Fiona Donnison was jailed for 32 years earlier this month for the murder of her two children. Harry, aged three, and Elise, aged two, were smothered in bedding and their bodies were found in holdalls in the boot of Donnison’s car.
Why would a mother kill her own children? From Court it appears that it was a brutal act of revenge by Donnison against the children's father, Paul Donnison her ex-partner. Murder, of course, is a cruel and heartless act. But there are many women who punished the father of their children with lesser acts of cruelty, such as needless Court action, inflating maintenance awards, and, of course, trying to deny the father access to his children.
A relationship breakdown is a very painful time of life and emotions often run high. When a woman uses the children as a way to punish the father, men can often feel powerless. The courts can be of no help to men in these circumstances, as the presumption is that the best thing for the children is doing what the mother wants. Men can feel desperate about their plight, even suicidal.
Even if custody is arranged, some women try to punish the father by "poisoning" the children's minds against him. This can be extremely difficult for young minds to understand. The child loves both mommy and daddy, and to hear such character assassinations can be deeply unsettling for them.
I have heard many men talk about the pain of separation from their children, and helped them to make sense of the character assassinations they have had to endure. There is no easy way to resolve this situation. For the sake of the children though, it is important not to retaliate, however much you are provoked. The children need at least one of their parents to remain steady. Simply acknowledge and reframe her behaviour as "mommy still being angry". Let the children know how much you still love them, and that you always want to be there for them. In this way you will become a rock of stability in their chaotic world.
Dr Phil Tyson is a Men's Psychotherapist based in Manchester in the UK. He offers:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (cbt) for men in Manchester
- Counselling for men in Manchester
- Psychotherapy for men in Manchester
- Telephone and online counselling for men wherever you live
- Supervision and consultative support for therapists in Manchester
- Mediation for employment disputes in Manchester and the UK