The topic of Parental Alienation is a hot button issue, and which side you come down on, is very much determined by whether you are the parent who is trying to destroy any relationship between your kids and your ex, or whether you are the ex.
It is a pattern of behavior that creates fear, anxiety and distrust of the targeted parent. Frequently it is the mother, but it could be either parent, who tries in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways, to create a wedge in the relationship between parent and child. The subject is difficult to identify because of what the alienator does, as an example, “Susie, I want you call me as soon as you get to daddy’s house. You know you can ALWAYS call me if you need me.” On the surface this looks like mom is just being a concerned mother. but the underlying message is that “Dad’s is not a safe environment for you and I’m concerned for your welfare.”
Many judges, lawyers, therapists, counselors and evaluators will not see this as an example of PA, but when comments like that pile up, it begins to create a wedge of fear and distrust between child and parent. The goal of the alienating parent is to destroy the relationship between parent and child, so that in a child custody case, full custody is given to one parent in contravention of the other’s rights.
Fathers already have a hard time with this, as they are usually not the primary caregiver, so their relationship is being minimized due to time constraints. Professionals across the spectrum argue over what constitutes it, but a great resource for a parent who is concerned, is www.breakthroughparenting.com. Dr. Jayne Majors is an expert at spotting it and giving men the tools they need to combat it.
Dr. Amy J.L. Baker has written a book on the subject, “Adult Children of Parental Alienation, Breaking The Ties That Bind,” available at Amazon.com and selected bookstores. The book covers the subject from both the alienated child’s perspective and the alienated parents perspective. It is a resource for the victims and for professionals who treat them. Her website is www.amyjlbaker.com and she has an e-book available for $9.95 as download called “Beyond The High Road – Responding to 17 Parental Alienation Strategies without Compromising your Morals or Harming your Child.” This e-book was written to provide targeted parents with concrete suggestions for handling parental alienation tactics of the other parent.
TIPS ON PREVENTING PARENTAL ALIENATION
1. Clear boundaries. Parents must have clear boundaries of what is and is not acceptable communication with a child, when in the other parents care, and those boundaries need to be enforced. Telephone time, visitation, and infringing on visitation are all topics that should be clearly spelled out.
2. Build a record of the behavior. Frequently the abuser tries to make it look like they are just a “very protective” parent, with frequent calls to the police because they are “concerned” or notifying Child Protective Services about “possible abuse”, these actions should be documented and a record created when the reports turn out to be false by the abuser.
3. Family therapy. The outside, objective opinion of a therapist can be invaluable in fighting for your rights and to show the court that the other side is abusing their right to be “protective.” This can be a game changer for the abused parent, and more importantly for the child who is being alienated from their parent.