Difficult relationship...

Hi all, just looking for a bit of advice. I have a 13 year old son who has been diagnosed with ASD, on the high end of scale. He has a serious problem with anxiety and finding life at school difficult, it’s a long day when you are trying to mask your fears/anxieties. He comes home exhausted! Anyway his problems don’t end there, when he gets home he has to deal with another issue, his Dad - His Dad is at the moment in the process of being diagnosed with ASD. The relationship has got so bad He can’t stand being in the same room as his Dad. I told me his Dad makes him feel very anxious. I’ve tried to encourage my son to talk to his Dad but he says ‘there is no point as he won’t listen...’ I feel stuck in the middle. I can totally understand how my son feels as my husband has never really had much to do with him, only to reprimand or instruct. If they are in close proximity with each other it’s not long before my husband is barking out instructions of what my son should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s awful watching this relationship getting further and further apart as my son becomes more aware of the relationship other fathers have with their children. Should I say something to my husband? 

  • Hi SMM,

    I really feel for you. It must be painful to feel ‘stuck in the middle’ in this way.

    As a mum, I kind of think it is part of our role to enable our children’s voices to be heard and to support them, and encourage them, to understand that their point of view is valid and important and that they have a say in their own lives and in their relationships with others, especially how they want to be treated by other people.

    In this respect, I think, if I were in your position, I would talk to dad. And in doing so I would try to put your sons’ feelings and needs across to him in a way which does not feel threatening or blaming, but is emphasised, none the less, that your sons’ views, needs and opinions, are just as important and valid as your husbands.  

    With so much going on right now, with your sons’ diagnosis and your husbands pending one, it would be totally understandable if tensions and fears were running high all round right now.

    And I think it can be very common too, when kids become teenagers, for relationships to become strained as the ‘way forward’ becomes more complex now they are no longer simply (largely) ‘abiding children,’ but instead they are developing their own differences and distinct (sometimes clashing) personalities.  

    Do you think, if you were to talk to him, that your husband would be open to listening to you and changing and/or acknowledging your sons’ needs and opinions as different to his own? How do you imagine he might react if you did sit down and talk this through with him?

  • Hi SMM

    I have personal experience of this, so I’ll share a little of my experience with you.

    I grew up never being alone in the same room as my dad, ever. I think I was 16, after I’d been left home a while, that I was in a room with him for the first time by myself.

    I love my dad and honestly, he has done so much for me, as a child and an adult. He still supports me. None of us knew at the time that I was autistic but I was most definitely not like the other kids.

    Like all my autism traits, the anxiety that I felt when around my dad was somehow simply accepted. My family was never really big into talking about things like that, it was simply accepted.

    I’m so grateful I was never pushed in to being in the same room as him or being pushed to talk to him because over the years our relationship has grown into one of mutual love and respect. I still can’t tell him I love him or allow and physical contact between us, but that’s the same with my Mum and most other people anyway, that’s just me. But I think we both know how much we love and respect each other.

    I’m also aware that Tony Attwood had a difficult relationship with his son who grew up with undiagnosed autism. They enjoy a very loving and supportive and friendly relationship now. I wouldn’t describe my relationship with my dad like that but a lot of that is because of how I communicate with people.

    My suggestion would be to maybe develop a system where they don’t have to have too much interaction. They’re both going through big changes. And I would then suggest, for you to look after you. These things have a way of working themselves out if we allow them. Some relationships take longer to develop and today, I couldn’t love my dad any more if I tried.

  • It sounds very much like his dad is like my biological father who just barked orders occasionally or shouted at me for no apparent reason (on reflection I believe these were 'melt downs'). He didn't show any love or affection and due to this as an adult, I would never call him dad. He and my mother separated in 2008 and I haven't spoken a word to him since. I'm really glad we don't have a relationship and don't feel like I'm loosing out on having a 'dad' as I know its something he's not capable of having that relationship - I believe my ASD in inherited from him.

    If I was in your situation I'd let your husband know, then if he wants to try and repair the relationship he can. If he doesn't then your son will be able to have his alone time without any guilt.

  • Thank you for such a supportive and insightful reply. Motherhood can be a lonely path sometimes. 

    I agree, it is our role as a parent to enable our child’s voice to be heard and understood, but it is very difficult speaking to my husband, he either doesn’t want to hear, dismisses it and becomes defensive or worse, self-depreciating, accusing me of making him feel guilty for being a ‘rubbish father’. It’s just hopeless. I know it’s unhelpful to assume the response will always be the same but I guess I’ve become scared of making matters worse. So I’ve remained quiet hoping things will get better and tried to encourage and empower my son to speak to his Dad - which he has only ever tried to do in anger or frustration. He said he can’t and doesn’t wants to as he feels his Dad is a stranger. This is why I thought maybe I should try again. But there never seems to be the right moment to broach the subject.
    It’s just so sad. My son should feel happy at home and feel free but instead I can see he worries constantly about the reprimanded. 

    Maybe I should take solace in what BlueRay so beautiful articulated -  Some realationships take longer to develop and today I couldn’t love my Dad any more if I tried. 

    Thank you all for being so kind, you honestly don’t know how much you have helped.