Parental Alienation: A Call For Action

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In an ideal world, there would be no divorce or separation and children would grow up in healthy, happy homes with two loving parents who loved each other and them. Reality tells us that while this sometimes happens, many times it doesn’t and marriages and relationships fail. Children placed in these situations should not only be protected but have a right to a relationship with both parents. Courts generally see it that way (rightly so) and they do their best to ensure that the child’s interests are secured. However, as we know, it doesn’t always go to plan and one parent (or both) will allow their feelings about the other to spill over into parental alienation, sometimes obsessively and in a very destructive manner. There are many heartbreaking stories out there of loving parents who truly want a relationship with their child and have finally given up, mainly due the the fact the ex wants to make an “ex-partner an ex-parent”.

In a recent post, I suggested that there are cases where children should be protected and potentially kept away from a parent who is attempting to obsessively alienate the other parent by poisoning the child’s mind. This is child abuse and should be treated as such. I backed this up with a new report from the UK that stated that this very action could be officially taken if parental alienation was found to be the case. More here.

As with other posts on this subject, I posted it on my Facebook business page and once again, there were lots of comments, with people sharing their experiences and critically commenting. One accused me of threatening behaviour in that I am suggesting that parents should have their children taken away from them. However, there must be cases where this must be the ultimate consequence, when proven, for brainwashing and breaking a child’s bond with the other parent. Amongst the comments on the post were testimonies from people who had been forced to spend time with an alienating parent (sometimes by the courts), even though they were constantly being abused and brainwashed.

Most of the cases I come across where alienation is a factor, involve the parent given visitation rights trying to alienate the parent with residential custody. The “every other weekend” and “two nights in the week” visits are generally used to poison the mind of the child against the other parent. I do however, appreciate that it also occurs the other way around and can also lead to “revenge alienation”, where the child is truly in the middle of open warfare. The business of divorce and separation is a dirty one and mental health professionals and lawyers must always be aware that in the vast majority of divorce and separation cases, things turn nasty. Not all of these cases mean parental alienation occurs and it is natural if one or both parents are being difficult while struggling emotionally but they should always be given the right to access their child. A child has the right to have a relationship with both parents. However, obsessive and destructive alienation on one side or the other is different.

However, in the legal and professional systems we all work under, parental alienation is not always seen as a valid concept. Many recognise it as child abuse but there is divided opinion concerning the science behind it. A number of websites can be found that dispute the whole theory of PAS, one calling it a “personal opinion and bias”. It is under these confusing circumstances that a protective parent who has recognised the brainwashing procedure and attempts to keep their child from being abused are often accused themselves of alienation. Most legal frameworks in the western world will work on the premise that it is the child’s right to have a relationship with both parents and rightly so. However, at what point do we say it is better for the child not to see a parent when obsessive alienation has taken place?

Research on the subject reveals that many lawyers and professionals are at odds over the best way to deal with it. There appears to be a lack of knowledge amongst mental health professionals and lawyers will fight the case in court but at high cost. Even so, there is a tendency to force mediation and counselling on the afflicted couple allowing the alienating parent to possibly further manipulate the process. These measures are fine when there is no obsessive behaviour going on and a framework is needed (with the child’s welfare as the core of the agreement) but too often the perpetrator enters the process with a will to prove the other (loving and healthy) parent is abusive and crazy and will fabricate evidence to ensure this is the case. My opinion is that as with other unrecognised issues in the mental health field, the concept of parental alienation needs to be recognised and defined and offenders prosecuted or sanctioned accordingly. Too often the rights of the parents are given credence over the rights of the child.

If you are dealing with someone who has “narcissist” tendencies, the above complicated situation becomes a nightmare. There is not just the will to make life difficult for the alienated parent but a goal exists to completely destroy them financially and emotionally. As you can imagine, this process puts the child at the centre of operations used as a weapon against the other. The alienating parent in this case shows no sense of empathy or compassion for his child or ex-partner and makes co-parenting almost impossible. In these cases, manipulation, blaming, brainwashing of the child, false accusations of abuse, endless court and legal actions (including constant full custody applications) and becoming the victim are some of the tools in the “narcissist” toolkit. In divorce cases with this type of personality, things become complicated very quickly and they generally hold it up purely because they can and want to make life difficult. Too often, the legal system is too easily hoodwinked by such behaviour mainly because the alienator presents him/herself as something different to what they really are. Family lawyers are often not aware of how such personality types can affect the process and sometimes take this presentation at face value.

Worse still in my experience, is how the whole process gets into the head of their victim and of course, the children involved. This process often leaves their victim wondering what the alienator will do next, instead of putting their full attention on creating a loving, healthy environment for their children. Children involved in excessive alienation cases will face years of recovery and the effects can be devastating.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

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