On One of the first warm days of 2013 we arrive at International Parental Alienation Awareness Day. 25th April is a day where all around the world, groups concerned with the issue raise the awareness of it as far and wide as possible. For parents who live with the problem every day of their lives, there is no need for awareness raising. The pain and suffering that is caused by a child becoming alienated from you is like no other. Like being wounded at a deep, primary level and never being able to heal. For children who are alienated from a parent, the distortion of their thoughts and feelings twists the very foundations of who they are growing up to be. The sooner we can get more education, more awareness and more treatment programmes out there the better. Raising awareness is one way of making sure we do just that.
But for parents, who live with this problem every day of their lives, PA awareness day is just another day of being forcibly separated from their child and another day of worrying about the impact of that separation. For those who are faced with the hostile and aggressive responses of their alienatd children, awareness that something is badly wrong is already there. And so, on PA day, just for the day, I urge all of you parents out there who are living with the loss of your child to do something different today, something for you, something that raises your awareness that this is not your fault and you don’t deserve it. For today, for once, be kind to yourself and let your focus be just upon you, as the person you are, the person you were and the person you will be.
That person never went away. Underneath all of the suffering and heartache and loss and pain, the person that you are is still there. I know that one of the worst elements of suffering forcible separation from a child is that you spend your days questioning yourself, wondering about whether you could have done something different. Well maybe you could have done something different but just for today, let those thoughts go and try and find that person that you left behind when you entered into this wilderness. Try and recapture, even if it is just for a few short moments, the sense of hope, of well being, of contentment that you had once in your life. For you, once, were a child. And you, once, were innocent of all of the things that people can do to each other. And you, once, were deserving of good things, happy things, and joy. Just like everyone else. And you still are.
One of the things that we concentrate on in doing our work with alienated parents is reconnecting them to their sense of being a parent. This is often the thing that parents tell us they feel stripped of in the process of becoming alienated. Children can be cruel when they are in the end stages of alienation and can say things that are devastating when you too are in a state of absolute fragility. If your child says ‘I hate you’ often enough, its easy to start believing it. We are, after all, only human. When we meet parents whose children are in those stages, we see the devastation that is wreaked and the ruination of any sense of ever having been a parent, never mind being mum or dad in the present moment.
But you are still a parent, you are still that parent who held your child in the first hours of their lives and promised them the world. And they are, still, your children. Those bonds, which were built in the earliest days and weeks and months of your childrens lives are made of a material which is stronger than steel and more enduring than iron. I know this because I see it happen, again and again and again. When the twisted threads and distorted feelings are disentangled, children come home. Staying well and keeping on keeping on being the parent that your children need is the greatest gift that you can give them.
One of the hardest challenges that I set for alienated parents is to go and find something else that satisfies their soul. When I tell parents this they are often shocked and horrified sometimes. They didn’t come to the Family Separation Clinic to be told to go and do something else, they came to get their family fixed, their child sorted out, the alienation lifted. Sending parents away to go and find something else that satisfies them however is a core part of releasing the tensions of the dynamic that can cause a child to be captured in an alienated position. If all that both parents do is maintain the push/pull dynamic around a child, then nothing will change. Letting go of that and finding something else that feeds the well springs of your soul is a critical skill in being an alienated parent. Recent reports from parents that I have worked with tell me that this works. I know parents who are singing in choirs, launching new businesses, climbing up mountains and more. All are better now, healthier now than they have ever been. All are happier now too and less driven by the catastrophe that has befallen their children. Some are reconnecting to their children, others are preparing to. Like D, who told us his story earlier this week, all are reconfiguring their role as the parent of an alienated child. A different way of being a parent yes, but a parent still and a parent always. That bond can never be broken,
On this spring morning, 25th April 2013, I hope that each and every one of you reading this, whether you are struggling with alienation right now, supporting someone who is coping with it or even (and I know you are out there) a child who is alienated, take five minutes of today to sit and look at the world around you. Feel the inner threads that bind you to the people that you love and know that they are there always and forever. And then go and do something that is just for you. For the rest of today, make this a happy day.
Parental Alienation Awareness day is 25th April and was conceived in Canada as a way of raising global awarenss about the problem of Parental Alienation and the impact on children and their families.
The Family Separation Clinic works with families experiencing problems on the alienation spectrum and specialises in therapeutic treatment routes as well as reunification programmes. The Clinic is about to embark upon a research programme into the work being undertaken so that evidence based treatment routes can be made more widely available in the UK. For more information about our research please email Clinic@separatedfamilies.org.uk
The Family Separation Clinic also works with Local Authority Social Work teams to assist them in understanding and working with alienated children. For more information please follow the Family Separation Clinic link above.
If you are a rejected parent and you would like support, we offer coaching, therapy and assessment of your case. Please follow the Family Separation Clinic link above.
We also offer coaching, therapy, psycho-education and assessment to aligned parents and any family where children are experiencing difficulties making the transition between parents. Follow the Family Separation Clinic link as before.
A handbook for parents entitled ‘Understanding and Coping with Parental Alienation’ will be published later in 2013.
Training for professionals working with families who experience alienation issues will be available later this year.