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.
All good tips. It is also important for targeted parents to find ways to offload much of the frustration, depression and anger typically associated with parental alienation cases in healthy and productive ways. The alienating parent will typically set up the targeted parent with situations designed to exploit his or her emotions as a way to validate the decision to separate the targeted parent from the child. The targeted parent can’t take the bait. In the world of parental alienation, perception becomes reality, and one mistep by the targeted parent becomes the rule rather than the exception.
For more on this topic, and additional resources and information on parental alienation, feel free to visit http://www.afamilysheartbreak.com.
I agree. The targeted parent needs a place to vent, cry, kick a wall, scream…and then collect themselves long enough to journal the intensely pathological behavior of the alienating parent. This “place” or “moment” is the missing piece to coping with this very damaging and hurtful situation. Not everyone is going to have the means or time for a professional counselor. Those of us in this situation must find a coping measure when faced with gross rejection, over and over again. The blows never seem to get easier to take.
I tend to vent in my car on long trips and then I pray to God for peace and answers. I also formed a group to try and meet other NCP’s in Austin. It’s been hard to get people to attend or meet up. (I often wonder if it is the shame or stigma that often comes with “losing” your children in court.) But I have met with others and the sharing is quite healing.
Second, is having the task of discipling your child when you DO see them. NCP’s are working so hard at staying “positive”, putting down boundaries, rules and limitations can come across as a negative. When you’re only granted 2 hours during the week and 72 hours over a weekend, grounding your child is a tough decision. I’ve done it and then try and stay positive with other tasks that my son hates. 🙂
The whole, “wait until your child finds out the truth” has got to be the cruelest carrot to force on any human being and caring parent. Some days I want to cut the rope the carrot dangles from; but, of course, I don’t.
Keep the articles coming. They always keep me sane.
All the best,
NCP of Austin
This problem also affects, to a somewhat lesser degree, the grandparents. We are in that position of having only one grandchild who is being alienated towards her father (and his entire family) not only by the mother but by the other grandparents. We have witnessed some of what is the most vicious and low down comportment that can be imagined.
My personal feeling is that, although considered as “child abuse”, PAS can only be fought if you have a very large bank account to pay the professionals to prove it is happening. It is scandalous that the family court system will not take up this issue more seriously.
Left out Grandparents