It's not likely it's something that he does purposefully and he obviously loves his son and wants to have a relationship with him as he has managed to get it together a few times a year and is continuing to try to contact him even while quite ill.

Steve, I'm not trying to make you feel bad for your thoughts and feelings about this situation with your son. These are normal feelings that anyone in your situation would have because you love your son and want whats best for him.

Here's a situation of a young woman that may help you sort this out in your own family. We'll call her Jill. Jill is 21 years old and only found out her mother had schizophrenia when she was 15. Her dad had taken custody of Jill when she was 2yrs old and moved across the country where he remarried some time later. Jill loves her dad and stepmom very much. She remembers that before 15 the only things she heard her father say about her mom was how "bad" she was. She always thought her mom was just a bad person. With encouragement from her stepmom (at 15) she made contact with her mom and has kept this relationship since then. Her mother becomes quite delusional and ill because she stops taking her medication and all of her delsuions are about her and Jill being hurt by people.

Jill is one of the few people her mom trusts and will listen to. Jill enjoys having this relationship with her mom and visits her once a year. She loves her mom unconditionally. When her mom is well they have a rewarding realtionship. Just recently Jill took a 12 week family education course about mental illness and it was the first time she had talked with anyone who had a family member with schizophrenia. She was angry that she did not know her mom had an illness before the age of 15 and that she had never met her or spoke to her.

Steve, I think it is important for both your stepson and his dad to have a relationship. How you sort that out by keeping him protected from distress or harm will be how that fits with your individual family. Rather than saying that his father can never contact his son...there needs to be a solution to how he can stay connected with his son and vice versa.

Good luck....its not easy. Your stepson is lucky to have you for his dad.
 

David Baxter

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I won't disagree with you, HeartArt, in the long run... but I would say there are two other factors at present:

1. the boy's age -- he is 9, not 21 -- he may be able to understand something about his biodad's contiion or he may not... depends on the child, I think.

2. what is the net effect of the father's contact with the son in his present condition? I too worry about cutting off the dad and/or punishing him for being ill but it seems to me that at age 9 what is in the son's best interest is paramount.

Stevel, have you thought about having a child psychiatrist/psychologist see the boy and offer you an opinion?
 

lammers1980

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We have thought about having him talk to a child psychologist about the whole thing. He is not very open about talking about his biodad, so it is really difficult to know what he is thinking.

The reason his dad's phone privileges were curtailed was because he was litterally calling 3, 4, 5 times a day. It was really getting out of hand. I try to encourage my stepson to call him, but he never really wants to.

Also, the biodad was not a very nice person to start off. He was quite manipulative and would use people when he thought he could benefit, including his own mother. He was also abusive towards my wife when they were together. This makes judging his motives very difficult. He has such a reputation for this, it is very difficult to tell exactly what are his motives. For example, when he offered to give us some money to buy a birthday present, he would only do so if we did a favour for him in return. We said that we wouldn't, because these things should not be conditional. In the end, he witheld the money. See what I mean?
 

David Baxter

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We have thought about having him talk to a child psychologist about the whole thing. He is not very open about talking about his biodad, so it is really difficult to know what he is thinking.
That's what a child psychologist/psychiatrist is trained to do, though...
 

lammers1980

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True enough. I was wondering though, does my stepson have anything to gain from a relationship with his father? My wife, as well as the biodad's own mother think not. I am confused because as a father I would hate to be in his position, but also I can see some of the wisdom in their beliefs. For example he has never been employed nor shown any interest for as long as my wife knew him(she met him when they were 16), he has been in trouble with the law (both as a result of delusions and not), and most of all, he has many antisocial/racist views that no one would want imparted on their children. The issue does not seem so cut and dried.

Also, whenever he calls, he asks for "favours" to be done, most often relating to validating/enabling his delusions.
 

David Baxter

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Perhaps not, Steve. But I do think that choice ultimately should be the child's.

The complication is his age now. As parents, we have a responsibility to help young children with difficult decisions. But I wonder if he isn't feeling caught between his mom and you and his biodad. that's why I think consulting a child therapist might be helpful - give him a voice in a safe place where he can honestly express his feelings about the matter without fear of hurting anyone's feelings.
 

HA

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Good idea about the child therapist, Dr. Baxter. Did anyone tell you that you would make a good psychologist? :~}

The young woman I gave as an example has been seeing a therapist and trying to sort through these issues. I think it's better to start sorting sooner than later. If your son was seeing a child therapist, at least you would have some guidance and feel more assured that the decisions you make on his behalf and with him, are the right ones.

Here are some children's books about schizophrenia for future reference, Steve.

Helicopter Man by Elizabeth Fensham for ages 10-14.
http://www.bloomsburyusa.com/catalogue/details2.asp?cat=4&page=1&isbn=1582349819&cf=1

Edward The Crazy Man by Marie Day ages 4-7 (Canadian)
http://www.annickpress.com/catalog/edwardthecrazyman.html

A list of childrens books dealing with mental illness in a parent:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/listmania/list-browse/-/14PLIX2D4WY5Q/002-4306964-4624063
 

ThatLady

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I agree with Dr. Baxter here. I think it would do the child a world of good to talk to a professional...someone who knows how to deal with children who are placed in difficult positions. Kids just don't have the resources to figure the hard things out on their own. A professional can help this little boy know what it is he feels and what would be the best way to handle it. Therefore, were it my child, I would involve a child psychologist at the earliest opportunity. Until the child can be seen and evaluated, I would continue to limit contact between the child and his biological father, pending the psychologist's opinion on what would be the best course of action.
 

HA

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Dr Baxter,

I'm just wondering how a parent would explain to a child of nine that they wanted to take him/her to a therapist?

Steve, The Schizophrenia Society of Canada has a new logo and updated website. Here is their booklist for children!

For Children
• Can I Catch it Like a Cold? A Story to Help Children Understand a Parent’s Depression
Gretchen Kelbaugh (Toronto: CAMH, 2002)
Available directly from the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health at www.camh.net
• Catch a Falling Star: A tale from The Iris the Dragon Series
Gayle Grass. For copies contact: Iris the Dragon Inc., Otter Creek,
667 Highway 15, Lombardy, Ontario, CA, K0G 1L0, Fax: (613) 283-9507
• Edward the “Crazy Man”
Marie Day (Toronto: Annick Press, 2002) ISBN-1550377205
• Kids Speak Up: Shining Light On Mental Illness
For copies contact- Canadian Mental Health Association, Calgary, Alberta
Phone: (403) 297-1700 Fax: (403) 270-3066
• My Crazy Life: How I Survived My Family
Ed. Allen Flaming & Kate Scowen (Toronto: Annick Press, 2002) ISBN-1550377329
• Someone in My Family has a Mental Illness
Lyne Brindamour, MSW (Vancouver: The Family Service of the North Shore, 2000.) For copies: 101-255 West 1st Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7M 3G8, Phone: (604) 988-5281, Fax: (604) 988-3961
• Something is Bugging Me: Why did Mom Get Sick? A booklet for children with a parent hospitalized in psychiatry Sharon Stern, M.S.W, R.SW (Ottawa: printed by Ottawa Hospital, General Campus, August 2000)
• When Moods Go Up and Down: Understanding Mental Illness in Your Family for Children who have a Parent with Bipolar Disorder
Nicole Chovil. For copies contact - British Columbia Schizophrenia Society www.bcss.org
• When Things are Sad and Gloomy: Understanding Mental Illness in Your Family for Children who have a Parent with Depression
Nicole Chovil. For copies contact - British Columbia Schizophrenia Society
Phone: (604) 270-7841 Email: bcss.prov@telus.net
• When Things Get Really Weird: Understanding Mental Illness in Your Family
for Children who have a Parent with Schizophrenia
By Nicole Chovil. For copies contact - British Columbia Schizophrenia Society www.bcss.org
• Why Are You So Sad? A Child’s Book about Parental Depression
(American Psychological Association, 2002) ISBN 1557988366
 

David Baxter

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Depends on the child and the parent. One way is to say that we (the parents) want to talk to someone about how best to handle certain situations or stresses in the family and we want you to come too so you can help us figure it out...

Actually, some children are quite happy to see a counsellor but when you have oine who isn't sometimes the rationale of "we're all going to go and talk to a doctor to try to figure out how to handle things better as a family" often helps.

Or, "I need to figure out how to handle things better and I need you to help me"...
 

cycel

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When I first joined this forum I couldn't help but reading your initial post and felt impressed with your concern about being fair, acting properly. Too good a human being I thought to myself, because what instantly came to my mind was 'protect that child, for God's sake'.

I have suffered disfunctional parents and can see that it may be a burden for long time. It is not the case being you the real parents and the biodad not in daily contact or in authority but still, I find your son too young for the weight or relating to his biodad just for his biodad's sake really.

I have no kids, never wanted to because of my puzzling family background, but if I had I would take on my shoulders the responsibility to keep this biodad as distant from my son as possible until his teens at least, and would choose the risk of everybody's resentment later on rather than the child facing a kind of stress that might influence his stability and development.

This is all very subjective and bold on my side; please take it as coming from the heart and pretty one-sided too.

Cycel
 

lammers1980

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Well, there is an update to this story. The biodad found out through the grapevine that we have been spending time with stepson's paternal grandmother, who is at this point dying from terminal cancer. He then proceded to angrily call her and berate her for not getting his "permission" to do this. To me this was the last straw. Even in the depths of his delusions, he is still the manipulative and controlling person that he always was.
 

cycel

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Jul 2, 2005
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I am very sorry to read that. One can never minimize the pain that dysfunctional people can cause; nevertheless, this biodad's mother already has to know about her son's peculiarities and I believe that each adult has responsibility for what he/she is. We have a say in my country that goes something like 'each mast has to stand its sail' (free translation); I mean that you are not responsible for what others do with their lives.
There are times in this life when giving love seems impossible. I still see your stepson as first priority. Does he need to relate to his grandmother? Can't you find a third uninvolved one to help her? It seems the price you have to pay for acting right is far too high.


Cycel
 

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