It’s not always alienation (and why it’s important to understand that)

Recently I have read a few good news stories of mums and dads being reunited with their children after periods of time in which their children have been withdrawn from them and refusing to see them.  In each of these stories I have read about how those children have been alienated and how reuniting in this way is a story of overcoming the poisonous acts of the other parent/the family courts/other people who have caused children to be alienated.  I have no doubt that in some of these cases, some or all of those factors have been at play, but reading these stories, I cannot help but feel vaguely anxious about the way in which the term parental alienation is so freely and easily used as the reason why children enter into periods of withdrawal from a parent after separation.

Parental alienation in my experience is a rare phenomenon and in its pure form, as it was described by Gardener in 1985 is even rarer. I have myself probably only seen around five cases of pure or severe alienation in which the reason for the rejection by the child was solely caused by one parent acting in a determined and conscious manner to eradicate the other parent from a child’s life.  More commonly I have seen and worked with what are called hybrid case of alienation, which were first described by researchers Johnson and Kelly and which have, at their heart, patterns of behaviours which create a double bind for a child who becomes captured in the unresolved conflict between two adults and sometimes two family systems.  The pure cases are the easiest to spot and treat and hybrids the more complex and difficult to deal with. It is important in my view, that the use of the term parental alienation, in describing a child’s rejection is accurate and based in reality. Only then can a definitive prognosis be given and a treatment route set out.  Sadly, for some, although this matching of analysis to treatment is done carefully and with the knowledge that this can release the child, the desire to carry on the projection of blame onto the other parent remains so strong that only the term parental alienation in its pure meaning, will do.  This is the result of a determined and fixated view that the other parent is wrong and the ‘alienated’ parent is right.  It serves no purpose other than to hold the child in the same dynamic that created the withdrawal and it causes endless entrenched refusal in the child.  This is when it is not parental alienation and this is why it is important to understand that.

Children are most at risk of alignment and rejection between the ages of 8-14 years old, when their personality organisation is underway and when they are at their most indignant and self righteous as they go through developing their own identity.  Children in this category will often naturally align themselves to one or other parent even when the family lives together and when the family separates, this alignment can become exacerbated by the difficulties that surround the child, particularly if one or the other side of their family is hostile in any way.  Transitions, moving between two sides of the family can become intolerably painful for some children who will, eventually, begin a process of withdrawal.  Unfortunately this withdrawal is often accompanied by excuses and ‘reasons’ put forward by the child, for why they no longer like going to mum or dads.  Most children are at risk of this after separation but children who are sensitive, bright, clever and attuned to other people’s feelings are more so. Similarly, if children have been very close to a parent who is then pushed into the role of secondary parent through the implementation of the lone parent model of support to families (one parents is the carer and the other the provider) then that parent becomes very much at risk of becoming the rejected parent.

But not all rejection is alienation.  A child can only be said to be purely alienated if she is unable to be in the vicinity of a rejected parent and demonstrates phobic like reactions.  A child can only be purely or severely alienated if there are a set of conditions in place which demonstrate that all of the signs of alienation listed by Gardener are present and active.  Thus, a child must show the following behaviours to be considered severely alienated.

Denigration of the rejected parent – name calling, hostility, relentless hatred

Use of borrowed scenarios – telling people about things that the child could not possibly remember themselves

Reflexive and repeated support of the aligned parent – that parent is wholly good and perfect

Independent thinker syndrome – an insistence that they and only they are responsible for their thoughts and feelings

Spread to the wider family – as if the whole family system is infected

No  ambivalence – hatred is cold, clear and unequivocal

No guilt or shame – treatment of the rejected parent is cruel and without normal feelings of conscience

Weak and absurd reasons for rejection – ranging from ‘he made me go to bed at 7.30pm to she makes me do my homework’

Many children will show one or two of these behaviours but will not show the others, similarly, many parents will show behaviours linked to alienation but not all of them.  These cases, which cannot be categorised as alienation, are those which are on the alienation spectrum and could, as a result, become alienation.  These are also the cases which are not alienation but which are often pushed along the spectrum into alienation due to the parent who perceives rejection becoming frustrated, angry and upset.

Children who find transitions between their parents difficult will show a range of behaviours which demonstrate that they are not coping well.  These children will, often well before they finally withdraw from a parent, give signs that they are not coping.  Children who become angry, resentful, tearful, dramatic, cold on arrival, distant on departure, are those who are not coping with transitions between their parents.  Children not coping with transitions will often want their other parent to rescue them and will ‘play off’ parents against each other in order to cope with their anxious feelings.  When this kind of reaction sets in, if you are the parent who perceives rejection, what you do next can be the difference between helping your child to cope and pushing your child into full rejection of you.  Its not your fault, when your child is showing an alienation reaction its extremely difficult to know what to do but whatever you do, it has to be done carefully, attentively and gently.  You have to keep love in your heart and patience in your actions, children who begin to show these signs are telling you that they cannot cope with the psychological space between you and their other parent and, most significantly, what is filling that space.  Chances are, what is filling that space is mild to moderate negativity which spikes now and then and disappears for a time.  This will be related to how you and your child’s other parent relate to each other and whether there are external issues impacting upon you both.   If you watch your child’s reactions, keeping a diary if you can, you will see that when things are tough in the space in between your child’s behaviour will become more problematic, when things are calm and quiet, their behaviour subsides and disappears. Children in these circumstances are like super powerful emotional weather vanes, it doesn’t take much to swing them round to stormy or back again to calm.

One of the biggest issues we come across at the Family Separation Clinic is the problem of the parent who has decided or been told that their child is being alienated.  These parents come to us, often from father’s rights forums, telling us that their child has been alienated and they need help to deal with that.  Given that alienation is a rare phenomenon which can take a lot of painstaking months to raise in the court process, this kind of presentation is very difficult to deal with.  How does one introduce the notion, for example, that a parent has contributed to the child’s rejecting position, especially when they have already been told that their child has definitely been alienated and should be treated.  The truth of the matter is it is a very difficult road to unpick and help to resolve a child’s rejection when it is not alienation which has caused it but the tangle between two parents determined to enact their rights and get their own way over the care and control of children.  Yes, many many dads suffer the horrible and cruel experience of being pushed out of their child’s life on a day to day basis and yes, many dads do experience a sort of hybrid alienation but not all children who decide that they can no longer cope with the toxicity between parents are alienated. Some withdraw until the storm passes, which can take time if two adults are intent on prolonging the problems between them, some soldier on, withdrawing only when it really gets impossible.  Understanding where your children are and taking the emotional temperature of the weather between you and your child’s other parent is a much faster way of improving things for your child than becoming fixated on a self given diagnosis of parental alienation and refusing to let go of that come what may.

But some parents are indeed alienators and where those alienators exist you will find conditions which are fairly similar although of course each case of alienation has its own typifications.  Alienators act in ways that are designed to make you and not they the ones who are scrutinised and you and not they the recipient of blame.  Alienators will often try to convince the world (and you) that you are mad/bad/dangerous to know and will sweetly smile and be ever so co-operative whilst all the while ensuring that they are setting you up for a fall.  Alienators are clever, cruel and often very very cold people without empathy, but they understand other people, especially you, very very well.  When an alienator has you in their sights you must be careful because what they are most skilled at doing is throwing attention onto you.  If you wriggle and squirm and jump with fury like a worm on a hook when an alienator has you at their mercy you will soon be swallowed alive.  Alienators look for people they can manage and manipulate. In order to know an alienator you have to know yourself very very well indeed because knowing yourself better than the alienator is to be able to protect yourself when they come fishing for your soul.

But there is an accompanying player on the alienation scene, this is the parent who, whilst fervently declaring that they are alienated, is busy projecting blame onto the other parent in order to make them appear to be the alienator.  This is a controversial concept I know but it is one which, in our work with families where children reject a parent, we must take into consideration if we are to get the treatment route right for the child involved.  The double bluffing alienating parent is one who simply cannot or will not accept that their child is withdrawing because of things that they have done as well as what the other parent has contributed, this parent will stick fast with their blame projection, seeing nothing whatsoever wrong in their own behaviour which in fact can be one of the major contributions to a child’s withdrawal.

And herein lies the problem of Gardener’s original concept of parental alienation and the way in which it is widely used by many parents who face children’s rejection.  In this world there HAS to be a determined, conscious and wicked alienating parent and a blameless, innocent parent who has done nothing at all to cause the dynamic which has created the situation.  As Professor Bala from Queen’s University in Ontario Canada repeatedly states however – ‘It is very rare that Hitler marries Mother Theresa….’ and yet that is the concept that we come up against time and again in the field that we work in where hybrid cases are so much more common than the very rare phenomenon which is pure or severe alienation.

I understand why so many parents who face rejection want it to be about the other parent being wicked and conscious of what they are doing.  It is painful enough to face a child’s withdrawal, to have to accept some responsibility for that too is like scalding an already open wound.  But it is this acceptance, when a child is captured in conflicted dynamics, which has to be achieved if change is to come.  In our work with families, we take parents back to the original dynamic between them, educating, informing and supporting them to understand their own contribution and helping them to change.  This is undertaken in many ways, through coaching, counselling, psycho-education and by increasing the confidence of a parent to arrive at the place we know will make a difference to children, acceptance and withdrawal of cross projected blame and a refocus upon the parent/child relationship.  In a hybrid case, this is the only way that the complex tangled web of emotions can be untangled and, if achieved, with time and patience, the prognosis for reunification, repair and restoration of a normal relationship is very good indeed.

I have been watching reports of reunification recently and the comments that go with them with interest.  It is clear to me that for some parents, the passage of time, the emergence from the danger zone years of 8-14 and the maturing child’s emotional and psychological self brings the necessary changes that lead to a child looking for their lost parent.  Whilst these children have been captured on the alienation spectrum however, it is highly unlikely that they were purely alienated in the first place but rather that they were captured in an impossible double bind that caused them to withdraw.  The difference?  A purely or severely alienated child could take well over two decades to reach a point where they seek out the lost parent and it remains unlikely that they will do so without help.  Similarly, purely or severely alienated children are noticeable by the ongoing mental health problems that they are likely to face, the broken relationships left behind them and the narcissistic tendencies that they are likely to display.  If your child returns to you in late teens or early twenties and has been gone less than ten years, it is highly unlikely that they were purely or severely alienated and thank heavens for it.  If you are there when they return and well and healthy and able to focus on what they need and not the reasons for their rejection in the first place, you will both be onto a winning streak in which your lives as you could and should have continued them, can now fall back into step.

Alienation is a complicated and deeply concerning reaction and in its pure or severest form there are usually personality disorders behind it and other worrying child protection issues.  The rarity of the issue when it presents in this form is why it is so vital to understand that not all withdrawal is alienation and the difference in treatment routes that are required to resolve it.

If you face a severe alienation situation you are not going to resolve that through therapy, through adjusting your own behaviour, through waiting or being patient.  The only true remedy in a pure or severe case is removal and when that occurs, the miracle of the phobic, howling, terrified, vicious, lying and fantasy dwelling child who turns back into their normal self, can be seen to occur.  But these are rare cases, so rare that I have only seen a handful in my work in this field and when I do see them I know them without a shadow of a doubt.  Children in these circumstances are, in my opinion, being terribly abused emotionally and psychologically and liberating them from this is an absolute priority.  Parental alienation, in this form is horrendous to witness and very different in many ways to the hybrid cases which are far less dramatic and far less easy to resolve.

If your practitioner tells you that your case is that of a hybrid reaction it lies in your own hands with the help of your therapist and other support workers to deal with your own behaviour first and then the dynamic between you and your child’s other parent.  This is the biggest ask of all for all parents facing rejection but it is the swiftest, cleanest and most healing route to repair of your relationship with your child.  Taking on this concept when you are the one being rejected is a herculean task but take it on you must. Recognising the difference between pure and severe and hybrid alienation is the first step. Understanding the difference is the next. And all of those who campaign about and discuss parental alienation will do the people that they work with a great big favour by doing the same.




125 thoughts on “It’s not always alienation (and why it’s important to understand that)”

  1. Reblogged this on The Story of my Twin Boys , Oliver and Oscar Ferreira and commented:
    Hi Karen , thank you once again for a great article , lots to think about indeed but if the alienator is not allowing you to see your little ones or work on things I belief honestly the hybrid model you mention does in fact become full blown alienation , maybe that is how I feel personally as I have only been allowed to see our boys for less than 10 hours in 13 months , tomorrow a month they will be 3 , I know by now they don’t even know who I am anymore and I think that also makes my views on PAS so strong. Breaks my heart but it’s all about control for the other parent and her family !

    Hope you are having a good weekend 🙂

    Kind Regards,

    Phill Ferreira

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes. For most of us this must be the case. The road back to a meaningful relationship with our chidren rests in our own hands and in the things that we do. We can lay blame and scream injustice for all our might but nothing will change, not one iota until we change the way we behave. It is only by constant examination of our own behaviour and listening to those whose reunification paths have been successful that we can hope to move forwards.
    Granted this is a difficult path to take, especially when we may have already laid the blame squarely at the feet of our ex,. (e.g. by providing a label, “parental alienation” that exonerates ourselves from responsibility) but it is the only way back, There is no shame in admitting responsibility, even for things/attitudes/events for which we ackowledge no responsibility.
    What we need to recover is our strength in our self-belief and positive view of humanity. Perhaps gradually our egos, our desire to prove ourselves right, will be replaced by a more accomodating self in line with a more empathic view.

    There is a role for us in the “play” of family life. We must find a way to act it out which includes and accepts the vagaries of our former partner and allows our children to benefit from their parents differing personalities and often contrary and paradoxical ways.

    Kind regards


    1. I concur absolutely. The chemistry may well be significant, so, changing the elements may alter the reaction. But, even at the severe end of the alienation spectrum, I think that the alienated parent needs to be aware of a role they are possibly fulfilling for the alienator. When the alienator fails to achieve the expected reaction there is a possibility that they will be encouraged to internalise whatever emotions they may have been transferring or projecting. Unsettling the equilibrium in any way possible is one of the few ways available of breaking the impasse. Doing the same things and expecting different outcomes is seldom more pointless if you ever really want anything to change.


  3. Thanks for this, Karen. I believe in my case that the dynamic between myself and my ex played a part in my children’s rejection of me. I have really only come to this thought relatively recently in my now 18 years in the wilderness.

    At the time my ex used to tell the children, erroneously, that I would not pay for food for them, that I would not pay the rent, she arranged many reasons why they would not be available for my visits, and I recently found out that she would have the children waiting for me on some of my visits which had been cancelled by her – only to tell the children that “your dad has not lived up to his promise to visit”. One telling thing was that she had my name in her mobile phone as “The Devil”.

    My children were 8 & 10 then.

    So, looking back, the children were in an absolute bind and I simply did not know what was going on – my head was spinning – just did not know what to do or how to react. I wish your blog had been going then!

    I digress, I believe your assessment is correct in that the dynamic between the 2 parents is more key to the solution than trying to repair the child’s perception. The problem, as I see it, is how do you try to reason with someone who believes you are the devil?


    1. My friend, let me guess and correct me if I am wrong. It is actually her who has problem with temper and anger. It is her who slammed doors and broke dishes, or something like that. But, she turned it to be your fault, and only yours. And let me guess – she used to say that if you aren’t around she has no anger issues. However, once you weren’t around anymore she still was getting angry. Is that so?


  4. Karen, in this and a number of your recent blogs, you have advised rejected parents to be there “well and healthy” in order for the rejecting child to pick up the relationship where they left off.

    But, when a rejecting child renews contact with the parent they rejected, that parent is often a stranger to them, in appearance, values and lifestyle.

    Can a rejected parents life remain in statis until their children are ready to return? Should a rejected parent refuse career progression, house moves, marriage or further children in order to ensure that the child who rejected them returns to a familiar parent, home and lifestyle?

    It seems like a contradiction for a rejected parent to sustain themselves ‘healthy and well’ and yet, at the same time, remain unchanged as a person. By the very nature of separation and divorce, parents discover new aspects to their personality and often make significant life changes – which often result in the secondary parent becoming unfamiliar to the child. This seems to contribute to the rejection, particularly if the changes are unwelcome to the primary parent.

    How can rejected parents continue to ‘live’ their lives while at the same time wait patiently at the end of the tunnel for their children to emerge?


    1. In my experience, although limited, changes have proven to be far more constructive than destructive. It’s something i also considered but need not have worried about.

      I think that lifestyle / personal changes are good things for helping to question the alienator’s propaganda. Any observed differences with the alienator’s script will beg questions. They can provide the “seeds of doubt” that Karen has spoken of earlier.

      If not they will certainly add to “the seeds of doubt” which caused them to renew contact.


    2. Hi Rachel

      I think it’s important to understand that the message is absolutely not that parents should live life in stasis.

      Children who are coming out of an alienation reaction carry significant amounts of deeply embedded negative feelings such as guilt and shame. When a child emerges from an alienation state, therefore, it is critical that they are able to encounter the parent that they have rejected as being a whole and healthy individual who can accept them without question, judgement or recrimination.

      Far from remaining unchanged, being whole and healthy invariably requires a parent to have processed huge amounts emotional and psychological material and will, almost by definition, be a different person.

      The danger for parents who are dealing with alienation is that they become so consumed by the awfulness of their experiences that they are unable to provide the returning child with the unquestioning, secure and stable relationship that the child needs.

      Regards, Nick.


    3. If you progress at your job, move to a better place, marry someone who makes you happy – aren’t you becoming more “well and healthy”? Yes, you are!
      What doesn’t change, however, is your love for your child. By becoming more “well and healthy” you’re removing those debris that caused barriers between you and your child, which an alienator successfully used.
      So, there is no contradiction. Better yourself as a person, and keep love for your child as an everlastingly burning fire.
      That’s what I’m doing. Lost weight, became healthier, happier. Good thing that only 1 of 2 children is alienated; my youngest is seeing me and he is more and more happy to be around me. He sent me a text message just yesterday, look I cope and paste it “Dad I Love you. You are a true Blessing by God”. I took him bike riding yesterday 🙂


  5. Very important post Karen, we need clear definitions of what alienation is and what it isn’t and how common it is as well. I remember reading an article on co-narcissism, which to me said that people with personality disorders as you say pick on people they can control, but also the people they pick on allow themselves to be controlled. Something I have seen a couple of times is that the parent who has been controlled leaves the relationship and deals with the problems in their own psychology that have caused them to be controlled. This is unacceptable to the controlling partner left behind who finds this “changed” person whom they can no longer control almost frightening. Not good outcomes for the children there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kat, was that the Alan Rappaport article here?

      Click to access Co-Narcissism%20Article.pdf

      I told my wife I was divorcing her in order to break her continuing attempts to control me post-separation. She responded by ending my contact with our daughter and then using the then compulsory (in order to qualify for legal aid for divorce proceedings) mediation appointment to make false allegations against me.

      Probably another example of what you describe…


  6. Thanks Karen. A difficult and painful but important post, like your recent post about fathers who don’t care about their children. We need to avoid becoming mirror-images of our opponents, be they Intransigent Resident Parent waging a war of character assassination against her (or, less commonly, his) ex, or Feminist Hardliner who can’t conceive of a woman making a false abuse allegation or harming her child (unless a man is making her do it).

    But a highly adversial family justice system doesn’t make it easy. If I admit to being a less-than-perfect parent, I expose weaknesses in my defences that can be prised open ruthlessly by the counsel representing Intransigent Resident Parent, who of course never admits to any such shortcomings of their own. Imagine me trying to suggest in this mudslinging environment that my daughter’s case is one of hybrid but not pure, alienation? But if it’s hybrid, maybe it’s not really alienation at all, is it Mr H? It’s your own failings that have turned your daughter against you, isn’t it? &c. &c.

    Almost total lack of contact post-separation doesn’t make it easy, either, as Phil Ferreira points out above. I honestly don’t know where my daughter stands on the alienation spectrum, because her mother was so successful in blocking contact, apart from a few sessions in contact centres. In the end I was reduced to inferring my daughter’s state of mind from scraps of evidence, like those Soviet-era kremlinologists who tried to work out what was really going on in Moscow from observing which Party boss was standing where on the podium. I asked to send my daughter a present for her 8th birthday; the Guardian replied that my daughter had said maybe, then a day later had said no. Does that mean she was still open to me at some level but that her mother then told her to say no, or that she was tempted by the present but repelled at the thought of it coming from me? Who knows?


    1. Exactly…you have taken the words out of my mouth. Thank you and if my blog in enclosed re: Responsible Parity of Parenting et al, I hope you will read, support and broadcast it everywhere and through all media outlets..
      Again, thank you,
      (Dr.) NM


  7. Very informative article – and not easy to understand (or should that be accept)…

    I have had no relationship with my children for few years now. I miss them so much. I love them that much and more.

    Having spent time doing some introspection recently, I have been shocked to find how I myself actually have inner blocks within me that perhaps I actually don’t want to have contact. Gulp! I think the reasons are twofold – it is a way to cope with the rejection of the children who were/are everything to me; and also because I have got used to my current lifestyle and any change would mean going through the very difficult change cycle as defined by Kubler-Ross.

    Introspection is not easy. Removing blocks is not easy. But there are tools to help in taking on this Herculean task – which do I must!

    Slowly, as the blocks are melting away, I am also noticing a change within. Oddly enough, something that happened recently is this – I was commuting home on the train earlier this week and I thought I saw my elder child. Of course it wasn’t. Less then half an hour later I thought I saw my younger child. But of course it wasn’t as well. Whilst I was relieved that it wasn’t them because I wouldn’t know how to approach them, I was certainly not as frightened and shaking at the knees as I would have some weeks and months ago.

    Will certainly keep working on myself – even if it may be because there is nowt else that I can do.

    Some very interesting points have been posted here. Looking forward to learning from the answers.


  8. This may be a somewhat contrary view, but personally I think we have a problem as long as we continue to hold to the Gardener definition of alienation as standard. Crime moves on. That was then…this is now. At that time the alienator got more from the situation by the child being so blatant in their hostility. Now the entire aim of the game is to cover up the crime and make it look as if the alienated parent is overreacting and unable to cope with normal developmental processes in the child.

    Consequently, as you say, the type of Gardener alienation you describe is now relatively rare. For me, the alienation has simply disguised its nature. The alienation is consequently, just as you describe – now even more difficult to address. However, I’m honestly very uncomfortable with the idea of ‘hybrid alienation’. This seems like obfuscating the issue.

    “My child is hybrid alienated against me” – where is that going to get us?

    You describe the nature of the alienator very well, but the protestations of Professor Bala don’t seem very helpful in this context. In my experience the alienator character very frequently seems to be drawn to someone whose overwhelming genuineness and compassion is beyond doubt. There is a huge amount of deception involved on the part of the alienator. To then cast doubt on the role of the alienated parent IS to rub salt in the wound, and sounds very much like some residual need to blame the victim.

    I would have thought that when examined closely, the alienated parent is very unlikely to present as being without fault, or unwilling to embrace the need for personal development. That is not necessarily the nature of the dynamic here at all. An alienated parent may be doing their utmost to hold up belief in the human potential of the alienator, but to pretend that the abuse is not happening – is simply to support the absurd drama that the alientor is trying to maintain to the children and everyone else.

    Quite frankly, an alienating parent is most likely going to be someone with a significant mental health problem, whereas the alienated parent will generally not have, except to be suffering the effects of the attack on them.

    Can we be a bit more clear about this?

    Separating parents without a mental health problem issue in the mix – will likely not come into this alienation scenario at all.

    Put it another way, it would seem evident that there is a lot of undiagnosed mental health issues at play here in the alienation arena. I would suggest that as soon as we see any level of alienation emerging, this would be an indicator of mental health issues that need to be examined.

    I’m not saying the scenario you describe of tension between parents causing withdrawal doesn’t happen…but rather that the alienation process may be a lot more insinuous than seems to be acknowledged here. The aim of the alienator will be exactly to pretend that the alienation is as a result of mutual tension, when actually it is not at all.


    1. Woodman, the issue of blame and innocence is a constant theme in alienation cases but interestingly it is NOT often present in the pure cases where parents are less concerned about the behaviour of the other parent than they are about their children. Where the focus is constantly on the other parent and there is consistent blame projection in place – and where I hear the phrase, ‘how is categorisation of hybrid alienation going to help me?’ I see fixed and determined cross projection of blame from the parent who says they are being alienated. Categorisation of hybrid alienation helps you because it means the remedy remains in your hands, YOU can do things to change the dynamic as well as the people supporting you. I know that you and others would feel better if you were able to say its pure or severe because it means alleviating a sense of responsibility perhaps but it doesn’t help your child, not in the slightest to call it pure or severe if it is not. Professor Bala is a hugely respected clinician and has produced some seriously effective work in Canada, its quite wrong to dismiss him as being someone without import. Learning from his work offers a sophisticated and nuanced way of working with the problem and one which CAFCASS do understand and accept. I will give you a good example of why categorising all alienation as the same is both a nonsense and a wate of time. I work with alienated children every week, I have worked with families where a hybrid reaction has been treated with the remedy of choice for pure or severe cases and frankly the outcme has been abusive to the child concerned who faced the same dynamic only in reverse and who eventually went back to the parent they were originally living with as the father had expected a miraculous change which did not happen and could not cope when it didn’t.


      1. This is the first time the majority of us will have heard of Prof Bala’s work and I’m sure we will have no reason to dismiss it at all. I imagine all of us can understand that there are the two types and don’t have an issue with that as such.

        His description of alignment with the parent who has the most power (essentially financial) is entirely accurate, I’m sure we will all agree.

        It has just seemed an awkward terminology to us because the “hybrid” model described as such – it seems overwhelmingly clear – is now by far the PREDOMINANT type, with the so-called “pure” type now very rare.

        Again, we would agree that this is, if anything, the more difficult version, because as a variety of Stockholm Syndrome – this conditioning is so deeply present in the child’s mind, that even when he or she appears completely free to make their own decisions…the invisible chains bind them as tightly to their captor as ever…so that in some cases, this is even able to continue – despite the alienator no longer being alive.

        We obviously all agree fully with Prof Bala’s presumption of the necessity for shared parenting and a balance of power to exist as a priority.

        What I feel needs to be identified is that this is a mental health issue. Alienation of ANY kind = psychopathic personality. Therefore it is necessary to identify the perpetrator accurately.

        My daughter did this in her own terms – at age 11. “Daddy”, she said to me, “I have one rough parent – and one gentle parent”.

        Simple, straightforward, and accurate.

        I am very sure that I am not alone in this situation – this will be typical of many, if not most of us.

        The women’s rights movement has been trading off the mental health problems of the minority of women in this category. As Erin Pizzey has said, when you look at the leaders of the gender feminist movement over the last 30/40 years, you see a predominance of psychologically damaged women coming from dysfunctional backgrounds.

        The women who resist shared parenting are those who will have been dominated in some way in their lives and now insist on dominance – for the purpose of (a) taking revenge against their pasts and (b) in order to prevent such a situation of being dominated – existing again. It is a highly neurotically charged situation, and I think there will be little headway until we all understand the entire phenomenon – as a significant mental health crisis.

        Until the majority of women who are not so psychologically damaged – begin to understand that it is psychologically damaged women who have been calling the shots and dictating to them and us all as to how we should live…we will get nowhere fast.


      2. Its of little use picking what you like from Prof Bala and dismissing the rest of it woodman, he is one of the most respected researchers in this field and although you have not heard of him he has been presenting on PA in this country for several years. Time to listen and learn perhaps.


      3. Karen, a number of issues to address.

        Firstly, of COURSE there are women who have been affected. I met one myself a couple of years ago and it really was a heart-rending situation where the woman seemed too traumatized to even receive help – as the alienation had become so entrenched (and these were now adult children).

        However I suspect that in over 90% of cases, currently – it WILL be women who are attacking men in this way. It would be good to have the figures confirmed, so that it clearly is very much accepted as being a gender issue?

        It is good to know that there are a number of practitioners in this area, and I don’t believe we are not dismissing their work at all – we simply haven’t known of it. Even if we had the time to examine the work, I imagine that these kind of specialist publications will be very expensive, and so difficult for many of us to explore. If it was possible to us to have an overview of the various approaches then that would be helpful. I’m sure all of us here are ready to listen and learn.

        Meanwhile, we do have to be guided by our instincts, together with whatever other support we can draw on.

        I’m sure that we would all agree with the necessity for the individual approach that you take, however there do definitely seem to be some broad common characteristics that can be identified here, and surely this can be an ideal place to outline them?

        The majority of us are not able to take our cases to your clinic, and there are no other clinics that we can go to…so all we are left with is to grapple with the dynamics of our situation as best we can, and understanding what has happened to us a group, as fully as possible – is important.

        We are glad if PA is starting to get recognized, but I don’t imagine that many of us will have felt any effects on the ground as of yet.

        Initially, it would be valuable to know what proportion of separating parents (and that does mean essentially fathers) experience at least some degree of parental alienation. Could it even be as high as 50% or more, I wonder? I wouldn’t be surprised at all. And what percentage more serious alienation?

        One therefore has to ask why this is happening? It seems clear enough to me that the single parent family has subtly been promoted by gender feminists as preferable to the traditional joint parenting family – as the sharing of power with men is clearly ideologically not acceptable to this form of feminism.

        There has therefore been increasing social pressure on women – to engineer separations in the first place. All one now has to do – is to fail to cooperate with your partner, create arguments…and that is it – the joint family is over. Often women wait until they have had several children with a man and the children are of an age where they are more independent. The female typically gains total control over the children and family resources – the male typically loses most or all of these.

        The women who are attracted to this scenario, therefore, are those who need to have maximum control, and are unwilling to share power. The more psychologically damaged the woman is, the more likely this is to be the case. This kind of psychological damage is not necessarily a new phenomenon – but the social restraints which previously prevented its manifestation – have slowly been eroding.

        These women will, for the most part – not be rejecting of men as the lesbian separatists will have been, but be setting out to exploit them. They will be highly seductive and manipulative…and it can be extremely difficult for us to know what is going on. Most of us family men have been entirely unprepared for all this as an eventuality, taken in as we may well have been, by the romance of the entire prospect of having everything that goes to make up a family life – precisely because this is so important to us.

        Setting out on the ‘journey of single motherhood’ enables women to indulge in their fantasy of the ‘ideal’ partner – while in reality their lives will instead usually consist of multiple exploitations of different men (as well as the neglect of the children, without the protective presence of the biological father).

        The males who are co-opted into this situation (because they are not the biological father) will invariably (there will occasionally be exceptions, of course) have low status and authority in regard to the children, but may nevertheless be good providers. All ideal – for the would-be domineering female.

        This is the scenario that the gender feminists wish to see written large over our entire society, and if this is what the majority of women (continue to?) agree to accept – then that is exactly what will happen.

        This, to me, is the overall situation of parental alienation in which we find ourselves. How we deal with the individual settings is obviously down to the skilled interventions which might exist – but then these are ‘rarer than hen’s teeth’.

        When I have said ‘robust’, I haven’t meant that these measures should lack in compassion or insensitivity. It is just that we need to recognize that we may be dealing with individuals (mainly females, again, remember) with anything up to psychopathic levels of need for domination and control, and who may even become extremely violent if they don’t feel that they are getting their way…or are about to lose aspects of their lives (however abusive they are being) that they have come to believe are indisputably theirs.

        This is not a problem which is going to be able to be addressed by anybody – male or female – who is not totally committed to the understanding that ANY domination, by anyone, male or female, is unacceptable. And simply put, I simply haven’t heard this yet – as openly discussing the whole subject of female domination – seems to have been almost taboo.


  9. Thank you Karen for yet another superbly written and thought provoking article. One statement resonated.
    ‘It is very rare that Hitler marries Mother Theresa….’

    Around the time of my daughter’s conception and birth I was a support worker in a secure unit. I mainly supported people diagnosed with personality disorders. All of them were offenders that were detained under the mental health act. Some of the crimes they’d committed were serious. Sometimes, it was a challenging environment that required strict boundaries, an immense amount of patience and a very thick skin. Other times it was great fun. Most of these people could be extremely good company and personable. Unless you’d been warned you would not realise what they were capable of. Even when you had been warned it was often hard to believe. But, occasional, violent, carefully planned and remorseless attacks provided reality checks and helped keep ones feet firmly upon the ground.

    After a particularly testing day it dawned on me that the behaviour I was experiencing at home was actually worse than anything I was contending with at work. I aired my worries with colleagues and they advised me. Alarm bells rang loudly and I shouted but no one would listen to my concerns: not a single person. The closest I managed to get to a reaction was a health visitor who assessed the ex for PND using the Edinburgh scale. This is such a transparent device that most early learners could use to engineer the outcome they want. The truth was that I had every reason to be very worried. The pregnancy had been merrily portrayed as “a happy accident”. However, the dated packs of unused contraceptive pills, which I discovered around the same time, told a different story. Here was someone who believed her own propaganda and was capable of deceit on a monumental scale.

    The reality slowly unfolded and continues to unfold years later. I think that, aware that her biological clock was ticking, this lady took unusual risks with her choice of target. I had been successfully targeted, groomed and isolated but the reactions were not entirely as she planned. Given the ambivalence of any support services walking away has never been an option.

    My point is that true personalities and the amount of polarisation between individuals in a relationship all take time to emerge. I’ve watched how people with PDs give the impression of closeness or intimacy but they can manage close relationships and friendships carefully so that no one gets too close. Their persona is important and gets guarded jealously. Also, the ones in secure units are the ones that have been caught. The most effective ones will always avoid detection. There are far more on the outside than the inside.

    In reality there are lots of people not as bad as Hitler just as there are lots of people not as good as mother Theresa. In this grey area there is far more scope for high degrees of polarisation than prof. Bala’s example would lead us to believe. Furthermore, the incidence of BPD and NPD in the general population is surprisingly high. Therefore, it would be fair to suspect that pure alienation is more widespread than thought. There are also categories of possible brainwashing and alienation that may never appear in a family court, at a therapist or in any statistics. These include:

    • Where a mother deliberately gets herself pregnant and the father is never told. The child is completely alienated from the natural father and a narrative evolves to conceal the truth.
    • Those parents that realise what they are up against and walk away. Again, an alienating narrative can evolve to deceive and minimise the chances of ever reuniting.
    • Parents of older children who are aware of the credence given to wishes and feelings reports. Legal battles are then futile.

    An appraisal of the purpose that alienation fulfils for the true alienator must rely largely upon second hand accounts of their behaviour. Characters such as “Jane”, in Thomas Moore’s book will go to great pains to avoid engagement with any professionals. Furthermore, I have witnessed even second division PDs run rings around their therapists. These people will be careful to favourably censor any statements they make and will ensure that they only ever divulge what they want other people to hear. The courts and CAFCASS are comparative child’s play to deal with. This is especially so when, there is more than one family court advisor, some communications are not recorded and people simply don’t talk to each other. In failing to do so they are complicit in the alienation process by giving the alienator every opportunity to gauge reactions and edit/ modify their arguments. They are effectively helping the alienator improve their craft and thereby ensuring the perpetuation of emotional abuse.


  10. Professor Bala’s concept of ‘It is very rare that Hitler marries Mother Theresa’ is similar to the dismissive statement of ‘it takes two to tango’ that third parties would use to approach knotty problems presented to them (by warring partners) for a piece of advice. It is a quick approach, and as with conventional wisdom fails in remedying Alienation.

    Imagine this scenario: A spouse knew very well why a partner’s first marriage failed, but still went into a marriage with this divorcee, only with the intention that where the spouse’s quest for control fails then blackmail with the failed marriage would work. So when the spouse alleged domestic violence, supporting it on the previous divorce of the divorcee the Social Services (Family Section), without any investigation bought that and went on to sow the seed of alienation by providing support to the spouse alleging domestic violence. This was a true experience,

    In the above scenario, after no findings were made in 2 separate family court prosecutions, one police investigation (which actually showed the spouse to be lying) and one criminal prosecution (of contempt of court), it would be adding salt to injury telling the alienated parent that it ‘takes two to tango’ or that rarely ‘Hitler marries Mother Theresa’.

    Approaching Alienation on that basis, just as conventional wisdom does, would only perpetuate it. Whilst there are cases that may fall under the ‘hybrid’, there needs to be a threshold that really makes the case a ‘hybrid’. Any expectation that the alienated parent has to be 100 (or even 90)% in the clear for the case to be seen as pure Alienation will be inhuman.

    Identifying the spouse with personal, rather than family agenda at the onset of the Alienation process, and dealing directly with the spouse (rather than diluting the spouse’s action with ‘hybridisation’ and ‘Hitler rarely marries Mother Theresa’ concepts), in my opinion, is one sure way of nipping alienation from the bud before it blossoms


    1. See my post above, I do not agree for all the reasons I have set out and diluting the issue is simply a nonsense, Prof bala has undertaken significant and dedicated research into this, including work with families over several years and has obtained excellents results. Hybrid cases are not diluting the issue at all, they are getting closer to the reality and dealing with it instead of proclaiming all alienation is the same which is a nonsense and doesn’t help anyone, least of all children.


  11. Like Woodman I am not comfortable with the term ‘hybrid alienation’. Likewise, and as others have said, in the adversarial family court system, how is admitting to being partially to blame going to help protect our children? I may as well give my ex a loaded gun and tell her to shoot me with it!

    As has also been said, crime moves on. Perhaps Gardner’s criteria for ‘full on’ parental alienation needs to be ‘re calibrated’. In particular to take account of the adversarial nature of family courts and persistence of gender bias, but also the way in which for example social media can now be used and abused as another very effective tool of the alienator.

    I have followed your blogs now for a number of years Karen and always found them very interesting and informative, but I am afraid this one has left me feeling rather confused, and wondering what could I have done, and what can I do?

    Like many other alienated parents (and I am sorry but I am not sure what else to call us, and hybrid alienated parent is a mouthful and frankly sounds a bit odd), I am not afraid to admit that I am not perfect and over the years I could have done things differently.

    Of course, the very fact I admit that I am not perfect and could have done things differently implies, at least to a Judge/Cafcass/ex etc, that I consider the actions I did take were wrong, and that there was a better way more beneficial to the children.

    However, and I am sure many alienated parents will be able to relate to this, throughout my own situation there have been many occasions when I have had to make difficult decisions about what to do in particular situations.

    These are difficult decisions because more often than not the situation appears to have been deliberately manipulated in such a way that none of the possible options for what I can do are likely to be beneficial for the children, I am dammed if do and damned if I don’t.

    I do not have a manual on how to deal with it, or a crystal ball. Often I know the choice I make may cause the children a degree of distress in the short term, but I try to choose the option that will be best for them overall and in the longer term.

    There might have been a different way, or ways, of doing things, but none were really a better way, just different routes to the same destination, one in which the kids do not spend any time with, or are even able to communicate in any way with me or the rest of my family.

    In its simplest form, this manifests itself in the dilemma faced by many alienated parents, whether to pursue ‘contact’ (horrible term), or back off, give the kids some space, and let them come around in their own time.

    Whether contact is pursued directly with the child, the other parent, or through attempts at mediation, or court action, it certainly can have the result of pushing the child even further away, and without effective intervention the parent child relationship is disrupted.

    However, easing off and giving the child time and space to do what is supposedly their own thing can produce the same net result, one where they do not pursue thus, and hopefully only temporarily, lose the relationship they have with the alienated parent.

    If it takes the children less than a decade to ‘come around’ and we conclude that it is ‘hybrid alienation’ or it is several decades and we conclude that it is pure alienation, either way it is too long, those are years that are lost to them and are gone forever.

    None of us are perfect, I am not perfect. I know I could have done things differently, but I also know that without the other parent admitting to their own failings (it matters not whether those were deliberate of unintentional) and doing things differently, it does not matter what I do, the outcome in the short remains the same… kids lose half their family.

    Adding the prefix hybrid to alienation does not change that, and nor do I think it will help improve situations where children have been alienated from one of their parents.

    When Courts/Cafcass etc more readily accept that alienation does exist and is a factor post separation, then that might be the time to consider whether it is pure, hybrid, or indeed and perhaps more likely a spectrum.


    1. I understand how painful it is to accept the notion of hybrid alienation but working with alienation cases as I do day in day out, I have to say that hybrid is an excellent way of describing the majority of cases that we see. it is certainly not the case that Prof Bala is using the standard ‘it takes two to tango’ approach, far from it, he is one of the most insightful, productive, careful and dedicated people in the field and it is quite wrong for anyone to dismiss him as being someone who is not producing some amazing work on the very very complex issue of hybrid alienation, his latest book being no exception to his distinictive body of work on the issue. Hybrid may feel and sound like a difficult concept but it is a fact that the pure or severe cases are nothing like the hybrids, they are as different as chalk and cheese, the only similarity being the child’s rejection. In one however the child withdraws in a distintive pattern over time and in the other the pattern is stark, fast and hysterical, the child presents in the classic Garnderian way and shows all eight signs all of the time. Anyone who witnesses severe or pure alienation cannot help but know it, especially when compared to the hybrid cases. This is why hybrid cases are the very devil to resolve, its because they do not show the same clinical presentation and they do not show responsiveness to the remedy of removal in the same way. I know it is confusing and difficult but its of no use trying to treat a hybrid case as a pure case or understand it as a pure case if its not.

      One of the things that Prof Bala says is that the hybrids are the difficult ones to treat because the child aligns themselve to the person with most power and in a system which uses the lone parent model, that is going to be the parent who has the child benefit book. When that happens, coupled with CAFCASS reports and lack of awareness in court, the result is entrenched hybrid alienation without hope of remedy. This is why he advocates a shared parenting model, so that the power imbalance is balanced up and there can be no winner takes all in a case of transitional difficulties, instead the parents are supported to understand the transitional problems and keep on sharing the parenting so that the alienation cannot take hold. Its not that all alienation is pure alientation it is that hybrid alienation plus the lone parent model and lack of awareness leads to impossible cases to treat. But that still means that categorising all cases the same fails children and families the same. The answer is education, campaigning to raise awareness and psycho education of parents themselves to prevent it happening in the first place.


      1. Thanks Karen, this is really helpful, your last paragraph gives a perfect description of what happened with my daughter. As awareness of parental alienation grows we will have to struggle very hard to get this nuanced message across so that it does not become yet another aggrieved victim narrative.


      2. The reality is, as far as I can see, that we ARE aggrieved victims.

        When this happens to women, and they tolerate various types of assault against them – for fear of worse consequences, for example; huge efforts are made to convince them to speak up about the abuse they have suffered, on the basis that otherwise – the problems will never be addressed.

        The only problem here – is to start believing that women are ALWAYS victims, and NEVER perpetrators…the ‘victim narrative’, as you say.

        Yet when it is the other way around, and men are the victims of women…what effort is directed at us – to get us to speak up about the assaults we suffer…on precisely the same basis – that the problems will never be addressed until we do?

        My feeling is that as a group we have hardly begun to be able to tell our story yet (has there ever been any TV coverage of parental alienation – of any type, for example?) and we are a million miles away from falling into such an ‘alternative victim narrative’.


      3. Woodman, mothers are alienated too, this is not about men being victims who are not heard and women who are. PA is not one of those issues which can be divided into gendered divisions although there are gendered aspects which make mothers alienation different to fathers alienation. This is not about men as victims, it is about post separation relationships struggling to adapt to post separation situations impacted heavily by state legislation, a very very different picture to many of the victim/perpetrator stories we hear. I would fight very very hard to aboud it being decanted into such a narrative, itsnot good for children to have this issue constructed in this way.


      4. DHU, I believe that getting this nuanced understanding of PA across is absolutely what will change minds and bring wider acceptance. I see the changes in this field year on year, with somuch more acceptance and so much more willingness by courts and court professionals to listen. For example, I will shortly be publilshing an article in one of the social work journals, something unheard of previously in my work. A clear sign that PA is coming to be recognised as one of the big problems of our time. It is the work on nuanced routes and categorisation which speaks to social workers and court professionals who recognise the dynamics and understand that something needs fo be done. This is the work I willbe doing in the coming years, raising awareness as we develop treatmentroutes at the Clinc. This site will also shortly be shifting towards a greater emphasis not only on discussion but education and information as we move deeper into our work on the issues.


      5. But the thing is, if hybrid cases are the very devil to resolve, particularly when Cafcass reports fail to drill down to the root causes, and there is lack of awareness by Courts and other professionals, what exactly is a parent supposed to do when they can see that their child is missing out on the relationship with them and their extended family, for no apparent good reason, and are likely to do so with the subsequent emotional and psychological damage that could inflict upon them, possibly until they are adults themselves with their own children?

        Are we actually saying that unless it is a case of pure alienation, then there really is no hope for those children until such time comes when they can see through what has been allowed to happen to them for themselves?


    2. A deeply insightful post, Yaz. I spoke some time ago about alienation being best considered as a spectrum, as I have two autistic children and this seemed from my experience the most appropriate way of looking at the phenomenon.

      My instinct is that ALL forms of alienation require a robust intervention. It is exactly as you say…outside of this we are damned – whatever we do will always be wrong to the alienated child – at least to the extent that they have been forced to identify with the alienator.

      I would insist that a lot more than education is required. For example, educated people within the ‘caring’ services – can still be alienators.

      What is needed is the will and power to directly identify and challenge these abusive situations…whether the alienator wishes to cooperate or not – and there needs to be ‘teeth’ i.e. potential loss of liberty involved to enforce compliance towards ending this form of criminal behaviour towards children.

      My wife, for example – simply believes that (a) this country is too soft on women in general, and that (b) she herself is too violent, in particular (a high level of subliminal threat seems to work wonders) for anything to be done to curb her power.

      These dictatorial types will never give up power willingly (outside of the remote possibility of some dramatic therapeutic transformation). They will almost always have to be forced to do so.


      1. Woodman, your instinct may tell you that all forms of alienation need robust intervention but the research and the detailed evidence amassed by Bala, Fidler, Kelly, Johnson, Sauber, Bernet, Gottleib, Baker, Warshak et al suggests otherwise. Are you really telling us that your way is the right way in the face of the decades of work done by these emminent people? Instinct is what gets you into this in the first place, instead of constructingy your own way out, why not listen to the people who have helped many many families over the years? You wouldn’t assume that your instinct was right over the decades of cancer research would you? This is no different. Just like cancer, categorisation of the issue and detailed analysis of individual treatment routes do makea difference. You can listen and accept the advice or plough on creating your own ideas based on your own instinct and feelings. One might lead you to a different outcome, the other is sadly likely to give you so much more of the same.


      2. Just a small point from what you said Woodman

        ‘I would insist that a lot more than education is required. For example, educated people within the ‘caring’ services – can still be alienators.’

        From my own experiences and those of people I have met through support groups, I would most definitely agree, educated people from within the ‘caring’ services, even child care professionals, can still be alienators. The latter group should surely understand the potential damage it can cause which makes it all the harder to comprehend why people in such professions would inflict such abuse.


    3. And your solution to this Yaz is to call all alienation the same, treat it all the same and get an anwful lot of failure in order to persuade cafcass and the courts that this problem is one that should be recognised? Not a great strategy for persuading hearts and minds I’m afraid. Hybrid case of alienation do not respond well to change of residence, do you suggest we ignore that research evidence and just plough on changing residence every time alienation is an issue? How does that help children? It might help adults who are hurting and want it done their way but its hardly helpful in terms of liberating children from the dynamic is it? I worked recently with one dad who, when reunited with his daughter was triumphant over her mother because he had won his case in court. His daughter spent no longer than 3 months in his care and became seriously depressed as she realised that the very dynamic which had caused her to withdraw in the first place was still there. This is not about adult needs, its about children and getting it right for them and if parents who are in hybrid cases don’t like that and want it to be about the other parent being shown to be wicked or deficient or downright evil then the needs of the child cannot possibly be met through switching residence around. The research evidence is compelling we would be fools to ignore it and we would be failing in our duty at the clinic if we were not guided and educated by it.


      1. Karen, how well it is written! Absolutely right! How much tendency do we have to go against the other parent who has hurt us, how much vengeance may become important to us, that we may forget the main reason for all our struggles – our love for our children. To say more, we may subconsciously use our children in order to win the battle with the alienating parent. Then, how are we better? We will be doing the same thing, with the same result – hurting the child. Is it not what we want to avoid?
        No and no, I am not going to project any negativity towards the mother. I will always look at my own actions and investigate them, trying to plan my next step toward comforting my child. I will not speak negatively of the mother. And not only because I will hold my tongue. No, I will change the way I feel about her, I will see her rather as victim of this wicked system and as a broken person. And, I am still seeing my youngest, who did not become alienated from me – a true blessing! – and I will keep on encouraging him to show love to his mom.
        Thank you for this sobering reply. You replied to another person, Karen, but it opened up my eyes and gave me a great boost! With smile 🙂 thank you


  12. One of the behavioural aspects displayed by parents who have been separated from their children for a long time is the genuine fear they show when faced with the prospect of meeting their children. It’s almost as if a message inside their heads is telling them to keep away from the very children they found themselves separated from. (Presumably this is through fear of rejection or a sense of longstanding guilt amassed from extended absence).
    From the other side of a room or a view of their teenager playing happily with friends the “alienated parent” whilst remaining transfixed by the spectacle will not make the conventional moves one might expect from someone with a deep longing for reunion. Similarly they remain strangely numbed at the prospect of reaching out to their children through school, college, a third party, media or any other numerous routes accessible to them.
    Could it be that they still fear the ex, the one who still controls not only the children but also themselves? Another common theme is to proclaim that there are legal reasons which prevent reunion. Like animals with their eyes transfixed in the headlights they remain incapacitated in their ability to regain the position of parent and carer.
    Whilst the marginalised parent stubbornly insists their lives have been ruined by their ex, he/she will be telling their friends how the other parent showed little interest……….”even the Birthday cards dried up after a while”.
    It is vitally important that if you are separated from your children and are unable to help yourself then find a good counsellor. One that will boost your sense of self-worth, revive the belief that you are uniquely and incontrovertibly capable of regaining that position of parent to your children; a responsibility you will shoulder yourself whilst others dance to your tune. I am not suggesting kidnapping but I am suggesting playing the part, working alongside your ex. You don’t need his/her approval. The approval is all yours to give freely to yourself.


    1. This encapsulates everythign we say to rejected parents who are ina hybrid situation and it is beautifully articulated. You are still a parent, never stop being interested in what your child will be doing, at school, having fun, withtheir friends and their growingand changing world. Do not let the other parent take that from you, refuse to give upyour parenting even if it means you have to do it alone without your children for a time. Hnor the parent in you, do not allow the situation to corrode the truth of who you are or destroy the parent that you are. And most of all, you are so absolutely correct, you do not need anyone elses approval, its yours to give yourself, however hard it is to be kept from your children, you can and must keep a clear mind, your children need you, they always did and always will, that is why you keep on keeping on and the focus is not their other parent but them.


      1. And yet, for some (many?) that act of maintaining interest acts to entrench the alienation. A rejected parent who stays in contact with their rejecting child’s school can be further berated and despised for that by the child – with responses of “it’s nothing to do with you” “why can’t you just leave me alone?”.

        Unless schools and other professionals are prepared to support the alienated parent and not tell the rejecting child about the interest shown by the alienated parent, then any “parenting” that a rejected parent engages is, even from a distance, carries the risk of prolonging and deepening the alienation.

        Well meaning professionals, friends and relatives who use the alienated parents interest as evidence to the child of their parents love, are only making things worse.


      2. Rachel, I fear that there is too much generalising going on in this discussion, you and woodman are both saying that some (or many) experience similar things, this is one of the really big problems we have in this field when we are trying to assist families, generalising, in an effort to find strength from other people sharing the same experience doesn’t help you in the long term.

        Every case is different, I know that this is the much despised statement from CAFCASS but please please listen when we tell you that every case IS different and every family situation has its own typifications which require detailed analysis and a good deal of time spent with you to understand your particular case. Although families share the experience of being rejected, that is the only thing that they have in common that can be assumed. For some families, support by other professionals to show children that they are still loved will be enough to change a child’s resistance, in others it will make no difference, in others still it will make it worse. The only thing that you can say in any confidence Rachel is that in your case it made it worse. I have worked in many case where children have responded well to schools letting them know that dad or mum is coming in to see their work, this has been because the child was unaware that the parent loved them or was present in any significant way. In others children are confronted by the reality of their parent which heightens the guilt and shame that They feel which is then compounded by anger which is used defensively. This appears to entrench an alienation reaction but it actually shows that the child is having to work very very hard to keep those feelings of guilt and shame at bay, feelings they wish to avoid at all costs because underneath are the feelings of love that they have split off and they absolutely do not want to feel those loving feelings because to do so places them back in the impossible position they were in in the first place, that of trying to love two parents across a toxic divide.

        It serves you, or woodman or Yaz or anyone else to believe that there are generic cases and generic ways of thinking and talking about the alienation you are suffering, the only way you can get closer is to understand your own case as closely as you possibly can, understand your own part as well as the other parent’s part and most of all know yourself inside out and back to front and work out what you can do to change the small things you can change on a daily basis whilst looking at the wider picture regularly and working out whether there is anything you can do to change that. Its a constant active process which had to involve you staying fully connected to your belief that you have the right to be the parent you are and that your children need you, because they do,no matter how they respond in the face of what you do. Its not easy coming around to that place that Nick speaks of but if you do it you will never ever regret it, it is the very foundation of a positive future with your children.


    2. Thank you. That was really insightful and it is just what I needed to hear. I have almost become paralyzed for fear of rejection, devastating pain or being set up to react just as the alienator hoped I would. Please make sure that there are frequent posts reminding targeted parents what not to do. I made all the mistakes.


  13. If each case is different, and it is not possible to ‘generalise’, then how can rejected parents know if the advice you have given to “refuse to give up your parenting” applies to them or not? You say that rejected parents should “never give up being interested”, and yet say that as each case is different, so by doing that, some parents will make things worse.

    Rejected parents are seeking solutions, and your blog seems to give them – yet when it doesn’t work for individuals, the response is that each case is different and there is no “one size fits all” solution.

    Is there not a risk that by following the advice you give, there will be as many fractured relationships that are further damaged as there are which are resolved?


    1. Rachel, we are bery very clear at the Clinic, we cannot and do not give generic advice and, if you read this blog carefully, you will see that the only generic advice we give to any alienated parent is to stay well and healthy and to do the work of healing the self so that when the child returns the conditions will be right. We are asked many times to give advice about cases but we do not do so without detailed assessment, precisely because we know that every case is different. What you describe in terms of following advice on here is that you are taking advice and putting it together as you see fit, that isn’t really what this site is for and it is very important to understand, by lookign through the site carefully that we flag that up many times over. If you need advice we tailor it to suit your circumstances, its just not possible to give it generically, even as I am writing the handbook, which shows you how to analyse your own case I am being clear over and over that every family is different, every child is different and every outcome arrives differently. Perhaps if this article has made that clear then its been useful but if you go back over the archives you will find that we write about this several times over the years, including categorisation and including giving information about how to obtain individual assessments.


      1. It seems to me that too much psychotherapy is based on anecdotes and personal theories and too little on controlled trials. We (the public) wouldn’t undergo surgery or take a drug based on the opinions of a small group of practitioners but that is the best we seem to have in some areas of therapy. I think there is a real opportunity to set up a large scale prospective, web based study tracking peoples experiences and outcomes of separation and the family courts. Every case is different but that is precisely why we need to look at populations and not individuals.


      2. Yes I agree on this matter, the big problem being that there is no funding for such issues because they do not fit the standard thought process in the UK. In my own research I will be tracking cases and we do track and record case outcomes at the Clinic but its not on a large scale as it is just not possible to fund it. Plenty of funding to ‘prove’ why shared parenting is not a good idea, sadly no funding for alienation and related issues.


      3. and the reason why there is no funding for this work is because it challenges the lone parent model, insists that children need both parents and considers the possibility that mothers block relationships with children – so NOT on the funding agenda for all of the bodies I have ever worked with, including government.


  14. That is just it Karen, I’m sure a lot of parents like myself do understand our own cases intimately, do know ourselves inside and out and back to front, do know the role we play in the alienation, have a pretty good idea of the role played by the other parent, do look at what small things we can change on a daily basis, whilst regularly looking at the wider picture and trying to work out if we can do anything to change that, and do stay fully connected in our belief that we have a right to be the parent we are and that our children need us.

    I was certainly not suggesting that one size fits all, far from it, as you say each case is individual and therein lies the problem, because for anyone from outside of the family dynamic to be able to help then they need to have a similarly deep understanding of the situation, from the perspectives of everyone involved and it seems there are very few professionals out there like yourself who are available or who have the training, knowledge and experience to do so.

    What we have is an ineffective Family Court system making Orders based on the recommendations of Family Court Advisers working for Cafcass an organisation that simply does not have the resources to treat each case individually, but instead paints broad brush generic pictures that one can only presume are designed to get cases from the intray to the outray as quickly as possible, with scant regard for the potential emotional and psychological harm likely to be inflicted upon children who are deprived of relationships with half of their family, for months, years, decades, on occasions perhaps forever.

    As parents we can certainly do the things you suggest, change our own attitude and thus behaviour towards and within our own individual situations, but we cannot change the behaviour of the other parents, and without that happening, the prospects for children involved remain bleak. If research suggests that reversal of residency is not effective in ‘hybrid’ cases, then I can accept that, but I am still left confused wondering what can realistically be done to bring about better outcomes for the children involved?


  15. Dear Rachel
    I was interested to see that you were upset by the note you got back from school telling you that “school is none of your business” “why don’t you just leave me alone”. I understand why this is so upsetting having had a very similar text message from my son just before the Easter break. “Why can’t you leave me alone, it’s none of your business”? This was because he hadn’t registered at school and the school had text messaged me to ask where my son was.
    This type of response from my son is understandable because six years ago when we all lived together as a family my partner would tell our children that their education was none of my business. (Naturally I felt quite differently). However, I refuse to believe that my son’s response to my genuine interest in his welfare and education is an indication that I need to be unduly worried about……………………………….. in fact it is an opportunity.


    1. I don’t believe the statements to be true.
    2. It gives me more incentive to try harder to help him feel that I am a reliable and trustworthy supporter in his trials and tribulations, whether at school or elsewhere.
    3. I was pleased to get a response, all be it negative, because it is one of those parenting challenges your kids might surprise you with from time to time, which beg answers that only I can give. That makes me an important parent in his life.
    4. It’s the sort of question I could have raised at our next parenting lesson. (finished a course last Autumn) It is always good to have feedback from friends and professionals. I remember one particular session entitled, “conflict resolution”.

    If your child is at primary school there are ample opportunities to persist in making connections. Some will appear to fail (like the one you mentioned) and others will fare better, but I don’t think any will entrench alienation. (Your child is simply expressing hurt, which allows him to function in his comparatively safe imaginary bubble). If you persist with your intent to stay involved in his school life, perhaps by offering your services as a “literacy volunteer” (you need no training for this!) which can be done for as little as two hours per week, you will gradually find yourself immersed in your child’s life experience and showing him the ok parent that you are. (This is good and sustaining for both him and you). He will also benefit from seeing you interacting well with other children (he may become a little jealous, but this is natural and not harmful as long as you remain open to any attempts that he makes to connect with you).
    Soon after my separation I was invited to talk about my travelling experiences to years 5 and 6 in school. A week later my son’s friend asked me what it was like in India. It is this kind of response that helped me understand that what I had done was important in helping my son understand that I was still recognised as a parent (even though at that time I wasn’t living in the same house as him).

    Try not to see his rejection of you as an entrenchment of alienation but more as a positive acknowledgement of your presence and an opportunity to make better connections.

    From the schools point of view they won’t be at all interested in who is alienating who. The very words may translate to, trouble and conflict. What they will be interested in is a parent who wants to help children with their education. If you can do that you will have a foothold in your child’s life and be welcome as an adult. Everybody wants solutions, not problems.

    Kind regards


  16. Cough cough! Can I just point out that this article is directed at familiarizing us with the various treatment routes. It is not a lesson in handling the court process. There is no need to bring up the “hybrid” word during the proceedings. Do that at the nitty-gritty stage if and when you are putting together your strategy and informing the professionals in authority that may be helping you (e.g. the Judge). And even then be clever how you word things. As someone who is completely prejudiced against CAFCASS (who isn’t!) I cannot ever imagine CAFCASS ever doing reunification work and so they are also not the ones to mention the H-word to. [Actually, maybe it’s CAFCASS that are prejudiced against us lot!]

    The ideas in this article are not easy to understand. But if we do, then maybe we will be able to change things that we are doing and that may well lead to reunification.

    Must admit, I am one of those parents that is “in stasis” as Nick Woodall has described it and am not sure if I will be able to come out of that because I’m waiting for my kids, or because I have got some fixed and entrenched ideas myself.

    Very interesting article this one. And the responses from “us lot” are too. But the responses to those responses from Karen and Nick are very interesting too….


  17. I think the key thing to keep in mind is that the children come from half of one parent and half of the other parent (though a child is so much more than the sum of that!). Thus even if there is a better and a less good parent the child still need both, as they are integral to the child’s identity. Therefore the idea of a victim and a perpetrator parent is of little use for the children. I read the idea of hybrid alienation as asking us to take responsibility for what we can change, not as a way of partitioning blame. We have made plenty of mistakes along the way sometimes with serious consequences for the relationship with the children. Taking responsibility for those and changing them has positive outcomes for the children, so we have to do it. I do not even see it as a question of good parenting or bad parenting: Table manners is one thing that springs to mind, very important to us and something we install in our younger children. The older ones have terrible table manners, but the result of creating a conflict over this would be damaging to them in the situation at hand and unlikely to change the table manners. Thus we have learnt to leave it well alone.

    When the children rejected half their family that was a result of us rising to a serious provocation. Of course we should never have been placed in that situation, however it is of little interest to argue that point (though I will rant at length about things like that to get it out of my system). Fact was we were in that situation and dealt with it badly. Thus the point I am trying to make is that it is about adjusting parenting to the situation at hand. That situation may not be of our creation, it may be far from ideal, but it is what we have. Having said that it is certainly not about bending over backwards to accommodate the other parent. There are situations where you have to stand firm, but even then there are ways of minimising the conflict and the impact on the children.


  18. Quote: “As parents we can certainly do the things you suggest, change our own attitude and thus behaviour towards and within our own individual situations, but we cannot change the behaviour of the other parents, and without that happening, the prospects for children involved remain bleak. If research suggests that reversal of residency is not effective in ‘hybrid’ cases, then I can accept that, but I am still left confused wondering what can realistically be done to bring about better outcomes for the children involved?”

    We can change the behaviour of our former partners by changing our own behaviour and the more we continue to behave as parents to our children the more likely it is that the reaction in our former partner’s behaviour will be favourable. It is our perspective of our former partner’s personality that needs to change. The anger and hurt we feel from our break up needs to be neutralised so that we see our former partners as the person we previously admired for the positive traits in their character.
    In this way instead of viewing our former partner as the devil incarnate we make a conscious effort to see them as the affable reliable and principled person that they once were. If they are still behaving badly then imagine how you might have handled their behaviour had you still been living in the family home together. (Maybe you would have sat down patiently and listened, acknowledging her anguish, a non-judgmental approach, perhaps a rub of those tense shoulders, a willingness to take the kids out so she might have some time on her own).
    If in this present moment he/she still appears as someone lacking, then perhaps with your new thoughts on the subject you can concentrate your mind on offering cooperation, an apology, a willingness to give honest assistance where you know it would be appreciated. (In my own case it is something really simple like bringing groceries when there is a shortage). Try not to see him/her as someone who has kidnapped your children, but as someone who has been hurt (like you) and would appreciate calm. It is not necessary (if you think it would be counterproductive) to have conversations. Often deeds speak volumes in themselves. Don’t expect anything in return, you may be disappointed, but you will know your efforts have been effective in the little things that come your way…………extra time with your children, a gift of produce from the garden, the photos of the children when they were younger that you remember from a time when life was happier………..

    Apology? This is not because you are admitting guilt; of course it was all his/her fault. An apology because it relieves the situation of the need to look backwards at past mistakes and score points. Guilt or innocence is not the issue. (No need for those guys with the curly wigs and serious faces then!). Accepting responsibility for your part in the past helps you move forward.


    1. Anonymous 22.04.14 at 2.22pm, I have to beg to differ, quote “We can change the behaviour of our former partners by changing our own behaviour and the more we continue to behave as parents to our children the more likely it is that the reaction in our former partner’s behaviour will be favourable.’

      I do not want to go into great detail about my own personal situation on here, but would like to stress that the comments I make are based on that experience, and are not an attempt to make any sort of generic generalisation. However, whilst it will not be the same for everyone, I dare say there will be others who have shared a similar experience.

      First I would like to insert a single word ‘try’. ‘We can TRY to change the behaviour of our former partners by changing our own behaviour………’

      Over the last five years I have tried the extremes and just about everything in-between from being intense to backing off completely and trust me, nothing I have tried has changed the behaviour of my ex in the slightest, at least not in any positive way, and even if I could think of any fresh new approaches, I honestly do not think anything I do will change her behaviour.

      Quote ‘the more we continue to behave as parents to our children the more likely it is that the reaction in our former partner’s behaviour will be favourable’

      The eldest child of the marriage remained living with me, and I am proud of the way I have managed to bring her up to become a fine young adult. Moreover, post separation I ensured that she continued to maintain a relationship with her mother, in stark contrast to the lack of relationship with me that her younger siblings have been allowed by that same mother.

      I am not sure I could behave much more as a parent, either with the eldest, or with her younger siblings when they still came, and if me behaving as a parent has made any difference to my ex wife’s behaviour, it has simply been to make it worse.

      I can only assume that you too are writing primarily from your own experiences when you suggest that ‘It is our perspective of our former partner’s personality that needs to change. The anger and hurt we feel from our break up needs to be neutralised so that we see our former partners as the person we previously admired for the positive traits in their character.’

      I ‘got over’ the break up of my marriage extremely quickly because it was only when my ex wife left that I realised how controlling, manipulative and generally abusive she had been, not just to me throughout the marriage, but more importantly to the children. Yes I did previously admire her for the amazing mother she had appeared to be, but after separation it rapidly became obvious that was just an act, a huge lie, one that had been particularly damaging to my own eldest child from a previous relationship who had come to live with us.

      Whilst I accept that since I am not her, my perception of my ex wife’s personality is never likely to exactly match her actual personality, I think it would be fair to say that the perception that I have of it now, is far more accurate one than I had of it when we were actually together. Unfortunately, I cannot admire my ex wife for traits that I now know were and remain just a charade.

      Quote ‘In this way instead of viewing our former partner as the devil incarnate we make a conscious effort to see them as the affable reliable and principled person that they once were. If they are still behaving badly then imagine how you might have handled their behaviour had you still been living in the family home together.’

      What if they were the devil incarnate? In my case, it certainly appears that my ex does not have and has never had any real principles. Any attempt to ‘handle’ her abusive behaviour when we were together would more often than not only have resulted in an escalation of that abuse, sometimes to the point when she would be physically violent towards me. This was, something that at the time as a man I accepted, and could not see as being wrong until the relationship ended and I spoke to other people about it and they were able to make me realise that it was indeed just unacceptable for a woman to be violent in a relationship as a man.

      The thing is, in many respects, it does not matter what my perception is of my ex, and whether my approach to her is non judgemental, she rarely co-operates or communicates, and going back to my original point, I can TRY all I might to change her behaviour by changing my own, but it makes absolutely no difference at all.

      If our situation were to ever be properly assessed I am not entirely sure whether it would be considered by professionals in the field such as Karen as being one of pure or hybrid alienation. I suspect the latter, which returns me to my original point that whilst I accept that I could have done things differently in the past, and equally could try to do things differently in the future, the outcomes would be the same, I am dammed if I do, and dammed if I don’t.

      If as in my own particular situation, and for those in a similar situation, nothing we change about our own behaviour is likely to change the behaviour of the other parents, then I maintain that without that happening, the prospects for children involved remain bleak. As such, I am still left confused wondering what can realistically be done by parents in a similar position to me to bring about better outcomes for the children involved when there is so little professional help available?


  19. My initial impression of CACASS was also disastrous. After the FCA was changed it became a completely different experience. Furthermore, the new FCA actually went out of his way to do some amazing reunification work. There was clearly a great deal of respect and cooperation between the FCA and the judge. At the time i felt things could have been better but now, on reflection, I have no trouble eating my words. The new FCA clearly understood alienation and was a highly skilled therapist too. I know i was so incredibly lucky.

    But, just as every case is different, so is every FCA, their outlook and the degree of supervision they get. It is a lottery for the average punter. Unfortunately, too many people drawn to social work have other agendas, cannot tell facts from feelings and possess confidence which is not matched by their ability. Children and families are not high on their personal lists of priorities. In fact i don’t think they even like kids.


  20. Hi Karen. Is this the book by Prof. Bala that you referred to?

    Children Who Resist Post-Separation Parental Contact: A Differential Approach for Legal and Mental Health Professionals (American Psychology-Law Society) [Paperback]
    Barbara Jo Fidler, Nicholas Bala, Michael A. Saini.

    If so a few excerpts are available here:

    When people are bewildered and grieving for the loss of their kids I can fully understand them feeling deeply hurt at the suggestion that they are somehow complicit in a child’s rejection of them. I know how bitter a pill this was for me to swallow at first.

    However, it is possible to add to the alienation process and hasten your rejection simply by being nothing other than a consistent and good parent.

    On the one hand imagine a permissive parent who is also the favoured parent. This parent is likely to:
    • Have few rules or standards of behavior (When there are rules, they are often very inconsistent)
    • Often seem more like a friend, rather than a parent. Appears to have abrogated parental responsibility.
    • May use bribery such as toys, gifts and food as a means to get child to behave or curry favour.
    • Have casual attitudes towards school attendance, homework and hygene.
    • Actively involve the child in disputes and resort to disparaging remarks in front of the child.

    On the other hand we have a rejected parent, who takes their job seriously and is committed to being a good role model. This parent is likely to:
    • Set clear boundaries, rules and standards of behavior. These are applied consistently.
    • Avoid blurring of roles: parents are parents and kids are allowed to be kids.
    • Reward good behavior and deal with bad behavior.
    • Encourage punctuality, sets bedtimes, supervises homework and good hygene etc.
    • Try to shield children from disputes and refrain from running the other parent down in front of the kids.

    Clearly, the favoured parent is much less predictable and far less consistent. Conversely, the rejected parent’s consistent attitude makes their reactions entirely predictable: especially to behavior that the favoured parent allows to pass by or even encourages.

    The patterns of parenting are deeply conflicting. Each is the antithesis of the other.

    The rejected parent seems to be selflessly focused on doing a good job whilst the favoured parent selfishly treats the situation like a popularity contest.

    But, simply by consistently trying to be a good parent the rejected parent is handing countless opportunities to the favoured parent to indulge in alienating behavior. The favoured parent is pressing the rejected parents buttons and fuelling friction between the rejected parent and the child e.g. “Mummy lets me do this. You are nasty”.

    Even very mild discipline can easily be spun as cruel, demonic and spiteful acts of chastisement and hatred in hell when contrasted with a sort of shangrila where there is a total absence of discipline. To the child one parent seems nice and positively angelic whereas the other is portrayed negatively as nasty and mean. The rejected parent can seal their own fate and ensure their rejection simply by following good parenting advice.

    We cannot change anyone else’s behavior but we can certainly alter our own.

    I’m not advocating that anyone stops being a good parent. I am suggesting that we need to be more creative and less predictable in the ways we achieve that. Even if we cannot do this 100% of the time that is surely much better than being completely rejected and unable to be any sort parent at all.


    1. Hi Padresteviem yes that’s his most recent book, an excellent and well researched resourse. And yes, those things you have outlined ARE absolutely the key. There is nothing that cannot change in your own behaviour, what you have to do is recognise that your child is at risk of alienation and use adaptations of your parenting to see how your children react. You have to become a conscious parent of a child at risk of alienation, part of what we do at the Clinic is to offer information, guidance, coaching and counselling to help you to do that, working on the principle that if you change your behaviour change is created. We refocus alienated parents away from what the other parent is doing onto what they Can do for themselves and their children. It works, perhaps not as parents expect, but it works. It seems to me that is what you did for yourself and it worked for you too.


      1. By any definition my child suffered from pure parental alienation. Pre-intervention, reports show that her behavioural reactions consistently ticked every box in this checklist and she displayed the other reactions described. More than anything, I wish she had not been so horribly abused. I also wish I had known then what I know now and that I’d had the insight and foresight to foresee how quick and easy my parenting style made the alienating process .

        I am normally a very private person but my main motive for posting here is to offer a hand to others and add in any way I can to an understanding of this form of emotional abuse. Our children are treated cruelly and abysmally: aided and abetted by a system that is parisitised by far too many people with vested interests in maintaining the status quo. Karen’s integrity glows in the fog.

        Karen is absolutely right. It is what I did and it seems to be working but it was the judge who set me on this track. He told me to,
        “go from this court today and think long and hard about ways in which your behaviour may have contributed to this process”.
        I was initially outraged at the suggestion and he added,
        “please believe me when I tell you that I’ve seen this before and my advice to you may well provide the key to any hope of a continued relationship with this child”.
        At first I was indignant but eventually the penny dropped.

        Whilst not ideal it was nonetheless an opportunity which previously did not exist. To be honest it was the only realistic opportunity available. I grabbed it.


    2. I disagree. You are describing normal variations of parenting style within the nirmal spectrum. I am the targeted parent and less of a disciplinarian than the the alienator. Perhaps the perception of him as more controlling and intimidating was one of the reasons for his successful severe aluenation of me.


  21. “However, it is possible to add to the alienation process and hasten your rejection simply by being nothing other than a consistent and good parent.”

    Yes, and whether a rejected parent can change, yet continue to be true to their parenting, (and hence remain psychologically healthy and well) depends on what their own parenting values are.

    Asking a rejected parent to change their values and accept that their role as a parent is different to the one they believe in itself carries risk. Their “wellness” (the very thing that is considered crucial to future reconciliation) is threatened if they are faced with a choice of either being rejected, or of compromising their beliefs and values in order to prevent that rejection.

    The needs of the child are, of course, paramount. But the parents (both the rejected and the favoured parent) have needs to. And if those are not met, then their ability to meet their child’s needs is compromised.


    1. rachel I think perhaps things are becoming a little foggy here.

      When we talk about parents staying well and healthy we are talking about parents who are fully alienated, those whose children have withdrawn completely.

      When we work with families where children are still seeing parents but are having transitional difficulties (acting up, behaving badly etc) we work with parents to help them to adjust their behaviours strategically to prevent or reverse an alienation reaction. That may mean compromising some of the things that you hold dear in your parenting for a time in order to alleviate cross tensions and prevent withdrawal. This however is only if we assess your case as hybrid and we can determine what needs to change to free the child. In a pure case we would not ask you to change your behaviour because its pointless, we would then act to advise on more robust intervention from the court. But we have to tailor our advice to your own particular circumstances we cannot do it generically, its just not possible.


      1. I wonder whether Brer Rabbit should be the mascot of this blog ;-). The small creature who uses resourceful wit and cunning to deal with those who are dangerous and powerful. I read my daughter stories about his African counterpart Mmutla the Hare and about those other tricksters Anansi and Tortoise, without thinking to apply them to our own family life.

        It’s easy to think we don’t need these stories any more because we have Justice and the Rule of Law. But we don’t necessarily, as many of us who have been through the family court mangle know to our cost. And even if we do, the price may not be worth paying. “Let justice be done though the heavens fall” isn’t necessarily a good maxim. For many children, the heavens really do seem to fall.

        Of course we should press for reform of laws, the legal process and social work practice, but without harbouring any illusions that this will solve the problem in any simple way. Will we see a generation of vindictive parents wielding allegations of alienation to justify eliminating unwanted exes from their children’s lives? Considering the wishes and feelings of the child as part of the welfare checklist was supposed to be a step forward, but we know how that has been abused.


  22. Karen, I think that this will always be a very contentious debate.

    The principle of counselling and supporting rejected parents to compromise their fundamental parenting values leaves me uncomfortable. I wonder what the long-term implications of such compromise is on the child and the parent.

    Turning a blind eye to poor table manners (as in the example above) may be reversible later in life – but when more extreme bad behaviour and acting up becomes criminality, then that creates a moral dilemma for a rejected parent in a society which places responsibility for moral and social education of children on parents.

    Whether it is more damaging for a child to have no contact with a parent, or for that parent to remain in the child’s life in a role that requires them to significantly compromise their parenting values, is undoubtedly specific to each child. I imagine that it is only possible to determine for certain which is best for each individual child once they have reached adulthood themselves.


  23. You chose two different parenting styles to make your point about how difficult it is for parents who have different attitudes to parenting to make a success of the family. In fact it was probably the differing parenting styles of me and my partner that broke us up in the end. I found a test of parenting styles in the book by John Gottman called “The Heart of Parenting”. If you haven’t taken the test I recommend it. There are essentially three parenting styles. Once you realise where you are on the parenting spectrum the book gives anecdotal evidence to show how you can improve on what you are doing. However just because your parenting techniques are better for the children than your former partner, as you will learn, the art of collaboration lies in your ability to accept your partners parenting style, whatever that may be and to work at helping the children to be comfortable in whichever parenting environment they me be. You can’t use the fact that you have done the course and are a “better parent” to deny the other parent time with their children. Part of being a better parent is the way in which you cope with different styles, influences.

    When your child says, “Mummy lets us do this, why can’t we do it here?” this is not an opportunity to point out mothers weakness. It is perhaps a time to help them begin to understand that their parents are different people with different opinions. A chance to explain why you think what you are saying makes sense to you. This is not an opportunity to use your children in a battle against your ex. The reason your ex’s house is in such a mess and her attitude an apparent careless one may be because she is under stress. The laissez faire attitude your ex now displays with your children may be the carefree playful behaviour that attracted you to her in the first place. The time you all went mad in the kitchen and the pancake got stuck on the lampshade and screams of joy and laughter reverberated through your hearts.

    In the fullness of time we may see that life offers us many opportunities to be accommodating, as I have my seemingly daily rant with the DHSS over money I wonder whether I am entitled to be talking of understanding and cooperation between conflicting parents trying to focus on their children. You could say it’s about the choices we make.

    Kind regards


    1. Thanks, Anonymous…just purchased the recommended book – although at the same time I have experienced the tactic of describing an alienating parents’ style as “just different” – in order to get her off the hook, and escape investigation…by a counseling professional.


  24. Excellent article Karen and one I can draw some parallels with strangely enough with my ex (who is also the mother of my daughter.

    She was ‘alienated’ against her father from the age of 8 by her own mother. This was through denial of contact and the re-enforcement that he didn’t want anything to do with them and would neglect and hurt them if he saw them.

    At the age of 18 she was thrown out by her mother over a relationship (with me). Her mothers parting shot was ‘don’t tell your father so he still pays me maintenance’. Naturally I was not prepared to be party to that and was quite insistent that she should at least try to contact her dad to tell him she was no longer at home and they he did not need to pay that element of maintenance any more.

    After a little cajoling she made the call, she was very apprehensive over the reception she was going to get. She didn’t tell him over the phone but did agree to meet with him for a chat.

    He turned out to be a really nice guy and was clearly overjoyed to have contact back with one of his children after 10 years of being cut out of their lives (the courts were different back then, we are talking pre 1989 Children Act).

    Now, getting on for 20 years later, she has a meaningful relationship with her dad and I think keenly feels the years that she missed out on growing up which is why our own daughter has had a meaningful relationship with both of her parents despite us splitting up.

    Don’t get me wrong it has not been smooth sailing, we have had disagreements and almost ended up in court a couple of years ago over things we could not agree on with regards to our daughter. We resolved this in mediation and, as a result of this, the relationship between the 2 of us has improved to the point where we can chat (almost) as friends. This helps our daughter with the crossing of the transition bridge and has also help us both move on with our own lives.


  25. Fantastic discussion.

    Many of the concerns raised resonate with me. But i do understand the Bala approach to differentiate between PA and HA….as briefly described in this thread.

    This has been an incredible discussion. I want to contribute, but just passing comment because i am both lazy and compelled at the same time due to psychodynamics of being in statis for too long…bit like being in a hole in the ground or some daft cage in the monster video by eminem..but i digress…which i love doing…but…. But movement has occured.

    Through the course of reading through this discussion….something came to me in regards to my own situation with josh and what needs to be done….at my end, now.

    He isnt going back there. Neither should i. (i know you’ll know where i mean without going into detail here because that is an entirely different story as is the one of being attacked whilst working the other night along with five other drivers by one lunatic)

    I need to give josh an option that he would consider, knowing that while ever the dynamics at that end stay the same then for him to return to where i have been wanting him to return is impossible…..the only way that would be possible is if the dynamics at tweedle dee and dums changed forcing josh to return where i have been hoping he would. ….but that isnt going to happen. That dynamic down there is almost concrete…so the relationship between that place and the place i have wanted him to return to remains the same.

    I cant change that dynamic down there, but i can change the dynamic of what i expect or present to josh or wish him to manifest…..i know that whilst the dynamic down there remains the same he will not return to what was the only other option for him….they had him over a barrel because ultimately he didnt have an alternative or desirable option to consider. If push came to shove he would just stay put rather than return to what was……it wasnt a place for a teenage lad to be forced into…..even as a last resort, which it would have been for him.

    I have come to understand clearly what needs to be done. What a few brave few have been telling me…..which i was failing to hear or not accept. Somethings i have to let go. Some places. Places he wont go to live at unless forced to.
    Not a place he would choose.

    I need to create a new avenue. Somewhere new. A different path. An option other than the options he had.
    A home somewhere else. A welcome place. Comfortable. Inviting. Simple. Uncomplicated. Somewhere which would give him an option, an alternative, a choice…….remove their barrel.

    Somewhere he wouldnt mind being. Somewhere receptive….solid ground…..with a view….a long view….a platform,…a dock….a port.

    I need to do this for him. For me too. To be honest, whatever happens i feel quite excited by the prospect. It will be the end of a chapter and the start of a new one…..which needs to happen for me as much as for Josh.

    Coming back to the discussion here…… although i havent read the work,…the problem is the two distinct definitons….Pure and Hybrid….and how the mention of hybrid in todays present fempocalpse environment how that would basically be signing a death warrant for most dads caught up in the circus where there simply arent enough professionals involved who are clued up to understand what it means….and fewer who from what i can make out who would care….one is rare/pure……..and the other difficult to deal with/hybrid………well, in my experience, there is a place inbetween Hybrid and Pure…..i seem to straddle between them….because although im not without fault….there is always room for improvement…in everyone….even if only a miniscule amount…..cos one is as god dam near perfect as possible to be….then ….what was i saying….erm…

    …i was saying….because i can illustrate extreme hostile alienating behaviour exhibited by tweedle dum and dee sustained over a lenghty period of time……but recognise when the pressure got too much i blew fuses…..and that contributed to the withdrawal and alienation……but for a family lawyer/therapist to use any PTSD or outburst after the horror show has done the damage to suggest i was to blame for what they did,..their course of conduct..their hostile parenting….is a bit…..short sighted. We bleed. We hurt. We hope. We try. We never give up. We love.

    Thank you all for taking the time to discuss to such depths your concerns and hopes regarding Bala’s work.
    There is a lot to learn.

    Im all about Tardises….but Daleks….theres just no dealing with them. … avoid them if you cant zap em.


    1. i confess to my heart thudding with growing excitement at reading this Carl, I cannot tell you how much I am jumping with the joy that comes when I know someone has turned the corner onto the road home, the road that will, in my experience carve the road home for your boy. I won’t say more here other than welcome welcome welcome, your voice is an important one, you have so much to say, to share, to assist others with too. I am smiling with absolute delight, there will be bumps along the way but you will weather them in the Tardis but You are on the way for sure Carl.


  26. I must admit that i find all of this debate somewhat irritating and irrellevant at times. We are talking about deep emotional issues that are as a consequence of one parent stopping the other from contact with their child. Surely it is better to be considering making that a criminal offence and impossible to achieve from the outset and enforcing equal contact thus rendering such debate unnecessary?

    We should be working on preventing parental alienation and deeming it a criminal act, not just accepting it and picking up the pieces after the damage has been done. One person is having control over two peoples lives, the child and the other parent. It is abusive, often both emotional and financial abuse.

    We know that in the bill of human rights that a child is entitled to a close relationship with both parents. So why is the focus not in enforcing that rather than maintaining this whole industry that keeps people in jobs whilst trying to uphold this rediculous belief that one parent and child has to accept they may get to know each other once they have grown up? All that is doing is supporting the offending parent.

    The child is being denied being close to one parent throughout their childhood. I am sure that i am going to be passed off as ignorant and a fantasist but surely we should not be debating how to cope with alienation but to eradicate the possibility of it being achieved as much as possible in the first place and it should only be the job of cafcass etc to help prevent it arising or dealing with it should it arise but whilst there is equal contact from both parents with the child from the outset.

    This is why so many people, mostly fathers, develop a mistrust and often hatred to the likes of cafcass because they simply seem to be upholding and maintaining the current system which is happy to see fathers excluded and totally powerless in preventing damage to their children.

    Exclusion is child abuse leading to alienation. If you seriously want to stop alienation then you do everything to stop the exclusion, by criminal law. I am not pretending that will fix everything and there will be no alienation but it would go a very long way to avoiding it.


    1. Well Kit, if that’s your focus feel free to walk on by and do your own thing in making it a criminal offence, I’m not stopping you and if the debate is irritating…..don’t bother reading it!!!!


  27. Something we need to remember – before it gets to CAFCASS and the courts etc. , the whole alienation thing has happened primarily because of the 2 parents (and sometimes extended “family and friends”).

    Information we can gleen from here helps no end.

    Do Keep us posted on the criminal offence stuff – I for one would be very interested and I’m sure others would too


  28. An excellent article Karen. So much so that I don’t know which bit to reply to and don’t want to bore everyone with screens and screens of ramblings. I’ve not seen our three girls (now aged 14, 12, 11) since the beginning of December 2012. They walked out and returned to their mother’s house when I tried to get them to go Christmas shopping for my side of the family and, after three years of going through the courts, I concluded that “doing the right thing” with the system was never going to succeed compared to the psychological manipulation they were experiencing and stepped back.

    I think you have it absolutely right that neither parent is totally right or totally wrong. With the benefit of hindsight I see many, many mistakes I made along the way and the main one was going to court to pursue my ideal of shared parenting because that was effectively a declaration of war as far as their mother was concerned – she was the only parent they needed. If I had had the emotional intelligence to understand the situation I should have praised their mother to the hilt because what she craves is attention and approval – and was getting it from her friends by playing the heroic single mother, protecting *her* girls against their abusive, dictatorial father.

    I should have known better because I was well aware of the situation when we were married and it is worth recapping that… While we were together she first appeared to be the perfect partner; I was recently separated from my first wife (reasonably amicably) and was sharing equal residence of my son. She wowed my entire family with how enthusiastically she took on a step-son but within a few years had excluded his mother (and, to my shame, I let it happen because I let myself believe she was no longer interested in him).

    She took redundancy and became a childminder after our first daughter was born, but not just any childminder… the first in the county to achieve a quality certification in childminding and managed to balance the demands of looking after other people’s kids alongside ours. Everyone said how amazing she was.

    She was also running my son’s beavers pack, playing organ in the village church, singing in her work choir (having returned to work after our youngest was born), cooking meals for the sick in the village, chairing the playgroup committee… but at the same time some cracks started to appear. There were feuds that I never really understood; initially with a couple of other childminders in the village, then she fell out with the vicar. To be honest I didn’t pay it a lot of attention but then my mother dared question her parenting and all hell broke loose!

    Essentially my mum was blacklisted and not allowed to see my son or our girls. I was told that if I took them to see their Nan behind her back then “she wouldn’t be there when I came back” and I spent the next five years trying to bridge an impossible gap, and my Mum trying to understand what she had done wrong and find a way to apologise.

    We split up after I found a secret email account. That revealed a Walter Mitty character: in some conversations she was complaining about how hard it was to be a christian when married to me (having to lock herself in the bathroom to pray and read her bible), in the next conversation she was sharing explicit sexual fantasies with work colleagues, in the next inventing stories of abuse to a friend who ran the police domestic violence unit. But the common thing about all these conversations was they were getting her attention and praise. Similarly, anyone in the real world who challenged her or threatened to expose her fantasies was totally ostracised.

    I could go on, but the issue I’m trying to raise is to what extent are these common warning signs of alienation and what can be done to deal with the issues before it gets to the stage that the marriage breaks down? We did try Relate at one stage but that just papered over the cracks and let us limp along for a few more years, but I had no idea of the storm that would be unleashed after we split and (in her eyes) I challenged her authority as a mother by daring to want to continue to be a hands on father. There is no way she would ever go near your clinic because the last thing she wants is someone who might see through the charade. The well meaning but inept mediators we did see fell for her stories hook line and sinker.

    Now my fear (or is it hope?) is that one of our daughters will get to an age and maturity when they see through her. What happens if they challenge her? My hope is that they will return to me, but my fear is that they will feel unable to do so. When we were splitting up I remember them saying to me “Mummy is telling lies about you” and I told them not to worry about it because people say silly things when they are upset. Two years later they couldn’t conceive of Mummy being anything other than perfect and me being anything other than horrible.


    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Thank you for providing such enlightenment for us all about the crazy, mixed-up world of an “alienator” personality, and showing how a high level of (at least native) intelligence is likely to be involved. As I think everyone can see here, the matter revolves entirely around the alienator maintaining dominance. As long as target parent plays along with this…then things might not be quite as ‘bad’…as they otherwise would be. Challenge the dominance…and then you certainly are in serious trouble.

      These are difficult choices…but certainly not mistakes in the usual sense of the word, as the partners of alienators are inevitably ‘damned if they do – and damned if they don’t’.

      It sounds very much as if the Family Separation Clinic will be well be out of your area, but had there been such a facility locally, then ironically going to Court would have been the only possible way to for the alienator to have an opportunity get the help they need.

      However – a ‘slightly wounded animal’ can become a very dangerous thing, and it is a risk to take into account.

      An alienator – will not be consciously as such be setting out to be one, but sooner or later it is just ‘likely to come with the territory’ of domination and exploitation – while cultivating a false front that can be extremely convincing to most.

      Please listen carefully to those who try to raise the alarm.

      They are inveterate “con” artists.


      1. Woodman, i just have to point this out to you, you constantly reference dominance but you come over as dominant, determined and fixed in your is an example of what I mean…

        ”As I think everyone on here can see..” Your words in this last post…

        Can everyone on here see? How do you know that e everyone on here can see? There is not much room for seeing that other people might not share your views when you make assumptions that “everyone on here can see”

        I do not share your views…does render me meaningless and my work to be thrown aside in a quest to find fhe views that uphold your own experience. I see you responding strongly to those you feel are upholding your experience…where does that reaction stem from woodman?

        I am asking because I am interested, you seem to want to be here but only if the space is doinf what you think it should…


      2. Hi Karen…its true, sometimes I can get a bit hyperbolic…I will have to try to guard against that – in my inclination to support those who I feel have made particularly brave and informative contributions which need to be acknowledged.

        I am also sometimes contributing in haste – between various other commitments…and sometimes have been so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open. There is often not time for more leisurely consideration…yet it seems important to say things before the moment has passed.

        I feel you also support particularly those people who say the things that seem like they are responding the way you hope – and can perhaps be unnecessarily heavy-handed and abrasive with some who to my mind are actually simply voicing frustrations that their perspective appears not to be being sufficiently recognized.

        There seem to be considerable areas of agreement between us. I don’t feel it to be helpful if the differences are being unnecessarily exaggerated. For example, it seems that your clinic IS already able to do lots of exactly the ‘robust’ kind of intervention that I was calling for. That wasn’t the impression you initially gave, at all.

        Of course there is a difference of perspective. I am saying some rather radical things about the problems that are being created by women as a broad-based societal group – ironically, specifically from my position as an equity feminist – where I am still looking for a woman who is able to share and further develop this point of view. Ironically may be rather close to Karen Straughan in suggesting that many of the failings identified as being of both men (and women, too) are created by women i.e. in particular, their mothers – in the first place. I say this, because I have seen it to be the case in my own family, and with those I have worked to assist…and it has been present as MUCH as in two parent families – as in the single parent model.

        So I entirely agree about the problem of the promotion of the single parent model – but have to insist that there is a yet larger issue to be addressed, of which admittedly, the single parent model is a very significant sub-section. In advocating this I am constantly looking to expand my perception as well as to identify confirmatory evidence, and naturally need to do this very determinedly – but surely; this is very unfair to characterize as dominating and fixed?

        There is MAYBE, an additional, as yet unidentified – area of difference, however.

        There are those who, essentially, actually – are very much in favour of the whole phenomenon separation. Gone are the days when people should labour in unfulfilling, unsatisfying relationships, or be required to navigate the complex waters of negotation and cooperation.Welcome to the brave new world of separation, which allows so much potential for happiness and personal development to take place unimpeded.

        The aim seems to have been there – to smooth the path to this new utopia as much as possible. The only problem is…that some parents – principally fathers (oh dear!) seem to have been rather resisting this in recent times…and sometimes it is the women who have, admittedly, not been handling the separation process as well as they should. Perhaps there is a need for services which address the failings of the all-important separation process?

        Oh…and just a few people have noticed that many of the children may actually be suffering extensively from the way the separation phenomenon is being handled…and starting to feel somewhat more uncomfortable than they did initially.

        So changes perhaps need to be implemented, however…the entire emphasis – in modern liberal fashion – will still be to promote separation as much as possible?

        Now, the thing is – it really isn’t clear at the moment whether this really is your perspective or not?

        Nor am I (in case it sounds like it!) advocating a return to a religious type devotion to an oppressive family situation just for the “sake of the children” – as might very well have been the case in the past. (This ended up being my grandparents solution).

        However, I do want to suggest that the separation phenomenon (for all its situations where things have worked out well) is OVERALL altogether hugely MUCH darker than has been admitted – has largely been driven by selfish adult desires rather than out of a genuine central consideration for the welfare of children – so that if we wish to truly address this – then a major rethink on this whole issue of SEPARATION is very much required.

        It would take a lot of courage for anyone outside of the religious sphere to try and take on board these kind of concerns…and I can imagine all sorts of reasons why a person should not.

        Nevertheless it would be extremely helpful to have some detailed perspective on this from yourself.


      3. Woodman thank you for your detailed comment.

        Have you not Looked at the Clinic’s website, looked at the Centre for Separated Families site where I used to work?

        you appear to have a very small part understanding of who I am and what I do.

        For example, you speak about the work of the clinic as if the only thing that goes on at the clinic is what you glean from my articles. You assume that because I talk about coaching rejected parents that that is all we do. If I were to invest my time commenting on a site I would want to know everything about the person writing on it. The Clinic offers specialist services which have been developed over many years, I am working on a Phd on transgenerational patterns of alienation, we are evaluating our work in longitudinal studies.

        I worked with government for 13 years, I have trained over 10,000 people in whole family work, opposing the single parent model by training front line early years workers to understand and work with a whole family approach.

        i have devised and delivered training to government services, I wrote the training for the Child Maintenance options service and delivered it, I recently wrote the training for the HSSF telephony service, though I didn’t deliver it because I disagreed with their approach in the end.

        I Qualified as a therapist in 1997 and have written widely including commercial publications.

        And I have stood up for children and the impact of separation upon them for over 20 years now.

        As for promoting separation….do you actually read what I write or just some of it?

        I am abrasive at times, I do support people where I feel they are where they need to be…I am a therapist..I know my field, I know my work, I am an expert and I feel like an expert so its not just being pompous when I say that…

        I was a single parent, I married a non resident parent, I am a mother a step mother and a grandmother, I was an alienated child, my father left my mother after 44 years of marriage, I was an adult child of separated parents, I have lived family separation in all its forms.

        I speak and work from my professional capacity combined with my personal insight.

        You don’t need to fight me, you CAN learn from me and the work that we do at the Clinic.

        Or you can do it yourself and see where that takes you.

        Its your journey, your call. I am happy either way, just don’t make assumptions, there’s more to everyone than meets the eye -incuding you of course.


      4. Dear Karen – my apologies for not researching your background more fully, but what you have outlined here is very helpful, So far when you have been mentioned in FNF circles…the impression has been that the Families Separation Clinic and yourself have been pretty much synonymous, however it is fantastic that there are others who are now able to carry forward the work too.

        I hadn’t meant to imply that you might have a position in favour of separation…it was more of an invitation for us all to explore this issue, and I certainly was making no assumptions whatsoever. I don’t think that the ethical/philosophical aspects to separation – have really had that much of an airing yet.

        However, in more general societal terms, it seems to me that we have rapidly been slipping into a situation where the right, even obligation, to separate – is given a sacrosanct and exalted position – which is effectively above that of relationship itself!

        So those working within the Family Separation field will presumably have to set aside their own feelings about this and simply accept that the separation phenomenon exists on such a wide scale, that they just have to get on regardless – and help breaking families make the best they can of the situation – without standing in judgement.

        Nevertheless, it might also be entirely valid to be able to, at least sometimes, explain how we personally feel about the separation phenomenon. I can imagine some considerable ambivalence. Obviously, some people have found a happiness second or even third time around – that they simply did not have before. Other people struggle to live with the extremely negative and destructive outcomes.

        I am fully aware of the need that many (perhaps most?) people seem to have of more than one romantic attachment within their lifetime. How do we square this with the fairly obvious need the children have – for continuity and consistency?

        I think that our fore-parents were right in their general assessment of the harm to children of separation – and believe that we are struggling with the effects of an overwhelming tidal wave of adult selfishness. I’m not suggesting that the sacrifices that previous generations made were the entirely right solution either – I’m not advocating a return to the past.

        But the devastation caused to so many – both adults and children – under the current situation surely cannot be acceptable either.

        Have any of us come to any conclusions – about a way forward out this mess?


      5. I have got one thing to say about FNF forums.

        They cause more trouble than they resolve. They are a hive of half truths, untruths and downright daftness half the time.

        The Family Separation Clinic is a clinic I work for, I co – founded it yes, it does not mean that it/I are the same thing.

        I am getting a bit tired of dealing with the fall out from the FNF forums to be frank, too many people getting their facts wrong and their self righteous indignation inflamed so that we end up dealing with people in completely the wrong place emotionally and psychologically and, actually in many cases, factually.

        Those who work at the clinic are trained to several levels of awareness. They are specifically trained in gender awareness as well as having backgrounds in therapeutic work, social work and mental health. They are very skilled and committed people.

        Perhaps it might be useful to let people on that forum know that.


      6. Ironically, I’ve never been on an FNF forum – I’m just talking about the high (but likely still obviously somewhat uninformed) regard you have – when talking with people at the occasional meeting I have got to.

        Clearly, fathers very much need a place to express their frustration…without undermining the service offered by the Family Separation Clinic, it might be helpful if staff there took it in turns to contribute towards clearing up any misinformation there from time to time? Perhaps they already do.

        Back to the issue of separation, my feeling is that this points up a desperate need for an organisation that represents both men AND women together – wanting to address these matters.

        I can’t see that one currently exists?

        Wouldn’t this be able to do so much more?

        There are several sides to the problem, but one, for example, has been the attitude of many Judges, who seem to me to have been stubbornly trying to uphold their own preconceived notions of the circumstances around separation. Even when the evidence in front of their own eyes flies in the face of this completely – it is ignored in favour of how they think things were in the past and still ought to be, rather than accept the reality confronting them on the ground in the present.

        What I mean, in particular, is the belief that separation is a woman’s choice of last resort, that she is fully aware of how traumatic this will be on the children, and will only use it in a dire emergency. That she is essentially self-sacrificing and intelligent in regards to what will be best for her children. Consequently, when a woman wishes to separate, there must therefore be a valid reason behind it, which the Court Services may likely find it difficult to ascertain, since it will or be wrapped up within the family dynamics which may not be at all obvious.

        The outcome of all this is that it is simply easier and quicker to believe the woman and assume that she ultimately does know best.

        Such prejudices are immensely deep-seated, I would suggest, within people of a certain age, and can only be addressed by an organisation which is patiently and gently able to address this kind of misperception from the perspective of women and men now speaking in harmony – as we have often started to see on this forum.

        This is what I have been trying to edge us towards…with my approach to Jude Kelly (not yet fruitful, but this would be such a major development that it will take time) and so on.

        Does this make sense to you?


    2. Dear anonymous, I recognise your story from a different forum where you used to be a valued contributor a few years back. I have wondered what happened to you and your girls and I am truly sorry to read this. There is hope that they will one day grow up and understand and when they do I am sure that they will appreciate the effort you put into trying to be a part of their childhood. Until then as Karen says live your life and live well.


      1. Hi Kat, I moved on from that forum because the attitudes seemed too entrenched. There were some great people but also some very bitter and negative ones and I realised I was becoming one of them! I found I had moved from asking for help, to offering help, to just airing my own grievances. Also I had come to the end of the court process, found a shared residence order was no help at all and my kids were spiralling downwards in their attitudes. I had moved close enough to their mum for them to walk between houses and the downside of that was they learnt they could walk out whenever they didn’t get their own way and return to her. Each time that put me back to square one; building up contact from short visits to overnights. Eventually I realised I had to focus more on the other areas of my life but I’m sure that will have been portrayed as giving up on them.


      2. Your first priority has got to be, be there when your children return. That process will be a forward looking one, not looking back to see how big the pile of court papers is so to speak. If you have read Amy Baker’s book “breaking the bonds that tie” you will know that one of the things adults, who were alienated as children, say is that they did not want their alienated parent to give up the fight. However, they also realise that the alienated parent had no options, there was a counter move for everything. I interpret this to mean do not give up the fight at the first hurdle, but also there is no point continuing, when it becomes too damaging to yourself. Thus for what it is worth I agree with your reasons for leaving.


  29. An excellent article Karen. So much so that I don’t know which bit to reply to and don’t want to bore everyone with screens and screens of ramblings. I’ve not seen our three girls (now aged 14, 12, 11) since the beginning of December 2012. They walked out and returned to their mother’s house when I tried to get them to go Christmas shopping for my side of the family and, after three years of going through the courts, I concluded that “doing the right thing” with the system was never going to succeed compared to the psychological manipulation they were experiencing and stepped back.

    I think you have it absolutely right that neither parent is totally right or totally wrong. With the benefit of hindsight I see many, many mistakes I made along the way and the main one was going to court to pursue my ideal of shared parenting because that was effectively a declaration of war as far as their mother was concerned – she was the only parent they needed. If I had had the emotional intelligence to understand the situation I should have praised their mother to the hilt because what she craves is attention and approval – and was getting it from her friends by playing the heroic single mother, protecting *her* girls against their abusive, dictatorial father.

    I should have known better because I was well aware of the situation when we were married and it is worth recapping that… While we were together she first appeared to be the perfect partner; I was recently separated from my first wife (reasonably amicably) and was sharing equal residence of my son. She wowed my entire family with how enthusiastically she took on a step-son but within a few years had excluded his mother (and, to my shame, I let it happen because I let myself believe she was no longer interested in him).

    She took redundancy and became a childminder after our first daughter was born, but not just any childminder… the first in the county to achieve a quality certification in childminding and managed to balance the demands of looking after other people’s kids alongside ours. Everyone said how amazing she was.

    She was also running my son’s beavers pack, playing organ in the village church, singing in her work choir (having returned to work after our youngest was born), cooking meals for the sick in the village, chairing the playgroup committee… but at the same time some cracks started to appear. There were feuds that I never really understood; initially with a couple of other childminders in the village, then she fell out with the vicar. To be honest I didn’t pay it a lot of attention but then my mother dared question her parenting and all hell broke loose!

    Essentially my mum was blacklisted and not allowed to see my son or our girls. I was told that if I took them to see their Nan behind her back then “she wouldn’t be there when I came back” and I spent the next five years trying to bridge an impossible gap, and my Mum trying to understand what she had done wrong and find a way to apologise.

    We split up after I found a secret email account. That revealed a Walter Mitty character: in some conversations she was complaining about how hard it was to be a christian when married to me (having to lock herself in the bathroom to pray and read her bible), in the next conversation she was sharing explicit sexual fantasies with work colleagues, in the next inventing stories of abuse to a friend who ran the police domestic violence unit. But the common thing about all these conversations was they were getting her attention, sympathy and praise. Similarly, anyone in the real world who challenged her or threatened to expose her fantasies was totally ostracised.

    I could go on, but the issue I’m trying to raise is to what extent are these common warning signs of alienation and what can be done to deal with the issues before it gets to the stage that the marriage breaks down? We did try Relate at one stage but that just papered over the cracks and let us limp along for a few more years, but I had no idea of the storm that would be unleashed after we split and (in her eyes) I challenged her authority as a mother by daring to want to continue to be a hands on father. There is no way she would ever go near your clinic because the last thing she wants is someone who might see through the charade. The well meaning but inept mediators we did see fell for her stories hook line and sinker.

    Now my fear (or is it hope?) is that one of our daughters will get to an age and maturity when they see through her. What happens if they challenge her? My hope is that they will return to me, but my fear is that they will feel unable to do so. When we were splitting up I remember them saying to me “Mummy is telling lies about you” and I told them not to worry about it because people say silly things when they are upset. Two years later they couldn’t conceive of Mummy being anything other than perfect and me being anything other than horrible.


    1. This is a description of a pure alienation case. If you look at what I have written, the differentiation starts with the question ‘is this the result of transitional difficulties or is there something altogether darker going on here?’ In this case there is something altogether darker, what sounds like borderline personality disorder. In a case like this we WOULD see the alienating parent, the way we get to see them is that the rejected parent manages the court process to the point where there is recognition that this is not just a straightforward contact dispute.

      So whilst you are right that she would never come near the clinic of her own volition, the presence of the clinic and the development of regional services that we are working on, means that there are services that can support the court process. Increasing numbers of Guardians are referring to us and our intervention plans are being put to parents in these circumstances…when they are, there is often pressure applied in the form of the court expectation and parents are manouvered into having to comply.

      This is the way we get to work with most alienating parenta.

      In this case my we would start with the information avaiable to us through the court and work backwards. So, whatever you had been able to demonstrate in court about her behaviour would be our starting point.

      We would assess using our five stage assessment model and then, finding evidence of possible BPD, we would ask the court for a psychological assessment to clarify the case is pure alienation. Many parents refuse psychological assessments, when that happens we recommend, in circumstances like these, a change of residence. This is because BPD is a serious problem for children especially when they have lost the healthy input of their other parent as a result. Its not an easy process and we have to go through cross examination which is often prolonged and not pleasant in order to prove to the court that our recommendations are right for the child. This kind of case is also often not just about alienation its about child protection and so there may well be a public law interest if the welfare threshold has been met, in which case the local authority becomes involved,

      I have been involved in five such cases in my working life time and others which have bordered on pure but not quite. In each of these cases where residence change has occurred the emergence of the child has been miraculous and immediate. This is because the Psychology of the alienating parent has caused the rejection and freed from that the children return to their former loving selves.

      Not all alienating parents have a second secret life in which they are demonstrating such clear elements of BPD, though many many parents are determined that that is the case in their interpretation of what is happening. This clear evidence however is what would lead us to consider that the children would be better off with their other parent.

      If you would like to email me at I will ask you a bit more and offer you some advice on what to expect in terms of your children returning to you. The existence of the secret email account is concerning and the content of it even more so. It sounds like you have been on other forums where peope know your case, With a little bit more information I can give you a view on what to expect in the future in terms of your children returning. K


      1. Thanks Karen. We have swapped email in the past and I put the information you had provided me before the court, but their mother wouldn’t agree to go to you voluntarily and the court were unwilling to make an order. Her counterproposal was to use a free schools partnership support network but it was clear that they had no idea of PA and were really geared to support kids with educational difficulties, and ours clearly weren’t. I was fascinated to read in one of your other posts that alienated kids do well at school because my three are little stars – the middle one had a report with excellent attitude to learning across all subjects for the last two terns. A perfect score.

        I later learned that they had already been seeing the support service their mum recommended (I hesitate to describe them as a therapists) and I was only invited in at the end of their process to tick the final box, when they had already totally bought in to the mother’s version of the truth. When I did get to meet their support worker I was able to put my point of view and I did leave her a copy of Warshak but she decided that if what I was saying was true she wasn’t qualified to deal with it and passed us on to a group dealing with troubled teenagers, at risk of self harm, who in turn decided they couldn’t help because our eldest (the only one who was a teenager at the time) was apparently doing fine and refused to engage with them.

        We did have two CAFCASS reports and in the second, the CO said that either I had a problem with the children and perhaps the mother or else the mother was undermining the relationship, but didn’t say which he thought was more likely. Similarly while he pointed out there were contradictions in the children’s Wishes and Feelings reports and commented that it was as if they were repeating adult lines, he didn’t draw any conclusions.

        To be honest, I don’t think I have the strength to return to court. Last time it took three years of interim hearings to get to a two day final hearing and that was the first time there was really the opportunity to examine evidence. We put our bundle before the court with all the above evidence and more, and the mother’s barrister came to us at the end of the first session and asked if we could negotiate a settlement? We agreed and spent the afternoon thrashing out a shared residence order by consent, which was rubber stamped by the judge and we got a pat on the head for being reasonable. But the alienation just got worse and the kids’ behaviour unbearable and I learnt that you can’t enforce contact with three stroppy pre-teen girls who will walk out at a drop of a hat and are unwilling to cooperate with anything you suggest. In the end it got to a stage where they would turn up, lock themselves in a bedroom and just emerge for meals, if then.

        One thing that I haven’t seen you touch on much is dealing with several alienated kids at once. I did try to reason with them 1:1 but the eldest wouldn’t allow this and insisted on being present to act as an enforcer. That is a shame because I think there were still glimmers of hope with the youngest. At the point they walked out for the final time I was coming to the conclusion that my best hope would be to allow the oldest not to see me so that I could concentrate on the other two but I was overtaken by events. Eldest and middle both wrote letters to the judge saying they didn’t want to see me and hated me. The youngest declined the offer to do so and I do wonder if I gave up on her too soon? On the other hand, her brother was volunteering in her junior school and even without her elder sisters being present (as they are at secondary school) she refused to have anything to do with him so maybe I’m kidding myself.

        So now it seems to me that returning to court in the hope of a referral and change of residence is about as likely as winning the lottery and the more likely outcome is that I will just exacerbate the situation. Given court timescales, by the time we get to the end of the process they will be mid to late teens and more independent, so the better strategy is to wait and hope that they will reach out to me in their own time. With three moody teenage girls, surely sooner or later one is going to fall out with their mother and consider that they may get more sympathy from their father. At that point I hope I will be easy to contact and can welcome them with open arms.


  30. KIng lear, like you I decided to move close to my ex so that I might continue a relationship with my two children. The kids can walk freely between the two houses if they want to. As you say the downside is, being close to your ex means that the opportunities for conflict and disagreement are magnified and also the chance for your ex to manipulate situations to her advantage. (You make her sound like a very domineering personality). On the upside, if things are going well you are best positined to have longer extended periods with your children and there is always an open door should they feel free enough to drop by and say hello.

    In spite of the current negative and seemingly entrenched attitude that the children show toward you there are a number of things you could try. School is hugely important. It is a neutral place where both you and your ex can go without much interference from the other. Become involved. Offer help/skills/run for Governor/drive the minibus/do a paedeatric first aid course/attend the Family Learning Programme courses/ ingratiate yourself with the Staff.
    I found myself helping to adapt their website with questionnaires asking for input from Dads and single parents. You could persuade them to provide you with a portal on the school website that will give you direct access to your childrens activities and homework. e mail address’s and contact details of teachers. You will make friends with other parents who have children in the same class as yours. This is an independant campaign of your own. Don’t involve your ex or try to appeae her in any way. Involving her might give her reason to up the ante and leave you open to further trauma/drama.

    Losing your kids and having them so close must be especially traumatising. You need a few good self-help books. One of my favourites is The Erroneous Zones, by Dyer. In essence I think you need to carry on doing all the things you might have done with the kids. Of course this may not be enough, but try not to be too disheartened. Although my situation has much improved only last week I received a text message from school inviting parents and children to a “Parent/Carer Revision Techniques Workshop”. My son flatly refused to come with me. In fact he sent me quite a rude txt. message telling me to mind my own business. Nevertheless I went to the event without him. I recognised a couple of the parents there and one of my son’s best friends had come with his mother. I enjoyed the session very much in spite of being one of the few parents who seemingly had forgotten to bring their son with them. I still have the hand-outs here in front of me. I intend to try and go over some of the points with him, but that may or may not happen. Communication is a problem. When things get tough and the opportunity to stay in touch seems to have faded away you can try txt messaging with supportive non-judgmental messages. A colleague and I were thinking of devising a parenting course for marginalised parents and one of our sections will include “clandestine messaging techniques”. (We both found the run of the mill parenting courses to be somewhat lacking in acknowledging the special difficulties encountered by a parent who sees very little of their child).

    Stay positive and don’t encumber yourself with too many thoughts about how controlling your ex is. When you involve yourself in all the peripheral activities that your children enjoy you may feel some control returning to yourself. (whatever the ex might be up to)

    kind regards


    1. One of the features of work I have been doing recently has been with dads who have moved close to the mother in order to co-parent and the mother has reacted extremely negatively to that. On asking dads if they had discussed the move closer to the mother beforehand it appears that they had not but that they had been encouraged to move closer by discussions on a fathers forum. This worries me. It worries me for two reasons. 1. Moving closer and deciding to co-parent without discussing that with your children’s mother is not something that sits well with many mothers after separation. Co-parenting is something to be discussed not just decided upon. It can cause a sense of being encroached upon if it is done without discussion. 2. Fathers forums are not necessarily the best place to get advice, especially on issues such as alienation because everyone has an opinion, everyone has a view, everyone bases that on their experience and as I have said before, every single case IS different. I am not assuming that this happened in the situations here but it does seem to be a feature in recent cases where things have gone badly wrong when dad has decided to move closer and co-parent and that has not been discussed with mum beforehand.


      1. Replying to both Karen and the message before – thanks for taking the time to comment… Can I share a bit more of my experience because I think regardless of whether you move closer, further away or stay put you will be blamed. Also, to make the point that there are often other factors involved than just where the children/ex are living.

        When we first separated I rented a house a couple of streets away and things were fine. At that stage I hadn’t challenged Mum. I started a new relationship and we were quickly spotted by Mum’s friends (the problem with both living in a small village) so I told her and our girls about my new relationship before they heard about it in the playground. Our girls were fine with that, wanted to meet her and they got on with her really well. I don’t think their Mum was so pleased I had landed on my feet when I was supposed to be suffering.

        Life moved on. We sold the FMH, she rented a few miles up the road and new GF and I rented a place about 10 miles/30 minutes drive away, which was better for my GF’s commute. The girls were involved in our house hunt, although they didn’t get to see the house we eventually rented in advance because we had to make a snap decision to rent it in a very buoyant market. Again they were fine with the move and for about six months after. During this time their Mum bought a house in the nearest town, which was where we wanted them to go to secondary school so that made sense as it got them into the right post code.

        But then we fell out over contact. My solicitor’s advice during the separation had been not to fight for more contact then but sort out the financials, get a consent order in place and then try for more contact later, by negotiation if possible but through the courts if necessary. Following a disagreement over an after school activity, M withheld contact, taking them out of school early, I started court proceedings and the decline into alienation began.

        The next thing to happen was a Wishes and Feelings report and that was a catalogue of grievances. It was clear they had been coached since all three complained about the same things (which were either exaggerated or normal events spun to look negative). One of the things I was blamed for was moving to where I did when “it had always been understood” we would both move to the town my ex was now living in.

        Cutting a long story short, I decided I should in fact move there, my GF was unwilling to move with me and that was the end of the relationship. I bought a house, the girls were delighted (for a couple of months) but the court process was still going on, so there was conflict with Mum but she did say she welcomed the move. I did get involved with their school (as a Governor), at the interim hearings I asked for “little and often: contact such as collecting from after school events, brownies etc. but the girls were very rigid about “Dad’s time” and “Mum’s time” and made it clear they felt these things were stealing Mum’s time. At no point did Mum ever do anything to encourage contact and all of her position statements attempted to reduce contact further “until the girls were ready…”

        Wind the clock forward a few years: the eldest two are now in the town secondary school and the youngest is in her last year of junior. After a year of no contact I decided that it was time to move on and bought a house with my partner (we have been together three years today). We moved last January, but again only a short drive away. I’m sure that this will have been spun against me but by this stage everything I did was being, so I figured we should do what suits us and the new location is better for both our work.

        The current situation seems to me that their mother will not acknowledge I exist. I contacted her on two occasions recently with things that were very much in her interest to respond to and in both cases got no response. I suspect her view is that she has driven me off and is now busy constructing a perfect new family with her new man. From what I know of him (he is a friend of a friend) he seems a nice guy, but I do wonder just what lines he has been fed…

        So, to recap, I was blamed for moving away, I was blamed for moving closer but I think the real conflict isn’t so much moving closer, but seeking to increase involvement as a consequence of being close.


      2. “Moving closer and deciding to co-parent without discussing that with your children’s mother is not something that sits well with many mothers after separation. Co-parenting is something to be discussed not just decided upon. It can cause a sense of being encroached upon if it is done without discussion.”

        As a mother who is now co-parenting (with a true 50:50 care arrangement), I fully agree with you on this point, Karen.

        After I separated and filed for divorce from my child’s father, I was anxious to establish a shared care arrangement on a PARALLEL parenting basis. His adoption of a co-parenting model felt intrusive, distressing and threatening to me, particularly in light of some extreme breaches of trust and invasions of privacy that came to light after we split.

        Looking back, I can see that he was further along the “change curve” in terms of our shared parenting than I was. Had he approached me to “discuss” the idea of a co-parenting model, I would have rejected it – at that time, I was unwilling, or unable, to cooperate with him more than I was. We mediated several times; agreements were made, boundaries set, but often broken by one or other of us as we were in very different places in terms of our parenting relationship.

        But, I’m glad he persisted, despite my resistance back then. I’m relieved that he continued to expect us to co-parent and that he didn’t accommodate my limitations. He expected us to attend parents evenings together, for instance – I used to be furious that he would book up the appointments even though he knew I wouldn’t go with him.

        Back then, I wanted eliminate my child’s father from my life. But I didn’t. I made a choice. For my child.

        Every mother, no matter how “encroached upon” she feels, has that choice. It is unfair to give mothers a ‘get out of jail free’ card and to place the responsibility on fathers who are seeking to continue to co-parent their children as they did when they were a nuclear family. Regardless of a mothers feelings, she can choose to reveal or conceal them to others. Her feelings only impact on her parenting, and her children, if she so chooses.


  31. That’s an interesting perspective Rachel, thanks. I think the one legislative change that would make a difference would be a presumption of shared and equal parenting from the start because that would give both parents the same number of bargaining chips. The default situation at the moment is that the mother holds all the chips and the father has to persuade or force her to relinquish some, and that is bound to lead to conflict. I’m not saying 50:50 residence is necessarily the best end point but I do believe it is the best starting point.


  32. Hello Rachel,

    You wrote:
    “But, I’m glad he persisted, despite my resistance back then. I’m relieved that he continued to expect us to co-parent and that he didn’t accommodate my limitations. He expected us to attend parents evenings together, for instance – I used to be furious that he would book up the appointments even though he knew I wouldn’t go with him.
    Back then, I wanted eliminate my child’s father from my life. But I didn’t. I made a choice. For my child.”

    This cannot be easy to say, write or admit. The choice you made was the right choice. There actually is no other “choice”….

    However, I would like to ask you something if I may – although you are glad he persisted, is there anything else that you can think of that he should have done. I ask you because it seems under all the powerful emotions that many parents succumb to in such situations, you come across as a mother on the cusp of becoming an alienator. Of course you didn’t because you chose correctly. But so, so many don’t. And therefore I was wondering if you have any further insight you could share.

    I would love to be able research and write a book from the alienators angle – but, alas, I know what they will say. They will say they were only doing what their children wanted and so blame the children!!


  33. Moving close to where your former partner lives so you can be close to your children.

    Asking your partners permission?

    Isn’t that a bit like begging your former partner to be allowed to parent?

    One of the main drivers for some kind of recovery to a “normal family” scenario involves the geographical re-postioning such that the children can move “freely” between the two residencies. When I split from my former partner the primary school teacher sugested I move further away. She thought that there would be less chance of friction between the parents and mummy would be more settled. However the Cafcass Officer thought it was a good idea that I was close to my former partner so that the kids might be able to spend more time with their Dad. However she didn’t support my desire for a 50;50 parenting split.

    In my case I don’t think I would be seeing my kids today if I had moved further away. In the first 9 months after separation I was about 15 miles away and would visit in the evenings after work when I could. At that time one of my partners favourite tricks was to have my son go out when I came to see him. Luckily it is a small village and i new most of his friends so I would find him and we would do stuff together.

    Ironically, the Headteacher told me off because she thought I was deliberately not visiting my son. My ex was already trying to impress her that I had no interest in parenting my son and at the same time doing her damnest to keep him away from me. (maybe she was hoping the old cliche, “posession is nine tenths of the law” would hold true when making personal claims on the upbringing of the children). She had already told me to my face that if we split up she was having the kids. I was horrified at this kind of attitude. So when we split I new very well what her modus opereandi would be.

    I was very close to not moving back into the village, it was perhaps my Counsellor who was most supportive in suggesting it was a good idea. She gave me the courage, emotionally to stand up to my ex’s bullying tactics and support my kids through the maelstrom of family conflict. I do get the concept of Dandlebear bridge and the |”seeds of doubt” stuff and the necessity to be assertive rather than bullish or permissive. It’s a big ask when you live close but I think it would have been a bigger one had I lived further away.

    In the earlier days my biggest fear was that she would move away, perhaps to the USA to be with her family and I had the “prohibitive steps order” papers to hand should I need to try and stop it. At night I would fantasise about starting a new life in America just so i could be near my children. She didn’t move and I realised the strong family friendly network she had in the village meant that she probably wouldn’t want to move elsewhere even though she obviously wished I would go away. Coincidentally I just passed her in the village a couple of hours ago. As soon as she spotted me in the car she turned away deliberately to avoid my gaze. This is something I feel ashamed of, that after seven years she is still not able to acknowledge me respectfully.

    This is why dandlebear bridge is so important to me. It has to be strong so that the children pass with ease from one household to the other. Although mine is a bit of a dumping ground for when she wants to do something else it’s a lot better than the kids being passed off to a third party when she wants to go out.

    I think what Rachel said is crucial. It was the sheer persistence of her former partner that established his position as parent. Last week I attended a course laid on for parents and children, entitled “Revision Techniques Workshop”. When my son said he didn’t want to go I phoned my ex and offered to take her. She refused aswell. That didn’t stop me going and I’m still trying to help my son benefit from the notes I have made. Very little impact I’m afraid, but sometimes I win and sometimes I lose.

    If you are dealing with an ex who won’t talk, who blanks you out, you have to somehow behave as if nothing has changed and include them in all the activities you might have expected her to be involved with. You have wedged your way back into the community, you are building dandlebear bridge, mixing with all the friends you previously had fun with and generally being seemingly unphased by the dramas of your ex’s fertile imaginations.

    Asking your partners permission to be involved with your kids? I don’t think so, that seems like a recipe for loss of control and estrangement from your kids. Better to make the move and offer the hand of friendship at the same time.

    Kind regards


    1. who said asking your partners permission…steady on now, read things properly before you go into overdrive indignation….go back and read what I wrote…moving closer, expecting to co-parent, without discussion….not really the same is it?


      1. Even with conflict there are forums for discussion – in my case in interim hearing position statements I put forward my vision of what I would like to see happen (based very much on your vision Karen, of putting the children first). The judge directed us towards mediation and I proposed parenting plans – the first one very detailed, which got me accused of being controlling and treating it like a business contract – the second very high level and conceptual and based on what their Mum claimed in court that she wanted but that was equally rejected. So, in my case, there was plenty of discussion but it takes compromise and both parties to be prepared to give some ground. I would say discuss if you can, through whatever channels are available to you, but if the other parent won’t engage you have the choice of acting unilaterally or doing nothing.


  34. I don’t know of course but it seems to me that Rachel felt she had little choice but to accept the children’s father into their lives. He established his position to do everything he might of done with his children at the same time as giving Rachel the opportunity to cooperate through the hand of friendship. He didn’t oppose her.

    Many marginalised parents make the mistake of standing back, or confronting or challenging their ex. They pontificate about rights and wrongs, justice. They avoid the very things needed to strengthen their relationship with their children.

    Correct me if I am wrong Rachel, but I think it was the sheer strength of your Ex’s determination to concentrate on the needs of the children and show you his willingness to include you that established or re-established his role as a fully involved parent.

    Kind regards


    1. before you go down the route of taking Rachel’s description of her experience as evidence that this is what everyone should be doing I think Rachel herself should reply. I see too many ‘marginalised’ people who are anything but and I can see this going down the same route as the chinese whispers on the FNF forum. There’s more to every situation than what you read on a blog. Over to you Rachel, perhaps you could explore the situation a bit more before we get a whole raft of people deciding to do it your ex’s way because its the ‘truth’ of how to do it.


  35. At the time, my ex’s behaviour did very little to change or influence my own – I was entrenched in my own position, which was that I “could not” co parent with him. I acted in line with my own parenting values; I believed it was in my child’s best interests to have an equal relationship with him, but I believed it was possible to achieve that following a parallel parenting model.
    I felt threatened by his determination to achieve more than that, and he felt threatened by my withdrawal from his attempts to engage. Had he chosen to back off, rather then persevere, and therefore prevent me from achieving my aim of equal parenting, I would have pointed the finger of blame at him for robbing our child of that.

    I acknowledge that we were a lot closer in terms of parenting ethos than many separated parents are. I expected my child’s father to remain a significant part of their life. Had I expected him to fade into the background and become a weekend leisure activity, then I imagine that it would have been harder to hide the tensions between us from our child, increasing the risk of a hybrid alienation situation.

    In terms of discussion, as I understand the word, it was just not possible between us at that time. We were unable to hear each other’s point if view, and unwilling to compromise. As I read your reiteration of this point, Karen, I can only assume that your use of the word “discussion” is very different from the way I perceive it’s meaning. Even though my relationship with my ex was (in the main) civil, there was no true discussion between us, even when facilitated in mediation.

    My experience and understanding of other situations, such as the one between my stepchildrens parents, and those of parents with whom I have attended workshops and courses, only reinforces this. At face value, the recommendation to a secondary parent to “discuss” their desire to co parent with the primary parent, seems naive. However, my knowledge of your experience, Karen, leads me to suspect that this is not the case, and it the nuances of language that is leading to this misunderstanding.

    I do agree with you Karen, in as much as every circumstance is different. But I am confident that in my own situation, had my child’s father backed away, and waited for me to be ready to coparent with him again, then my child would not now have the close, equal relationship with both families that we have been able to achieve.


  36. Thanks for replying Rachel. In your case as in mine it was the assertiveness of the male in the realms of his parenting role plus his acceptance of his female partner’s similar important involvement in the children’s lives that helped keep him connected. As you say in spite of your anger and fear that you may lose the children to him, his actions reassured you that he intended to continue parenting with a positive Dad factor and had no intention of alienating you.
    This scenario may not be generic, it being obvious from King Lear’s case where he moved more than once to achieve his aim, but seemingly still doesn’t have the relationship he desires.
    The other aspect you talk about also rings true for me. The realisation that the discussion with your Ex is never really that. At best it’s a chance to make statements of intent or an exchange of information, or an instruction on what the other parent thinks the child or you should be doing.
    With practice and a slice of empathy we learn how not to take the bait, how important it is to be at peace rather than right. I don’t have foolproof solutions but I do have a collection of things which work and others that don’t. I like to be thought of as an individual rather than someone who follows a group mantra. Being a member of a shared parenting group does help in the sense that other groups will listen to you perhaps more attentively but what I write here is based on my own experience and those of the people I have met, it’s personal, and sorry Woodman I am not one of your band of lads either. I am hoping one day soon that you will tell us how you mothballed the weapons and threw off the desire to identify diseases which we never knew we had and found peace in some altogether healthier connections to your loved ones. What did you think of the Gottman book on parenting?

    Kind regards

    And thanks for allowing me some space to talk freely on your Blog, Karen. I learn so much.


    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Would you like to step up to the plate and help to lead a joint male/female initiative to end the gender war? Do you have the incisive analysis to help achieve this?

      If not – please don’t knock those who ARE prepared to put forward such an initiative – about personal family matters of which you know nothing.

      I am certain the Gottman book will be helpful when it arrives from the U.S. I’m sure the two of us would get on just fine, as I have the greatest respect for the Judaism which clearly underpins his intellectual approach – as it does mine, in fact.


  37. Regarding communication. Many of us will be on this ridiculously restrictive Non-Molestation orders. No letter or email contact even via a third party. Text, if allowed…characters limited to only slightly more than Twitter. Maybe phonecalls only – which means that the other party can ignore them at whim…or cut off – the instant the conversation starts not to be to their liking. Not a lot of potential there for discussion about something as volatile as co-parenting.

    However I do absolutely agree that this kind of communication is nevertheless vital. Co-parenting could mean SUCH a huge psychological change for the resident parent – that it could potentially end up in real tragedy, should they feel that their backs are against the wall and come to believe it would involve giving up an unbearable amount of power. If they have been seriously psychologically or financially abusive, for example (which I feel is very much the case in my own situation) co-parenting might well start to reveal this.

    The primary responsibility for communication and protection in such circumstances – therefore needs to be with the Courts, but I have to wonder how many of them are currently remotely prepared for such circumstances?


  38. Are you suggesting your ex (if she were a “normal” person), in a conversation over the phone should be persuaded to co-parent? When parents are in conflict the last thing on their minds is compromise.

    And how are the courts going to decide who is right and who is wrong and even if they do what will they do about it. Assuming we get this far will either of you be in the mood to take any notice of what someone else has told them to do.

    Perhaps your children and ex might benefit from a calming down of emotions and attention to more practical aspects of co-parenting. How can you take the sting out of your situation (my Judge called this lancing of the boil) and put in place something you had hoped for?

    There are lots of answers on these blogs.


  39. Co-parenting V. Parallel-parenting!

    A very important distinction that has only now caught my eye. I had always just generalised to only different parenting styles, but this distinction is important to understand.

    I’m co! She’s par!


  40. Sorry to hear about the non-molestation order. Just seems like another huge barrier to connection. Does this apply to your relationship with your children too? It seems quite a Draconian act in itself for the courts to impose such an order. It must make communication even more difficult. There must be fewer opportunities to express goodwill. Difficult for the kids too. If you can’t go to school then you can’t use it as a venue to do good positive work. Have you a foundation for Dandlebear bridge in your mind’s eye?

    I don’t know whether your initiative toward ending the gender war you speak of will engender a better more just society but I wish you luck with that. My intellect may very well be lacking in this area.

    However I do feel the “gender war” you speak of distracts from the perhaps more difficult personal battle that Karen is trying to help us with here…….the struggle to remove the pain and guilt from our children and the reconstruction of a thoughtful and considerate co-parenting operation between parents.

    When I first visited FNF HQ a few years ago on the understanding that I was there to attend a parliamentary round table I was convinced part of my role was to enlighten politicians as to the plight of single parents like myself and to encourage a change in the law. At the time I couldn’t understand why a fresh faced recruit like myself was told it best that I concentrate on my own particular case………..and leave all this political stuff to them. They told me I had enough on my plate trying to restore my own family situation. Now I know how kind they were.

    There should be a locked door that separates the therapy work from the training workshops for practitioners and the gender analysis section. It seems us if the Global causes and political themes become a debilitating distraction for those of us who need to be strong enough to heal ourselves and maintain good family relations.

    Kind regards


    1. Thank you for a very honest and open response. There are other people who are much better equipped than me to know what detailed changes in the Law may be required – that is not my forte.

      Karen would be best placed to know this, but I am convinced that politicians of all persuasions have been ‘led up the garden path’ by gender feminists who have claimed to be the experts on women and children…territory where it is difficult for the politicians to disagree, even if their gut instinct does tells them that something is not altogether right.

      Therefore…it is the gender feminists that have been pulling the strings here…not the politicians.

      No disrespect to the FNF top brass, who I have never met…but to gender feminists these men represent the ultimate patriarchal system that they are sworn to death to destroy – so no wonder there has been so little progress made over the last 20 years…and that on the whole things have got progressively worse, resulting in the absurd type of non-moles now being handed out.

      We equity feminists have a saying – ‘the personal is the political’. Time and again we see the immediate family dramas we encounter – accurately mirroring the problems of the larger body politic. (You have to constantly remember that for equity feminists, gender feminists are not feminists at all, since they do not believe in equality, but merely matriarchs in disguise).

      My wife (obviously we are separated…she claimed to the Court that she had divorced me last year – but not mentioned it to me) has been an absolute goldmine in terms of her tendency to reveal her thinking out loud more than most – so enabling me to have a better understanding of the wider societal picture. I certainly would not have become aware of the national situation in the way that I have – without her considerable “assistance”.

      So I trust you can see my point. There is little to be gained from talking to politicians – the real power brokers are the gender feminists. There lies the fire-breathing dragon that requires to be slain…or rather, tamed. Because fire happens to be essential for all human well-being – in this situation it has just got ‘way outta hand’.

      But they do mean well, honestly…it’s just they’ve just drunk a little too much at the well of theory…and need to be persuaded to sober up. Sometimes you can see them struggling to recall the details of the narrative they are supposed to have learned by heart…in fact it would be funny if their power to destroy our lives, and those of our children weren’t so deadly.

      In answer to your question – the non-mole does not apply to the relationship with the children – but only their mother, however since she controls everything…in practice it has been more or less the same as if it did. However I did manage to sneak a web camera in as a Christmas present…and have been very pleased that my youngest daughter (she is mildly autistic) has been able to learn to use it – and has been increasingly wanting, and able – to do so.

      With Skype available on a smartphone, and not just on a PC…this is a powerful communication tool.

      The elder one (who is hybrid alienated) has tried to stop her, but hasn’t so far been able to. The complex family dynamics present between the children can therefore sometimes be of assistance in reducing the harshness of the Court orders…although there is no doubt that the children take a tremendous toll, and my daughter frequently expresses a wish to stay over, which the Court order does not allow for.

      Like many dads, I do not have a residence with the facilities which would be needed for the three children to spend any more than a very short time, even if the was no alienation in place – especially the one with more serious autism. Significant state resources have gone into creating one such home that they require – that provision could hardly be repeated for a second parent.

      So the Dandlebear bridge is not an issue for us because the contact time is so brief that there is no question of any extended stay.

      Mine is a case where the absurdity and ferocity of the Court response to a deeply dedicated, and successful, i.e. loved, ultra feminist father – indicates with absolute clarity that the movement we are up against is not feminism at all. So with the greatest respect to those who would like to create a dividing wall between personal suffering and political action…I say…well…you know what I would say!

      I can say with absolute conviction (and possibly certainty) that my own situation will only be resolved as a result of part of a political change where the brutalization of men and children by women – becomes acknowledged as utterly repugnant and totally unacceptable.

      Obviously I need this to happen sooner rather than later, for the sake of my health (my resting heartbeat collapsed to half of the necessary level after the alienation and other attacks began). I have refused a pacemaker because the damage was engineered from a psychological perspective – so a mechanical fix does not make sense.

      This then drives me towards finding a way to set up “peace talks” with the warring party…and the underlines the unique conciliatory approach outlined so far. I am very patient, but utterly determined, as to put it bluntly, my life, and that of my children, depend on it. I have thirty years of informal experience as a therapist, so I can promise you that I have the clearest possible awareness of what is possible purely from that perspective, and that therapy type rehabilitation, however important – can, by itself, never be enough.

      I have felt comfortable expressing these views on Karen’s blog, because she and Nick, too, I feel – encompass both the personal and political seamlessly within their work. So I beg to differ somewhat from the FNF stance you have heard expressed, except that it does perhaps make sense within the limited political lobbying work which they may be aiming to do, and yes…those who will be able to address the problems of “gender feminism” have to do so from a place of both understanding and compassion – as much as outrage.

      The problem so far has been, as we have discussed on the blog, that making laws is one thing, but following and enforcing them is another…and when the heart is not willing then it finds an infinite number of ways to undermine the effectiveness of any legal prescription.

      It’s a battle for hearts and minds – rather than statutes, in my opinion.


  41. Dear Woodman

    I feel your strong desires to have a healthy relationship with your children, perhaps independent of your former partner who has taken the molestation order out against you. I liked the idea you had about sending your daughter the webcam; it shows her you want to communicate. I guess this is one of those “sewing the seeds of doubt” moves that are part of an ongoing campaign of resistance to alienation that you are waging.

    Your ex is a tricky one. Forgive me if I have mentioned this before but I think the book by Mark Bryan called the prodigal father is an excellent one. Chapter 1, The Haunting describes the feelings some of us go through.
    Although you may say your case is different, because Mark Bryan had an alcohol addiction problem. I think the alcoholism problem is largely irrelevant. He was depressed and turned to drink. The chapter which describes how to construct an “amends letter” and its’ purpose might prove useful.
    The reason we apologise to our former partner’s isn’t because we have had an epiphany and now believe she/he is right and we are wrong. It is because we have decided to express empathy. We acknowledge our former partner is angry with us and feels hurt. We know what it is to feel like she does. We express an apology for their perception of whatever made them so angry (whatever that is). Humbling ourselves can help us to move on in a less confrontational manner. It takes away any sense that they were responsible for things that have gone wrong.
    This process may be hard to swallow if you feel she is responsible for ruining the relationship between yourself and your children. Try to think of it this way. Her outbursts or complaints about you (e.g. the molestation order) do not define you. They define her desire to make such complaints against you. She is angry and hurt because that is what she has decided to feel.
    Similarly there is no need to impose your opinion upon her, whether it be co-parenting, true feminism or the Dandlebears are coming. I feel expressing your opinion, however good your intentions might be fuel for the fire. What can you do to make her feel good that when the kids are with you everything will be ok and they will be happy to go back to her when the time comes?
    Interestingly at the end of the book Mark Bryan hasn’t managed to re-connect in any meaningful way with his ex, but he has established a meaningful relationship with his son.
    These are just my thoughts, based on things I have tried and books I have read, people I have spoken to. They are not foolproof, everyone has their own ideas. We keep looking, trying, making poor judgments and learning from them, making good judgements and focusing on the needs of our children.

    Kind regards


    1. Thank you for your thoughts.

      I did start ‘The Prodigal Father’, but haven’t found time to really get into it. Although I am interested in where he is now…his start as a teenage father didn’t really relate to my situation, where I embarked on my family at the age of 35…as someone who had already been working informally as a therapist with very tough cases for quite some years.

      The mildly autistic daughter who uses the webcam is still very much NOT alienated – while the older daughter who is not autistic but who has tried to stop her using it – very much IS. My more severely autistic son in the middle is prone to alienation because he has a need to follow rules…obviously laid down by his mother…however much time he actually wants to spend with me.

      My guess would be that there are others of us who experience this mix of alienation situations within the family.

      As far as dealing with an ex or a highly problematic spouse is concerned, I think one has to weigh up each situation individually. There are so many factors that could be involved.

      In this situation, as with others mentioned, we are talking about a kind of partner who has claimed (in my case) to have deliberately targeted and manipulated an entire situation of exploitation – from the start.

      In this circumstance, apology would surely be pretty ridiculous. I have spent the entire relationship being compassionate – that has never been in doubt. More to the point, my wife once said to me… “I like a man – who says, no”.

      She has subsequently spent the next 17 years fighting me tooth and nail…insisting that she is someone who HAS to be dominant…and simply cannot change.

      So here we have someone whose fundamental problem has been not having been required to respect boundaries…and who is still struggling with this now.

      The majority of the anger she feels against me – will be projected anger from the past…directed in reality against a man who I strongly suspect will have drastically violated her physical and emotional boundaries in childhood, and then, to try to both disguise and compensate for that, spoiled her ever since. He is no longer alive.

      I do suspect that many of us will have been struggling with variations of this kind of theme. It is, unfortunately, not that uncommon.

      The consequences of sexual abuse in childhood…where that is what has happened, will likely be a life of mental health problems in the form of deeply disguised personality disorder of this kind. Having been in a traumatic situation of total lack of control in childhood – results in a neurotic adult need to be exceptionally in control – in order to try to compensate for those permanently awful childhood feelings, and additionally to try to take revenge – in the present, for whatever happened in the past.

      This seems to have been true for many women who have gravitated toward gender feminism…as it helps create a respectable ideological justification for their neurotic need for revenge and dominance.

      The personal and political coincide.

      Sure, my wife had a need to be angry, and displayed this in abundance – the more, the better a father I was…and so determined to destroy the relationship I had with the children as much as possible. But she knew nothing of Non-Moles…until a Social Services “Safeguarding Team” told her that they would take the children into care…unless she took me to Court.

      She didn’t have any genuine complaint against me…so everything had to be fabricated…and she was even proved by the female Judge – to have been a liar to the Court (and for myself to have been truthful and responsible) and STILL the judgements have gone in her favour to exclude me from her and the children’s lives.

      OK…you may wonder as a therapist – how I could have picked someone so screwed up, as a partner…but she does have genuine potential to recover from this personality disorder and make a real contribution as a therapist herself. So, looked at that way, she had a need – both to try to resolve her neurotic persona, and also to learn from me how to help others.

      It has been a long, drawn out process…the longest I have ever had to endure – and as you can see it has so far pretty damn near killed me…but one just has to endure for as long as it takes.

      I would suspect that I am not exactly alone, but that other men caught up in the family separation drama have also ended up playing the role of “therapeutic father” – when all they needed and wanted and hoped they were getting all along – was a partner.

      However, if this damage to the personality that we are talking about does exist…it will need to come out. Whether it is possible to weather the storm and arrive on the other side with the problem resolved, is difficult to say. It is a work in progress, but I aim to lead the way by my own example.

      The family separation system could very easily help to identify and assist in resolving these kind of cases, instead of hugely exacerbating them, as at present.

      In order to achieve this, we will first have to identify the larger mental health condition of gender feminism – as being the disturbed state of mind that Karen has spoken about; before we can bring in the sanity of men and women dedicated to achieving equality, and who reject any acceptance of dominance by anyone – over anyone else.


      1. gender feminism/ equity feminism – I really cannot see any difference – feminism means upholding women’s rights above all else, something it seems to me this woman has done for many years. Feminism is NOT the answer to the problem it has created. Something else, something infinitely more sensible and sane, something that does not prey on someone’s deepest fears, anxieties and terrors and exploit them to mean that only if they uphold their rights first will they be safe. Feminism cannot cure the ills that feminism created in my view.


      2. Karen…I’m sure you will agree – that when feminism began (about 200 years ago) it certainly was NOT about upholding women’s rights ‘above all else’. In those times – that would have been totally unthinkable!!

        So something has very clearly and profoundly changed along the way. When was it that everything started to change significantly? Around the 80’s…this was the period of transition between equity feminism – and gender feminism.

        I suspect that it was around this time, in tandem with the increasing environmental, anti war, anti-racism and anti-capitalist sentiments that had been growing – that men started to become seen as the essential villains in all these significant respects.

        Now it started to seem more widely believable that women were inherently better men, and deserved not to have equality – but required, on the contrary, to have dominance, in order to counter the ‘failings of men’ – and to be the only way for women to feel safe, as you say.

        By definition, as soon as something becomes about dominance…it is no longer about equality.

        By this token, although it confusingly and deceptively retained the name (which of course it does up to today) how can what has increasingly emerged – actually constitute an equalities movement at all?

        It was in the 80’s that I discovered feminism…but this was actually a feminism more of the 60’s and 70’s. I had grown up in a sheltered world where women were often seen as victims and needing of support, and where the only female aggression was passive, rather than active. In order for men and women to have the best possible relationships – both needed to be strong.

        Gradually, through the 80’s and 90’s I became aware of a female capacity for active aggression and violence, although often deeply disguised. Finally I met my wife, also very deceptive – one of whose sayings turned out to be – “ALL women are sharks”. (I’m sure she has been seriously let down by women close to her – who absolutely should have been looking out for her).

        Equality or dominance…they are contradictory opposites – chalk and cheese. As I mentioned regarding the WOW conference…on stage – the talk is all of equality. Behind the scenes…there are many indications it is really about dominance.

        Isn’t it about time the women’s movement decided openly and honestly – whether it is about feminism (equality) or matriarchy (dominance)?

        Equity feminism is the sanity of which you speak…whereas gender feminism is the madness we have come to experience that wishes to destroy our lives – seeing us (even the nice ones) as the ultimate cause of all the problems in the world.

        The two perspectives couldn’t be more different. The narratives of gender feminism (matriarchy) are completely antagonistic to equity feminism (equality).

        I hope this makes it clear why Social Services and the Courts (Matriarchy) have gone all out to attack a dedicated equity feminist such as myself. Someone like me is their worst nightmare – the existence of a gentle, loving caring man devoted to the welfare of the most vulnerable in society undoes the entire basis for their attack on malehood. It is essential for them to try and demonise me – and it is not difficult to imagine the tack they took!

        My response is always to try and use the negative energy that they provide in plenty (I don’t have so much physical energy!) and hope to utilise it towards achieving my own constructive goals.

        I am currently using such display of negative matriarchal energy, for example – to help to try to re-unite a family of six (middle-aged, naturally) children – alienated from their 97 year old father.

        As you can see…it is possible to move seamlessly from the political to the personal to the political and back again.


  42. As Anonymous and Woodman headed recklessly toward the cliff-top edge and a seemingly certain death the brakes of their car had failed and Woodman contemplated the gender implications of persons who might be responsible for causing this ill-fated scenario. Was it the service man back at the garage, his well meaning but flippant remarks about women’s inferior capabilities as grease monkeys? Could it be something perhaps more sinister and pervasive that had affected the vehicle manufactures inherent prejudices and led to the construction of an inferior model? “You just can’t trust these people”, said Woodman.

    Anonymous, aware of more immediate needs was trying to make a split second decision that would save them both. Would he wrestle the steering wheel away from Woodman and try to divert the vehicle away from the cliff-top and certain death? Would he open the nearside door and jump at the first opportunity hoping that his fall would not be too painful and Woodman would do the same?

    Given that Woodman seemed to have his mind on other things should he leave him to his fate? Could he somehow push Woodman out of the car, leaning across him to open his door and then forcibly wrench him from the steering wheel? Did Anonymous have the strength to do this? Anonymous thought if he didn’t make up his mind soon the outcome would be determined for them.

    If they did sail off the cliff-top into oblivion would it have been for a worthy cause? Would anybody care?

    It was too late; the cars heavy front end dipped as it left terra firma and the heavy metal spun headlong toward the briny deep……………………..


    1. A very creative entree…but such type of humour often disguises real anger. Would it be possible to explain your anxieties to us in more straightforward language, so that we can consider them honestly?


  43. Hi

    It wasn’t meant to be humorous although reading it back it seems more profound even absurd. I am trying to be “the fly on the wall”. You talk a great talk about feminism and how your ideology would change the world for the better, but for me this bears no relevance to re-connecting with your children and being the good father we all know you are.

    It’s almost as if it has become an avoidance tactic to obscure the huge emotional pains that a lot of us are going through. Surely, in a time honoured sense, solutions lie in the here and now not in some idealistic future where good and bad are redefined in your favour.

    The world of emotion is a complex and yet simple one, devoid of logic but a potential reservoir of great comfort and happiness. Sometimes we have to let the grief go before new hope and love can enter our hearts. Karen tells us about the power of empathy and how we can share in and then soothe the lives of our children. These are precious words from someone who knows what it is like to lose a parent. This is what I hear, what I feel.

    Kind regards


    1. that seems straightforward enough a description to me Anonymous thank you for responding in this way to Woodman – I did find your post humerous if somewhat on the dark side and I do agree that the focus on feminism for good or ill is a red herring, what matters is only what we can do now in the relationship between us.


    2. Are you concerned for me personally – that I might not be making the right moves to reconnect with my alienated child?

      Are you concerned that in examining the macro issues underlying our plight – I might be distracting anyone else from the immediate work of reconnecting with their children?

      If so, I would like to invite yourself and anyone who is able to attend – to a special Saturday 17th May (1.30 pm – 3.30 pm) event of our weekly ‘Community Sound’ initiative…where we are able to share, listen to and participate in the songs which most express our emotional states.

      It may be that this is the ONLY such opportunity currently available in the UK, so may be worth traveling for – and it is free.

      This is the anticipated song list…the vast majority of which, incidentally, has been put forward by men. More of a female focus, next time, perhaps. But thankfully, most songs – we can all relate to equally.

      I Don’t Know Why I Love You But I Do – Clarence Henry/Tabs Hunter

      Travelin’ Man – Ricky Nelson

      Firework – Katy Perry (a favourite of my autistic son)

      Something Inside So Strong – Labi Sifre

      Rather Be – Clean Bandit

      Nights In White Satin – Moody Blues

      The Living Years – Mike and The Mechanics

      Sunshine After The Rain – Elkie Brooks

      Let It Be – The Beatles

      I should draw particular attention to “The Living Years”…a particularly powerful song of reunification.

      Venue: Belvedere Community Centre. Mitchell Close, Belvedere, Kent DA17 6AA
      (Bus 229/469 stops nearby: Car – use free B&Q/ASDA car park: Train – 10/15 minutes walk from Belvedere B.R. Station)​

      Come and meet the Woodman driving off the cliff!

      (Maybe we should do “Fly Like An Eagle”)

      Seriously, I’d love to see this happening all over the country. What better than a participatory musical event like this – to invite members of a broken family to? I’m not saying it can all happen at once…of course not…but it certainly have potential to start to break a log-jam.


  44. Apologies. I did not mean to hurt your feelings. I’m sure you do as much as you can to re-unite and heal. I was pointing out the futility of spending all one’s energy on activities that were unlikely to help with the more immediate problems of re-connecting. It’s just my opinion that the personal feelings and emotions that effect our relationships should be kept apart from the political………. at best it’s an unwarranted distraction and at worst a means of avoiding the work of re-unification and healing……an indulgence in justifiable grief.

    I know you feel one is mixed with the other, but in my experience some of the people I meet who are furthest from their children are frequently those who spend a great deal of time protesting against the poitical system. You may say it is logical that these people should put all their energy into changing the political/legal scene, but I see them as lost and often desperate soles clutching at straws where they have turned to politics because so far they have been unsuccessfull in re-connecting with their children.

    Of course this is a gross generalisation but the reality is that all solutions ultimately lie in the personal. You can not mend relationships by statute, nor can you reason that Dandlebear bridge needs a law for it to exist.

    Kind regards


  45. Gardner regarded alienation (or The Parental Alienation Syndrome as he called it) as what we would now regard a spectrum condition. So does Bala and others. They really differ only in how the condition is approached – Gardner from the parental perspective and Bala and others as a condition of the child – the ‘alienated child’. I suspect that some of the difference between the two approaches can be ascribed to latter day political correctness and the unwillingness of post-Gardner researchers to get themselves tangled up in the screaming harridan politics of parental alienation. I prefer Gardner’s approach. It’s more black and white for one thing and if you read his treatise you can see that he also tries to evaluate what parent is contributing what to the condition. In that respect he is no different to Bala, Johnson and the others.They are just trying to ameliorate the politics, in my view, wrongly, because alienation ultimately always derives from one parent building their child-parent bond at the expense of the other, deliberate or not. The other parent may contribute in his way and worsen his position but in my opinion there’s always an alienating parent who kicks things off and it’s usually her.


    1. Yes Paul i know you are a gardener fan, I’m not but I will write a different perspective soon from a new source updating both sides of the argument.


    2. Thanks Paul – for this clarification. It would seem, then – that the classic quoted Gardener description of ‘true’ alienation – represented for him only the extreme end of an Alienation Spectrum.

      It strikes me that each of us alienated parents – will consequently also be somewhere on an ‘Alienation Spectrum’?

      It seems to me that it is important for there to be a LOT more emphasis of the victimhood of ourselves as alienated parents. I have looked for support and assistance widely to help me cope with the alienation process, and I can honestly say that in my experience – there is very little to be found.

      The more sympathetic of support sources – seem to merely smile weakly, and say how they “wish they could help”. The most commonly offered advice – is that the child will “grow out of it”. That’s if you are lucky.

      The alienated parent is as highly likely, when explaining their situation – to encounter further either overt or subtle condemnation, because as Warren Farrell explains so well – the primary identifying characteristic of masculinity has been to protect women from attack. For a man to criticize a woman – is seen as an abnegation of maleness, and so he will tend to be ignored at best, and ferociously attacked at worst.

      It would also be helpful if we could hear as to the kind of responses that women – whose children have been alienated against them, by men – tend to experience.

      The right response to all abuse – whether intentional or not – is anger…and then action taken by the wider society, both informal and formal, to stop the abuse. This “zero-tolerance approach to abuse of any of the usual kinds (physical, verbal, racial, financial, etc) is (or should be) built into the constitution of most organizations these days.

      Our discussion here has highlighted that it is important to be aware we are talking about SEVERAL sets of victims here – the alienated child, the alienated parent, the wider family, and finally, the wider society – which will have to cope with the consequences of the effect of alienation on everyone involved.

      I don’t know of any other type of abuse where a victim is expected to take so much responsibility for putting things right – regarding both the abuser and the other victims in the situation – without having their own victimhood which may take a profound physical effect (a collapse in heart function, in my case) having even been acknowledged first!

      Remembering that this supposedly heroic victim, in this situation – has often been left physically, emotionally and financially – crippled. What kind of shape are we thus realistically in – to undertake this task?

      We desperately need lots of opportunities to have this discussion up in the public arena, so that, as you put it so well – “one parent – building their child-parent bond at the expense of the other” – is come to be seen as the EXTREMELY serious form of abuse, that it is; alongside all of the others.

      Society has seen it fit to create all kinds mechanisms (maybe imperfectly) to confront abuse in every other area – sending a powerful message to would-be perpetrators. This needs to happen – regarding alienating parents, now.


      1. we’re having the discussion here aren’t we, you would be suprised who reads this blog so get discussing!


      2. Of course…having this platform to explore these issues is absolutely fantastic, Karen. But in terms of communicating to wider society, the priority needs to be Radio & TV, in particular – and then film.

        Would it be a plan to contact Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, perhaps – as a first step? Hopefully you would be up for this form of communication?

        If it was possible to meet as a group – then various different strengths might emerge for making a wider dissemination possible.

        At the very least, can those of us concerned about alienation issues have a clear presence at the forthcoming Children’s Rights Festival at the Southbank in October?

        There ought to be at least ONE seminar covering alienation – over these FOUR days! Most of the sessions are filmed, and are generally put out on YouTube…so this is a real opportunity, and help to lead on to further things.


      3. well it seems that we are in fact communicating with the wider world on this blog as I am regularly contacted by journalists reading it and other media people. I am just not proactive about it because i want to get my book finished, my cases completed and my ph.d done properly. I have no objection to doing anything media wise, you will be interested in a webinar I am going to do in July for an international PA awareness organisation for example and if anyone wants to do the leg work of getting me onto and into any kind of awareness raising opportunity feel free, I just have to focus some of my energies though on actually doing the work. I would be interested in the CR festival, would at least like to see who is on the agenda. K


  46. Whilst I appreciate that your work focuses on tackling already entrenched PA, a treatise on nipping PA from the bud will be helpful.

    If we agree for one moment that PA is mostly hybrid, advancing modalities that will stop the Social Services helping the mother (as if she is 100% clean) to break the family, on alleged offences that are mostly always found to be false, will definitely reduce the nucleation of PA. My experience is that the Social Services will pretend to give the father audience, but will not use any of the information they were given by the father.

    If there is no life threatening report about a family, it is hypocritical to say that for the interest of the child, the protesting parent (mostly the mother) is to be aided to achieve her selfish dangerous plan of splitting the family. This is because in the end it is actually the child that bears most of the brunt of the PA. The best approach would be, providing there is no threat to life, to send that mother back to that family with the child(ren), until a full investigation is carried out on the family by the Social Services. This is opposite to what they do now, and after the PA has been created, their investigation is so shallow, sometimes verging on the ludicrous.

    After the investigation the parent that is rocking the family boat has to be treated with a stick. Yes, call it the state intervening in family life, but they already do, and the result is PA having a strong root in the society with its potential adverse repercussions in the future.

    My 5-year old that was told (by his mother) that he would be killed (by me, his biological dad) if he comes to live with me is still in a psychological turmoil since we reunited after he was incarcerated from me for about 18 months Yet it was the Social Services that made it possible for his mother to start the PA in the first instance..


  47. Thanks, Marc. The biggest battle for us – is to constantly have to deal with an abuser…who is typically being feted as some kind of a heroic individual – and who we have to try be “nice to” – in order to try and make the ‘best of a bad job’…that we can, for our children.

    Any type of abuse can be challenged and dealt with – once it is acknowledged as such. It’s a delicate process, but I’m currently hoping my eldest daughter can work through the lies she has been fed…and desperately WANTED TO BELIEVE…that her mother is basically a good person.

    This of a woman who went through a phase of announcing to me some years ago…that “ALL women are sharks…”.

    (Note – I should add that I don’t think it is ‘beyond the bounds of possibility’ for anyone to change – even a narcissist…however rare that may be).

    When she was eleven, my daughter was so completely in touch with the reality of the situation on an intuitive basis, that when her mother started kicking off…she was able to turn to me and say…”Dad…I’ve got one gentle parent…and one rough one”.

    However, when the reality is SO incredibly painful – it is easier for children to slip into the fantasy world of hoping to somehow be loved…by believing the lies.

    I hope one day my daughter can be one who is at some point able to stand up and describe the abuse…and the battle to contain it…right from the inside.

    My wife seemed SO timid and innocent when I met her. The change of character was just SO shocking to contend with.

    Not like some of the new generation, it would seem…who appear to have no concern about hiding their outlook. This “you think you’re bad” clip has had over 2 million views already.

    The reality that women can attack men – attempt to dominate and be predatory in all sorts of ways (as much as men can women) needs to be widely acknowledged, so that we are all of us on an even playing field – and that the facts of any given situation can be considered without any preconceived prejudices being in play.


  48. I have a question. Would it be OK to let child (teenager 15 y.o.) know that he is the victim of Parental Alienation? Moreover, let him read some articles, as well as refer to blogs like this? Will it not traumatize young mind to realize what had happened to him/her? Or will it rather help the teenager to understand the bitter reality and recover faster?
    Thank you.


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