Is Parental Alienation real? We know that lawyers, judges, court affiliated psychologists, and parents who commit psychological abuse toward children all typically say that Parental Alienation (PA) is not real, it’s a hoax, or it’s what “child abusers” say to try and win custody. The problem with that is… well… everything.
Everyone knows that during a break-up, it is quite common for people to begin badmouthing, name-calling, and telling their friends all of the ins-and-outs of their broken relationship. This is as typical for adults as it is with teenagers. And to deny the fact that parents brainwash their children and attempt to destroy parent-child relationships is not only naïve, it is dangerous.
We live in a self-serving world where telling lies, twisting the truth, and talking bad about others to make ourselves look good has sadly become too common. Child abuse, mental illness, drug addiction, murder, and suicide are all on the rise, yet children being subjected to Parental Alienation is unbelievable? We live in a society where families are broken, relationships are disposable and our country is more divided than ever, yet you question if a parent could convince their child to end a relationship with their other parent?
The risk of ignoring the reality of PA will enable the destruction of our children, perpetuate the cycle of separation and divorce, and we will continue to see an increase in child abuse, mental health issues, crime rates, and societal issues in general.
A few days ago, we received this comment in response to sharing the infographic pictured above:
For those who do not know, the DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . Some refer to it as the “Bible of Psychiatry”, while other professionals regard it as helpful yet necessary in order to obtain funding for research and in order for U.S. insurance companies to cover the costs of medication and therapy. Believe it or not, there was a time when a DSM did not exist. Does that mean Depression did not exist until the DSM was created? Of course not. The first release of the manual was a starting point, and professionals build on the knowledge, and the illnesses that should be included, each year. In the latest revision of the DSM (DSM-5), many new disorders were identified. Since they were not included in the DSM-4, does that mean they didn’t exist before release of the DSM-5? Of course not. Using the DSM as an argument against Parental Alienation is weak, to say the least.
If you’re looking for a definition of PA, refer to the definition included in Black’s Law Dictionary. Black’s Law is the most renowned and utilized law dictionary in the United States. Black’s Law states, Parental-Alienation Syndrome is “a condition resulting from a parent’s actions that are designed to poison a child’s relationship with the other parent” (Garner, 553). According to this definition, if a child’s relationship with their other parent is negatively affected as a result of the other parent’s actions, Parental Alienation has occurred. Looking at the infographic above, would you agree that the actions depicted would negatively impact a parent-child relationship? Really, it goes without saying.
Recognition of the issue of PA has been long overlooked, cast aside, and put on the back burner putting families at risk for decades. The children suffer the most substantial consequences, and often, the effect impacts generations to come.
TPKF understands there is controversy around the term PAS, so we generally simply use the term PA as an alternative. Regardless, there is no denying that hundreds of thousands of children are brainwashed into fearing, hating, and rejecting a parent. It is safe to say that the majority of people talking about Parental Alienation are referring to the alienating behaviors and tactics that parents use to obstruct the bond between parent and child. These actions include using the courts to limit a parent’s time, withholding a child from a parent, talking bad about a parent, and not informing a parent about important information. All of these tactics clearly have negative effects on children, and although there can be varying degrees, even minor actions can have long-term negative effects on a child’s mental health, physical health, and overall happiness and well-being.
It’s important to understand that there are varying degrees. Alienation is complex with a dynamic and broad scope, and although many people may alienate their children purposefully and vengefully, many others alienate without even realizing it. Children are exceptionally impressionable. They pick up on everything you say and do, and they are quite aware of your body language and emotions. Adults often underestimate the intelligence, acuity, mental capacity and retention of a child.
When a parent is speaking negatively about a child, assuming their child isn’t listening, the children still hear it. They also hear the subtle gibes, sighs and taunts said in jest. They see the eye rolls and the dirty looks.
Every parent needs to consider what their actions may be doing to their child. For example, mumbling “wow, they showed up on time; that’s a first” could leave your child feeling as though their other parent is always late and unreliable, so your child feels unsafe and insecure when with them. Saying “wouldn’t you rather spend time with me?” to a child puts pressure on them to choose between their parents, and it places unnecessary ‘adult pressure’ on them, making them feel as though they need to care and comfort their parent, to essentially make their parents happy. To better explain the difference of the varying degrees of alienation, a parent who is intentionally and maliciously alienating, is attaining the result they want; they want their child to feel as though their other parent is unreliable. They want them to feel unsafe. They want their child to feel guilty about wanting to spend time with their other parent. And the level of desire for that result may vary too. They may or may not intend to cause long-term negative consequences by their actions.
Children are resilient, adaptable; but they are also innocent, impressionable and vulnerable. Many of the things they see, hear and experience during their critical developmental years will have life-long effects. Parents are one of the greatest influences on a child’s development, and that influence may be positive or negative. How parents treat each other, talk about one another, and how they behave, will leave a lasting impression.
We cannot stress enough the importance of shielding your children from any negative feelings or opinions you have of their other parent. Because they are just that, your feelings and your opinions.
Put your differences aside, and put your children first. Better yet, WANT your ex to succeed. Their success is your child’s success. Children need the love, care, and affection from both of their parents. Together, raise happy, healthy children, break the cycle of divorce and separation, and help to mend our broken society.
Parental Alienation is real and it IS child abuse. Take it from me; a child of divorce and a survivor of PA.
Garner, B. A., & Black, H. C. (2011). Black’s law dictionary (Fourth ed.). St. Paul, MN: Thomson Reuters.