Speaking to my children about emotionally abusive ex

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    Hello everyone,

    Earlier this year I left an emotionally abusive relationship and have been living at my parents’ with my two young children (6 & 2). I’d been with my ex for 15 years; he was my boss and is 20 years older than me. I was very young when we met and I can see in hindsight that he acted in a very predatory way, and essentially groomed me. He was sexually abusive, he isolated me from my friends and family (I’m looking forward to our first Christmas celebration with my family in 10 years!), controlled who I saw and spent time with, isolated the children, took out loans in my name without my knowledge or consent then pressurised me into signing the contracts (I’ve now had to file for bankruptcy), and took away my confidence and independence. He forced me to work up until an hour before I was due to be induced with our first baby, was hours late picking me up from hospital after I was discharged following an emergency caesarean, and forced me to start work the following day, when my baby was only 3 days old, and I went full-time when he was only two weeks old. As a result I suffered PND and found the experience very traumatic.

    After months of counselling I realised he was abusive and that I needed to leave, which I managed to do in May this year, but I struggle to really believe it was ‘that bad’; that perhaps I’m exaggerating everything or getting carried away. My health visitor referred me to a local domestic abuse charity who advised he was ‘extremely’ abusive, and also that he was abusive towards the children. My ex doesn’t live in the UK and is unlikely to return due to a police investigation. I originally encouraged a relationship between him and the children, but my eldest was very unwilling to speak to him over the phone, and the charity advised that it would be better for my children if they didn’t have any contact with their father, and that while he hasn’t made a court order (and, in their opinion, is unlikely to do so) I should make the most of it and block all forms of contact, which I have now done.

    However my eldest has recently started asking about his dad; he’s asked why I said we would stay in England forever, that he misses daddy and wants to speak to him. This is after 3 months of expressing no interest in speaking to his dad and is very sporadic (he’ll mention it and then won’t say anything for a week or so – I think it is possibly on his mind right now because it is almost Christmas and is a funny time. In addition my ex has been bombarding us with expensive gifts for the boys in the run up to Christmas (which they’re not aware of yet). When my case worker at the domestic abuse charity advised it would be better for the children to have no contact with their dad I felt a huge amount of relief; that we could get him out of our lives, heal, and move on (for the record they’re absolutely thriving and growing in confidence over here), but I don’t know how to speak to my children (particularly my eldest) about this. I told them a few months ago that daddy was being unkind and making me feel sad, and I don’t want to lie to them, but don’t want to upset or damage them either. Do I give them gifts and cards and explain they’re from their dad,? How do I tell them they can’t speak to him if they ask to? I don’t feel any anger or malice (more relief I managed to escape) towards my ex, but I feel this deep seated terror that he’ll use the children to hurt me and feel a desperate need to protect them. I’m terrified they’ll get to their teen years and hate me/blame me for keeping them away from their dad, or that they’ll feel unloved/unloveable. If you’ve read my ramblings this far then thank you. Sometimes I feel really alone and don’t know how to navigate all of this x

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