What is Parental Alienation


source

HOW I FOUND OUT ABOUT PARENTAL ALIENATION

It was not long ago that I was clueless as to what was causing the sporadic, but sudden negative changes in behavior that I was witnessing taking place with my children’s attitude towards me. At first I even blamed myself, as I thought that maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to their needs and wants, or that I had been a little too stern with them the last time I saw them. I truly felt that I was somehow being inadequate as a parent, so I did what most parents would do when they become concerned, I hit the internet and tried to find answers to our problem.

I remember searching for answers as to what would cause my children to suddenly feel uncomfortable with me, even though I had not done anything to warrant such a behavior. It didn’t take long for me to come across the topic of PARENTAL ALIENATION.

As I continued to research the topic, I quickly realized that almost all of the symptoms that explained the effects of PA, had been taking place for some time, under the radar.

Immediately, I felt terrible. I felt like a failure to my children. My whole world came crashing down on me in that instant, because after all of the time and effort I had put into making sure they were safe and taken care of during the separation and divorce, they were actually being emotionally abused by their mother.

Because of this, I felt overwhelming guilt for not picking up on it sooner. The biggest slap in the face, was that it was actually working. She was actually succeeding in her efforts to alienate our children from me, their father, their protector. The realization of this was devastating to me.

After the initial shock and awe effect, all I could think about was that my children needed my help, so I kept on researching. I read horror story after horror story. I even cried at the thought of not seeing my children again, like was the case in so many of those stories. I found out that in many cases, the abuse was able to continue, simply because there were very few safeguards in place to protect children from this type of abuse. It angered me to find that the very people that had the legal authority to stop parental alienation from progressing, would often disregard it as hearsay, simply due to the notion that the kids seemed to be OK around the alienating parent.

I read about how it would eventually lead to Parental Alienation Syndrome, which described severe cases where the alienated child completely turns against the alienated parent, and that the courts were slow to intervene because the alienated child had become so emotionally dependent on the alienator at that point. I remember feeling hopeless for children everywhere, like we, as good parents, were powerless to stop it and powerless to protect them. How could this abuse be allowed, was the question that kept running through my head.

That point in my life marked the beginning of what would amount to months of extensive research. I quickly decided that I would do everything within my power to counteract the effects of Parental Alienation in our life.


SO, WHAT IS PARENTAL ALIENATION?

When I describe parental alienation to others, I like to explain it in its most simplistic form. Parental Alienation is a form of emotional child abuse, where one parent seeks to turn their child against the other parent. I usually will go on to say that there are varying degrees, such as degrading the other parent in front of the child, to actually preventing the child from having any interaction with the other parent at all. I am no longer surprised to find out that most people have actually witnessed Parental Alienation at some point in their lifetime, and they didn’t even know it.

Below I’ve compiled a few credible sources to make sure we are clear about what exactly Parental Alienation entails:

Wikipedia on parental alienation

Parental Alienation is the process, and the result, of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.[1][2] It is a distinctive and widespread form of psychological abuse and family violence—towards both the child and the rejected family members—that occurs almost exclusively in association with family separation or divorce (particularly where legal action is involved)[3] and that undermines core principles of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Most commonly, the primary cause is a parent wishing to exclude another parent from the life of their child, but other family members or friends, as well as professionals involved with the family (including psychologists, lawyers and judges), may contribute significantly to the process.[1][4] It often leads to the long-term, or even permanent, estrangement of a child from one parent and other family members[5] and, as a particularly adverse childhood experience, results in significantly increased risks of both mental and physical illness for children.”

So according to Wikipedia, we can assert a logical opinion that although Parental Alienation is widely viewed as a form of child abuse, it for some reason, is allowed to fly under the radar, going unchallenged in a lot of cases. Is this why so many children suffer from this form of emotional child abuse?

Based on the above definition, it is also safe to assume that almost anybody can be a target of Parental Alienation. So even a sibling, such as a step brother can be a potential target. You could also be a grand parent and be targeted. This only broadens the expected number of people that must be afflicted by this epidemic. The real numbers could be staggering.

Psychology Today

on parental alienation

featured a great article by

Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.
Dr. Baker has written some great books on the topic of Parental Alienation and is widely considered to be a leading authority on the subject. I have personally read ‘Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex‘ several times and it has opened my eyes tremendously to help me understand the dynamics of Parental Alienation, and how it affects a family embroiled in divorce.

“Parental alienation is a set of strategies that parents use to undermine and interfere with a child’s relationship with his or her other parent. This often but not always happens when parents are engaged in a contested custody battle. There is no one definitive set of behaviors that constitute parental alienation but research with both parents and children has revealed a core set of alienation strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent.”

Although this is just a small portion of what Dr. Baker describes as Parental Alienation through her extensive knowledge on the subject, it really helps to point out that the act of Parental Alienation itself is no more than a strategy that the alienator employs to exclude the targeted child from a targeted parent. You can almost say that the alienator sees the targeted parent as an enemy. An alienator will often manipulate almost any situation to use it as an opportunity to further damage the target, and ultimately, end up causing extensive damage to the child as well, during the process. We can see that to be true by examining some more of her article below.
“Research with “adult children” of parental alienation syndrome (that is, adults who believe that when they were children one parent turned them against the other parent) confirms that being exposed to parental alienation represents a form of emotional abuse. Furthermore, these adults reported that when they succumbed to the pressure and rejected one parent to please the other, the experience was associated with several negative long-term effects including depression, drug abuse, divorce, low self-esteem, problems with trusting, and alienation from their own children when they became parents themselves. In this way the cycle of parental alienation was carried forward through the generations. Thus, parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse that damages the child’s self esteem in the short run and is associated with life-long damage.”

I find it very interesting to note that the long term effects on a child, that was used to alienate their other parent often experience negative impacts for the rest of their lives. I believe this is why it is so important to stop the process as early as possible, before any further damage can be done. If there is even a suspicion that a child is being physically beaten, intervention is usually swift to follow. It should be the same if there is a suspicion of emotional abuse. Why should it be allowed to fester, like a growing cancer?


MY CONCLUSION

Unfortunately, I have witnessed first hand the effects of Parental Alienation in my own children’s behavior, and I can tell you right here and now, that it has affected their perception of me. It was not long ago that they always wanted to talk to me, always wanted to spend extra time with me. Now, it is the opposite. If they are with their mother, they adopt her views and perception of me, because that is what they have been taught to do. It is a very painful process to endure as a target parent, but I can only imagine the confusion that my children must have. If you could imagine for a minute being a young child again, and you have one parent steadily and methodically manipulating you to the point when you would question your very own feelings for your other parent, whom you just recently held in such high regard as being trustworthy, loving, and gentle.

I believe it is safe to say that Parental Alienation is a dangerous form of emotional abuse. I will conclude this post by saying that it is my wish that somehow we, as a collective modern society, can move forward to ensure that no children will have to endure the pain and suffering that often accompanies their childhood while dealing with this affliction. As parents, target or not, it is our job to protect our children so I will suggest that we do just that, protect them like we would if they were being abused in any other way.

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