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What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
#1873208 04/03/12 04:03 PM
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This is very saddening, and I am going to leave out as much detail as I can to protect the student in question, but I'm really at a loss. There have been no signs of physical abuse, but the 11 year old told me of a parent threatening to put her on sedating drugs or be lobotomized if she went to a counselor, and that she (the child) has had suicidal thoughts. She is a beautiful, sweet child and I just can't sit by after hearing this. There has been other behavior on part of the parents and the child that makes me believe what she is saying is true. Emotional abuse is not really provable, and I'm afraid if I say something then the parents will remove her from my studio and I will be of no help. As it is, they will be moving out of the area and we have talked about continuing lessons on Skype. Of course, I'm not qualified to help her in any way other than encourage her and let her vent.

What would you do?


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873216 04/03/12 04:21 PM
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Oh boy...

While doing my PhD I was somewhat trained on what to do with such situations, but:
1. I was dealing with adults
and
2. I had the university of London behind me and tons of people behind me.

In this case you're alone, which means that you don't have anyone to back you up, unless your community, or state, or something has specific ways to deal with that. The fact that the student is talking to you about her issues is already a plus, and she doesn't understand that there are issues to be dealt! In a little while she might be ready to deal with the problems on her own, by searching for 'real help' outside a piano studio.

I know that it's not much help, but apart from having a close(r) relationship with the student and trying to keep in touch, I'm not sure here's a lot you can do, unless you can report it somewhere (which won't solve much either unfortunately)

Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873259 04/03/12 05:50 PM
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Ya, child protection services here are often worse or just as bad in different ways, so I don't think that is a solution. This girl just started lessons with me a few months ago, and I would love to at least keep the lessons going because she really loves them and it would give her some hope outside of her home life.


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873317 04/03/12 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
but the 11 year old told me of a parent threatening to put her on sedating drugs or be lobotomized if she went to a counselor

What would you do?


For one thing I would assure the child that sedatives and surgery are not up to the whim of a parent. I would also let her know that I'm sad to hear that her parent is threatening her.

I would consider initiating a discussion with the parent. Ask how the child is doing in school, ask if she seems to have problems, does she seem to be happy etc. See if the parent mentions any problems. If the parent brings up problems then you might suggest that family couseling can help with issues especially with pre-teens etc. (Not blaming parent).


Last edited by Ann in Kentucky; 04/03/12 09:49 PM.
Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873324 04/03/12 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Ya, child protection services here are often worse or just as bad in different ways, so I don't think that is a solution. This girl just started lessons with me a few months ago, and I would love to at least keep the lessons going because she really loves them and it would give her some hope outside of her home life.


You are a positive influence in her life. I would not approach the parent yet. Give this more time, as you say she just started lessons with you a few months ago.
Sometimes kids exaggerate, and also, parents can spout off things they don't really mean, in the heat of an argument, perhaps. Does the student say why her parents get angry with her? Not practicing? Not doing chores or homework?


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873380 04/03/12 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
but the 11 year old told me that she (the child) has had suicidal thoughts.

What would you do?


You might want to determine how far the suicidal thoughts have gone. Ask how frequently and how recently she has thought of suicide. Ask whether she has made any plans regarding suicide. What you find out will help you determine how serious the threat is.

Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873406 04/03/12 10:44 PM
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you are a big asset and a potential life saver.

will write further later.. first do no harm .. let her be with you.

think about it alot.. child protective services can be as bad as the parent.


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873408 04/03/12 10:54 PM
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Some of the typical signs of emotional abuse are fear and anxiety, shyness, lack of eye contact, low self esteem, lack of confidence, difficulty trusting others.... I think if this is a case of emotional abuse, the best thing you can do for her is show that you are non-judgmental and willing to listen if she wants to talk.

Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Overexposed #1873429 04/03/12 11:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
Originally Posted by Morodiene
but the 11 year old told me of a parent threatening to put her on sedating drugs or be lobotomized if she went to a counselor

What would you do?


For one thing I would assure the child that sedatives and surgery are not up to the whim of a parent. I would also let her know that I'm sad to hear that her parent is threatening her.

I would consider initiating a discussion with the parent. Ask how the child is doing in school, ask if she seems to have problems, does she seem to be happy etc. See if the parent mentions any problems. If the parent brings up problems then you might suggest that family couseling can help with issues especially with pre-teens etc. (Not blaming parent).



These are all good ideas.


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873439 04/04/12 12:33 AM
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Notify the authorities. Let them deal with it.


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873457 04/04/12 01:54 AM
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OMG, rarely have I seen such a plethora of conflicting advice, each thought with a nugget of reason behind it. Morodiene, my heart goes out to you whatever you decide to do.

There may be some value in at least approaching the parents, as so far you have only one side to the story. You are not really in a position to be 'diagnosing' problems, unless you also have specialist training in this. Children can and do commit suicide - if this has been mentioned, then doing nothing doesn't seem like an option.

This is all so much easier when social services are reasonable. Do you have real reason not to trust them, or is it they have a bad press locally? Only bad stories hit the headlines.

Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873484 04/04/12 03:54 AM
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My conflicted musings on an important matter...

1. You can give this girl the phone number of a crisis hotline for young people, and the name of a school system counselor, and explain about each. Tell her you or your kids/siblings/etc. have used such avenues yourself (even if you're lying), and make it clear that these are valuable lifelines in our society, and can be very important and healthy for us all. They exist for a reason. Stress to this girl that life can be hard, and we are do better when we share our hurts with someone we trust.


2. I would *not* speak to the parents, from what you have described. Speak to them and your piano relationship with this child will cease more quickly than if you involved outside authorities.

3. Conversely, if one of the parents seems decent, and there is a chance the girl is melodramatic in her speech, you might indeed share your concerns with said parent.

4. I believe most jurisdictions in N. America make it incumbent on teachers to report things like this to outside authorities. IOW, taking action is part of your job. Independent piano teachers arguably fall in a grey area of responsibility, but many choose to observe the concept.

5. Trust your gut, and don't wait long for these issues simply to outgrow themselves.


Last edited by Peter K. Mose; 04/04/12 03:56 AM.
Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873521 04/04/12 07:00 AM
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Morodiene, in the medical community, we do NOT take any suicidal thoughts or ideations lightly ! Teens/pre-teens can be dramatic and emotionally unstable, but I would not easily dismiss what she has told you (not implying that you have!)

You can always call a crisis hotline yourself and explain what she has confided in you- they can help determine whether or not this is just mindless talk or if she's seriously thought about it as a way out.

I would act on this. It's always after the fact that people lament not having foreseen the awful consequence.


Last edited by piano joy; 04/04/12 07:09 AM.

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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873541 04/04/12 07:43 AM
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I definitely do NOT take what she said lightly. As I said, I have seen other signs of this in her actions to believe every word she has said.

A good friend of mine worked in the FL school system and told me that the child protection services here are awful and not a good option for her. I feel that the parents would definitely pull her out of lessons and thus deprive her of the one enjoyment she has if I confronted them. She is home-schooled, having been bullied in the public schools. Unfortunately, it seems the same thing is happening at home. She says that she does her school work and her chores, but her mother accused her of not doing it, thus the whole argument yesterday about no longer taking lessons.

I must say as a side note, I'm VERY glad I have a 30 day cancellation policy, otherwise I would never see this student again! However, the mother told the daughter *she* would have to pay back the money for lessons this month, even though the mother is the one who entered into the contract.

After sleeping on it and reading what others have said, I really think the best thing I can do for this child is to give her hope. She loves music and I'd hate to do something to cause her to lose that. The idea of a suicide hotline though is excellent and I will track down information to give to her should she need it.

I also feel I need to keep my relationship with the parents business only. However, I feel I need to share with the mother especially how talented her daughter is and how much I'd love to continue working with her to develop her abilities.


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873548 04/04/12 08:10 AM
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Morodiene, it sounds like a good plan and I trust your judgment. Here is a link to a suicide hotline: http://suicidehotlines.com/

When I googled "suicide hotline" a site also came up for my city. So if you google it you may find a local number too.

Last edited by Ann in Kentucky; 04/04/12 08:11 AM.
Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873549 04/04/12 08:19 AM
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With homeschooling you have the additional situation of a parent not necessarily knowing how to govern student behaviour. Schools themselves have a problem and resort to threats such as withdrawal of grades, suspension, detention, homework as punishment, and in the old days things such as standing in a corner facing the wall or wearing a dunce cap. That's why part of teacher training consists of educational psychology and behaviour management. Kids who have been homeschooled from the start usually work in a self-disciplined manner. There is a rule of thumb among homeschooling parents that for every year a child has been schooled, it takes one month to settle into homeschooling. Thus for someone in grade 9 this would be almost the entire first year, i.e. a possibly difficult year for all concerned.

The role of a homeschooling parent can be stressful and demanding. The parent may not have adequate parenting skills let alone being able to deal with teaching at home. Thus these various threats (which I'd find scary as a child of any age). Having the child pay the lessons back may be a misguided way of "teaching responsibility" for example.

When I homeschooled I was part of an organization and thus had the support of other parents as well as a number of former teachers and one school principal. There was emotional support, ideas on handling various problems in intelligent ways, and even the kids got to know each other so that they were not isolated. Of course a troubled (abusive) family might seek isolation even from such a group. On the other hand, perhaps there is some need for parenting support/guidance as well as guidance in this challenging parent-teacher role.

Offered just in case it has any bearing.

Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873556 04/04/12 08:45 AM
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Thanks Ann and keystring! These things are very helpful. I spoke with a psychologist friend of mine just now and he confirmed that lessons should be a safe house for her. I shouldn't bring up things unless the students wishes to talk, but to just give her the lessons that she loves and try to keep them going.

I do feel like the parents want to isolate the children (there are younger siblings) as they seem to move around the country a lot. Every week it seems the daughter comes in telling me that they're moving to various places around the country/world next. All of those challenges with homeschooling aside, the child is feeling very hurt by her mother's words and it is the mother who is the adult here, therefore she needs to recognize that her words and actions are not acceptable. However, that is going to be the battle for this student to figure out. If I get involved I can't prove anything and would only serve to isolate the child further and deprive her of the lessons she loves.


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873635 04/04/12 11:59 AM
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Hi

While it may complicate things, I would think that your student would appreciate knowing that she could reach you outside of lesson times if she is in great difficulty and doesn't know what else to do. Sounds like she is fairly isolated. And she is only 11.

Forstergirl

Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873676 04/04/12 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
A good friend of mine worked in the FL school system and told me that the child protection services here are awful and not a good option for her.

She is home-schooled, having been bullied in the public schools.


You may not be aware that these two go together.

Many homeschoolers (not all, but a disproportionate number I've run into recently) have extremely negative attitudes toward child protective services, regardless how good or bad they may be locally. It is a religious moral issue to them and you have no chance of a rational conversation.

I'm not suggesting it's time to call CPS, but someday there could be a time when you have a duty to do so, and you should not start with such a bias towards them.


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Re: What to do when you suspect emotional abuse?
Morodiene #1873680 04/04/12 01:48 PM
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TimR, I thought Morodiene was saying her student is homeschooled, not her friend who gave her advice about CPS.


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