Alienators. What motivates yours?

Alienators. Alienators attempt to cause a child to reject a loving mother or father (and/or other loving relatives).  Anyone who does this is perpetrating abuse. Some alienators know but don’t care that the rejected parent is actually a safe and loving person. Some alienators are sincere in their belief that the rejected parent is a bad person and a threat to their child. Even if sincere, those parents are deluded, and demonstrate that their perceptions are distorted, their judgment impaired, and that they should not be trusted with the care of children.

Alienators are not just regular people who are really upset about the divorce and are overreacting. Unfortunately most judges, therapists, lawyers and other professionals assume that this is the case and will admonish the alienator to set aside personal feelings and put the children first, but not do much more. They also assume that the passage of time will mellow the alienator and things will ease up. In an article published in 2005 (1),  Elizabeth Ellis offered the suggestion that rejected parents “Consider ways to mollify the hurt and anguish of the alienating parent”, for example by expressing sympathy for their suffering and offering apologies for any contributions the rejected parent made to the interpersonal conflict. I don’t know about you, but I spent years expressing sympathy and apologizing to my ex for anything I did, or might have done, that upset him. Sometimes this did seem to help, but only temporarily. Nothing was enough to make him happy, and I think it even made things worse by feeding his sense of entitlement! In my personal experience and from my discussions with other alienated parents and from my reading and research, the only thing that will make alienators “happy” is for you to submit completely to their will and their control, either by obeying and venerating them, or by disappearing, and preferably providing money.

Interestingly, the same author in a 2010 article (2)  seems to have changed her attitude to alienators somewhat. She states frankly “the alienating parent will typically have at least some symptoms of a personality disorder” and recognizes that alienators will not be changed by your efforts to be conciliatory. In other posts I will write about the evidence that alienators are mentally ill, and ways to work with or cope with them. Here I would like to describe the alienators that I am personally familiar with, and what appears to motivate them. I would very much like to hear about the alienators that YOU know or are involved with. What seems to motivate him or her, or them? Have you found anything that has improved their attitude to you? Please comment!

All the names are pseudonyms but the situations described are real:

Rejected parent: my friend “Bella”. Alienated from her teenage daughter “Madeleine” for five years by “James”.  James is motivated by hatred for Bella and a desire for complete control. He is a smart, attractive and powerful man with lots of money who makes a great first impression. He first also wanted custody of Bella’s teenage son “Timothy” from a previous relationship. When he couldn’t get it, he cut off all contact with Timothy and even sought a restraining order against him, falsely claiming that Timothy had made threats to harm him. At her father’s urging Madeleine made claims (that were found to be false) that her mother had sexually abused her. James did not allow his daughter to use the internet until she was 16 and had to for school.  He has remarried, and has succeeded in almost completely excising Bella and Timothy from Madeleine’s life, although Madeleine’s relationship with both her mother and brother were previously very close and happy.

Rejected parent: my friend “Matt”. Alienator: His ex-wife “Clarissa”. Clarissa is motivated less by hatred and control and more by insecurity and money. Matt can keep her happy and see the alienation ease when he gives her what she wants, although she always wants more. Clarissa is hypersensitive, paranoid, narcissistic, childish and status-conscious. Matt thinks that she would like to get back together with him, although she was never satisfied or happy with him and the decision to divorce was mutual. She hasn’t worked in years and finds continual excuses for not working. Matt could be financially comfortable but has gone into debt frequently to please Clarissa, by paying for private schools for example, so that he can keep the peace and see his kids. She takes offence at others too, not just Matt, and has changed her children’s schools several times and ended many friendships.

Rejected parent: My friend “Marie”. Alienator: Her ex-husband “Tomas”. Tomas is motivated by hatred and is extremely controlling. He manipulated Marie into rejecting her own parents and siblings for a while early in their marriage, but did it by blatantly lying. She reconnected with them when she found out the truth. He is relatively successful in terms of career and finances, and has family money. He has no need for more money himself but tries to bankrupt Marie to control and punish her. He has twice made false accusations of physical abuse against Marie, getting the children to lie to the police. She has been arrested, and eventually cleared, twice. Both times this allowed him to keep the children away from their mother for months. Psychological assessments for custody and access have been done twice, and Tomas was found to be alienating and damaging and the recommendation was for primary custody to Marie. He succeeded in getting the second arrest made because he made the complaint to a different jurisdiction, and in Ontario it is not illegal to knowingly make false accusations. There is no penalty. Marie is certain to win sole custody this time and probably no contact with the alienator will be ordered, but she worries that Tomas’ motivation to control their children and take them from her is so strong that he will persist. He has clearly shown little fear of the law or the courts, and obviously no conscience at all in regard to his children. The children are just trophies to him and their well-being is irrelevant.

Rejected parent: “Jeremy”. Alienator: “Penny”. Penny is a professional earning a six-figure salary. Penny is very smart, initially very charming, and lies well, easily, and probably compulsively. She initiated the divorce. Their daughter “Felicity” was only two at the time, and Jeremy agreed that it was better for Felicity to be primarily with her mom, but with the understanding that his time with her would continually increase until it was 50-50. This never happened. By the time their daughter was eight he barely saw her. Penny made all kinds of excuses, and at first Jeremy gave her the benefit of the doubt. According to Penny, Felicity has all kinds of allergies and health conditions that are worsened by stress, and she manipulated Felicity to fear and reject her dad, often exploiting the health problems to keep him away or to accuse him of insensitivity if he tried to “force” Felicity to see him. Penny has remarried and has another child. Her second husband appears frightened and submissive. Although Penny has a high income and owns at least one property, Jeremy discovered that she had defrauded her daughter’s private school by falsely claiming financial need and was involved in a lawsuit with them. She has also changed her daughter’s school very often, has defrauded tradespeople, and can’t sustain friendships. Her motivation seems to be a need for control, and also a weird desire to trick people. Or maybe it’s just financial greed. Clearly she wants to have her daughter all to herself. The supposed health problems have kept Felicity out of school for long periods, and been the excuse for changing schools too. This also interferes with Felicity’s friendships and increases her dependency on her mother.

Rejected parent: Marilyn. Alienator: Gordon. Gordon can be charming and was more so when he was younger, but he is paranoid, narcissistic and easily offended. Although talented, he has never managed to keep a job for long. He resentfully sees himself as the noble, suffering victim, and persists in asserting that he knows better than everyone else despite ending up penniless and living in a shelter until, because he had his (alienated) children with him in the shelter, bewildered social workers found him subsidized housing. Although by any objective measure he is a “loser”, his children are fiercely loyal and devoted to him and arrogantly parrot his criticisms of their mother. His motivation seems not primarily to destroy or even eliminate Marilyn, although if that has to happen in the service of his main goal that would be fine with him, but to get everyone including her to recognize his greatness, to apologize for all the wrongs done to him, get revenge for him and give him the adulation he deserves. He uses the children as soldiers against her, but tells himself and them that when she is forced into accepting the truth according to him everyone will be happy. I’d say this is the same thing that motivates my ex.

Rejected parent: Alex. Alienator: Julie. Julie is very much like Clarissa. Unhappy, dissatisfied, very status-conscious. Julie wanted to change her life, and although without a realistic plan, to start her own business. She initiated the divorce. Financial greed was definitely a factor powering the drive to alienate, along with resentment and anger. Like my ex, Julie seizes on any opportunity to badmouth her former spouse to anyone who will listen. I think she found Alex an inconvenient impediment to the new fantasy life she envisioned for herself. However, in both the case of Clarissa and Matt and the case of Julie and Alex the alienation was less severe than in the families where the alienator is motivated by hatred.

Articles mentioned:

(1) Ellis, Elizabeth M. [2005] Help for the Alienated Parent The American Journal of Family Therapy Volume 33, Issue 5, pages 415-426

(2) Ellis, Elizabeth M., and Boyan, Susan [2010] Intervention Strategies for Parent Coordinators in Parental Alienation Cases, The American Journal of Family Therapy Volume 38, Issue 3, April 2010, pages 218-236

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Posted in The Psychology of Alienation, Understanding the Alienating Parent | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Being or Becoming Healthy and Strong…the Lemonade, Maybe

If you are an alienated parent your number one job is to keep yourself as strong, healthy and happy as possible. Why? For two reasons. First so that you can effectively fight for your child, and second because you deserve a good life yourself, alienated or not.

Your child needs you. He or she is being controlled by a sick person. Even if your child can’t connect with you now, the fact that you are there and can be counted on to be there matters and makes a difference. Your child needs you as an example of a happy, healthy, nice, sane person. The alienator can’t deceive your child forever. Your child may not even be fooled now, but cannot safely admit, even to him or herself,  that he/she does not agree with the the alienator. If you are depressed and made crazy you won’t be able to fight effectively, and your kids will not be able to see you as a real alternative (now or in the future) to the alienator. I know that’s easy to say. I have been depressed and frantic and panicky and out-of-control angry and desperate and only made things worse for myself. I couldn’t help it and I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t blame myself and I wouldn’t blame anyone else who reacts that way. In fact it’s really logical to react that way! But it doesn’t help. You need to be happy and healthy to be attractive to your kids. You need to be a safe haven for them when they are able to break away.

How do you this? First, recognize that fighting PAS is a marathon, and confusing, frustrating, and very difficult. It is intense, gruelling and likely to go on for years, not months, even in the best of cases. Care for and prepare yourself like an athlete in training. Just maintaining the awareness that this is a marathon can help you maintain the necessary patience and faith. Take care of your body, mind and spirit. Go to the gym, go to yoga, go to the doctor & the dentist, to meditation or church or whatever works for you. Take vacations and breaks, eat well, and be sure to have fun. It is critical that you spend time with people who reflect back to you that you are loved and important to counteract the hostility directed at you by your alienated children. Get help when you need it – from friends, self-help groups, or professionals – to coach and guide and encourage you (and see Support).

About your responsibility to yourself: You deserve a good life, alienated or not. Perhaps you have put your own life on hold, waiting for the alienation to end. Maybe you did this consciously, thinking that it was your duty and feeling guilty if you did anything for yourself. Maybe you have been obsessed and preoccupied with the dilemma of alienation and it hasn’t occurred to you to do anything else. I don’t mean to be flippant, but focusing on yourself and creating a good life for yourself in spite of the tragedy of alienation can be the lemonade in the giant pile of lemons that is parental alienation. Losing what was probably the most important thing in your life, your relationship with your children, may have taken away your very purpose and identity. Now who are you? I thought I couldn’t bear life without my ex and my children, but having lost them, I am still here and I know that I am a stronger and better person, and in fact, a better parent. If you read the previous post you know how weak and diminished I was. It has been a slow process, but coming to terms with the loss and understanding my part in it and getting help and daring to fight my ex and learning to deal with both successes and failures has improved me. Diamonds are made from carbon under tremendous pressure, and steel becomes strong by being tempered – being repeatedly heated, cooled and pounded. I find that very comforting! Everyday I still feel sad about my children, but at the same time I have a deeper appreciation of my life, and I feel that I have more to offer because of what I have been through.
Don’t let the alienator’s illness ruin your life. Life is a gift. The alienator is a sick person who has forced his or her sickness on your family, and made your child ill too. The great thing is that this sickness is situationally caused, and is not terminal. As long as there is life, there is hope, and there is every reason to calmly nourish the faith that you will be reunited with your child. You, strong, happy and healthy, never giving up and always there, waiting with love, can be a beacon, and a refuge and maybe one day even an inspiration for your child.
Posted in Effects on Targeted Parents, Personal Actions, The Psychology of Alienation, What NOT to do, What Should I do? | Tagged , | 3 Comments

I was an Adult Alienated Child – LONG version!

This post is long. I describe how and why I became alienated from my parents, and how and why the alienation ended. I write about how about the alienation distorted my thoughts, behaviour and feelings – how it felt hating people I used to love. Although the particulars of this story are unique, you can extract much that will be applicable to your situation. I hope it will give you some insight into how your alienated child thinks and feels. I will offer some suggestions about how to interact with your alienated child based on my experience.

As an adult, I was alienated from my own parents and siblings for about five years. It’s painful for me to remember how horribly I behaved, and painful and embarrassing to face the reality that I was brainwashed, or allowed myself to be brainwashed. I’ve thought a lot about my own experience, and how it fits with the literature about cults and mind control and the psychology of how we influence each other. I’ll write later about mind control in general. Here is my experience.

I was alienated from my parents (and siblings and all other relatives) for five or six years, when I was 37 to 43 years old. In my case, the alienation was not caused by a parent but by my then-husband. I was so old then that you’d think this would be impossible, but no, it really happened. Before the alienation, for all my life I had a happy and loving relationship with my mother. We went through periods of varying closeness because of geographical distances and the normal busyness of life, but generally I felt very lucky to have her for a mom and any observer would see a warm and comfortable relationship. My relationship with my father was not unfriendly but it was not close.  He could be bad-tempered and irritable; dictatorial, mean and intimidating. Essentially because of these aspects of his personality my parents divorced when I was 25, but they always spoke of each other respectfully and communicated sincere goodwill toward and about each other.

My relationship with my ex was happy for the first 10 years. We never fought. I would describe myself as agreeable, positive, and flexible…all great qualities when balanced with a good sense of self and self-confidence, but that can become problematic without that self-confidence. My ex was insecure, thin-skinned, and at first just mildly paranoid, but this got worse over the years. He couldn’t tolerate anyone disagreeing with him, would interpret it as criticism, and was a very black-and-white thinker. At first I found ways to cheerfully compromise so that I could always agree with him. I thought that my love and devotion would mend his suspicious heart, soothe his fears, and solve everything. (I was wrong.) There was also a great insecurity in me, and it turns out that many partners of alienators share this quality. Fear of conflict, passivity, and anxiety for approval are traits common in many target parents. Anyway, I was flexible and accommodating, and for a long time the compromises I made felt reasonable and worth making, as no relationship is perfect, right? However, I kept on making compromises and sacrifices. I supported the family financially. I cut off friendships with people he had conflicts with. I did whatever was required to make things comfortable for him because it was too uncomfortable for me otherwise. He could not accept any opinions not in accord with his own. When a rift developed between him and my sister, in order to maintain peace with him and keep his “love” I eventually chose to cut her off. Then “we” asked my parents to join in denouncing my sister. They wouldn’t, so they had to be cut off too.

This was a gradual process. First there were many long, agonizing  “talks”. My ex would have to “explain” to me over and over why my family was so bad, because I would disagree and try to change his mind. He wouldn’t stop talking until he had convinced me, even if it took hours, and I was a willing listener. I wanted to be on the same page with him. Over time he began to get angry with me for having doubts and challenging him, which I would do less and less as I became more afraid of upsetting and offending him.

When we would talk to my family members it would basically be basically us criticizing, blaming and making accusations. They were baffled, confused, and hurt. Sometimes they’d be outraged and angry. They tried reasoning with me, and they tried to appeal to the empathy and compassion I used to have.  When they agreed to go to counseling with me, I just complained and attacked and didn’t care that I was wounding them. I found fault with everything they said. Whenever they questioned or said anything critical of the alienator (my ex) I became  defensive and furious. Every instance of their not admitting their wrongness and choosing not to agree with me and him was seen by us as a new crime, and the negativity just grew and grew. As well, alienation made it “us against them”, so every interaction with them was automatically a fight, even when they so obviously wanted just to reconnect. Every interaction became another occasion to take sides against them, which would become an intellectual and emotional pledge of allegiance to my husband the alienator, and another investment in his version of reality. Finally my mom & sister gave up and backed off. My dad kept trying to continue as if nothing was different, which sometimes angered me, and sometimes pricked my conscience.

My then-four year old would say “I miss granny!” and this would pierce my heart, because – “out of the mouths of babes” – I knew he spoke the truth, and that he missed her because she was sweet and loving and fun and was not at all the monster I had convinced myself she was. Interestingly, the older boys did not mention her. They had absorbed the message that they were no longer to love her, to miss her, or even to speak of her. Eventually the younger one forgot to miss his granny any longer too.

My love of my then-husband was intense, and my loyalty to him was fierce. I think  that being forced to choose and give up so much for him polarized and intensified my feelings, both my feelings for him and my commitment to my rejection of my family . I kept trying to prove my love to my husband, but at the same time he was never satisfied and I could never do enough. I had to make many sacrifices to keep his approval, and also to convince myself that I was doing the right thing by following his opinions and beliefs. Deep down I did know I was wrong.  I remember allowing this into my consciousness for a few seconds on two occasions, and also having the conscious thought that I was not ready to deal with it and pushing it away. I continued to invest in the choice that I had made. I was not willing to accept the reality that this was craziness and could not get better, but I was always arguing with my ex’s opinions in my mind, trying to expunge the doubts. I was secretly in turmoil, 98% of the time.

As time went on my ex found more & more wrong with me, and criticized me for not doing enough to keep my alienated family members away, and then he decided that that I was responsible for the way they thought in the first place, and in fact just as bad as them, and so on. Whenever a letter or call came from them it meant I was in trouble with him unless I could come up with a really good response. I’d write angry notes back to them, and show the notes to my ex like a student offering homework to the teacher for grading. Usually what I wrote was not good enough, but the angrier I made it sound the more likely he was to be satisfied with it.

For this reason I dreaded any communications from my family. Perhaps if they had had a means of communicating with me that he wouldn’t know about, it might have been different, it might have helped me break free of the abuse sooner, although earlier on when I was still receiving approval and “love” from him I voluntarily told him about any letters I got. (A “culture of confession” and a lack of privacy is a hallmark element of cults and cultic relationships.) I ignored all of my relatives. I missed weddings and funerals. I didn’t send holiday cards. I avoided places and events where I might meet people connected to my family and former friends.

It is strange to try to reconstruct how I thought at that time. I saw everything in a very two-dimensional, black & white way. My sister says I had an extreme personality change and became hard and tough. She said I had a different look in my eyes.

I was tense and exhausted, arguing with myself constantly in my own mind, trying to convince myself that my then-husband’s views were correct, and worried about him detecting my doubts. When I mentioned aspects of my family life to other people,  or just answered the usual politenesses of coworkers, for example, they tended to ask questions that would expose the irrationality of my actions. I found this disturbing so I tried not to discuss my life. I had no close relationships anymore with anyone other than my ex and our children. Gradually I had broken off most of my friendships because my ex had conflicts with my friends. I still loved him. I had to work hard at it, but I did convince myself to believe what my ex told me – that he, so misunderstood! was the wisest, kindest, most genuinely caring person in the picture,  the one with real insight into everyone’s true motivations and who understood what everyone really needed, unlike all those other people out there “faking it”. Then I’d be able to believe in what I was doing. I could believe that my mom really was awful and that she deserved the heartless treatment she got from me.

My ex got worse. He eventually had conflicts with basically everyone he got involved with. I hung on, trying to “earn his love” even after he told me he didn’t love, want or even like me any more, (but he still wanted to share the same house & parent together – it’s all about control!). He had begun to involve the children against me about 2 years after our marriage problems started, first just the oldest, then the others at progressively younger ages. At a certain point I was getting nothing positive from the relationship to outweigh the anxiety and fear and misery I was living with, and had lost hope that it would get better. Little by little I found the strength to start trusting my own judgment and and to resist his influence and control. A few months after I made the decision that my relationship with my ex was over I called my parents & sister, secretly, and apologized and reconnected with them. Still, my fear of my ex’s disapproval was such that I hid the the fact that I was in contact with them for another year.

I can see much of my behaviour while alienated in my own children now.

Their intense devotion to their dad is not what you’d see in a typical child-parent relationship, especially with teenage and young adult children. The normal ambivalence that you would expect at their age is not there. I see the same ferocity that I used to feel, as if he was both victim and hero. They are compelled to obey, champion and defend him. I think the crux of it lies in the forced choice. They CAN’T love both their parents. He has made me his enemy, and how could they possibly love his enemy? I was alienated from my sister and parents because he saw them as his enemies, and loving his enemies was an impossibility. He forced me to choose. When I would not choose him any longer, he forced our children to reject me. Not only has he forced them to choose, but they have been forced to make a huge investment in his reality. They too have had to make enormous sacrifices that have further deepened their commitment.

Of course every situation is different, but based on my experience here are three important ways you can make things much better or much worse in dealing with your alienated child (By the way, I myself still forget and fall into all of these traps):

1. Do not let your child make you lose your temper! Whenever I was able to provoke my “hated” family members into getting angry and behaving imperfectly I would feel great relief, even joy. Then I could feel some justification for my beliefs and renew my faith in the alienator’s judgment, and feel that I made the right choice in sticking by him and rejecting them. I could be cold and hateful without a tortured conscience.

2. NEVER criticize the alienator. This is guaranteed to backfire and cause your child to reflexively entrench more deeply in loyalty to the alienator, no matter how illogical or irrational this is. Strive to avoid talking about the alienator at all. When you have to refer to him/her, or to something he/she did, be as neutral as possible.

3. Do not argue or attempt to reason with your child about the alienation. Just tell your child that you love them, miss them, care about them. When my “hated” family members tried to reason with me, I got defensive, even enraged, and fought them. When they stopped trying to convince me of anything and just communicated that they loved me, I was disarmed. Although I tried not to show or acknowledge it, the message got through.

Just for the sake of completeness I will end with the summary of my experience of being an (adult) alienated child that appeared in the previous post.

What caused it? Nothing my parents did. It was completely, 100%, caused by my ex demanding that I reject them.

Why did I comply? I loved him. I wanted his love. I wanted to believe in him. I wanted to keep my family together. I wanted to maintain a happy relationship with him for my children, and overcome our conflicts to make it worth it in the end.

How exactly did he get me to shun and hate people whom I really loved, and when I knew that shunning and hating are wrong? 1. Relentless, persistent, unceasing messaging. 2. Suppression of argument by any means necessary – sympathy, flattery, gentle coaxing and “discussion”, anger and outrage, criticism and emotional abuse, and the threat of being shunned and rejected. 3. Isolation from others, removal of outside support and influence, increasing my dependence on him. 4. Requiring me to INVEST in my “choice”, and to make sacrifices and commit more and more heavily to that choice.

What ended it?  His criticism and emotional abuse of me finally became too much. Although my investment had been huge, there was no more payoff, and no more hope of a payoff in the future. To maintain my willingness to perpetuate my alienation from my parents and relatives, I would have had to enter a deeper level of insanity, to give up even more self-respect. Perhaps if he had treated me just a little more kindly, had given me some scraps of affection, I might still be alienated.

How did the alienator react to my defection?  With intense anger and outrage that continues today, and by alienating our children from me.

Posted in Alienators as Cult Leaders, PAS Families as Cults, Effects on Children, Effects on Targeted Parents, Mind Control, My Story, Personal Actions, The Psychology of Alienation, Understanding the Alienating Parent, What NOT to do, What Should I do? | Tagged , , , , , | 42 Comments

When I was an (Adult) Alienated Child

I’ve been working on a post about when I was alienated, as an adult, from my parents. I’ve been writing for weeks, it’s way too long and it’s still not finished. I really want to remember accurately and convey clearly how I was convinced to hate people I had always loved and who did not deserve hate at all, and how I maintained that irrational hatred.

I’ll follow up with the details later, but here is a summary:

What caused the alienation? Nothing my parents did. It was completely, 100%, caused by my ex demanding that I reject them.

Why did I comply? I loved him. I wanted his love. I wanted to believe in him. I wanted to keep my family together. I wanted to maintain a happy relationship with him for my children’s sake. I felt I had no choice.

How exactly did he get me to shun and hate people whom I really loved, and when I knew that shunning and hating are wrong? 1. Relentless, persistent, unceasing messaging. 2. Suppression of argument by any means necessary – sympathy, flattery, gentle coaxing and “discussion”, later, anger and outrage, criticism and emotional abuse, and the threat of being shunned and rejected myself. 3. Isolation from others, removal of outside support and influence, increasing my dependence on him. 4. Requiring me to INVEST in my “choice”, to make sacrifices and commit more and more heavily to that choice.

What ended it?  His criticism and emotional abuse of me finally became intolerable and I had no hope that things would improve. (Which provokes the horrible thought that I might have stayed alienated from my parents to this day if he had treated me just a little better.)

How did the alienator react to my defection?  With intense anger and outrage that continues today, and by alienating our children from me.

Posted in Alienators as Cult Leaders, PAS Families as Cults, Mind Control, My Story, The Psychology of Alienation | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Support

I can’t overstate the importance of finding support, and a support group might be pivotal for you at certain times. Depending on where you live, a group of alienated parents might already exist. Perhaps you could start one. Even if one does already exist I recommend joining an online group as well. The more different perspectives and information available to you the better. PASparents ParentsagainstParentalalienation@yahoogroups.com is an online support group primarily for emotional support. I found this group hugely helpful. I was on it every day for my first three years of alienation and I still visit it often.  Its purpose is personal emotional support from other parents who are now alienated from their children or who were alienated in the past and have been reunited with their kids. Members share their experience, strength and hope, offering sympathy and understanding and encouragement. Because the participants are other alienated parents, they have insight and understanding that no-one else can give you. Although this group will occasionally point you to resources related to the legal and practical aspects of fighting PAS, this is not it’s main function.

For advice and practical information local help is better, because the laws, processes and agencies are different everywhere. Try looking for a local online forum for divorce-related issues. You might find a group for separated parents or a group for non-custodial parents. Here is a resource for divorcing parents in Ontario: www.ottawadivorce.com/forum . (Those of you from other places will no doubt find good information there too.)

Parenting alienated children can be extremely difficult. How do you provide discipline and guidance to children who are being taught to despise you? How do you set boundaries with children who are being urged to ignore or defy your authority as a parent? I started attending a group for parents of “acting-out” teenagers and have found fantastic support. Non-judgmental understanding, practical strategies and tools, and an appreciation that there are lots of excellent, caring parents facing all kinds of problems in their children. I am the only alienated parent in that group, but others were dealing with similar behaviours. Parenting workshops or support groups could be a great help to you, or perhaps a parenting coach or family therapist. I know one father who sees a child psychologist himself for advice on dealing with his alienated children. The therapist helps sort out what are normal developmental issues and what is likely due to alienation and suggests ways to respond. Learning to deal effectively with rudeness and meanness and defiance without losing your cool, and learning skills to be able to communicate love to your children while also communicating that certain behaviour is unacceptable – this will be an invaluable asset to you. Remember that the alienator is always looking for fuel, and any mistakes you make will be exaggerated. No doubt many lies will be told about your parenting, but any and all imperfections and missteps will be seized upon as justification for the alienation. Your alienated children will make parenting very hard, and they may even consciously try to provoke you into reacting badly. Any help you can get is worth it!

Back to emotional support: Alienation can make you ill. It can break your heart and spirit. You are worried about your children, maybe even panicked. You are probably angry and frustrated. As it goes on and on, you may become depressed. It’s exhausting. You may be financially stressed by your legal issues. You are probably confused and plagued by doubts about what you have done, could have done or should do next. You may fear or actually experience negative judgments from others, and feel guilty or ashamed. You miss your children horribly, and may feel very lonely. You might be afraid of your ex, or of your ex’s lawyer, or afraid you might be misunderstood by an assessor or a judge. It can be intense and debilitating. You must make extra efforts to take care of yourself. If you don’t, you will not be able to fight effectively and be the parent your children need.

I think it’s helpful to think of dealing with alienation as being under siege. Just as you’d train and take extra measures to prepare for a marathon, or get a house ready for hurricane season, you should build yourself up to cope with the extraordinary stress.  Support groups online are essential, in my opinion, and good friends to encourage you. A personal therapist might also be essential, even just short-term, to allow you to vent and work through specific issues that interfere with your ability to be calm and composed in court, for example. It’s also easy to forget the basics – rest, exercise, sunshine, good food, activities that enrich and nourish you, whatever those might be. Fun and laughter are imperative to counterbalance the negativity and sadness that comes with alienation. Meaningful work, paid or volunteer, that connects you with people who value your efforts and are happy to see you is a great antidote to hostility from your children. A spiritual practice can be a source of strength in itself and can connect you to a supportive community. Anything that broadens your perspective will also help you to avoid self-pity and stay hopeful. There may be times when you see no results in spite of your efforts. If you are fortified with support and taking good care of yourself, you will be able to resist despair and be confident that you are planting seeds and that you will eventually, inevitably, reconnect with your children.

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Bibliography of PA-related Literature

The American website http://pasattorney.com/index.htm has an impressive bibliography of literature related to parental alienation: http://pasattorney.com/pas-bibliography-a-c.htm . It includes academic and legal material as well material for general audiences, and publications in other languages.

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Fighting Back using the Legal System – Part VIII

11. Inadequate or destructive court orders, continued:

Different conditions prevail if your child is severely alienated.  When is your child “severely alienated” ? When your relationship has been disrupted to the point that interaction with you is either non-existent or close to non-existent, and unrelentingly negative and hostile. In this case, contact with the alienator must be stopped or strongly restricted for a period of time. You must ask for sole custody of your child, which would most likely constitute a reversal of custody, and for the alienator to have no unsupervised access with your child until your child’s relationship with you is repaired. Ideally a qualified third party (parenting coordinator, psychologist, maybe the judge) would monitor this. Access for the alienator would increase conditionally, contingent upon the child’s relationship with you remaining solid and supported.  Not easy. Obviously, this is an extreme remedy, and most judges will be uncomfortable with it. You must make the case that the present situation is extreme: abnormal and pathological. You must convince the judge that alienation is abuse, that your child is being abused, and that the court has the power and the responsibility to help.

There is absolutely no doubt that losing a parent through parental alienation is a threat to your child’s future health and functioning. However, damage sustained in the present may not be obvious.  What if your child appears to be flourishing – doing well in school and socially, and also claims to not want a relationship with you, to not need you, and to be better off without you? You must show that since there is no good reason for the degree of rejection, then the rejection itself is a sign of pathology, and therefore inevitably problems will follow. There is evidence showing that serious long-term damage does manifest itself in adults who lost a parent through alienation. I will cover this in a separate post. (If you need info now, start with Amy J. L. Baker’s 2007 book Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome, www.amyjlbaker.com and Warshak’s Divorce Poisonwww.warshak.com and the bibliography on the American website http://pasattorney.com/pas-resources-links.htm )

On the other hand, what if your child is doing badly and claims it is because of your pressure and interference? It may be obvious to you that your child is suffering directly because of the alienation, but others may believe your child, or even if they don’t, still believe that leaving the child with the alienator and waiting for the child’s attitude to change (through maturing or through therapy) is better. They are wrong.  Whether your child is apparently doing well or badly right now, serious long-term harm to your child is being perpetrated. It is true that in the short term a change of custody will cause upset and anger, but the short-term distress is nothing compared to the weight of the damage that will otherwise result. You must prove this as clearly and emphatically as you possibly can. Maybe you have a good assessment that can help. If there is no assessment or no good assessment, you can still make a forceful and convincing argument by comparing your child before and after. The relationship with you before & after, relationships with relatives, before and after, changes in your child’s demeanor, mood, behaviour. Since these changes constitute the very symptoms of parental alienation, you should not have difficulty presenting examples. The hardest part will be convincing the judge to order the necessary remedy. It can be made easier by emphasizing that you want what is best for your child – a healthy relationship with both parents. You are hopeful that your child’s relationship with the alienator can improve too, and no longer be predicated on the rejection of you.

Posted in Books, Effects on Children, Legal Action, Recommended Resources, The Psychology of Alienation, What NOT to do, What Should I do? | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments