My brother has lost all contact with his son

Looking for help or advice from dads who have been in a similar situation. Quite a long complicated story but I'll try and keep it simple - my brother divorced his wife about six years ago, it had broken down irretrievably which I later found out had been caused by her violent, aggressive nature towards him. Their only son at the time was about 12. 

He moved out but stayed local, it was eventually amicable and they shared their son between them & she would often ask for favours such as house sitting/look after the dog. Then his disclosed that mummy said not to say but she's planning to move back up to the north with him. This then happened with no consultation with him and happened very quickly, removing him from his school, his family & friends. She made it very hard for my brother to maintain contact with his son with whom he had a very close bond.

During a telephone call to his son he disclosed that his mum had been hitting him, kicking him, taunting him & acting aggressively around him. My brother contacted his secondary school up there & it was agreed social services should be involved & the police. The lad was removed from her and placed with her brother !! It was seen as better than getting him all the way south & back to his loving dad. Her family are very close knit & wasted no time being coercive & brain washing him. Social services warned them about this and warned that it is seen as child abuse. He was then returned to his mother who agreed to attend anger management sessions. My brother was required to travel north to attend meetings about his son with social workers who agreed the lad must maintain contact with his dad. The whole thing was managed very very badly (my brother eventually ended up with a written apology as to how it was handled).

To bring it up to the present time - my brother has had absolutely no contact with his son (now aged 17). We all strongly suspect that his mum has been turning him against his dad & poisoning his mind and/or keeping back any cards, money or letters we all send to him. My brother received a school report recently only to find his son's surname was no longer his but his mother's. My brother is in a dark place and has given up on ever seeing his son again. The way he sees it - his son was in distress, he contacted social services but the bitter, sad ending is he himself has lost everything & the mother won out.

Is this familiar to other dads if so how did or do you get through it?
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  • tacpot12
    tacpot12 Posts: 7,845
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    edited 10 August 2021 at 2:59PM
    It's not an experience that I am familar with, but the Social Services department have agreed that it should have been handled better, so I'm sure that mistakes were made.  In my experience, children are pretty savvy about what goes on around them, and I expect that your nephew knows if he was being manipulated by his mother.

    I think your brother needs to hold out hope of reconnecting with his son. At age 17, his son is still a young person, but will be much more in control of his own life. There is plenty of time to reconnect and have a good relationship. Your brother should clearly not be held accountable if he tried to protect his son by involving Social Services but was then let down by them. I can understand why he might feel guilty, but really, he should not. 

    Your brother also needs to try to stop seeing things as "I've lost everything" and she has "won". Relationships aren't a game or a battle that are won or lost. He needs to take responsibility for how he feels. If he let's her dictate how he feels, then maybe she has 'won' in some way. 

    He also needs to stop listening to people who agree with him that she has been turning his son against him; even if this is true, hearing it isn't helpful to him. He needs reassurance that she probably hasn't been turning his son against him, and any lack of contact is probably because the lad is busy with what is life currently is. The  experiance I can share is that my children started spending a lot less time with me when they turned 15 as they started to have their own social lives and things that they wanted to do, and hanging around with Dad was not one of those things!

    I will mention that my ex took my son away to a country in the Middle East where I could not even to go visit him as visa's weren't available, so I have some idea of what he has gone through. Luckily she return to the  UK after about six years and I was able to reconnect with him as a young teenager. 

    The comments I post are my personal opinion. While I try to check everything is correct before posting, I can and do make mistakes, so always try to check official information sources before relying on my posts.
  • ClaireE
    ClaireE Posts: 19
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    tacpot12 said:
    It's not an experience that I am familar with, but the Social Services department have agreed that it should have been handled better, so I'm sure that mistakes were made.  In my experience, children are pretty savvy about what goes on around them, and I expect that your nephew knows if he was being manipulated by his mother.

    I think your brother needs to hold out hope of reconnecting with his son. At age 17, his son is still a young person, but will be much more in control of his own life. There is plenty of time to reconnect and have a good relationship. Your brother should clearly not be held accountable if he tried to protect his son by involving Social Services but was then let down by them. I can understand why he might feel guilty, but really, he should not. 

    Your brother also needs to try to stop seeing things as "I've lost everything" and she has "won". Relationships aren't a game or a battle that are won or lost. He needs to take responsibility for how he feels. If he let's her dictate how he feels, then maybe she has 'won' in some way. 

    He also needs to stop listening to people who agree with him that she has been turning his son against him; even if this is true, hearing it isn't helpful to him. He needs reassurance that she probably hasn't been turning his son against him, and any lack of contact is probably because the lad is busy with what is life currently is. The  experiance I can share is that my children started spending a lot less time with me when they turned 15 as they started to have their own social lives and things that they wanted to do, and hanging around with Dad was not one of those things!

    I will mention that my ex took my son away to a country in the Middle East where I could not even to go visit him as visa's weren't available, so I have some idea of what he has gone through. Luckily she return to the  UK after about six years and I was able to reconnect with him as a young teenager. 

    Thank you for your considered reply. I think it's more a case that the rest of us feel he has lost everything dear to him. He has now distanced himself as much as possible from the pain but of course it bubbles up.

    He wrote a final letter to his son last year, saying he will now respect his wish for making no communication with his dad, that he will always be his dad, always love him & be there for him but will make no more attempts at writing to him. He also wrote that should he wish to make contact then to do so any time. There was no response to this final letter. It begs the question as to whether he ever actually saw it & that his mum may well intercept all his mail. Cheques we have sent him this year have gone uncashed.

    This is far more than a teenage lad busy with his life I think. He absolutely doted on his dad & was closer to him than his mum. I am guessing that he has been blamed for 'calling the police & social services onto his mum.' It caused all manner of trouble for her & she is capable of being very manipulative. 
  • RAS
    RAS Posts: 32,444
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    Hi

    These aren't fully formed ideas but I think your brother needs to step back a bit.

    His son is presumably still at school, living in a difficult environment where he is dependent for his basic needs on his mother and members of her family? So in practical terms, the lad's capacity to make independent choices is very limited.

    With regard to the name change, some mothers change their child's name every time they get a new live in lover; one poor soul I dealt had 6 different surnames by the time they were 16. 

    That final letter wasn't the best option, as it make assumption about the lad's motives and decision-making and puts his son in a completely impossible place (if he received it). And although he said he loved the lad, it's very much about his need for a relationship with the lad, rather than a basic interest in how the lad's doing.

    Yes, I suspect mum has intercepted mail; she may also have kicked off sufficiently whenever one arrived that actually the lad has developed an aversion to even postal contact as it causes so much grief. 

    The other factor is that the lad may feel that it is difficult to speak to his father after what happened when he disclosed the violence. I appreciate dad wanted to protect his son but if he contacted school without express permission, there may be an element of the lad holding his father responsible his being removed from his mother (whom he may well love and fear simultaneously) and placed in perhaps more challenging situations with his uncle and extended family.

    It is important that your brother becomes a vibrant interesting cheerful person who his son would love to meet rather than someone his mother can characterise as weak (because she may feel she has beaten him). As and when they do meet it is also important that he understands that his son may well express difficult emotions, including that his father failed him.

    That's not to do with the facts or the realities of how hard your brother has fought to maintain contact, but a child's eye perspective when your hero proves to be human. Most of us learn to respect our parents as fallible beings over time, but that adjustment has been fractured and it may take time to repair. Your brother meantime will have to bottle up his own distress as the lad doesn't need his father's emotions as well as his own to handle.

    If he's to get to that point I suggest that your brother needs to grieve the loss of his son's teenage years and to try and find an equilibrium that enables him to enjoy today despite everything, whilst still hoping or the future. That may need help a bit stronger than basic counselling, but it will be worth it.






    The person who has not made a mistake, has made nothing
  • ClaireE
    ClaireE Posts: 19
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    RAS said:
    Hi

    These aren't fully formed ideas but I think your brother needs to step back a bit.

    His son is presumably still at school, living in a difficult environment where he is dependent for his basic needs on his mother and members of her family? So in practical terms, the lad's capacity to make independent choices is very limited.

    With regard to the name change, some mothers change their child's name every time they get a new live in lover; one poor soul I dealt had 6 different surnames by the time they were 16. 

    That final letter wasn't the best option, as it make assumption about the lad's motives and decision-making and puts his son in a completely impossible place (if he received it). And although he said he loved the lad, it's very much about his need for a relationship with the lad, rather than a basic interest in how the lad's doing.

    Yes, I suspect mum has intercepted mail; she may also have kicked off sufficiently whenever one arrived that actually the lad has developed an aversion to even postal contact as it causes so much grief. 

    The other factor is that the lad may feel that it is difficult to speak to his father after what happened when he disclosed the violence. I appreciate dad wanted to protect his son but if he contacted school without express permission, there may be an element of the lad holding his father responsible his being removed from his mother (whom he may well love and fear simultaneously) and placed in perhaps more challenging situations with his uncle and extended family.

    It is important that your brother becomes a vibrant interesting cheerful person who his son would love to meet rather than someone his mother can characterise as weak (because she may feel she has beaten him). As and when they do meet it is also important that he understands that his son may well express difficult emotions, including that his father failed him.

    That's not to do with the facts or the realities of how hard your brother has fought to maintain contact, but a child's eye perspective when your hero proves to be human. Most of us learn to respect our parents as fallible beings over time, but that adjustment has been fractured and it may take time to repair. Your brother meantime will have to bottle up his own distress as the lad doesn't need his father's emotions as well as his own to handle.

    If he's to get to that point I suggest that your brother needs to grieve the loss of his son's teenage years and to try and find an equilibrium that enables him to enjoy today despite everything, whilst still hoping or the future. That may need help a bit stronger than basic counselling, but it will be worth it.






    So much food for thought here, thank you for your reply. What you said about the final letter my brother sent - "as it makes assumption about the lad's motives and decision-making and puts his son in a completely impossible place" - I think you are right, there is too much assuming on our side and absolutely no evidence. My brother is very hurt by his son's lack of any contact. He was only 11 or 12 when he made the disclosure and in his eyes it must have felt he'd brought the whole world down on his head and his mother's.

    We all feel so helpless on this side, myself & my other brothers have sent cards at Christmas & birthdays but we've noticed that this year none of our cheques have been cashed including a large one from his grandad. Should I persuade my brother to make contact again? Should the rest of us write to him at odd times in the year? I did sent a card by registered post to somehow see if he signed for it. But the digital signature I saw was a squiggle & could have been the postman's.
  • gizmo111
    gizmo111 Posts: 2,655
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    Assuming your nephew is still at school, contact the school and arrange for letters etc to be sent there as a starting point.
    Mama read so much about the dangers of drinking alcohol and eating chocolate that she immediately gave up reading.
  • ClaireE
    ClaireE Posts: 19
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    Yes he in secondary school still. My brother did have contact with a staff member there a few years back and he was sending letters there for this person to pass to his son. At some point it was deemed by social services that it wasn't a good way for my brother to stay in touch & he was persuaded to discontinue. I think he should try & contact the school & ask if once again his mail can be passed on to his son. He is very reluctant to do this, he feels it will be making life once again difficult for his son which he doesn't want. There's also the possibility that the mother has been feeding lies to the school about my brother & that they are now reluctant to offer support.
  • Savvy_Sue
    Savvy_Sue Posts: 45,806
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    He could request that all reports, newsletters etc are sent to him as well as to Mum. And he can check school website, to see if there are events to which parents are invited. 
    Signature removed for peace of mind
  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,198
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    It sounds like a very difficult situation. 

    I agree that if he is concerned that his son may not have received the more recent letter then he could try re-sending a copy via the school - try to avoid blaming mum , just say he isn't sure whether the address he has is correct and was concerned son may not have got the letter, so wanted to resend. Then re-iterate that he loves his son, and would very much welcome the change to see him and get to know him again, should son ever wish to do so. Perhaps include an email address.

    (I'd suggest also that he consider making sure that he has an easily identifiable account on facebook so if son doesn't keep the letter but later on decides to get in touch, he has an easy way of doing so, unless this is something which might expose him to harassment or other issues from mum's family.) 

    Nothing will make up for losing his relationship with his own son, but he might look into ways he can support other boys who don't have an involved dad - maybe via an organisation such as Scouts, or one to one through a mentoring programme 
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,198
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    Savvy_Sue said:
    He could request that all reports, newsletters etc are sent to him as well as to Mum. And he can check school website, to see if there are events to which parents are invited. 
    He could, and legally it would be absolutely fine, but if I'm reading correctly the son is now 17 - he might resent this if he doesn't want a relationship at the moment -  given the so's age it might be sensible to ask the school to ask him if he would be OK with it, first. 
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • My husband's parents' marriage broke up very acrimoniously after years of abuse on both sides, when he was about fourteen.  He would have liked to maintain a relationship with his father, but it was not worth his mother's anger, which was demonstrated by cruel words and not speaking to him for days.  He therefore lost touch with his father, and by the time he decided to get in touch with him again, in his mid-20s, his father had unfortunately died.

    What I'm saying is, maybe it is just too much hassle at the moment for the lad to stay in touch with his father.  As someone above has said, keep the lines open, make sure that the father has an easily recognizable FB account.  

    The lad may well contact him when he has a bit more choice about the matter.  Don't give up.
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