Working with the alienated child: Parents, Practioners and the lack of perspective

April 25th is international awareness day for the problem called Parental Alienation, a growing issue for separating parents and the people who work in the family separation arena. The issue however is not a new one, it has, I would argue, existed as long as children have been experiencing family separation. It even exists in our fairy tales, Cinderella and the ruination of her relationship with her father by her step mother and step sisters, tells us how, when children are in separated family situations, they are vulnerable to loss of relationships with their natural parents.

In Cinderella however, there is a happy ending as she is liberated from the oppression of her step family through the transformative power of loving and being loved by the prince. For too many of our alienated children however, as they reach adulthood, the slipper will not fit, and when the prince does arrive, he will be split and fixed in his thinking. Alienation is a cruel affliction, often not showing the full scale of the damage done until children are old enough to enter into their own adult relationships. It is here that the evidence, of guilt and shame and distortion of perspective finally shows itself.

In other countries, notably the US, there are a number of people who are leading the way in enabling an understanding of Parental Alienation and how to treat it. In the UK, where there is less enthusiasm for the concept, we struggle to offer even the most basic help to parents, who cannot understand what is happening to their children, whilst treatments seem like an impossible dream for too many families.

Alienation strikes families right across the socio economic spectrum and children at all different ages. Common factors that give rise to children becoming alienated are high conflict separations where unresolved anger on the part of one or both parents, leads to ongoing tensions around handover times.

But the system in which families are trying to cope with the devastating impact of family separation contributes to an increasing problem of parents engaging in long and drawn out court battles over parenting time. When it can take around three months to even get a court hearing date and during that time anxiety and interference is increasing, alienation becomes an even greater risk for children who are left coping in the midst of the parental war raging over their heads.

Even when one parent does not engage in parental warfare and remains more measured and more direct, the insidious and often deliberate actions of a hostile other parent is enough to ensure that children struggle to maintain relationships with both of their parents. By the time that CAFCASS arrive, ill equipped as they often are to write a basic report, never mind analyse the complexities of children’s transition difficulties, the damage is often done. It only takes the application of a Wishes and Feelings Report at this stage to confirm that the work of the aligned parent is complete and the court hears that the children no longer wish to see their once much loved parent.

Alienation however is a spectrum disorder and as such it ranges from the mild transition difficulties that children experience as they move from one home to the other to the severe alienation that is seen in a child’s complete rejection of a parent. When the alienation is mild, there is still much that can be done and any parent who is experiencing these signals from a child should act at once and with conviction. Mild alienation is signalled when a child begins to make a fuss during handover time and doesn’t want to leave a parent. Similarly, when it is time to return to the other parent, the child will again make a fuss and become upset at having to go back. Children who are mildly aggressive with the parent that they do not live with the most can be displaying symptoms of mild alienation and any child who begins to call a parent by their given name instead of mum and dad is moving from mild to moderate alienation.

When alienation is mild to moderate it is possible to reverse it if the root of the problem is that two parents are in conflict during handover or if one parent is too anxious, resulting in the transmission of this to the child. Handing over away from each other is a good way to stop the alienation, collection and drop off at school, nursery or other neutral place will often stop the behaviour in its tracks.

Mild to moderate alienation can also be reversed by ensuring that the child spends more time, not less, with the parent that they are resisting. The issue is not that the child does not want to spend time with that parent, it is that the child does not have long enough to recover from the transition from one to the other. For a child to get the most out of time with a parent they need to have down time as well as doing time. A child should have ordinary time with the parent that they do not live with the most and enough of it to enable them to relax, wind down and feel comfortable and ‘at home’ when with that parent. Short visits, such as two hours after school, are not long enough to allow a child this kind of down time, whilst every other weekend can feel like every other year, particularly to younger children who do not have the same concept of time.

Mild to moderate alienation is the most common form of problem that propels parents into the court process but instead of being given the kind of advice that could reverse the problem, parents are often encouraged in their belief that there must be something terribly wrong. CAFCASS can one of the worst culprits for causing this, by recommending that time with a parent is restricted or curtailed. I have lost count of the number of times that I have worked on cases where mild alienation escalates very quickly into severe rejection, simply because CAFCASS have recommended that time with a parent be cut in half rather than increased. The way in which this happens is, in my view, a scandal, when it could be so easily prevented by ensuring that CAFCASS have a basic training in the psychology of alienation.

Severe alienation then is the outcome on the outer edge of the spectrum with children in this category exhibiting most of the eight signs that determine that alienation is present. When severe alienation is free and active in a child it is impossible not to know it. Being in a room with child in this state is like being in a psychological prison with them. Children in a severely alienated condition have told me fantastical stories about the parent they have rejected, regaling me with tales of how they were almost murdered by this parent when they were a baby or telling me that they will almost certainly die if they have to have anything to do with him again. It doesn’t matter how incredulous I become whilst listening to these tales, children will repeat them to me almost mantra like in the belief that they are explaining why they cannot, must not and will not see their parent.

Treating a child in this condition is very difficult. It takes time and patience and, where the child is still living with the aligned parent, it can take a lot of careful building up of trust to ensure the therapeutic alliance with that parent is in place. In most, if not all, of these very severe cases, the aligned parent will have a psychological issue that has caused the intensity of their influence upon the child. Most parents in this condition, are either unaware that they are doing anything wrong, or, if they are aware, do not know how to stop it. In the most serious cases, parents have to be curtailed in their behaviour by the court process, some are curtailed by a social work intervention, most need intensive therapeutic co-ordination to treat the problem in situ.

In very severe cases a change of residence may be necessary to free the child from the psychology of an aligned parent. In my experience, these are the easier cases to treat because once removed from the aligned or alienating parent, the grasp on the child of the alienation, is removed. These children, when reunited with their rejected parent, are those for whom, alienation disappears like magic. In my work with these kinds of cases, I have never failed to be amazed at how a child can change from being anxiously held in the terror of one parent, only to immediately change when released, into the loving, normal child that they used to be.

When alienation strikes, it can rapidly spread. I often think of it as an infection of the child’s ability to hold perspective, in fact it becomes, quite quickly, an infection of the whole family system’s ability to hold perspective. Add CAFCASS into the mix and you have an infection which is not only left untreated, it is often actively spread. By the time I get to most of the cases that I work on, the infection has seriously wounded the child and the family and it can take several months of strong intervention to bring about any kind of change. Sometimes the wounds are too deep and the children too distanced and I have to recommend a strategic retreat to enable the targeted parent to recover and the child to grow up a little. Fighting alienation is a draining, exhausting and miserable experience and my advice to some parents is to stand back and recover the purpose of living for one’s own self. For all of those parents whose children have rejected them, I say this. Live and live well, take care of your body, your heart and your soul. One day, when your child comes to find you, they will be looking for the person they remember. If you are exhausted, bitter and broken when they do, their recovery process will take longer and their guilt and shame more pervasive than before. Your child, underneath all of this, loves you and needs you to survive.

Aisha (not her real name) was one of the first alienated children that I worked with. Born to parents who separated when she was three years old, Aisha told me, when I first met her that her father had tried to kill her when she was ‘inside mummy’s tummy’. Her father told me that there had been a discussion about termination, when Aisha’s mother was first pregnant but that both he and Aisha’s mother had not wanted to go down that route. Aisha however, was convinced that her father wanted to kill her then and wanted to kidnap and kill her now.

Aisha was an incredibly difficult child to work with and her mother even more so. FIVE years of consistent work with Aisha’s father went by, five years of court hearings, CAFCASS reports and my regular, drip, drip, drip of visits to Aisha and her mother at home. During that time I never even got to see Aisha with her father, she wouldn’t be persuaded and the Judge wouldn’t use enforcement measures. Eventually, Aisa’s father decided to make a strategic retreat, Aisha was reaching eight years old, an age when alienation reactions can deepen.

A year later, Aisha’s father was asked to go into her school. The head teacher explained that he was worried about Aisha. There had been a number of unexplained absences over the year and Aisha appeared listless and withdrawn. Previous issues like this had been explained away by Aisha’s mother as being the impact of court hearings, the head teacher knew that these had ended a year ago.

Aisha’s father restarted the court process and asked the court to investigate why his daughter, in the absence of court hearings, was causing such concern at school. Once again the rounds of reports commenced and attempts were made to assess the situation by CAFCASS, by the School and eventually, by me.

Aisha was eleven years old when she was taken into foster care after a section 37 report uncovered the fact that her mother was suffering from Munchausen’s by Proxy Syndrome and her maternal grandparents were aware of it and had hidden it from view. Aisha’s absences, throughout all of the years that her parents had been separated, had not been caused by the court process, or anxiety about her father, they had been caused by her mother, deliberately making her ill to gain the attention of the medical profession.

Twelve CAFCASS assessments had failed to discover this, focusing instead upon Aisha’s father and his fitness to have contact with his daughter. The court process had gone on throughout seven years of Aisha’s life without ever stopping to consider why her mother was so implacably hostile and why a child of three would be able to ‘remember’ that her daddy had wanted to kill her before she was born.

No-one, from the Judge to the School Nurse had ever really wondered what was really going on, only her father knew that something was wrong.

Aisha is now a fit and healthy twenty three year old. Since the age of eleven she has lived with her father and her step mother and has had limited contact with her mother who continues, to this day, to argue that she has done nothing wrong. When I last saw Aisha, she was getting ready to go sailing with her dad, something they have done together regularly since she reunited with him shortly after going into foster care.

I asked her if she could remember the times when I used to go and see her at home with her mum. She said she could and that she used to think I was like Mary Poppins, only I couldn’t make it better because her mum wouldn’t let me.

I asked what her relationship is like now with her mum, she told me that it is still difficult, her mother still tries to persuade her that her father is evil and so she no longer spends very much time with her.

Finally, I asked her about her dad and what was it that made it possible for her to reunite with him after all of those years of rejecting him. She smiled at me.

‘That’s easy’ she said, ‘he was there. When I finally came out of it and went into foster care, he was there, just like I remembered him. But most of all,’ she went on, ‘most of all, despite everything he went through and all of the time it took, he never ever gave up on me.’

On Parental Alienation Awareness Day 2012, for all targeted and rejected parents and all of their children, no matter how long or whatever it takes. Whether you are actively fighting alienation or making a strategic retreat, keep hope alive always, keep well and keep strong. Your children need you to survive and, when they make their escape from alienation, they need you to be there.  Most of all, for your children’s sake, live and live well and do not ever, ever, give up.


  1. Great post, hopefully this issue will start to be taken more seriously. The handover situation is clearly very problematic for these children as they have to leave one world and enter the other so to speak. Having some down time to overcome this does seem to make sense. Unfortunately this is easily spoilt in the modern world, the constant phoning, texting and chatting on the internet by the other parent while they were with us – it often felt like having an extra person in the house.


    1. Hi Kat, you are right about the problem of technology, one the things that I teach to parents is that when a child is showing resistances and potentially mild alienation signs then communication during time with the other parent is not beneficial. No mobiles, no skyping and no MSN chatting. As I always ask parents, who is the communication for, you or the child? If it is for you, then you will have to cope with your anxiety. If it is for the child because they are saying they don’t want to go or don’t want to be there, talk to the other parent, do not, under any circumstances, take things at face value and take it upon yourself to start checking up and making sure. If a child says they don’t want to go or don’t want to go back, its your duty as a parent to be a parent and communicate, however difficult it is, with the other parent. If there is hostility between you, or you are overly anxious, that is the likely cause and no amount of chatting to the child in between times is going to make it better.

      Sounds like you had one of those hovering and anxious parents who comes ghost like with your child into your home each time they arrive. That kind of haunting is difficult to cope with but, if you do manage to prevent chatting and communication and the child gets enought time to cross the psychological boundary, you do get some real time together and the ghost disappears.

      Separated parenting, its definitely not easy. K


      1. Great advice, but in this case any atempt to get recident parent to communicate directly or suggestion that it might not be in the childrens best interests to have all this communication fell on deaf ears and total rejection followed.
        However these very same technologies are now essential to the slow and pain staking effort of rebuilding relationships. I sincerely hope we make better use of them!


  2. I am 5 months down the line of separation and haven’t seen our little 5 year old angel thru all of this, her mum says the reason why I cannot have contact is because I did not give her an amicable split! And is therefore my fault!
    This is truly tearing me to pieces knowing that my little girl loves me so much, but on occasions when we have glimpes of each other the hurt and confusion on her face is so evident, where there was just love and devotion now just exists pain, confusion and sorrow. Why why why do this to our child???


    1. Danny I am so sorry to hear this, it is incredibly sad that your daughter’s mother would do this. Do you have anyone who could act as a third party for you? Do you have any contact with your daughter’s school? Is there anyone who could convey to your daughter that you still love her and have not abandoned her? If someone can give her a clear message of love from you then she will find it easier and, when her mother softens it will be easier for you to reconnect. Sometimes teachers can be a very useful way of getting communication going. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends are all good people to try and smooth a path to communication. In the absence of these routes, have you thought about using the court process to restart your parenting time with your daughter? FNF can give you advice on how you can do that without it costing a lot, it may not be easy but if you do go down that route then you can show your daughter’s mother that you are not going to be pushed out of your daughter’s life. As you go through the days, write to your daughter, even if you cannot send the letters, get out your feelings onto paper so that you are not bottling them up. Love is meant to be shared and when you are coping with being shut out it can create incredible emotional pressure. Know you are not alone, keep well and keep healthy and keep talking and finding other people who understand. K


  3. Dear Karen, again, it is almost shocking to find so much good sense and reason in one place, thank you, your words are such great support.

    I have, perhaps, a slightly odd question: how to deal with “reverse parental alienation”?

    My now 6.5yo daughter and I have always enjoyed a very strong bond. When she was 2yo I left my work to allow my partner, mum, to restart her career and took on the role of a house-dad. As mum drifted away into her world, as I tried to keep the family together, the bond between my daughter and myself grew ever stronger.

    I have always been a strong believer and supporter of shared, hands-on parenting (nappies, night-time feeding and all), regardless of relationship circumstances, a price of which my daughter and I had to pay for dearly.

    After the breakdown happened, my daughter was taken away by mum to an undisclosed location and I was prevented by mum from any contact at all, even though my daughter had been left under my care by the police and mum had been sanctioned (I did not press charges though I was left injured). Having no other options left I had to go to Court. My story follows on as, perhaps, thousands of stories you’ve witnessed already: 3mths initial hearing no contact, 3mths CAFCASS no contact, 3mths of humiliation in the Contact Centre 2hrs/2wk (more CAFCASS evaluation), then 6mths home visits from ConCent 4hrs/2wks (by this time she’s transplanted to mum’s place of residence, school and all), another hearing 1night/1wk at home+0.5hols (an unprecedented breakthrough), another hearing +1night/1wk at home… It took “only” 4 years and when I compare our outcome, I have to admit we were bloody lucky. Presently my daughter lives with mum for 5nights/wk and 2nights/wk with me + shared major holidays.

    As a result, I have been prevented from seeing my child for 6mths, then had to slowly rebuild our bond, again, over a very infrequent period of contact time and in an alien and not family-friendly environment (ConCent). Throughout this entire time, mum has been running a sustained campaign of smear, hate and denied us contact at every opportunity. This continues. Though I did have to have a couple of “mano a womano” talks with my daughter to answer her profound questions, I have always restrained myself from anything that might reflect negatively on mum. I understand clearly, that doing so would not benefit my child in any way.

    In spite of everything I decribed above, in spite of spotty contact and sustained indoctrination, since the very early days when we were let loose of the ConCent, my daughter has been making a lot of fuss when it was mum-time. She never wanted to go back to mum! It got better with time, as we got used to arrangements (acceptance), but recently, since mum has found a new BF, it got substantially worse. There is stalling, crying… you name it… It is so difficult to get her out of the door…

    How do I deal with that?


    1. Hi Gregory,

      Your daughter has already been subjected to serious efforts to influence her, taking a child away in the manner that you describe is shocking behaviour, if it had been the other way around, imagine the outcry but when mother takes a child, there is barely a murmur.

      You have had to rebuild the relationship and you have done that very successfully, it means that your bond with your daughter is well built and strengthened and that she trusts you deeply. Surviving all that you have and getting to this place will stand your daughter in good stead.

      I would say that your daughter is showing what I would call justified estrangement signs from her mother. The introduction of a new BF is a classic reason why children show reluctance to return to a parent, especially when they are with the other parent who is child focused and strongly bonded. This is not what I would call transition difficulties so much as justifiable reasons why she would not want to go back to her mother.

      It sounds as though her mother is not focusing upon your daughter’s needs but rather her own needs. It sounds to me as if there may be good reasons why your daughter does not want to go back to her mother’s home. In this case you need to do some work to find out what is going on underneath your daughter’s reluctance. I am assuming that you have PR, as father with PR you have the right and the responsibility to find out what the issues are. Is your daughter uncomfortable in the BF’s presence? Is he doing anything to cause that discomfort or is it that mum is so preoccupied with the BF that she is leaving your daughter emotionally and psychologically to cope alone. Some gentle talking and listening with your daughter is important here, it may be the case that you will need to take decisive action to protect your daughter.

      Be careful how you proceed but, do not be intimidated into not taking any action, you are your daughter’s father and as such you have the right to be concerned, to investigate and to take action.

      If, in your talks with your daughter you feel that it is transitional difficulties and not anything that is going on in the other home you need to be very calm during the run up to time to go back to mum. You need to have a ‘how many sleeps til you come back again’ chart that your daughter can stick stars and pictures on and you need to debrief her in the hour up to going back to mum about what the two of you have been doing and what you will do when she comes back. Transitional difficulties arise for children your daughter’s age because they cannot visualise the time inbetween leaving and returning, it literally feels like another lifetime. You need to help her to bridge that gap by debriefing her on her time with you and preparing her for her time with her mum.

      In all cases where transitional difficulties are occuring I advise alerting the other parent to the fact that the child is getting upset on going back. You must do this very carefully and in a way that does not imply that the child does not want to go back because of the other parent. Something along the lines of a short email that says –

      am having a bit of difficulty at handover time, fussing and crying etc. Have asked for some advice and it seems it is common at this age but thought you should be aware of it in case she comes back upset, not sure if it is happening at your end too. Advice is that if we talk gently to her about what she will be doing when she sees either one of us, it should settle, any thoughts your end?

      If things are so difficult that this kind of email or chat would inflame things then do not send, but keep in mind if it is happening at your end and it is transitional difficulties, it could be happening at the other end too.

      Key thing is though in your case, gentle chats and lots of listening to find out what your daughter is feeling about mum and bf. Do this through playing with her, doing things together always makes it easier for kids to talk. Hope this helps. K


  4. Another great post… I only wish i had read this nearly four years ago! CAFCASS reports, and Wishes and Feelings… yes, they certainly inflame the situation.. From my own experience the personal “wishes and feelings” of the CAFCASS officers (that I came into contact with) did not translate into their final written reports… their hands were seemingly tied by the protocol and they lacked the powers to do anything outside their remit. They were there to report what they saw and what they were told. And if that was the “wishes and feelings” against the absent father, then that was their report!


    1. Phil, it sounds as though you were the recipient of what too many parents get from a CAFCASS intervention, it is brutal for you and for the children too. Wishes and Feelings is a tool that should never have been developed, its wrong in my view and damaging to children and their families. Sending my support. K


      1. Thank you Karen for an unexpected response. I think like many readers on here I can list a multitude of events that have happened over the last four years in connection with CAFCASS, solicitors and the Courts. I have four children from this marriage, the elder two were subject to the “Wishes & Feelings” because they were over the age of 12 and the younger two are subject to a Court order granting access on alternate weekends and one three hour session a week. I have not spoken to the older two for over 3years as they want nothing to do with me. I have had three CAFCASS officers involved and two reports for the Courts. The first CAFCASS officer was going to be questioned about her report but she went off on long term sick. At the next hearing to determine whether we should wait her return or commission a second report from a new CAFCASS officer, the Judge stopped my Barrister dead and said that he wants a message being sent to the older girls that this court will not make them see their father if they don’t want to and to me, that being Christmas, I should back off and stay away. Was I the guilty party ?? Well my ex left the marital home with much of the furniture and all the kisd stuff to set up a new home with the boyfriend without telling the kids beforehand… That should give you a flavour!!! My other gripe is that certain solicitors, like my ex’s, deliberately play the system and their is no comeback. After the final hearing when i received the Court order and a 12month CAFCASS guardian ship to help reconnect with the older girls (which failed), I realised that my ex had capitulated to avoid any showdown and cross examination in court. The legal system and CAFCASS need an overhaul and if you are the absent father, then in the eyes of the law, you are guilty. And if the children are of the age where Wishes and feelings are taken, in the words of my last CAFCASS officer, the courts cannot order or tell teenagers how to behave or what to do… yet they can set the example!!


    1. Rachel, never ever give up hope, my work shows me over and over again that children do escape and they do seek what they have lost. Keep well and keep strong. K


  5. Another excellent article Karen, followed as ever by some extremely considered comments and I would like to echo the last of those from Rachel by also saying – you continue to give me hope too.

    In the first comment, Kat makes an extremely valid point about the so called resident, and often alienating parent, intruding into the limited time that the non resident, or targeted parent, has with their children by constantly and unnecessarily contacting them.

    I have this exact same problem when my son is with me, not just by his mother, but also with her new partner texting him. Despite Cafcass expressing concern about this, telling him that it was inappropriate and inflammatory, and recommending that he stopped, he did not, continues to do so, and no effort has ever been made by the authorities to prevent this man from doing so.

    I would certainly agree with Phil that the Cafcass ‘wishes and feelings’ is more about those of their own staff rather than the children that they supposedly support. I would go further than that and say that the Cafcass mission statement of ‘putting children first in family courts’ should be changed to ‘putting the Cafcass budget first in family courts’.

    It was quite clear from my own experience that the main objective of the Cafcass officers was to get cases from the inbox to outbox as quickly thus cheaply as possible, and the easiest way to do this was to stick with the old ‘tradition’ of ‘kids live with Mum, and stay with Dad alternate weekends and half the holidays’.

    As it stands, this recommendation is readily accepted by the courts, whereas anything that deviates from it would require much more justification, hence investigation, and cost. It has been quite clear to me that Cafcass neither have the resources nor expertise to delve below the surface, and if anything as complex as parental alienation should be apparent, it is simply swept under the carpet.

    At an early stage in my own case, when Cafcass officers had started to recognise what in effect were the early signs of parental alienation, and other very unhealthy behaviour towards the children by my ex wife and her new partner, in the knowledge that I was seeking, able and willing to provide shared care, Cafcass concluded in the body of their report that the most beneficial situation for the children would be for them to spend as near equal amount of time with each parent.

    In complete contradiction to this, in the very next paragraph, the Cafcass officer made her recommendation, that old ‘gem’ of kids live with Mum and see dad every other weekend plus half holidays. Questioned on how this equated to an equal amount of time, I was told by the Cafcass officer that she didn’t get paid as much as solicitors, so she preferred to allow them to argue out the finer details.

    Those finer details, and what in reality she was expecting to happen through solicitors (and what a waste of time and money most of them seem to be in the family courts) was for me to negotiate TO the state of equality that she was saying would be most beneficial to my children, rather than my ex wife having to try and negotiate FROM that point if she wished to satisfy her own selfish needs.

    As I think I have said in comments to another article, I took my complaint about Cafcass all the way through to the independent investigation, and in effect, every single point of that I raised in that complaint was upheld. However, the damage had already been done as soon as the biased poorly written and unjustified reports were presented to the courts and seen by the Judges.

    Despite having admitted that they had done an appalling job, Cafcass will not go back to the court and tell the various judges that they made mistakes in their reports and recommendations, and that the Judges should review the case with completely fresh eyes and minds. It is left up to me to do that, and of course after a further two years of brainwashing, the comments my children would make if unchallenged by Cafcass or the court as would undoubtedly happen, will simply result in the same outcomes as before, achieve nothing apart from putting the children under yet more stress.

    Interestingly, since this is International Parental Alienation Day, one of the points of my complaint that was upheld, after me arguing that there was clear evidence that my youngest daughter had been very deliberately alienated from not just me but also her elder sisters and entire paternal family, strong indicators of this form of emotional abuse, was that Cafcass should have considered the use of psychological reports.

    Its not exactly rocket science that when the behaviour of a child, and indeed also the behaviour of the two adults with whom she resides, has been so far from the ‘norm’, so far from reasonable, and often simply bizarre, it would be sensible for someone trained and experienced in human behaviour to be called in to explore this. Despite me asking for those psychological reports throughout the protracted proceedings, the first time Cafcass admitted that they were needed was when it was effectively all over during the complaint response and too late.

    I could keep writing on this subject all night, but for now I would just like to make one further comment with respect to Gregory raising the issue of ‘reverse parental alienation’. The type of this that he mentions is well documented, that is, even in amicable seperations children will often align with whichever parent they are with at the time, and will become anxious and play up when it is time for them to go back to the other parent.

    In such cases only proper investigation of that behaviour will ever reveal whether it is just the natural anxiety of moving from one parent to the other at work, and nothing to worry about, or whether there is a more sinister underlying reason why the child does not want to return from one of the parents to the other.

    If parents raise concerns about this because they have good reason to be concerned about the behaviour of the other parent, these concerns should be treated equally seriously irrespective of gender, something which clearly does not happen, as that parent, typically the father tends to be demonised by the authorities to whom they appeal for help in safeguarding their children.

    However, I would like to give an example from my own situation of behaviour that could also be called ‘reverse alienation’. In my case, the mother quite literally dragged our two youngest children from the family home to create her ‘instant’ new family with the other man. In doing so, she seemed to almost overlook our eldest daughter who had just turned 13 at the time.

    At that stage, I have no idea if this had been a conscious decision, or was just the way it ‘panned out’. It wasn’t as though our eldest was especially a Daddy’s girl, but she is highly intelligent and academic, something that her mother always seemed to be quite resentful about, never having really taken her own education seriously.

    So our eldest girl got left behind, her mother never has made any real effort to involve her in her own life since she left the family home with the younger two children, now 3.5 years ago. It is now nearly 2.5 years since we have seen or had a relationship with my youngest daughter, who has been completely alienated from us all.

    During that time, I have expended a huge amount of time and energy trying to overcome the alienation of my youngest daughter. It has literally been a thankless task, and I have received absolutely no help whatsoever from any of the authorities who should be in a position to have prevented this sad situation being allowed to occur in the first place, then perpetuated.

    However, for every ounce of time and energy that I have invested trying to get my ex wife and her new partner to allow my youngest daughter to have a relationship with me, her elder siblings, and paternal family, I have expended an equal amount of time and energy trying to get my ex wife to have a proper relationship with our eldest daughter.

    I have been no more successful in achieving either of these objectives, so despite my best efforts our eldest daughter remains rejected by, and thus effectively alienated from, her mother and thus maternal family, due to the behaviour and attitude of her mother and new partner, and my youngest daughter remains alienated from her entire paternal family, also due to the behaviour and attitude of her mother and new partner.

    This was something that was identified by Cafcass in the early stages of the proceedings, and something which they claimed to be appalled by, yet despite this no action was taken by them to resolve the situation and provide the support to all of the children that they so desperately needed so that they could maintain relationships with each other, both parents and extended maternal and paternal families.

    It has been suggested that the treatment of our eldest daughter by her mother is no surprise, and that she has in effect become a ‘pawn’ in the game played by her mother and the new partner to ensure that her two younger siblings remain living with them, and provide the cashflow from benefits, tax credits, and me, that supports their seemingly affluent lifestyle.

    Witnessing the complete rejection and withholding of love from their elder sister by their Mum, apparently because their elder sister is so audacious as to ‘choose’ to live with her Dad remains as a stark reminder to those younger siblings that they too could potentially lose the love of their mother if they express any interest in spending too much time with their Dad.

    Situations like this, of acute parental alienation, are clearly extremely complex, and need appropriately qualified, trained, and experienced professionals to investigate and intervene if the welfare of children involved is ever to be safeguarded. From my experience, neither Cafcass nor Social Services employ professionals with that capability, and it is left to parents like me to try and limit the damage themselves.

    It is so very refreshing to read the articles that Karen writes, and the comments that follow, which must and will help raise awareness and ultimately bring about change. Such change may well be too late for my youngest daughter, I fear she is damaged beyond repair, but I live in hope that those of us working towards a better future for our children, can one day achieve it even if only for the benefit of future generations.


    1. Jeff, I suspect you already know that the only person causing this your children’s mother. I would hazard a guess that there is alienation in her family background if you go back over her family tree.

      You must protect your eldest from this as much as you can, ensure that she understands that her mother’s behaviour is not normal and, perhaps, give up trying to make a relationship happen, if there is such dysfunction, perhaps she is better off without it.

      CAFCASS have screwed it up, more kids lives ruined by incompetence, it is shocking how this continues and, even when complaints are upheld, nothing is done. Psychological reports can show the Judge the necessary treatment routes. It is so sad that the opportunity was lost.

      You are right that CAFCASS and Social Workers are not trained in this work, I am working with London Borough’s however in developing training for Social Workers so some are thinking of the need.

      Sending support. K


      1. Thanks Karen, support gratefully accepted. whilst I am not aware of any alienation of this sort in her family tree, my ex wife was deprived of her own father from the age of 12 when he died of cancer, something which was always clear had a profound effect upon her.

        Whether that is the cause of her feeling that her own children do not need their natural father I guess only a psychologist could determine. However, there are distinct similarities in the way that she has behaved, and appeared to go completely off the rails, over the last 3.5 years, and the way in which her elder sister and mother both behaved at exactly the same ages, 37 years old would seem to be pivotal in her family.

        A couple of years ago I did have the opportunity to talk at some length with a very good social worker, who happened to have recently completed a higher degree in psychology. He was there because a friend of my daughters had run away from her foster home and she had landed on us, so whilst he was with us trying to sort that out we got talking.

        He was not at all surprised by the way in which my ex wife had behaved in leaving me and half her family, nor at the age she was when it had happened. He described it as a mid life crisis, and reckoned it was a phenomena that was becoming increasingly common in women in their late thirties.

        I would certainly agree that there is a level of dysfunction in my ex wife’s family, both her nephew and neice, now young adults, were effectively prevented from completing their schooling, and as I have said in my original comment, my ex wife seems to resent the fact that her eldest daughter is intellligent and academic.

        Currently I have just had to speak with my son’s school as despite the request not having been authorised, my ex wife and her new partner are taking my son and youngest daughter to the USA for a fortnight from Saturday, arriving back the day before my son starts his year 6 SATs.

        Once again this shows no consideration for the education of our children, and it is extremely worrying that two supposedly intelligent adults feel that it is a good idea to remove my son from school at such a crucial time when he is supposed to be preparing for those SATs.

        Equally it is worrying what sort of message this holiday sends out to the children, not just the disrespect for their schooling, but also the fact that neither adults work, and benefits were never intended to finance foreign holidays!!!!

        I was interested by your comment that the elder daughter might be better off not having a relationship with her mother, a thought that has often crossed my mind, but she clearly wants to have that relationship, something that at age 16 I feel i have to respect and continue to try and help her to achieve, despite the grief it brings me……but perhaps I do need to rethink that?!!!

        I am going on a course starting tomorrow run by a local charity that is designed exclusively for men who are in or have emerged from abusive relationships which aims to help men identify the signs of abuse, typically emotional/psychological, and suggest strategies for dealing with it, along with the opportunity to share experiences such as mine where there are difficulties with ex wives and contact with children. I took the liberty of making the chap running the course aware of your articles, as I am sure they would find your work extremely useful in what they themselves are endeavouring to achieve.


  6. Just to clarify – it is I who has to cover for mum’s shenanigans and make excuses for her preventive and vitriolic behaviour to our daughter. I have to soften and patch up the cracks appearing on the image of mum as the de facto main carer (due to visitation arrangements).

    In spite of a sustained (4+ years now) campaign of alienation, smear and denial of contact propelled by mum, my daughter still sees through the lies and chooses to spend time with me. Explaining the situation in the most gentle terms and preventing resentment (there was a time when my daughter thought I do not want to see her, caused by CAFCASS tick-box reports), without undermining mum’s position, to my bright and observant daughter is one of the toughest tasks I had to face – ever. Thus the term “reverse”, I have no idea how else to call it.


    1. Gregory, hope you don’t think I was criticising your use of the term ‘reverse’, which was not my intention at all. Was just trying to highlight the fact that although in some circumstances such behaviour might be quite typical, in others such as yours where there are very real concerns about the reaction of your daughter and the difficulties you encounter when she has to go to her Mum, these need to be taken very seriously. I was also trying to highlight the fact that a parent acting beyond the realms of reasonability can not only alienate a child in their care from the other parent, but also a child in the care of that other parent who is desperate for their love and approval. What it is that drives the other parent to behave in such destructive ways, I doubt either of us will ever truly understand, but what we do know is that it is us that will be left to pick up the pieces for our children if and when they break free from the controlling and manipulative influence of the other parent.


      1. No Jeff, never thought that for a moment, but my situation is a bit unusual… and I am worried how it will turn out in the future as the tension build and our child grows up. My goal is to create a balanced environment for my daughter to grow up in and so I have to put my own feelings deep in my back pocket and white gloves on. So far it’s been working but mainly because I offer no animosity while on the other side it’s rife. Choices, choices… But it cannot be about “whom do you love more: mum or dad…” and I cannot become “a worse parent” only to balance things out.

        Shame I, nor nobody else can change mum, something my solicitors keep telling me. She’s been referred 4 times to counselling by CAFCASS but did not attend once, arguing that there’s nothing wrong with her or she does not have the time. Same with mediation. I see this as the biggest failure of the services driven post-separation process. BTW, post breakdown, I went to counselling unreferred, which probably saved my life.


  7. Karen, I would like to start by saying what an incredible article!

    I had previously heard of PA and that it was accepted in America as a condition but not here in the UK. I have to say that my own case is the severe end of the scale, with most Solicitors and ‘so-called’ experts saying that as my ex won;t even co-operate or communicate then the chances in returning the matter to court with a reasonable outcome is un-likely.

    My case is complex but having read your article and other similar ones, I know that my ex certainly has serious psychological conditions which has lead to the separation from my son for 4 years. She believes her lies and I know she will have poisoned him against me, but I also know he will be scared of confronting her as she is a very agressive person both in her personal and work life.

    I last saw my son on November 5th at 4pm in 2008 in a Private visitation center, where I received a glowing report…..hence to say my ex stopped all future contact.

    I have been accused of neglect and abuse of my son, both of which I deny and both of which have never had any proof, it was all hear-say lead by my ex.

    The courts are useless, the judges don’t care the impact it has on families or the absent parent and ultimately the child(ren) or the long term effect on the child and their own future, especially when it comes to adulthood. Cafcass are not equipped to deal with difficult cases and the whole system is far too slow.

    I can only hope like so many others out there that one day their child will want to know both parents and come looking for me, when I will offer him the truth or at least my version of events, but equally I am scared whether he will be able to actually cope with the truth (all of which is documented), regardless of his age!

    Best wishes,



  8. Lee, I can empathise totally with your post. My son and his ex. do not communicate at all despite efforts by my son for the sake of the children. He is very lucky in that he has a shared residence order but there will be stormy times ahead of him over the next few weeks until the final Hearing for 50/50 shared residence. My son has been accused of neglecting the children, not supervising them, letting them stay up late, letting then watch porn on television, – all later withdrawn by his ex. However, at the hearing this week, her solicitor piped up with a new round of accusations, that they aren’t fed, don’t clean their teeth and are sent back dirty. All untrue. You would wonder if they will ever be able to parent their children together. She will stop at nothing now to prevent the 50/50 shared care.

    My son is a good father who loves his children and puts them first. His ex. knows this full well.

    Tonight I felt deeply sorry for my son and the hurt he felt an hour or so ago. There has been an concern with the boys hair – it is very long, so much so that it is down their back and in their eyes. My son asked at court through the solicitors if it would be alright if he took the boys for a haircut. The solicitor tried to make to make an issue of it saying that the father wanted the boys to have ‘skin head’ haircuts like him. Untrue – my son is starting to go a bit bald and is certainly not a skin head. He just wanted their hair to be trimmed over the ears and out of their eyes.

    Tonight he told the boys he would be taking them for a trim in the morning. The eldest boy was so rude to him saying that he would not be going to have his hair cut, that it was up to mum and that mum cared. He said to his dad ‘why should everything have to be done your way’. He accused his dad of not accepting him because he doesn’t like his hair. Straight from the horses mouth that was!

    My son does everything for them – buys them little gifts when he is absolutely skint and he knows he will be struggling when they have gone back to their mothers. I know it would have been a stab through the heart for him because it was for me.


  9. I was a child of separation, and went through many of the things typical of an acrimonious split….all I can add is to say that these children will grow up and one day will make up their own minds. I did….and when I reached a certain age I started to say to my mother: ” I dont want to hear about it any more. Your issues with my father have nothing to do with me!”

    By distancing myself from that element of my past, I have been able to create relationships with both parents despite everything that went before. Which is not to say that those things did not cause distress through my adult life. I have to work hard to put my past into perspective, and to ensure that my own precious children will never be affected by similar issues. Therapy is for life!

    In the meantime, what good advice….never give up on your child and be ready for the day that they come back to you.


    1. Optimistic reply. A couple of my adult friends in your shoes are in with psychologists once a week and on drugs more or less permanently. It is an epidemic, and Karen’s humane article underscores the urgency for all of us to take action.


  10. Thanks Karen. Articles like yours make a great contribution to an understanding of alienation. Alienation is a phenomenom which the family justice system barely acknowledges, let alone deals with by way of robust intervention. Reporting the signs of alienation then dealing with it is doubly difficult in the face of judicial indifference.

    One thing I would add, is that what a target parents sees at handovers is merely the effect of alienation. Alienation itself is a continuing, insidious process that largely goes on behind closed doors when the target is safely out of sight and unable to respond. It is sometimes subtle, sometimes overt and its corrosive, damaging impact can take years to become manifest through outright rejection of an innocent, loving parent. It’s breathtaking hypocrisy when organisations like Cafcass and the NSPCC fixate on domestic violence and child safety, (where fathers can be easily positioned as unsafe perpetrators), then ignore the abuse of alienation almost totally where the long term psychological damage can be truly devastating.


    1. Paul’s last point here underscores the vomit-inducing hypocrisy of the child safety rhetoric that is so often used in the industry.


  11. To be fair, I think the danger here is making a villain of the alienating parent exclusively, and I think the assisting culprits extend well beyond the family courts, CAFCASS and the Social Services – all of whom largely take the pathological view that children should not have to endure being ‘shuffled’ (as they like to put it) between homes, and that children should not be split ‘mathematically’ between the homes. I have never understood why the state thinks it its business to decide what is best for a child after divorce, and to commit the kind of violence it does against children whenever it makes those decisions. From a child’s point of view, the fact that shared parenting is not the default (if only to pre-empt the kind of alienation Karen is discussing here) is actually quite outrageous.

    To be fair, alienating parents are only really as monstrous as the system allows them to be, and it is a system that extends right through to health professionals (who routinely deny fathers their rights to view medical records or information about the health of their children) and the educational apparatus (which in treating moms as lead parents necessarily treats dads as non-parents with no rights to know where their children have been admitted to school, and no rights to find out about their attendance or performance at schools).

    So, it can arguably be said that the whole infrastructure around child welfare in the UK (if not elsewhere) is one that allows and indeed facilitates alienation of the non-resident parent. The sooner this system is totally overhauled, the sooner all the ‘alienating’ language around child welfare is recognized as hurtful, the better chances children of separated parents will have in this country.

    Ironically, it will be a lengthy process educating those whom we already assumed to be educated, doctors and teachers, about why it is important to include rather than alienate dad.


    1. I certainly agree with you there. There’s a massive amount of social policy floating around family law that needs to be re-examined and challenged. I’ve helped a few separated fathers now. One piece of advice I give them all is to make themselves fully aware of PACE Code G from which the police derive their powers to make summary arrests, not infrequently of fathers wrongly accused of domestic violence by a hostile ex partner jostling for legal or other nefarious advantage. Fathers should challenge unnecessary arrrest and put the police right on the spot of varrying out unlawful arrest. ACPO policy on domestic violence is nothing more than ‘arrest the father.’ It’s stuff like that which needs to be put right too.


  12. I notice all the replys are for how to help a dad get contact and rebuild a relationship with there child.I understand this but my son who is now 11 does not want to see his dad at all.He see his dad beat me and his dad went off on a number of times to try kill his self.Before his dad left the house to do that he would tell our son what he was doing which was very up setting for our son.My husband left our home to go live with a women with 6 children because he wanted to get to know the 17 year old daughter to find out if she was his.I might like to add that my husband had said from when the woman was 5 months pregnant that it was not his child.He would not pay a penny to the woman.This went on for years then when his mum died the child and woman got in touch with my husband and he changed his mind.My husband also told our son his parents did not like him as he was a boy and they wanted us to have a girl hence why they never had anything to do with our son.You can not imagine the impact this had on my son as his dad rejected him for this girl and her mother and her other children.Me and my son were then told by his family that this woman was pregnant within a month of my husband going to live there .My son asked his dad loads of times if this was true and he swore to him it was all lies she was not having a child.He finaly told him it was only because we had proof but then told my son that it was a mistake my son had enough and told him to get lost he was sick of being lied to.Then in come cafcass write a report and guess who gets all the blame for my sons upset me the mother she put in her report i caused all this no one else so some one please tell me how this is my fault.I have not lied to my son his dad has done nothing but lie the cafcass will not listen to my sons wishes and feelings and now i have got to prove im looking after him.They have not checked with his school and he is well above his level he should be on they have not checked with the police so where is the fairness in all this.I think cafcass are no good at what they do they seem to side with the parent the child does not live with i have not caused all this my husband did and his currant partner she has done nothing but be sly and she needs to be looked at for her parenting skills.The way she let this child get in touch was by face book no questions have been asked of why she never gave her daughter advice as how to go about it no this woman beat one of her sons and he was taken away and cafcass want my son to accpt them and go see them.Not for getting they are all on some sort of medication for mental health problems would you let your child go there i dont want mine to but if he did want to then it would be his choice.I have been blamed by cafcas for all of this and i think they should be shut down or something else done as my husbands currant partner is not fit to be a mother it seems he ronly way to get a bloke is to have a child with them but first she has to destroy a family to get it.My son is certain as to what he wants and he is very clear on this he is not a baby how would you feel if you had o go spend time with someone who you never believed a word they said any more he is happy and he just wants all the people to leave him alone.He has not had contact for a year nearly now and he is so happy and well loved and we never mention his dad letter contact has to be done by the cafcass worker but that is all my son wants but she is determind to force him to go get rid of cafcass before they reck more childrens lives that is what i say.Maybe people should google some of the reports people have had done with cafcass and they will see im not the only one cafcass are letting down.Put the children first i think if a child is of sound mind and 10 or over then it should be left upto them if they want to see the absent parent.


    1. That’s not alienation sheena. That’s more a child’s rational response to seeing his mother suffer. I’m sorry to hear this has happened to you.


  13. Dear Karen,
    I am ‘relieved’ to read your article.
    I am a loving caring mother who has been the main carer for my children all their lives. On separation my husband stated that he would attempt to portray me as an unfit mother in order to keep one of my sons from having a relationship with me. I replied , No he needs his mummy.
    In a cold calculated and persistent manner this man has done just that. At first hewas able to manipulate several Cafcass officers with lies and I was targeted by him and them. He initially made accusations to the police. They realised he was using them to hurt me and stopped responding to him. As did the children’s school headmaster when he believed the lies from father and realised he had been complicit in a situation causing emotional and psychological abuse to one child aged 9 yrs.

    Cafcass should be abolished and certainly the Govt is right to bring this into the MoJ system. In my case the first officer was biased towards father, her cultural norms portrayed a deference to the males. Her replacement by a Guardian entailed further damage.

    As a good person and a loving mother and a Christian person I know what has happened is something I will never get over. Not just the repeated alienation in my husbands family and the realisation that my husband has psychological and or personality disorder potentially psychopathic or anti social in nature but the treatment by unprofessional Cafcass officers is the most degrading and appalling experience that I have had . It is wrong. It is inhumane and unlawful.

    Without meeting the children.
    In context of a court order for contact
    In context of advice from a children’s solicitor
    Taking the lies of father at face value
    On relying on her colleagues failed report which the judge ‘rejected’ despite being required to take a fresh look

    She decided unilaterally that it was in the children’s best interests for one child aged 9 years to be denied contact with his mother for no reason.
    The Vicar, myself, family, MP for Darlington requested the judge to replace her and review. No. We were told that he was not happy with the waycafcass were handling the case and they the officers involved were on another planet. We had to put up with them.

    The consequences are untold harm. My sons have been separated for a great deal of time. The eldest aged 9 is showing signs of extreme alienation. The alienating parent has been told within a 17 month court process that he is the cause of the alienation. Due to his condition he can not see it or accept responsibility for it. It therefore persists and the harm is more evident month by month.

    Cafcass have admitted they got it wrong. They made excuses as to why. They are unprofessional and incompetent because a man in the street can and does see exactly what is going on here it is so obvious.

    They failed us. A decent Christian middle class Conservative family with normal British values. We feel the pain for ourselves and the others who are failed and abused behind closed doors.
    I feel abused and raped by this process. Worse than being raped and violated I have had to comply with someone who was abusing her position of power to deny me contact with my son against his wishes and mine. I understand from the Parliamentry select committee reporting in Hansard in May 2012 that it is rare very rare for the courts to deny contact. There are no welfare matters. The government clearly states that a child should never be denied a loving caring relationship with both parents. It is one of the central principles. It is his and my human right. It is my responsibility. It is the United Nations convention of rights for the child.
    Why if everyone else on planet earth is afforded these legal and moral right why we’re we not afforded them too?
    What recompense for the harm and loss and potential if not realistic long term damage to us? Will the government give us compensation for suffering due to the incompetence of Cafcass personnel?
    I am working with Spoods google them if you wish to bring a class action for redress. It will not make the real situation better but I have spent all the money set aside for the boys education and university on useless legal processe that caused decline and harm.

    Legalised child abuse is what is happening and these same incapable negative and destructive individuals who failed and fail to protect my children are still involved.
    I have lots of support but I want to do more.
    I wrote to David Cameron and I have lodged a complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman who think an MP will sponsor my complaint as it is so horrendous.
    I am aiming to meet with the LD MP for Berwick on Tweed whose involvement in the review of the f j s is applaud able. I am going to ask for his advice .

    I don’t know where to go from here.

    Cafcass guardian still refuses to facilitate contact for no real reason despite three judges requiring it. She came up with flimsy excuses which are now shown to have no basis.
    My solicitors tell me if I complain to Cafcass they will all ‘gang up ‘ on me. Tax payers need to know they are paying for this rubbish and abuse.

    The guardian and the children’s solicitor instead recommended the involvement of expert psychologist to give an expert opinion on the potential scenarios of who and where the children live. They do so based on their opinions to date. Their opinions so far have been wrong. Their stated opinions going forward are perverse . They unlike all other associated professionals and the family, the vicar, Headteacher, MP and any sane decent person thinks like the government that a child should not remain in harm. The father they report is causing and has caused them emotional and psychological harm. They think. Wait for this that to remove the child from harm may cause him more harm because it might confuse him. The mother, myself holds normal values attitudes is law abiding and a good loving caring mother evidenced by a community and is synonymous with the education (system) schooling approach the children experience.

    Can you understand this perverse logic?

    No other professional can, Dr, no, teacher, no, vicar, no, child psychologist, no.
    But who else on this planet would deny a young boy contact with his loving mother for nearly a year, against the law? What a dangerous organisation Cafcass are. They must be cited in the ministry of justice to avoid further repeats of this injustice and lack of compassion. Cafcass employees must abide by the law.
    When they do not they must be accountable for this. Our lives have been terribly ruined so far. It is a surreal nightmare the child psychologists state.

    In my mind it is not acceptable. We should not have to tolerate this gutter behaviour.

    If I have to complain to Europe and the UN I will do this.

    I do think I will have the support of the government as they do have the right perspective and the laws are set. It is the people employed as Cafcass and judges and soliciors who will fully and negligently fail to do as the government requires who cause more problems rather than resolve difficulties or even try to help matters.
    As a former senior university lecturer in people management the reasons for failure are very clear: certain people, the performance management systems . It is not as if Cafcass are oblivious they failed in Co Durham to meet basic satisfactory level of child safety and protection in 2009. Still the same for us in 2012. Not good enough.

    I try to stay strong. I am reasoned intelligent and informed. I confer with other professionals and I learn. Above all I love. I love my boys with all my heart and everything I try to do is because I love them. Their needs come before my own. I am struggling to get the help I need with a disordered parent who can not and will not share in meeting or even recognising the needs of these young children. They don’t seem to care.

    If there are any suggestions or routes you think I might take please let me know.

    I hope my son is not permanently alienated from me and his whole family which is all maternal. He is visibly suffering. He needs my love and care. I can’t get to him at the moment but he needs me to, not next month but now.

    Any ideas please suggest. He is crying out for love approval and the security of knowing we all still very much love and want him.
    His father should be ashamed. It is repeat family behaviour exactly passed from his upbringing from his father, very similar. My husband rejected his mother and his father emotionally and psychologically abused him.

    It is so unnecessary for both boys.

    I want them back together as brothers and with me and as appropriate have time with thir father, who must get professional help to deal with his psychological problems.

    Thanks for listening


  14. Your article got me thinking . My situation is my feeling of sadness from estrangement from my adult children . They were both very sweet , happy boys until age 15 for the older one , 12 for the other one . The first one met another young man who is exactly the opposite of our family relationships,way of life . That’s when he started acting out. It was hell getting him to continue doing well in school , finish a 2yr Associate course in 4 years , got a job , married & has 2 daughters . Our relationship is based on my initiating it all the time. Even my granddaughters are distant . My 2nd son started getting difficult when he was 12, we moved to another state due to the difficulties w/ both of them , be near my parents & siblings. That didn’t work out well as on top of all the problems with my sons, my husband was unable to find good employment, lost large amt if money from a business failure . We decided to go back to California but the problems didn’t really let up . They both finished college , have good jobs & have families . We were coasting thru life ,superficially okay , then my 2bd sons’s daughter got very ill and died from lymphoma @ 2&1/2 yrs old. Reeling fr this , I also found my husband was having an affair.He moved out , filed for divorce . During this time , I felt truly betrayed by my sons . They helped him move out , took him in , cared for him but totally abandoned me , no calls or even a text . This is 4 yrs later, they found how awful their Dad thru the experience of living with him . Our relationship remain very distant , with me always initiating contact and it doesn’t take much for them to treat me w/ sarcasm , discounting behavior . I tread on eggshells and never know how to act , what to say !! I try to live my life , volunteer , go on trips , but I miss closeness with my children & grandchildren but I started to feel like I’m begging ! Please help!!! Thank you


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