Need help now?

When should I intervene

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Active scribe

When should I intervene

My daughter is almost 15. She’s been struggling emotionally over the last year and also been suffering panic attacks. The school provided counselling and found the route cause to be her dads drinking. The issue I have now is that her dad continues to drink and although He is not being physically abusive, he is mentally. She regularly calls me in a state and this week it’s like we’ve gone back 100 steps, she’s worse than she’s ever been. But she doesn’t want me to say anything to her dad as he will only take it out on her. She has told him how his drinking affects her and for about a month, he took it on board but things are just going back to the way they were. I don’t want to betray my daughter but it is killing me not being able to say something and protect her. Should I step in or just carry on being there for her until she tells me I can approach him??? Any advice would be appreciated
Star contributor

Re: When should I intervene

Message contains a hyperlink

Hi @Zayray , 


Firstly, thanks so much for coming to the ReachOut Parents community. I hope this can be a safe and helpful space for you. I hear your concern for your daughter, and it must be really challenging trying to balance your need to protect your daughter, and maintaining the trust between you. You sound like a really caring Mum - and it's excellent to hear that your daughter has already had professional help from a counsellor. 


I am hearing that you are concerned for your daughter's emotional well-being when she is with her dad, especially when he has been drinking, is that right?  Can I ask, do you share physical custody with her dad, or is she living with him all of the time? 


I see from your post that you appear to be in the UK - I found this website, which has a lot of links to different services for children of separated and divorced parents. If you are concerned about your daughter's safety when she is with your dad, there are helplines listed there that you can contact for advice and support that is specific to where you live. 


It sounds like you and your daughter have a really trusting and open relationship, which is wonderful, and I imagine it must be so hard as a mum to hear her calling you in distress. Do you think seeking some form of counselling for yourself might be helpful? Taking some time out for self-care is also really important, is there anything that you enjoy doing for yourself?  


I have also tagged in some other parents who may be able to offer advice and support based on their own experiences. Ultimately, your daughter's safety is the most important thing (both physically and mentally), and we are here to support you. 

Active scribe

Re: When should I intervene

Hi Janine,

Thank you for your reply.

I am really concerned about her well being when he’s been drinking and I’m now starting to be concerned when she’s just round there in general. I know teenagers deserve a telling off now and then and even my daughter understands that. He just goes from one extreme to the other so she’s constantly walking on eggshells shells.

I share custody with my ex, my daughter came up with the schedule of alternating every week. She was finding it hard swapping between houses every other day so wanted to have a bit more consistency. It was hard but she’s old enough to give her views and I know I need to respect that.

Thank you for the link, I’ll have a look at what’s out there.

I actually received counselling for my own issues last year. It was really hard as I could see that my daughter was struggling and I couldn’t even cope with my own life at that point in time. Still living with the guilt now that I couldn’t be there for her as much as I should have been. I go to yoga and read to have my me time and this has really helped. I’ve learned that I need to allow time for me Smiley Happy

Thank you for the support xx
Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: When should I intervene

Hello @Zayray ,


I can hear how you love your gal, and it is clear that you are concerned.  I am not solo parenting so please know that I do not have first hand experience/knowledge of custody issues, and all the care and communication it takes to make shared custody work in a healthy way. 


It seems that you're very, very torn.  On one hand, you have, what seems to be, an open and loving relationship with your daughter and, with this, your daughter trusts you with information about her dad and the living situation in his house.  His drinking seems to be impacting her well-being and, reading in the lines of your message, it seems that emotional abuse is a very real concern ( your sentence that she is worried 'he will take it out on her' is a flag for me--what does 'taking it out on her' look like?).  The information that your daughter has shared concerns/scares you.  You see her welfare compromised during the weeks she is with her dad, and see the effects this has on her.  


On the other hand, she has asked you not to say/do anything, and to hold that information in confidence. You want to protect the trust that she has in you, and it seems that you're scared the additional harm will fall on her. 


@Zayray , I can imagine that this is oh-so-difficult. 


I want to make sure that I'm understanding a few things.  


First, It seems that you don't want to say anything to him/anyone because your daughter has ask you not to, and you want to respect her trust in you.  At the same time, I'm wondering if there is any other reason.  Does her father have a history of violence? Is there/has there been reason to be concerned about your own safety as well?


Second, has his drinking been a concern in the past?  Has it come up in other arenas... (in his employment or in your divorce, if you were married). To be clear, I don't ask this to argue that it's more or less serious etc., I ask to see whether it's been documented anywhere else, in case you might need to refer to it in the future. 


A few other thoughts:

  • is it possible to find another counsellor in addition to the school counsellor? I'm very glad that the school counsellor is involved and that your daughter trusts them.  But, does the school counsellor think that they can provide the depth and scope of support that your daughter might need.  For example, what if your daughter needs support from a counsellor during a school vacation?  I wonder if you've thought about locating a counsellor who works with children/youth who have a parent with drinking/substance addictions.  There might be individual counselling available through such a counsellor, and there may be opportunities for group counselling as well (if your daughter is open to it).  


  • I wonder if you can keep detailed records for yourself about what is happening at her dad's house (date and details/observations about impact on your daughter).  It will help trace a pattern of whether this issue is escalating and becoming even more worrisome.  And, although you aren't sure if you want to do something with the information right now, you may want to do something in the future (may be revise custody plans, may be encouraging him to get help and so on).  A clear and detailed record is, in my opinion, important. 


  • What can be done to reduce the harm or risk of harm when your daughter is at his house?  What kind of 'safety plan' or safety measures can be put into place so that your daughter feels like she has more emotional safety while at her dad's house.  Can she make an appointment with a counsellor to fall on the weeks she is at her dad's house?  Does she need a secure lock on her bedroom door while she is there?  Does she have a 'safe word' that she can text you if something feels unmanageable?   It sounds like your daughter is at his house alone.  And, it sounds like there is unpredictability, emotional abuse, and fear.  


I am glad that you are taking care of yourself. Please check in again and often. I will check this board to see whether you have posted an update.







Star contributor

Re: When should I intervene

Hi @Zayray,


Just wanted to check in to see how you are going?


There is a great response here from parent @compassion Smiley Happy


Sending our wishes your way- such a tough position you are in right now 


Check out our community activities calendar here
Active scribe

Re: When should I intervene


Yes, I’m ok thank you and the response from @compassion was amazing and has definitely given me some options to discuss with my daughter. She’s been home this week but she’s been doing shows at the school so I’ve not discussed any of them with her yet. I’ll definitely be going through them with her when we get a chance.

It’s given me so much more confidence that we can find a solution.

Thank you for checking in on me 😊
Active scribe

Re: When should I intervene

Hi @compassion

Sorry for taking so long to say this... thank you so much for all of your suggestions!

I wouldn’t consider her father to be an alcoholic but as there isn’t any additional help available with the school, I think we both need to understand how we deal with his emotional outbursts through some form of professional help.

I’ll also be discussing the options you have suggested with my daughter so again thank you so much for taking the time to help me.

Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: When should I intervene



Hello fellow mama, 

I'm glad you posted an update, and I'm glad that you are considering professional help.  Yes, we can assume there will be future outbursts/problems with his drinking (his past behaviour has demonstrated this, and it doesn't seem he has voiced any plan to reduce his drinking). I imagine you and your daughter will rest easier knowing that there is plan in place to deal with potential future incidents, and address past harms.  


I encourage you (and your daughter) to think about the impact that his drinking has versus trying to assess whether he is an alcoholic or not (and I hope that any professional who works with your daughter considers that as well).   I certainly don't know whether he is an alcoholic or not, but from what you've told us, his drinking (whether regular or sporadic, whether 'a little' or 'a lot', whether during the day or night, and so on) impacts your daughter's well being and sense of safety. Period.


Your gal is lucky to have you, and lucky that you hear/see her concern---and so good that your daughter is involved in the school show.  Yay, mini@Zayray