April 25th, 2011 was the 6th annual recognition by many states of Parental Alienation Awareness Day. It’s as good a time as any to share some helpful information to help you to counteract the effects of parental alienation that so frequently rears its ugly head during high conflict child custody proceedings.
When parents split up, be they married or unmarried, if the child custody situation goes from zero-to-high-conflict, there will most assuredly be efforts by one parent (and sometimes both parents) to engage in parental alienation. Parental alienation is a parent’s efforts to brainwash or poison the children’s minds against the targeted parent through various means. (You can learn a lot more from: our parental alienation teleconference.)
Typical methods of engaging in parental alienation will include one or more of the following, and it’s usually more:
- Interfering with custody (custodial interference)
- Tell lies about the father/mother to the children
- False accusations of abuse against the parent involving the children
- Denying or severely curtailing phone contact with the children
- Speaking poorly of the target parent to the children
- Speaking poorly of the target parent to others in front of the children
- Convincing the children that the other parent is “no longer needed”
The effects of parental alienation can be damaging to children, extremely difficult to reverse if left unaddressed, and forever impact the relationship between the targeted parent and the children who have been so exploited.
How can you counteract the effects of a parental alienation effort on your children?
Don’t be a parental alienator! This is very important as over the course of time, it will be abundantly clear which parent was the one who was speaking terribly of the other. If you continue to foster good relations even with a high-conflict parent during child custody proceedings, it will be helpful to you over the long haul, particularly when dealing with parental alienation and in conjunction with other efforts.
Always be striving to make contact with the children! No matter how systematic your ex’s efforts are to prevent contact with the children, always keep trying. Send cards and letters. Leave voice mail messages. Keep a contact journal that details your efforts. Save any returned gifts, letters, etc. There may just come a day when you can deliver everything to a child who has discovered the truth about you… and that’s the reality that you’re not the demon that your hostile-aggressive ex portrayed you to be.
Don’t resent the children for the things that they may say or do! Remember that the children are young and impressionable. Remember that an authority figure in their life – one of the main ones that they’ll ever have – is teaching them how to respond to you, how to react to you, how to avoid you, and how to treat you with disdain and hatred. It’s truly not their fault. It’s natural to feel frustrated, angry, sad, and even deeply depressed about the situation. Work with a counselor or therapist to manage your feelings so that they don’t spill out towards the children when you do manage to get in touch with them. Make every contact a positive one.
Document everything and save every stitch of evidence! If you collect enough and can make a compelling case that your hostile ex is deliberately working to destroy the relationship between you and the children – that’s grounds for a change in custody. So, keep a child custody journal or diary. Save hostile emails. Save hostile voice mails. Keep everything well organized. Then, petition the court for a change in the child custody arrangement. Complete removal of the children from the alienating parent (perhaps with limited supervised visitation) is necessary to allow the targeted parent of parental alienation the opportunity to work to re-establish a relationship with the children. Professional assistance is often needed to include something with specific experience dealing with parental alienation child custody cases.