The night is not so scary Dandlebear

In the dark of the night when the stars twinkle bright and the children are wrapped up for sleep,

when the light becomes dark and the dogs cease to bark, into bed will your Dandlebear creep.

He will lie snug and close, right next to your nose and watch over you until morning comes

And when next day dawns, opening eyes with big yawns, Dandlebear will be ready for fun.

Tilly and Jake were very scared of the dark and when bedtime arrived they were always finding reasons why they should stay up just a little bit later.  ‘Look’ said their mother, ‘its time that you were in bed now’, but Tilly and Jake just kept on finding reasons why they could not go to sleep.

Jake was the worst, he just would not put on his pajamas and then, when he had finally managed to pull them on after buttoning them up the wrong way round and getting two legs stuck into one leg and falling over, he would sit down and look glum and refuse to clean his teeth.  Tilly was not very much better.  She found lots of reasons why she could not go upstairs and would sit on the bottom step and sulk until her mother would become quite cross with her. ‘Tilly’ she would say in a sort of cross voice, ‘go upstairs now and get into your bed,’ but Tilly would stay put, looking cross but feeling sad, whilst her mother and Jake were upstairs trying to find Jake’s new book to read.

Tilly felt tired, but she did not want to go to bed.  She did not know why she did not want to go bed, she just knew that bed was not the place she wanted to be.  For when bedtime came and her mummy said goodnight, Tilly would feel a great big wave of sadness coming over her and she didn’t want to feel that feeling at all.  And so she kept on trying to pretend that she was not tired and she kept on running around the house with Jake so that she did not have to go to bed.

Jake didn’t want to go to bed because he didn’t want to think about the things that he had done with his daddy last weekend. He missed his daddy a lot and wanted to tell his mummy about that but when he tried, his mummy just seemed to get cross with him or somehow she didn’t seem to listen.  Jake was worried when his mummy was cross with him, especially when she was cross about daddy.  When bedtime came, Jake missed his daddy most of all because that was when his daddy used to read him a story and now he only got to read him a story for two nights at a time not every night and sometimes Jake lost track of when he last saw daddy and when he would next see daddy and so worried that he might not ever see him again. This feeling got worse at bedtime and so Jake did not want to go to bed anymore and ran around the house until his mother became so cross with him that he had to go to bed.  Sometimes Jake would cry when that happened and then Tilly would come into his bedroom and they would talk about it very quietly together.  Tilly told him that he was a too much of a baby sometimes and that she didn’t feel like that about their daddy.  But he knew that she did really, that’s why she came in to see him.  

Tilly and Jake got sadder and sadder and things became so bad at bedtime that their mother was quite upset and didn’t know what to do.  Fortunately during one of the times that they were with daddy, they were introduced to their Dandlebears and that was the beginning of things starting to look (and feel) a lot better.  Though their mummy didn’t know about Dandlebears their daddy did and so the magic began on the morning that they next went to daddy’s house, what a day that was!

Jake had taken his scooter to daddy’s house and Tilly had taken her bike.  As daddy came up the path to mummy’s house, both Jake and Tilly held their breath, hoping that mummy would not be cross with daddy again and let them take their things to his house.  Sitting at the top of the stairs they could hear their mum and dad talking in a sort of angry way to each other. ‘On no’ said Jake, ‘its not going to turn out well,’  Tilly peered through the bannisters and then jumped back as her mother came to shout up the stairs to them. They went down, not daring to look at their mum and went outside to collect their things. ‘Don’t go near the road on that bike’ shouted their mother as Tilly wheeled it down the path, Jake scooted by her quickly and threw himself and his scooter into the car.’Phew’ both children thought as they drove off down the road, Tilly looked back to see if her mummy was ok as they turned the corner.  It wasn’t easy being Tilly and Jake.

At dad’s house they put on their helmets and were soon off up the road with dad on his big bike leading the way.  Jake thought he had never felt so happy as he whizzed along the path through the park, daddy looked happy too as he went slowly on his bike, guiding Tilly who was a little bit wobbly still.  After a morning in the park they went back to daddy’s house where he got out the ingredients to make pancakes.  Jake thought Tilly looked a bit sad as they tossed up the pancakes into the air, she didn’t squeal as much as she did when they made pancakes at mum’s house.  ‘Come on Tilly’ said dad, let’s get some maple syrup on these beauties, Jake wondered why Tilly wasn’t eating very much as they sat at the table, he ate all of his pancakes up quickly but Tilly just pushed hers around the plate.

Later that day they were all playing games when Tilly said in a sad sort of voice ‘we used to play this one with mummy.’  Daddy sat back and looked at Tilly thoughtfully.  ‘You seem to have been sad all day’ he said in a quiet voice, ‘what’s up Tilly, come and tell me.’

Tilly got up and went to sit next to dad on the settee.  She looked at the patterns that she remembered from being a very little girl. ‘I don’t know what’s up,’ she said sadly, but it seems to get worse at night time and I get very tired because I don’t want to go to bed.’

Daddy thought for a while and then jumped up and disappeared upstairs.  Tilly and Jake looked at each other, had they made daddy cross, where had he gone.  They sat there and looked at the floor and then at the game they had been playing and then they heard daddy running downstairs, they looked up as he came back into the room and to their big surprise they saw two strange looking bears swinging from daddy’s hands, with long arms, very big eyes and paws that were easily as big as the gloves that daddy wore.  ‘Here,’ said daddy, this is what you need, ‘it’s time for your Dandlebears to snuggle up with you at night.  When children get sad and have no-one to talk to, Dandlebears come to help you to feel better, they can hear what you say without you saying a word and they don’t talk, they just silently let you know what they are thinking.’  Daddy handed Jake one bear and came over to Tilly and put her bear into her arms.  The children looked at the bears who stared back solemnly with their big round eyes not blinking. ‘Oh,’ said Tilly in surprise, ‘my Dandlebear has just said hello!’  ‘So has mine’ said Jake with a great big smile and he jumped to his feet, ‘come on’ he said to his Dandlebear, ‘I’m going to show you my scooter’ and he ran off to the garden with his Dandlebear and soon could be seen whizzing up and down the garden path his Dandlebear flying behind him hanging on for dear life with his great big paws.

Tilly didn’t know what was different that day but for sure something certainly changed.  When it came to bedtime that night, she didn’t feel scared about climbing into bed, in fact she was happy to do so and made a space next to her for her Dandlebear. ‘Goodnight Tilly’ said her Dandlebear silently, ‘I will be watching over you so off you go to dreamland and I will see you when you wake up again,’  Tilly felt a warm feeling she hadn’t felt before and before she knew it she was asleep, snoring gently as her Dandlebear watched her with big round eyes.  Jake climbed into bed too and instead of feeling like crying as he quite often did at daddy’s house when it was time to go to bed, he felt like talking to his daddy and telling him something about what he was scared of at night.  Daddy listened and nodded and said to Jake that he would do his very best to talk to his mum about how scared he was and how hard it was to go to bed. ‘You see daddy’ said Jake, ‘wherever I am I am always missing someone, when I am with mum I miss you and when I am with you I miss mum, I just feel as if there is always someone missing.’  ‘I know’ said his dad, ‘and I am glad that you told me, because we do need to help you to feel that wherever we are, we love you and if we are not there then it is hard for us to do that.’  ‘Its not so hard with mum’ said Jake, ‘she’s there all the time or most of the time, I get cross with her sometimes for not letting me see you.’  Daddy looked at Dandlebear, who stared back with his big wise eyes. ‘Your Dandlebear knows’, said daddy, ‘that wherever you are, even if you cannot see me, I love you just the same as I always did, when you feel that I am missing, Dandlebear will remind you that I am not’, won’t you Dandlebear. ‘Of course’ Dandlebear said in his silent way, ‘wherever you are Jake, your daddy loves you and especially at night, when you miss him, I will be there to remind you.’  Jake felt a big change coming over him at these words and climbed into bed.  ‘But daddy’, he suddenly said in a worried sort of a way, ‘what if mummy won’t let me take Dandlebear to her house, sometimes she won’t let us take our things to your house.’  ‘Don’t worry’ said daddy, your Dandlebear is small enough to climb into your bag but if mummy doesn’t want Dandlebear at her house, you should know that Dandlebears, when they have been introduced to you, can come with you even if you cannot see them.  Just as Dandlebears do not speak but send messages silently to you, they can be with you in your heart and in your mind even if they are not with you in their furry selves.’  Jake looked at his Dandlebear and considered this news. ‘It is true’ said his Dandlebear silently.  Jake smiled and reached out for him.  Dandlebear snuggled in as Jake lay down to sleep.  He could hear his sister snoring gently, his daddy gave him a kiss.  Suddenly, the night did not seem so scary anymore and Jake began to feel that finally things might start getting better.  ‘Thank you Dandlebear’, he whispered in the dark, ‘thank you daddy.’

 

24 Comments

  1. Love the story. The Dandlebear story delivered by Dad must help the children come to terms with the to and fro between parents apart, and most importantly sleep easy in the knowledge that both parents still love them.

    At risk of playing Devils advocate what if Dandlebear is caught by mother or surrogate Dad who view Dandlebear as an imposter………….they may choose to portray Dandlebear as the upholder of “women with care” or “new Daddy’s are best”.

    For this reason it would be best to have Dandlebears physical presence living at Dad’s house, but ever present in the kids lives as a protector and understanding figure. (perhaps how we might envisage the Holy Spirit…….doesn’t have to have religious connotations). Dandlebear exists as a thought, an idea/concept, his physical presence only makes him susceptible to manipulation by whoever can get hold of him………………….

    When it was time to return back across the bridge to Mum’s Tilly and Jake found it easier. They had had a good nights sleep and felt confident that whenever things got difficult at Mum’s they knew that Dandlebear understood. Dad knew Dandlebear and somehow that was reassuring for Tilly and Jake. Living at Mum’s Jake confided in Tilly that he’d looked out of the window and seen Dandlebear waving at him from behind a cloud. He had just dropped by to see if they were ok and leave a message from Dad saying how he loved the pancakes they’d made together. Dad had been out planning an adventure and was looking forward to teaching Dandlebear how to ride a bike.

    Kind regards

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    1. Dandlebear is a transitional object, whose presence and touch comfort the child in transition from one parent to another, so I think it’s important for Dandlebear to be physically present to the child at both houses and en route.

      Of course, if you have that much emotional investment in an object, you will suffer if the object is lost or taken, and this is a common theme of children’s books, e.g. Shirley Hughes’ “Dogger”, in which a child’s toy goes missing at a jumble sale and is sold to another child (my daughter hated this story for this very reason, although it has a happy ending), also Judith Kerr’s “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit”, based on her own experiences as a child refugee from Nazi Germany.

      Where contact with the target parent breaks down (as in “I Didn’t Know That Dandlebear”), Dandlebear is no longer a transitional object in this sense, but continues to remind the child of the absent parent and their love. In these circumstances, Dandlebear could well become a target for Alienating Parent (and maybe Alienating Parent’s new partner), and this could itself form part of the story. The child might have to rescue Dandlebear from the bin, hide Dandlebear in a safe place and so on. There would have to be a happy ending for Dandlebear though, given that the purpose of the story is to give encouragement to children in difficult situations.

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  2. I owe you another big thank you Karen.

    I’ll show my daughter this latest story this weekend. She still loves a story at bedtime and this is just the right length. I’ll give a full consumer report soon.

    By the way, what accent is a Dandlebear supposed to have? My daughter tells me they don’t come from West Wales, Cork, the East End or Dudley, so I thought I’d best check. I may need to practice.

    The next story, “I don’t like this Dandlebear”, will be a challenge to get by under the radar of the more difficult parents but it is more likely to hit its target readership if it is mainly available at school or somewhere else where alienated kids feel safe or free from risk of recrimination.

    “Confused”, is a kind euphemism. Having read a few things by the same author I can confirm that reasoned argument, rigor and the nature of fallacious argument are also alien concepts. As Lewis Carol put it:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

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  3. The review is, both liked it. The dandlebear on the scooter got a laugh from son and daughter said that it was good that they got to talk about how someone still loves you even when they are not there. Particularly spot on since we have just been told that their brother cannot come tomorrow as planned, so they were a bit upset.

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  4. This is a great story for transitional children, Karen, although I don’t think it’s necessary to present the mother as the “baddie”, shouting at the children and not allowing them to take things to their daddy’s house. Those “difficult” parents who deliberately or unwittingly alienate their children against the non-resident parent, will most likely be hostile to this kind of reference and so will not be amenable to their children having access to the story. I think these references can be omitted without impacting on the message, which is (as I see it) that Daddy and Mummy both love Tilly and Jake and it follows that the children should feel happy in the knowledge that they are loved by both parents and that it’s OK for them to love both parents back.

    I see the dandlebear as a wise and magical creature who knows the thoughts, wishes and feelings of his associated child and can converse on the same level in a gentle and kind way and help the child navigate the conflicting emotions he/she may experience whether crossing the bridge between parents or whether completely alienated from a once loved parent.

    One year, when we were still living together as a family, my (then) wife and children gave me a book, “Things a Father Should Know – Priceless Quotes and Anecdotes especialy for Dad”, I still have the book alhough the preface page on which my wife had written a message to me from her and the children for Father’s Day was torn out, by her I surmise as I think it unlikely that either of my children (then 4 and 7) would have done this. Anyway, there is a quote that still sticks in my mind: “A child fills a place in your heart you never knew was empty”. Perhaps that place in my heart can also be occupied by two dandlebears, one for each of my alienated children.

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  5. In concluding an earlier post, Sowing the seeds of doubt: first stage empathic responding with an alienated child , Karen stated

    “Seeds of doubt challenge your child’s perceptions, they confuse your child and change the way that the alienation reaction affects them. Seeds of doubt concentrate your child’s mind and experience on the love that you feel and even though they may continue their reaction, will call up their conscience and make them think. And thinking is what we need alienated children to do because thinking critically and independently is what they have lost. Your seeds of doubt are designed to encourage your child to think with perspective over time.”

    It is these seeds that Dandlebear sows. The bear appropriately and gently challenges a perception and rationale: patiently, gently and lovingly nurturing critical and independent thinking skills in the kids who have virtually been “radicalized”.

    Each real situation is different so the stories can never realistically be expected to accurately mirror everyone’s situation. But, provided they contain viable seeds they will do a fantastic job and serve their purpose admirably given time.

    Every alienated parent wishes for a wand to wave and get things back to something like the way they were. The reality is that this can only happen slowly and with the help of a Dandlebear or someone very much like him.

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    1. I agree with what Karen wrote in that previous post, padrestevie, but the seeds of doubt can only be sown if the alienated child is in verbal communication with the non-resident parent or is receiving some written communication from the alienated parent and is reading it or has it read to them.

      It has been over three years since I have had any contact with my children who are now 11 and 7. I write them monthly letters/cards but I have no guarantee that they receive these, despite the court order in place. My ex-wife does not encourage them to write to me (although she was ordered to) and wrote to me that she cannot make the children do what I want them to, thereby divesting herself of any responsibility. One thing I know for certain is that my children have no independence of thought in their current environment and the longer they remain in such a state the more “radicalized” they will become. If it is impossible for me to reach them now, I find it hard to acknowledge that I will ever reach them in the future, the longer this situation continues.

      If I knew that my children were receiving my letters, then I would sow the seeds of doubt, of course I would, in a very gentle and loving way. However, I am sure that even if my ex-wife does pass on my letters to my children, she most certainly screens them and I am sure she would continue to do her utmost to keep me separated from my children.

      Perhaps the dandlebear stories can help, as long as wholly alienated children can access them. Getting the dandlebear story right for the wholly alienated child, the child who is frozen and has no contact whatsoever with their once loved parent, is going to be difficult enough I imagine, but making that story available to such alienated children as mine is, I believe, an insurmountable task.

      I think that the key to this particular conundrum is to show the alienator (who may unwittingly or deliberately be alienating the children against the non-resident parent) that the status quo is almost certainly emotionally and psychologically damaging for the alienated child. This may seem an impossible task as the alienator may be so entrenched in their own perception of the situation and may, as some professionals have postulated, be suffering from some kind of emotional trauma or borderline personality disorder. How does one reason with someone who, very clearly, does not or is unable to see reason? Also, if the alienator presents themselves as being vulnerable and in some way under threat from the alienated parent, what hope does the alienated parent have?

      Every time I think I have come up with a plan to elicit change, no matter how small that change may be, everything that has happened to me before comes back and stops me from proceeding with that plan. I am in a frozen state as are my children and my ex-wife, for that matter, and I still do not know how to move on and change what I know is a terribly damaging situation for my children.

      I will keep on searching for the answer to my particular conundrum and I know that I will be able to do so with the support of Karen’s blog and the posts from all those who contribute.

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  6. Hi Chris. I was wondering how the target parent who has no connection with their off-spring could smuggle the Dandlebear stories to them. I think a good place to start would be at the school. I work helping chidren with their reading at school and would be happy to start them reading the Dandlebear stories. I think these might be appropriate for some of my year 4’s or 5’s.

    Kind regards

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    1. Thanks Anonymous, it’s a good idea. Do you think these stories are suitable for all children, irrespective of their family situation? I am not sure as I think the stories are specific to alienated children. That said, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I could approach the head teacher at my (7 year old) son’s school to see if she would be amenable to having the stories read to the children in groups.

      If Karen allows me to pass on the stories, then I will give it a try.

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      1. The Dandlebear Bridge and Other Stories will be available I hope in time for Christmas this year, we are working in it now. When it is available I will be happy for it to be used anywhere so please bear (no pun intended) with me until we get it into published form. Am so glad you like the bear, he is clamouring to tell more stories and each will have a slightly different theme. The issue if mum shouting and being cross in the last one is deliberate, kids recognise that their parents do not like each other and they know why mum is shouting, it is to let kids know that their experience is understood. What we are trying to do is to weave different stories with lovely illustrations so that it is not a book which is identified as being for alienated children but one which is for children whose parents do not live together, that way we might get it into schools and nurseries and it mightbe easier to get it past the alienating parents into the hands of children themselves. The messages in the stories are not explicit but are designed to work subliminally. Dandlebear is a transitional object but he is also representative of the rejected parent and family, he is also a perspective teacher and a conscience pricker, both essential for children who are alienated. I am not sure what accent dandlebear has, perhaps every child’s dandlebear has an accent all of his own. I am getting a lot from your comments many thanks everyone for contributing its incredibly helpful. Our task this weekend is to refine the picture of dandlebear that my daughter has developed, he’s looking good already but we want to make sure he is just right. K

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  7. I was so saddened to read your post ChrisTR. It’s not long ago that my situation was so wretched and apparently hopeless. More than one person uttered those words, “One day your daughter will realise what has happened… etc.”. On the face of it that was the only hope I had. My heart goes out to anyone in that situation. From bitter experience I know that it is hell.

    Each set of circumstances is different, but for me the personification of Dandlebear arrived in the form of a new family court advisor who was appointed following a complaint. I realise how I was so incredibly lucky to have someone allocated who was sympathetic to the problem and had the expertise to gently and effectively challenge my daughter’s perceptions. To cut a long story short, once the seeds of doubt were sown they grew quickly and contact was resumed soon after. After two years of travelling and appearing to get no nearer the destination we seemed to miraculously arrive in only a few weeks.

    After reading each of the Dandlebear stories together my daughter has talked about her experience. I don’t know whether Karen intended this.

    I think my daughter identifies with characters in the stories and they validate her own feelings. She is asking questions and it is now clear that she was slowly working things out and evaluating alternatives on her own. Above all she knows that my love never faltered and her fears that i would hate her after everything that had happened were groundless.

    She has described how seeing other Dad’s with their kids, on TV and in real life, “made me feel awkward”. These reminders seemed to work like moorings with reality and questioned the alienator’s propaganda. Once contact with extended family was resumed (the alienator was careful to appear cooperative and was fully aware of how she would appear to the court if she continued to frustrate contact with extended family) there were further reminders. I kept in contact with mutual friends and there were gentle reminders from them. I kept in contact with the school and made sure they were aware of my daughter’s predicament. They would tell her when I had been in touch. Just seeing people, hearing about things or doing things that she would usually associate with her Dad was enough. I don’t think it is possible for the alienator to eradicate every single positive reminder or trigger from their lives. The love, memories and feelings did not totally disappear.

    I think that the pace of the challenge is very important i.e. try not to over water the seedlings because you could drown them.

    These things are quite difficult for me to articulate in a few lines Chris TR: it’s a complex web and there are too many other elements to mention here, but at a similar stage to you I recall bumping into my daughter and her mother. My daughter fled like her life depended on it. When friends of mine encountered her she would blank them. Reports claimed that she was adamantly opposed to contact. She claimed to have no recollection of any good times together. I was completely demonised. It was like an imposter had taken over my daughter’s body and mind. These behaviours seemed so alien and at loggerheads with the child I knew. It was disorientating, worrying and upsetting. Any prospect of reconciliation seemed hopeless.

    However, I now know that despite the outward impressions she was giving, doubts were occurring. In short, the more seeds of doubt that were lovingly planted, the greater the chance that at least one would germinate.

    Be careful not to overdo it but sow as many as you or others safely can. As you say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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    1. Thank you, padrestevie. I am happy for you and your daughter that you have found each other again. My situation is that both my daughter and son (now 11 and 7 respectively) are beyond reach of me and my family. Their uncles and grandfather have been completely alienated: cards and presents returned etc. All contact with my side of the family has been broken off for over three years now.

      Friends of ours who were close to us and whose son is in the same class as my daugher told me that a few months after my ex-wife and I separated, my daughter told their son (who is in the same class as my daughter) that she was missing me. Some six or seven months after we separated, these friends were completely alienated by my ex-wife and children, once they ‘sided’ with me, something which I did not seek, but these friends felt it was wrong that my ex-wife was behaving as she was. At one point she told these friends that the children were “happier” and “better off” without me. These are the same friends with whom we went together on daytrips, parties, visited at home etc. In fact, my daugher was best friends with their son. These friends are now completely ‘blanked’ not only by my ex-wife but, more worryingly, by my young children should they ever chance upon each other in the village where they live.

      My children’s schools refuse to even send me school photographs as according to the last court order, I receive three photos a year and it is up to my ex-wife and children to decide if I should have more. At least, that is how the schools have chosen to interpret the order. I have asked them, “What earthly reason could there be for a father to be denied a photo of his own daughter/son?” The response was that they must follow the guidelines of the court order. I receive school reports and scant information on how my children are. An informal change of name requested by my daughter (at the age of 10) was permitted by the school (although her legal name remains on the school records). I was not informed of this but noticed this new name on my daughter’s school report, and so wrote to my daughter’s head teacher expressing dismay that I had not been informed of this as it clearly shows a significant psychological shift in my daughter and so I was surprised that the school did not inform me of this, particularly when I had asked her then class teacher to inform me of any behaviour which might seem unsual. This same teacher, told me when I went to visit to discuss my daughter’s progress, that my daughter’s change of name had been legally carried out! When I told him that this was not possible as I had parental responsibility and had not given consent for this, he still loudly insisted (in a school hall where other parents were waiting to see their children’s class teacher) that this was not the case. I expressed my concern to the head teacher who apologised that I had been given the “impression” that my daughter’s name had been changed and assured me that my daughter had been told that her name remained legally as it was but that she could call herself whatever she wanted, even “Tinkerbell” (I quote the head teacher).

      I have thought about going back to court to ask for a variation of the last court order so that I may receive photographs of my children from the schools and also be permitted to attend school events (there is nothing in the last court order that says I should not be allowed to do so). However, friends from our FNF meetings tell me of similar experiences they have had with schools and they have also said that when they have gone back to court, they usually come away with less than what they started with. I feel I have nothing more left to lose, yet I believe the family court is not the forum in which to sort out this mess. We are advised to prepare for the worst and expect the best, yet the best outcome in the family courts is a rare occurrence indeed from my own experience and from those I hear from other fathers at our FNF support group meetings.

      I know that there are fathers who give up trying to re-establish contact with their children as they cannot cope with the constant rejection and associated pain and heartbreak and the constant denigration from their ex-partners. I know of two such fathers: one who has decided that there is no point trying to continue with establishing contact with his 16 year-old son and has recently remarried and another who decided after a court hearing where contact was limited to writing to his young daughter, that he would not do so and withdraw as he felt that the situation was too damaging for her.

      Every person and their situation is different. There is no “one size fits all” solution. From everything I have learned about the effects on children post-separation and about parental alienation, I know that I must continue to attempt to engage with my children and let them know that I am still their loving daddy. I hope that they receive my letters and that hope is all I have. I hope that their friends at school will sow the seeds of doubt as children may naturally do. At one point I received a letter from my ex-wife asking me not to say things to other children in the school about the situation, yet I had not done so, so clearly children were saying unsolicited things to my daughter. I live at a great distance from my children (I moved away to be with my brothers as they supported me through the second year post separation when I had nowhere to go to and did not have the financial means to do so. Without their support (both emotional and financial), I would not have survived.

      Having little money and still being considerably in debt because of the divorce, and just about getting by now that I have been working for the past year or so since being out of work for a year and a half due to the stress brought on by the divorce and being artificially separated from my children, I am in a better place than where I was and have someone in my life who understands my situation (because of a friend who was similarly alienated).

      I am so grateful that I found Karen and her blog and that there is someone who cares about supporting children and families post separation and she is actively doing something to bring about change for the better, despite the hurdles and barriers that exist. She is truly inspirational. I really am enjoying her dandlebear stories, too, and I am looking forward to the publication of the book.

      Karen, on the subject of each dandlebear’s accent, I think this will be specific to each child as the dandlebear’s accent is part of their inner voice so it may only need to be described as something that the child recognises from a time or event when they were at their happiest. For me, I imagine it to be a little like a soft, Yorkshire accent, which is because of a close friend from when I was at university!

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    2. This is a very important description of the alienated child’s reality and I am grateful Padrestevie that you have posted it. It is so incredibly hard to convince parents who hve been completely alienated that their children do still love them and you have set out this reality beautifully here. You have also set out the reality of alienation being abusive of children where you say that your daughter was worried you would hate her because of all that had happened. No child should ever be placed into a position where they feel so guilty and ashamed that they are afraid a parent will hate them. They know at an insitinctive level that what has happened to them is wrong and they carry high levels of anxiety, guilt and shame because of that, from my perspective, this is the reason why alienating a child is emotional and psychological abuse. The stories are designed to help a child to talk and think, they are perspective stories, something we use at the Clinic to re-estabish normal perspective when we are workng with alienated children and their families. They are designed to speed up the process of reversal of alienation, which often unravels incredibly fast when the alienator is prevented from imposing the dynamic that creates the reaction. I am really pleased to hear that your daughter is talking and is in a good place Padrestevie and I hope that your story gives hope and encouragement to Chris TR and everyone who reads it, it is certainly my experiences that these children are not lost, though they feel that way and that they do know and do want their lost parent to keep being there. K

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  8. Dear Chris

    I was both sorry and angry to hear of your tragic tale. However all is not lost. I and others like me go through similar experiences and reach better outcomes. One of the disadvantages of FNF meetings is that you meet people who have not found satisfactory solutions and it is very easy to indulge in the same malaise in which they tragically find themselves, often paralysed and incapacitated by their experience, believing that they are not worthy of a fully involved parental involvement with their own children. On the plus side comfort and companionship can be found and a path forward can be planned if you meet people who have learned how to work the system to their advantage.
    Now that you are reflecting on your next moves and have developed a self-belief that will stand you in good stead there are various manoeuvres that you should implement.
    1 To be an involved and fully functioning parent you will need to be geographically close to your children. This is so you can practically become involved both whilst they are at school and in after-school activities.
    2 On a social level you need to re-assert yourself in the local community in a positive and helpful way. (The people at school you now see as impediments to your relationship will warm to you as a human being once you integrate in the community………..find your former friends and give them a hug)
    3 Now that you are stronger you will feel confident in expressing your opinion and not being affected by the anti-father propaganda that is being fuelled by your Ex. You are better equipped to deal with life’s challenges. Your interpretation of the laws that affect your involvement with your children is the only one that matters.

    The Danldlebear stories are for your children’s comfort but I also think they will have universal appeal. The effects of parental alienation are not something we should hide under a bushel. It is something that needs exposing and dealing with. Children’s books are used to educate and elucidate our children. I recently read at school with a year 4 “Not now Bernard!”, a great little story about a child who has an imaginary monster as his friend. He has two parents who have no time for him at all. In the end Bernard becomes the monster.
    The clever little book expresses what it is like to have parents who don’t have time for you and the angry feelings you get when you are continually ignored by them. In an age where parents seem to have so little time for their children this story validates the thoughts and feelings of the child.

    Kind regards

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  9. Thank you Karen. I tried to distil parts of the story to emphasise these points. But, as I’m sure you are aware, there is much more to it.

    I had not come across your blog during the proceedings. Nonetheless, I reasoned that, like any other form of abuse, alienation needed secrecy, isolation, trust and like minded people to thrive. By talking openly about what was going on I was refusing to defer to the alienator, brushing aside the veil of secrecy and challenging the misplaced trust in any way I could.

    I realised that it was simply not possible for my daughter to be kept like a hostage indefinitely. She would certainly come into contact with other influences and her mother could not always be breathing down her neck or be able to censor every single contact. I consciously decided to focus my energies on the things that I was able to influence. It would have been a pointless waste of time and cash repeating the same things that had not worked for others and expecting different outcomes.

    I’ll quickly run through a few other practical things that I think can be done in order to level the playing field.

    1. It is essential that the appointed family court advisor is trained and sufficiently expert in the field of alienation. If they are not then you must do everything you can to get someone that fits the bill. If you do not then the end result is predictable.

    2. Get the matter away from magistrates and into the hands of a judge as soon as possible. Just as important is doing everything one possibly can to ensure that the judge has a background in family law. If they have then they will have probably seen alienation at work many times and will hopefully have experience of the steps needed to ensure that any attempts to re-establish contact stand a chance of succeeding.

    3. Family cases are typically littered with, “yes it is”, “no it isn’t”, type arguments and I would advise anyone intending to argue a case on this basis to just watch the faces of the court professionals glaze over the minute they think that this is yet another, six of one and half a dozen of the other case: where a stern talking to and bashing together of heads, once they’ve let off steam will do the trick. To coax these people into action you need EVIDENCE. School reports, attendance certificates, medical records, drug tests, alcohol tests and reports from other professionals can all beg questions and tell a story. One has to be tenacious and seize every opportunity to awaken the court and loudly proclaim that this is NOT yet another bickering couple or some other worn out stereotype.
    Therefore, scour any evidence and bring up any concerns: verbally initially. When the alienator attempts to reassure the court or offer an excuse, produce the paperwork. Not only will you have shown the judge that you are credible but the alienator will have demonstrated to the court that they are not. Where there are false allegations this is important.

    4. Keep meticulous records of everything to do with your kids and contact. Keep all texts, emails and make contemporaneous notes of all exchanges. Confirm everything in writing and ask for written confirmation of everything.

    I regularly pinch myself and count my blessings that the court got behind me and imposed means of interrupting the alienation dynamic. But, it was not just luck. It was bloody hard work and an emotional rollercoaster. I read everything I could about law, psychology, social sciences, CAFCASS procedures, policies etc. until I was able to quote and reference supporting EVIDENCE from memory. There have been massive health and financial costs.

    I frequently remind myself that my daughter was only 10 days old when her mother first used her as currency. Realistically, eleven years of being “worked on” cannot be undone overnight.

    There have been relapses as you predict Karen, but, together with school, I am consciously and deliberately providing a datum which is as far way from the “fused dyad” as possible. I encourage her naturally outgoing and gregarious nature, curiosity and insatiable thirst for knowledge in every way I can in order to dilute the abusive influences. She visibly likes adults to behave like adults sometimes and make decisions for her. She asks lots of questions.

    The late Carl Sagan’s “Balony Detection Kit” (Chapter 12, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark), provides the prism through which to examine the wonders of the world and its life. Its tools and principles have served me well and it will help develop critical thinking to insulate her from further abuse. Her innate-insight, wicked sense of humour and independent thinking skills are a joy to behold.

    I’m just sad that her alienator could not be content with these things because the sheer joy of seeing innocent children happy, safe, healthy, learning and discovering is as good as it gets. I loathe the common view that children are mere possessions to do with or brainwash as one pleases. They are not. They are the greatest gift and blessing that can be bestowed upon anyone and it is privilege to nurture, love and guard them and to have that warmth, love and trust reciprocated.

    I am in no doubt that perceptions will change and today’s reports of a forthcoming announcement in the Queen’s speech of legislation to outlaw emotional abuse comes as a welcomed development. Parental alienation is emotional and psychological abuse and, as such, this is an odious crime against the most vulnerable which deserves every bit of stigma that should attatch to it. It is more appropriately dealt with as a criminal matter and has no more place in the family courts than incest.

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  10. Hi Steve

    You say it has taken 11 years of struggle to get where you are today and even now it’s a case of work in progress. What we need to know is how to avoid this? Many of us do not have the mental stamina or faith to put in such a mamoth effort. Would it not be easier to assert shared and allocated time and then deal with the parents straight away. So much time is devoted to what we are told are “the children’s needs” when we should be concentrating on the parenting techniques of the parents in a framework of shared parenting. Concentrating on the supposed needs of the children seems to be a way of avoiding the actual thing that parents do (and have a need to). i.e. Parent their children.
    When we learn new skills we are dependant upon our teacher/trainer. If I were learning, say how to play the guitar why would I be the one to consult on teaching aptitude and technique rather than my teacher? Surely it is the teacher who is the expert, not the pupil

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    1. Thank you for commenting Anon.
      With the benefit of hindsight and gleaned knowledge I can say how the alienation process began virtually at conception. I would place my experience roughly ½ to 2/3 of the way along the alienation spectrum: towards the high end. This is covered in some of Karen’s other posts. If you even suspect this might be going on then do yourself a big favour and read everything in Karen’s blog and learn from the best resource there is.
      Here is a reality check anyway.
      Having watched a skilled manipulator and alienator effectively run rings around mediators, solicitors, CAFCASS officers etc. I would say that:
      • as long as we live in a time when wishes and feelings reports command far more credence than they deserve;
      • as long as alienators and courts are content to hide behind these reports;
      • as long as courts avoid implementing punitive measures to enforce contact;
      • as long as so many people have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo;
      • as long as alienators are free to make accusations with impunity;
      • as long as alienators are rewarded with free legal assistance to perpetuate their alienation;
      • as long as alienators are allowed to keep their prize regardless of how they win it;
      • as long as there is general ignorance about alienation;
      • as long as alienation is not classed as emotional abuse;
      • as long as social services and CAFCASS are dominated by hard line feminist dogma; etc. etc.

      then, it really does not matter what you focus on, or assert, or even establish frameworks for, because a hardened alienator is simply going to make all the right noises and act out favourably whilst under the spotlight of the proceedings. Afterwards, it’s soon back to business as usual: riding rough shod over every ounce of goodwill once the gaze of the court is averted. In the present landscape it is amazing how quickly delaying tactics and repeated attempts to achieve solutions will add up to 11 years worth.

      In my experience, alienation tends to vacillate between points on the spectrum. Your manipulated feelings for the alienator and your sense of loss for your children will cloud your objectivity and judgment. The alienator will coldly use your ignorance, naivety and trust to play for more time to further their own goals. You will have been carefully selected and groomed.

      In practice, unless you are able to establish that you have very good grounds for concern, then, there is very little likelihood of the court making much effort to get contact reinstated since there is a tendency for courts to favour the path of least resistance. Unless you are fortunate enough to achieve the statistical equivalent of fecal matter from a rocking horse – by having an appropriately experienced judge and CAFCASS officer on board at the same time – you will need every inch of leverage that you can muster

      I think that you are absolutely right to say that, “concentrating on the supposed children’s needs etc”
      In reality, mere lip service is paid to the core doctrine that a “child’s interests are paramount”. If a parent fails to get their kids to school, when ordered: the doctor’s or hospital when needed: or, the dentist regularly: then, the court makes orders to enforce attendance. If there is non-compliance sanctions are implemented.
      Court orders for contact can include standard forms of words pointing out possible consequences, leading to imprisonment, for non-compliance but these are rarely, if ever, applied. Whilst there are no consequences for the alienator’s actions, and, courts refuse to implement the measures at their disposal to enforce contact, there is little hope of kids being rescued from alienation unless there is strong evidence to show there is a serious risk of harm.

      If you get to court then you will see for yourself the undignified and disingenuous spectacle of the judge, FCA and the alienator huddling cowardly behind an effigy of the lost, grieving and alienated child, in the form of the wishes and feelings report. The alienator guards the umbra jealously. The pen-umbra is not so keenly jostled for; provided their faces are shielded they are happy to just avoid the glow and take the money. The targeted parent will stand, stripped of everything and alone, whilst their own advocates panic to join the rest seeking refuge behind the child. To add insult to injury the targeted parent, that has placed their faith in the system and whose only crime is loving their progeny, is literally mugged for their trouble and their beaten carcass is hung out in the elements to be picked clean by any vultures lucky enough to be passing. It is a salutary lesson in isolation. It is like playing a virtual reality version of a Franz Kafka Novel. The Trial, a tale of abject woe and hopelessness, springs to mind. Months afterwards, it still feels surreal and unbelievable.

      If I’ve given you the impression that the entire experience is anything less than awful I have misled you. But, Anon, last night I checked my precious little daughter an hour after reading her a bedtime story and turning out the light. She was clutching the Dandlebear we’d made whilst asleep, innocent, safe, and smiling contentedly. That wonderful memory alone justifies anything I have endured.

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      1. Would love to see the Dandlebear Padrestevie, I love the idea too of making your own Dandlebear with your daughter, its an excellent way of making Dandlebear all about what is going on just for you x

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      2. What you have described is exactly my experience and what I know of ‘the system’ and the dynamics of the alienation process and the situation my children are in, and I really could not have put it better myself. It is truly amazing that you have endured all of this and found your daughter and are where you should be, that is, directly involved in her life as her loving parent.

        I see myself as still fumbling around in the dark, trying to find a way forward towards the light and back to my children. That said, your story does give me some hope, so I thank you for this.

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  11. All we did was buy one of these because they had the longest arms we could find.
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Snugglepals-Your-Cuddy-Friend-22-Plush-Bear-/360511781049?pt=UK_Soft_Toys_Bears&hash=item53f02d38b9
    We have stitched some gloves on it to make big hands. The next modification will be some velcro on the gloves and the waist of her trousers so that it can hang on. I’l send a snap once i’ve downloaded them onto my computor. My daughter adores it and takes it everywhere.

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  12. Hi Steve

    I think it’s amazing that you spent so much of your life fighting for your daughter. You have taken on the family courts and all the peripheral enterprises that feed into it, and achieved some success. Now you are helping heal the psychological wounds of a terrible ordeal.

    I was wondering how the behaviour of your former partner might have changed, if any. How has she adapted to the new situation and do you get negative comments about yourself from your daughter?

    The last seven years of my life have been difficult too, but there were rarely any long periods when I didn’t see either of my children. Yes, I did get a lot of negative stuff from my daughter (“you’re not my father!” “you are a stalker” “you don’t love us anymore”….). It took a mere 9 months or so for the courts to make a final “no order” order with the caveate that if I tried to come back to court within the next 12 months for any reason they would enforce an order. That order would of course be “mothers order”.

    So I didn’t go back to court but decided to take on the negative aspects of my former partners resistance to my being a parent, myself. I came across Karen’s blog many years after and attended one of her courses on PA. Now I understand more fully what is going on it is easier to manage and even predict the behaviour of my former partner. I have good persons in place that help establish me as a worthy and creditable father and I have recovered the faith that I am a fully functioning working “father in practice”. Furthermore I can appreciate the strengths of my former partner whilst accepting her weakness’s as part and parcel of a complex personality that is similar to my own. We don’t communicate properly; perhaps once or twice a year, me to tell her I can’t pay her as much money, or more recently to say that the County Council won’t let me claim for school meals so she will have to since she is the recipient of child benefit.

    So my kids, although teenagers, are still crossing Dandlebear bridge. I sometimes think it is easier for them to cross than for me to see them disappear back to the other side. For the eldest the bridge has largely dissappeared her having the free will to see her parents as different characters whom she chooses to see as and when she pleases. The youngest is still following his mother’s mantra. He has told me he can come and see me whenever he wants, so long as it is ok with Mum.

    Good luck with Dandlebear I think he is a wonderful concept.

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