Some of the most frequent questions we get about parental alienation look something like this…
How do we fight parental alienation at home?
Can parental alienation of children be reversed?
When will the children ever learn that I/we are not the monsters we’re portrayed as?
The list of variations is long, but all are centered around the same theme: What can I do about it?
Yes, it most certainly can be reversed. It can be fought on an ongoing basis. There is no promise of a “realization date.” It can happen relatively quickly, it can take an excruciatingly long period of time, and sometimes – sadly, it may not happen at all if the alienation is severe enough and takes place over a very long period of time. Success depends upon several factors. The length of time the child(ren) have been alienated, your behavior, your access to the children, and professional help are all parts of the same equation. This list is not all-inclusive.
Psychological intervention will go a long way towards reversing severe parental alienation, particularly as the children get older. However, this positive impact necessitates the alienating parent being contained. Parental alienation is considered among the most severe types of emotional child abuse. The psychological impact can be long-lasting and the lost opportunities for normal childhood development will be many. As with many lessons children can learn, both good and bad, there is a risk of them growing up and being an alienator themselves, particularly if the alienating parent is the primary caregiver or role model.
Ways to fight and reverse parental alienation on the home front:
- IMPORTANT! DO NOT BECOME AN ALIENATOR YOURSELF! There are ways to talk to the children that are age-appropriate. There are ways to assist them in discovering the truth about any given situation without overtly denigrating the alienating parent. It will be difficult, but it is not impossible.
- Remain involved in the children’s lives in whatever capacity you can make happen. Find out their activities and remain engaged. Get to know coaches, parents of friends, school teachers, counselors, the principal – anyone and everyone. Those with whom you interact on a fairly regular basis will likely have previously “heard about you” and formed an opinion. Make that opinion evaporate by showing that you are not who you have been portrayed to be. You are a normal, loving parent who cares deeply about his/her children. Nothing more and nothing less.
- Don’t give up contact efforts. No matter the level of interference, continue to call, write letters or emails, send birthday and holiday cards, show up at sporting events or other activities. The more effort you make to be visible in your child’s life, the greater the chance that you’ll be able to eventually undo the damage and establish a greater relationship with your children. No matter how awful the harassment and alienation gets, always be concerned about giving up and leaving your child in that hostile environment. Always be concerned about getting the court and others to realize and understand the seriousness of the situation and your determination to see it come to an end.
- Always call and pick-up the children. Evven if you know the child won’t be there, go anyway. Stop at a place close by and purchase something and save the receipt as evidence that you made an effort to see them. No matter how painful the “no-show” may be, you can document that you tried even in the face of the alienator telling your child that you didn’t care enough to be there for them.
- Always enjoy the child’s company! Focus on enjoying the children’s company. Never speak with the child about ongoing litigation. Never speak poorly of the alienating parent to the children or around them. Never, ever show the children any court orders or other sensitive documents. Don’t let the children overhear inappropriate conversations on the telephone or between you and another person.
- Appeal to the child’s intelligence or critical thinking. Be careful with this one as it needs to be undertaken in an age appropriate way. It’s often difficult because the brainwashing may be so significant that their ability to think rationally is destroyed, and therefore the reality of any given situation escapes them.
- Encourage the child to confront the alienator. This is another difficult undertaking depending upon the age of the child. Often, the child identifies with the alienator and they live in fear of retribution if they disclose being friendly with the target parent or they otherwise defend the target parent.
- Investigating specifics of negative remarks made by the child about you. We reiterate the need for caution here. However, when the child makes remarks like: mom/dad is ‘nasty, evil, stupid, abuses me etc. etc.’ – explore their root, the details, and if given the opportunity, discuss the allegations with the child and see if you can guide them to the truth. As an example – if you discover that the child claims that you broke their arm when they were a baby and it never happened, this deserves discussion about how they came to believe it occurred and perhaps even a letter from the pediatrician (or visit to them) to review medical records that are devoid of any broken bone situation.
- Make a digital voice journal or written journal. Include dates, times, and keep a running chronology of your efforts to have and maintain contact with them. This is especially easy in our technological age and the digital journal is a great idea for the very long-term alienated parent. Keep it private and well-protected, but accessible to someone in the event it’s something you must leave behind many years down the road.
- Make the child realize and understand that you love them. Typically, the best chance of this happening will occur when you have the opportunity to spend some appreciable time with the affected child(ren). That’s not always possible, particularly if there is a restraining order in place or a temporary parenting order that severely limits the amount of time that the parent and child get to have one on one. Still, there may be pictures of videos that can be shared with the child from the past which will demonstrate just how much you love them, how much you interacted with them, and how much you enjoy being with them.
This list of tips is far from a complete list of efforts you can undertake towards reversing the effects of parental alienation. As always, we recommend that these be done in whole or in part with a qualified therapist who is familiar with parental alienation. A professional guide can ease the stress and strain that such “de-programming” can often cause on both the child and the parent.