First encounters with an alienated child

Many professionals who have not ever encountered a child who is alienated find it difficult to know how to understand or respond to the phenomenon.  In this current climate of continuous elevation of a child’s voice in the process of family separation, professionals may well be meeting children who have, for quite some time before their encounter, been given all of the decision making power over their relationship with their other parent.  This process, of placing a child in charge of relationships, is one which is upheld by the increasing reliance in the UK on tools such as Wishes and Feelings reports.  When these tools are used indiscriminately and without any kind of analysis, professionals working with the alienated child are simply colluding with the alienation and entrenching an already serious problem of role corruption.

A child in a separated family should not be in control of the relationships that are had with both parents.  When a child is elevated to that position, it is often accompanied by role corruption, which means that the child is being used as a replacement spouse or partner to the parent with whom they are living.  This role corruption, which is a serious form of attachment disorder should, in itself be considered abusive by professionals.  A parent who is relating to a child as if they are a partner or a spouse should be assessed further to understand what has gone wrong in the relationship.  When this is accompanied by the child’s fervent expression of independence in terms of making decisions about the relationship with the other parent, alienation is very likely to play a strong part in what has gone wrong.

Many alienating parents rely upon their child to uphold the ‘decision’ that the other parent is not a good parent and has caused the rejection themselves.  Professionals who are challenged by the notion of a parent having caused the rejection should look closer at what really happens when parents do abuse their children.  Justified rejection, which is the rejection by a child of a parent who has harmed them, does not occur because of small and relatively minor problems between a child and a parent.  Any child who is rejecting a parent based on frivolous or minor issues (he made me do my homework, she got hold of me and made me wash my face) is likely to be exaggerating everyday happenings which are then amplified by the aligned parent as if they are abusive acts in themselves, they are not.  What they are are events which an opportunistic alienating parent has seized upon as ‘proof’ of the other parent being dangerous to the child.  They are examples of how the child’s mind has been manipulated and the child’s dependency upon that parent has been exploited.  Any professional confronted with a child who uses frivolous, absurd or weak reasons for complete and total rejection of a parent should be on the alert.  When a child’s mind is used in this way to achieve the objectives of revenge, that child is being abused and action should be taken to prevent it immediately.

For professionals, the first encounter with an alienated child is an important one. This is because it is within this first encounter that one can begin to assess the level of pressure which is being placed upon the child to maintain their rejecting stance.  First encounters with the child should ideally take place close to the assessment of the aligned parent, although they should never be undertaken with the aligned parent present.

A checklist of presenting behaviours can be used with both parent and child if alienation is suspected.  This should be cross referenced and analysed to determined how many of the signs of alienation in the child and alienating behaviour in the parent are demonstrated.  With experience, it becomes easier to determine when alienation is present within a very short period of time, but at the start a professional should cross reference and analyse at length to ensure that what is being seen is actually alienation.

Alienation is not difficult to mix up with justified rejection.  When a child is justifiably refusing a relationship with a parent they are able to articulate that with reasoned argument which does not appear to be fragile or brittle or repeated.  A child who uses phrases which are uncommon for their age group or sound rehearsed, alienation should be suspected and further indepth analysis of the relationship between the child and the aligned parent should be undertaken.

One of the common mistakes that professionals who do not understand alienation make is to treat the rejected parent suspiciously.  This is often the approach taken by professionals who are schooled in the idea that the voice of the child is of paramount importance in any dispute between parents.  Rejected parents, whether they are newly rejected or have been struggling with the relationship with the child for some time, are deserving of support, care and guidance at all times.  Rejected parents may have made some mistakes in the past, especially when the child first went into withdrawal from them. This does not mean that they are the cause of the problem and it does not mean that they should be treated in the same way as the aligned parent.

When alienation is suspected the aligned parent should be treated firmly but with respect.  The rejected parent however should be supported to talk and express their feelings in readiness for the work that can bring about change.  Many professionals unfortunately do not behave this way but instead act as if both parents are to blame in an attempt to keep the aligned parent onside.  The aligned parent who knows that they are doing however will only exploit that kind of approach and will exert all of the power that they possess (control of the child’s mind for one) to manage the professional’s interaction.  Professionals who are unknowing or uncertain can easily be lead into the triangulation into a collusion with the fused and indignant dyad of alienating parent and child. When this happens, rejected parents lose heart and what little hope they have hung onto and alienating parents grow stronger and more powerful on the control that they continue to exert.  In between the child loses hope that rescue is at hand and collapses further into compliance with the wishes of the dominating parent upon whom they realise they will have to continue to depend upon.

First encounters between professionals and alienated children are critical because of the hope that children in these circumstances harbour, that rescue from this dreadful dilemma is close at hand.  The professional who is equipped with the right knowledge and the courage to act swiftly and determinedly is the professional who will help the child.  Those who are uncertain of themselves, unable to confront conflicted people and who are swayed by the alienating parent’s expressions of distrust and dislike will fail the child.  Liberating alienated children is not easy and it does not come with an automatic ‘like’ button.  Professionals who act for children in these circumstances face complaints, outrage, disbelief and accusations as well as the often gruelling process of being cross examined.  There is often little in the way of thanks other than the gratitude of the rejected parent and the knowledge that children whose lives have been split, scarred and damaged, will have a chance to grow up more normally.

So why do we do it?  Ask anyone who has had a first encounter with an alienated child reuniting with a rejected parent. The magical reappearance of the love for a parent that was previously so violently disavowed by the child, which  emergences in an instant when the child becomes aware that they are freed from the grip of the alienating parent is all that is needed to understand why.

Liberating children from the child abuse which is parental alienation should be the core skill of all professionals who work with children in separating families, currently it is not.  But when enough people understand the reality of alienation and its impact on children, it will be.

33 thoughts on “First encounters with an alienated child”

  1. I wish every social worker and CAFCASS officer in the country would read this!
    However, what about a child making serious allegations of abuse against the rejected parent. These may have been investigated by social services or the police and no further actioned. Sometimes they may be not credible (children remembering sexual abuse from when they were babies and such like) and can be easily rejected other times there is not hard evidence either way?


  2. Karen, I pray that CAFCASS read your blog and/or your work.

    In my case, the children were given complete powers, and then the solicitor manipulated the children and the already extremely stressed mother (I could really use other words but better not) as well as CAFCASS and let the matter get from very bad to almost irrepairable (I say almost because I still live in hope).

    If only CAFCASS were educated in the contents of this blog posting even, then it would make a whole lot of difference…

    It seems to me the only time “…enough people understand the reality of alienation and its impact on children….” is when judges, lawyers, cafcass people , politicians, have suffered being the alienated parent that they may understand and do something….

    Having said that, the so-called-expert in my case himself doesn’t seem to have understood alienation enough to do enough and bring about a solution, and in fact, like cafcass allowed himself to be manipulated by other side solitor (it seems to me) and then left things worst than they were.

    So then, I keep going back to prayer cause it seems that’s all I have left…..


  3. Having said all that, blaming everybody and there dog is not healthy as all of that is out of my control. What I can do, and have control over, is to work on myself and improve whatever I have contributed to the situation and hope (and pray!) that that will improve matters….


    1. PMK, I have worked with you long enough now and I understand you and your situation well enough now to be able to say to you that YOU did not contribute to the severe alienation your children are suffering. Your task is to stay well and stay focused on your path and your journey until your children can free themselves. And I will be here with you for as long as that takes. K


      1. And that means everythiing Karen!
        a) that you say that
        b) that you are there cos else I don’t know how I could keep going…

        Thank you so much !


  4. Hi Karen,

    When involved at Court over child arrangements two years ago I was informed by the Childs Gaurdian appointed by the Court that Cafcass do not employ a single child psycologist or psychiatrist.

    An organisation without the ability to understand about the emotional abuse suffered by children that are placed before it. Emotional issues of the parents the bread and butter. This self imposed blindness is surely irresponsible of Family Courts?

    Agree about blaming and the anger with no place to go. Yet feel responsable for the next generations children, when they become parents themselves, to try and make it a better place for them. Can make changes in all sorts of ways to do this.

    Reckon disabling myths and reminding our us of our responsabilities as human beings is pretty good.


  5. Hi Karen

    As a regular follower of your blog I’ve become used to reading things that could easily be autobiographical. It’s a strange sensation. There appear to be regular patterns to the alienation phenomenon. It’s almost formulaic and predictable.

    I think that this piece should be compulsory reading for all practitioners involved with children.

    There is one CAFCASS officer in particular whom I have met that I think should read this piece.

    This person saw all the things you describe – plus a few that you don’t, nevertheless everything that this “professional” heard and observed was taken literally at face value. There was no critical analysis whatsoever despite a child’s account that just a tiny amount of inquiry would have registered as unfeasible. There was plenty of EVIDENCE to prompt some serious questions and further investigation. But, like any fervent believer or religious zealot, this person simply shut out anything that conflicted with their belief system, contradicted their own prejudices or suggested a variation to their own tune. This happened to the extent that vital details were omitted, evidence was portrayed as hearsay and supervising managers were deliberately misled.

    To compound matters, and, despite prior promises to the contrary, the first and only encounter between this officer and my child took place at the home of the aligned parent. This is a small building with paper-thin walls. My child’s voice was effectively “liberated” (sic) ( or, more accurately, squeezed out with the alienator breathing down my child’s neck). It is now clear that the officer identified with and, to a certain extent, bonded with, the aligned parent. The manner of the interrogation carried out also left my child (a bright, sensitive and very perceptive kid) in absolutely no doubt as to which side of the fence this FCA was sat on. My child could hardly have been left feeling more isolated and wretched if someone had set out to deliberately achieve precisely that.

    CAFCASS were instrumental and complicit in my child’s emotional abuse. Their shoddy, biased and self-righteous investigation provided a cloak for the emotional abuse of my child and temporarily denied my child the vital support of a good dad and a wonderful paternal family. The same people that bragged openly of protecting children and liberating their voices were actually ensuring that a child that needed protecting was being exposed to the elements. Their hypocrisy and weasel words still induce nausea.

    Frankly, the entire episode was such a litany of bad judgements and errors, from an apparently “ trusted, very experienced and respected” officer, that one is forced to question this person’s intent.

    I shudder when I recall this officer’s self-satisfied, berating, belittling, sneering and abusive tone when they telephoned me to inform me of their recommendations. You have already written about the ritual humiliation of those accused either rightly or wrongly.

    This person seems to exemplify a demographic you have previously described that unfortunately seem to swell the ranks of practitioners of “social science”. Science and scientific methodology are concerned with evidence and truth. Both concepts would appear to be alien to practitioners such as this one that almost denied a beautiful, wonderful, vulnerable and gifted child any hope for the present or the future.

    Despite trumpeting the promotion of children’s voices, without proper training and without a willingness to entertain different ideas (regardless of research findings) I’m afraid that some in CAFCASS and our social services are ensuring that, through their selfish and bigoted idealism, they are actually facilitating the isolation and abuse of vulnerable children.

    Their stated intentions regarding the paramount nature of children’s welfare are unfortunately the antithesis of the reality.


  6. Simply brilliant as always Karen, in the region where I come across cases (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) many children would have been much better off if only many of the ‘professionals’ involved would read your columns.


    1. I totally agree my husband has gone through this just this year,he no longer sees his daughter because of her mother that abuses the system in nz to her advantage, even her daughter has told her why she doesn’t want to go to her dads, because of what her mum says to her. She refuses to listen and we have gone through court since she was 1 till the age of 5 and it makes no difference. The lawyer for child spoke of his daughter being rehearsed and entertaining her when she visited their home, she couldn’t get his daughter to even talk about her dad at all. It was in her report but nothing done about it.She is now 7 and we have to ring to talk to her while you can hear her mother telling her what to say. Courts in nz need to wise up and the children should feel safe to love both parents and share in their lives. This should be a requirement for family services so they can identify these problems.


  7. Karen you speak so much sense.
    Everything you say is spot on.
    unfortunatly people who behave like this are in the small minority and this makes people believe the family courts are working.
    And they do for normal healthy like minded people who want to work together so their children can enjoy the happiest option which is to enjoy time with both parents.
    the small minority of people who display this kind of behaviour do so because they can!!
    Tactics to play the system and throwing all kinds of disgusting false lies and allegations around tought to them by womans groups and dodgy solicitors..and again why?? Simply because they can.
    There is no punishment in place after such lies and allegations are found to be false.
    imprisonment is ruled out as its not in the best interest of the child yet they wouldnt think twice about putting the same person in jail if they refused to pay their council tax!!
    After my experience in court my advice would be to any parent thinking they can take someone on who has this over my dead body attitude and is prepared to brainwash a child and say all kinds of disgusting hideous lies about you would simply be dont bother.
    Dont waste your time or your money as you cannot win.
    you will be treated like the accused and will recieve little support from knee jerk so called professionals who instantly side with the alienator.
    until things are put in place i.e professional people who understand it and are not afraid to get to the truth of the alienation process then sadly i say again keep your money in your bank account.
    Professionals like yourself and serious punishment for alienators who have been found to be destroying childrens minds and relationships with innocent decent target parents is what is needed and until this starts to happen nothing will change.
    i havent seen my daughter for over 2 yrs now she is missing out on so much its such a hideous crime it really is.


  8. My experience of social workers is the opposite of what they should have been trained.

    A number of years ago, I had written to a senior social worker to ask for help to re-establish contact with my sons – he wrote a reply to me basically saying that the children were correct and within their rights to deny me any contact & that their mother was working to re-establish their contact with me.

    After the court cases started a young female social worker made a report to the court basically saying that I was not really a good father and the problems were caused by me.

    I had fantastic loving relationships with all my children prior to their mother & I separating.

    So many years have passed since then and there is still no contact & I wonder how these “professionals” could have made such an utter mess of my family’s lives – probably for all time.


  9. Brilliantly written as always Karen. In the area where I’m involved with cases (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) many children would have benefited over the last ten years if only the ‘professionals’involved had read this and many of your other articles.


  10. The article is brilliant and unusally incisive even by the high standard of KW. However I sadly feel it misses one very important point. It believes as many do that if the professionals were properly trained then children would be much better protected from alienating parent emotionally abusing the child. The sad fact is the UK family court system and myriad add on agencies does not want to be retrained. In my work I see it every day facilitating and promoting parental alienation using the ‘welfare of the child’ as an excuse of convenience. Quite simply mal practice has become standard practice.

    That said it is deeply regrettable that so few are prepared to put their head above the parapet and seek proper standards from ‘professionals’ within the UK family court industry. Great credit to Karen Woodall for being consistently brave and describing so many of the institutional faults

    And thanks also for enhancing the knowledge of others such as myself.

    Vincent McGovern.


  11. Hi Kat
    I agree that this should be compulsory reading for everyone working with children and families.

    In many cases, the first allegations arrive with the first CAFCASS report. The allegations often have no basis whatsoever. Furthermore, the accuser will have made no effort to obtain any help at all. There will be no medical records of doctor’s visits, no visits to health visitors, no concerns from schools – absolutely nothing other than a monologue that is reeled off parrot fashion. If mediation is attempted, a year can easily pass before an alienated parent knows anything about any allegations.

    CAFCASS include failing to take a child to a doctor when needed in their definition of neglect. Yet mysteriously, despite the fact that aligned parents are frequently unable to offer any evidence to support their allegations (and waited for ages before even mentioning them), their behaviour, which would be neglectful if there was any basis in reality, never seems to get another mention.

    At the moment abusive parents are given an excessive amount of credence and support to wilfully mislead courts and cock two fingers at all concerned whilst they are given even further time and space to refine their stories. Furthermore the lack of communication between CAFCASS officers and the lack of a requirement for file notes to be made following the initial conciliation appointment yields yet further opportunities for the abuser to hone their narratives and indoctrination.

    I have no doubt that sometimes there are allegations which are true but an understanding of the context is always vital in order to properly assess anything and one size does not fit all. Consequently, clear signals of abuse are missed. The courts act in a way that actually facilitates abuse and i can’t help feeling disbelief and nausea when anyone involved in this sleight of hand gives me yet another sanctimonious reminder that the “Welfare of the child is the court’s paramount consideration”. I don’t know how they can trot these words out every day and still keep a straight face.

    I feel that it would be difficult to devise a more biased system, that promotes the emotional abuse of children, if one tried.


    1. To me the types of allegation you mention seem obvious to dismiss as made up (I know “the system” gives them far too much credence with horrific results for the children, not to mention the alienated parent). The ones I was referring to are the ones where the children themselves make allegations of sexual or physical abuse. The aligned parent has referred these to police/social services and they have been investigated and no further actioned because of lack of evidence. Someone has to decide whether these are true allegations or originate in an unhealthy dynamics between the aligned parent and the child, possibly with the child making up the allegation to please this parent. I guess the answer is to listen very carefully to exactly what the children are saying and pick up the clues from there.

      I guess what I do not understand is why social services and CAFCASS are so ready to believe that children’s rejections of a parent are justified, when it seems to me that most children who are abused will blame themselves as deserving the abuse, try to cover up that abuse and even if they are taking steps to protect themselves they want to maintain a relationship with their abuser.


      1. Hi Kat

        Your two comments on this post remind me a lot of the article here:

        which goes some way to answering your question, what about the child who make serious allegations of abuse againt the rejected parent? (and which I notice you, or someone sharing your name, commented on).

        I suppose part of the answer is that competent persons should intervene promptly to interview the child, take detailed notes and form a view before Alienator Parent has had a chance to doctor the evidence by poisoning the child’s mind, to ‘refine their stories’ and ‘hone their allegations and indoctrination’ as Cafcasstrophy so lucidly puts it.

        Unfortunately, the first professional on the scene is typically a CAFCASS officer, often displaying the bias and plain incompetence for which the organisation is notorious (see the many examples cited on this blog). The case drags on and on, parental alienation sets in and the child’s increasing hostility muddies the waters, memories become vague with the passing of time, and Alienator Parent’s allegations become increasingly lurid and also precisely targeted as they learn how to work the system to their advantage. In my daughter’s case this went on for two years before we reached a fact-finding hearing, which, not surprisingly, went badly for me, the rejected parent. That neither my daughter nor her two step-siblings made any allegations against me until after a year into the proceedings made no difference, they were still seen as credible…


  12. Recently Simon Hughes MP talked about the importance of listening to the voice of children
    However it appears that Simon Hughes knows little of ‘alienation’ and that the children who are listened to may have been manipulated /coached by their resident parent.
    When my grandson was interviewed by CAFCASS ,CAMHS,etc it was always in presence of mother only.False allegations by mother and stepdad and letter allegedly written by grandson were accepted by judge,without any chance to refute.
    I would like to send this last great post by Karen in its entirety to Simon Hughes.Is that OK?


    1. Hi Grandmani, if you send me an email I will send you a formal article which would be better to send as it has the Clinic’s name and address on it. K


  13. Alienation needs to be understood in broader terms.

    It starts with mom going to the solicitor. If the latter was a decent person like a counsellor perhaps, rather than a scumbucket wearing a suit, mom might be advised to work things out amicably and respect the fact that children need their fathers too.

    Solicitors instil feelings of power, hatred, revenge and so on, turning their clients into delusional criminals of a kind. This often gets them into trouble, but more often than not it plants the idea in their little minds that they have won something. Even the biggest minds can be reduced to turd-for-brains by a cunning solicitor.

    Add to all this the application to the CSA. This adds to all the nastiness onehundredfold. Now we have financial reasons too, to make up allegations, stall the progress, deceive judges who are want to be deceived so they can make their status-quo rulings.

    Mom could be the nicest person in the world, and without a solicitor (and the CSA) might have worked out a good parenting plan with the dad. But alas, she’s become the victim of a solicitor, and the child in turn becomes the victim of alienation.

    Until we look at the root motivations for alienating parents, we won’t get anywhere. It’s not for nothing that the divorce industry protects alienators or turns a blind eye, when it itself is the root cause of alienation.


  14. What is described as alienation is a continuum that may have begun before the parents separated and will probably continue long after the psychologists and counsellors have weaved their family restorative magic.

    What Karen describes here is very real for me and some of the separated parents I have met. One of the key enablers for the release of children from the scourge of the other parent’s derogatory and persuasive child centred manipulations is the strength of determination and understanding of the target parent.

    Whilst the ability to alienate is not dependent upon gender, the reason why the target parent is usually the father is simply the fact that he is given comparatively little parenting time with his children thus allowing the self-centred notions of the alienating parent to take hold. Whilst the Judiciary seem to run with the idea that all school time is best served up by just one of the parents the other parent’s chance of remaining in their role reduces and deteriorates in direct proportion to the amount of childcare/school time available to them.

    Simply put. A child who has no time with a parent cannot be parented by that parent.
    Of course parents who have time with their children reduced (post-separation), can and do continue their role but it is often far from satisfactory. They will have to contend with the surrogate parent who has replaced them getting far more time with his children than he does himself. The time spent with his children will often be frivolous and inconsequential in parenting terms frequently being little more than time to repair the damage rendered to the children whilst at the hands of the alienator. There will be scarcely enough time to do more than entertain. In many cases the time allotted to fathers is less than that they would have had had they been sent to jail.

    Up until recently this has been known as “contact time” the equivalent in America being visitation rights……………………………….perhaps an apt description of the sentencing handed down to a father convicted of separation .

    Whilst a more equal division of parenting time between separating parents is no solution for the ills of parents determined to use the children to their advantage it does give the target parent a better chance of making a good “shared parenting model” stick. He will use his skills to make the transition between homes for his children an easy one. The self-assured talks he has with them will help his children deal with the conflicting opinions of both parents. His involvement in his children’s school work and their fears and friendships will help establish his role and also re-assure his children, boosting their self-confidence and self-esteem.

    Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves that the laws of the land can only deliver practical changes to an existing system. The law cannot by itself better our behaviour, change neither attitudes nor sooth our feelings.

    Whether the gender war, that rears its ugly head in the family court, delivers 95% feckless fathers versus 5% stigmatised mothers or re-aligns itself to a gender neutral 50% feckless fathers versus 50% stigmatised mothers, the need for good care and counselling will always exist at the point parents separate and there are children involved.

    Kind regards


    1. one cannot parent if one does not have parenting time… a universal truth I believe. It is one of the themes of PA however that children are said to be abused by a parent parenting – even when they do not have any parenting time…


  15. Thank you again Karen. I would like to hear more of your thoughts on “this current climate of continuous elevation of a child’s voice in the process of family separation”, a theme which appears commonly on this blog. What is behind it and how can we challenge it (I don’t just mean within the court process, but within the wider debate on family policy)?

    It certainly contributed to the alienation of my daughter from me. Her mother depicted me to the court as an authoritarian, over-intellectual parent forcing his daughter to listen to the books he read her and preventing her from enjoying TV, internet use, junk food &c. &c., and produced a ‘Secret Diary’ in which my daughter dutifully made these kinds of allegations, and worse, as justification for not wanting to see me anymore. The CAFCASS officer was only too happy to jump on this bandwagon, acting in cahoots with my ex-wife’s barrister (this is no exaggeration; on one occasion when I represented myself, the two of them ganged up on me before the hearing in one of the meeting rooms outside the court, both berating me for my allegedly domineering parenting that had ‘justifiably’ turned my daughter against me). Their attitude was curiously at odd with that of my daughter’s school, which encourages parents to read to their children every day, something which my daughter very much enjoyed and which formed a special bond between us; when I first told her I was leaving home, she specifically said ‘but there’ll be no one to read me stories’. The school also, quite rightly, takes a firm line on healthy eating and on internet safety.

    At about that time I read Rowan Williams’ essay ‘Childhood and Choice’ in his book ‘Lost Icons.’ He argues that ‘children need to be free of the pressure to make adult choices if they are ever to learn how to make adult choices…. Failure to understand this is losing the very concept of childhood.’ He sees childhood play as the space where children take on and model adult roles and learn how to make the choices that go with them, while crucially not being bound by the consequences – after all, it’s a game, and if things go wrong, the game may be spoiled but the harm shouldn’t spill over into real life once the game has finished. If the tower of bricks I build carelessly then collapses (my example, not RW’s) this doesn’t have the consequences of a real tower block falling down because it has been badly designed and constructed. RW is concerned here mainly with the impact of consumerism on children, especially the kind that risks sexualising the child and setting her up as a rival to other children and to adults, as with risqué fashion clothing for girls. But it seems to me that his argument applies just as well to the way in which the courts push the child into the role of making choices about a parent that have real consequences for the relationship that are not easy to reverse (and which are scarcely ‘choices’ in any case if the child is under the control of the other parent, who is making their wishes known very clearly….).

    I sometimes think that my daughter’s childhood came to an end at the age of seven when alienation against me set in. Which is not to say that she became mature – on the contrary, she became more timid and fearful, at least when she saw me – but that her time of playful innocence was over.


  16. And the child said, “She got hold of me and made me wash my face”

    And the child said, “She helped me clean myself before I went to bed”

    And the child said, “She took me gently in her arms and bathed my tired face”

    And the child said, “I love my Mummy”

    Slowly the child began to accept the return of her mother’s love. At least for now all was well when at Mum’s house.
    More than words could say the behaviour of the child moved from one of scowls, rejection and temper tantrums to one of confidence acceptance and a self-assured nature.

    The wrinkled brow, the upturned nose, the wild gesticulations and strained grimace had all gone to be replaced by a warm smile, calmness, cuddles and serenity.

    Meanwhile, back at Dad’s place he was beginning to think the plan to find his daughter a new beginning was foundering. He had been persuaded against his better judgement to tell his daughter that her Mum was after all ok. She was different, sure, but nevertheless a good parent.

    His main concern was that he would lose his precious daughter on account of the fact that his marital separation had been so acrimonious and that he knew his daughter was very fond of her mother. It was these insecurities that had led him to hope that the new partner he had found would to a large extent replace his daughter’s needs for a mother.

    Back in the Counselling sessions there was some way to go to convince Dad of his value as a father to his daughter and the special and unique relationship he had. No-one need touch that ………………

    Kind regards


    1. am really not sure what you are trying to say here, you seem to be saying that reuniting a mother with a child puts the relationship with the father at risk. You seem not to understand that an alienating father is equally as capable of employing all manner of problematic behaviour as an alienating mother. what is your point, can you clarify it because it doesn’t make sense.


  17. The alienator is not Dick Dastardly; he could be a reasonable person too. I was suggesting what might be his reasons for alienating his children and how difficult he might find it to re-adjust to a better co-parenting arrangement and the re-uniting of the children with their mother. (I do believe that children should have a meaningful relationship with both parents)
    I do not mean to imply that this behaviour, where one parent takes “control” over the parenting by psychological manipulations is in any way specific to men or women. I have seen this behaviour in both men and women.

    I am trying to fill in the blanks. This is one scenario that could explain why some parent’s attempt to alienate the other.

    The parents will suffer varying degrees of shock. Often the mental scars are an encumbrance to normal living.

    In extremity the mother/father has been known to take the life of the child and themselves simply because they cannot cope with a future that seems to exclude them from their lives.

    The act of alienating the children is a predictable response to parents separating, encouraged by the space and time limiting exercises that will accompany a parent moving away from the family home. Without concrete plans in place and a continued tacit agreement between parents to make life for their children an experience that will continue with both parents having an active and inclusive role in their children’s lives, there will continue to be further disturbances.

    In your example I suggested what the father (could be the mother) might be feeling. When he tried to alienate the mother, his actions could have been driven by fear of losing his children (real or imaginary). Insecurity can be a by-product of separation. Unfortunately there is no “blueprint” of good family life post-separation. We hear much about what is wrong but very little about the successful shared parenting scenarios.

    I am in no way trying to condone anyone’s poor behaviour, simply trying to understand the motivators for such behaviour. The scenario I gave was a reflection of the real fears that some parents feel when faced with separation from their partner. If mistrust, blame, denial, accusations are all high on the list (which is normal for parents in conflict) then the prospects for alienation of the children remain high.

    Kind regards


    1. Oh I see, well by the same token, alienting mothers then cannot be the female version of dick dastardly – I think you are talking about Hybrid alienation here. K


  18. I am interested in the way in which a child becomes alienated. How long does it take?

    It is so much easier for the alienator to justify their position when the target parent is not around. The absence of the target parent in the short term may make the child’s heart grow fonder but in the long term this leads the child to doubt the sincereity of the target parent’s love for them.

    I don’t know what you mean by pure alienation. Are you talking about the child’s state of mind (syndrome) or that of the parent whose sole motive is to eradicate any pleasant memory of the other parent from the child’s mind (the pure alienator)?

    Why is it that the Alienator goes on to have further relationships bringing more children into the world, with possibly a more balanced view about the new partner’s role in the family.

    Aren’t we simply talking about egos; our desire to see ourselves in this context as arbiters of better decision making than the partner we have fallen out with.

    One of the common traits of single parent’s post acrimonius separation is that they see themselves as the better parent…………….”I thought I was the better parent”…… was a comment I heard recently from a single parent who had brought three boys up on her own. (only to find her youngest deserted her when he was a teenager to go and live with his Dad).

    Kind regards


  19. I have been living this Nightmare for a little over 2 1/2 years. It all started when my husband (not my kids father) lost our house without my knowledge and then he abandoned me. Shortly after my Sister passed away with me and my mother became sick and passed away as well. Since having no Husband and Family my kids father & his alienating wife (with her 3 kids as well) has used that opportunity to create fear & hate towards me. My kids father is an anesthesiologist and due to many surgeries for a past bone tumor my working career ended 15 years ago, therefore I do not have the income to go up against him and and our naive courts. I continue to show up at any school or sport functions that I am aware of which has been no easy task to find out. I also try to provide for any needs that I can provide for my kids. I call daily with endless unanswered calls & messages, and even provided my 15 y/o with a cell phone but her dad replaced it with one on his plan and they threw mine in a drawer as I continued to pay $50 extra per month unaware. I am constantly rejected and ridiculed by my Ex and distanced more and more by my kids. Regardless of all my efforts and continual optimism I am alienated and scorned worse as time goes by. Some days I feel like all hope is lost and what is my purpose in life, but I try so hard to have faith that this is temporary. Thank God for sites like this that have educated me and informed me of Parental Alienation Syndrome otherwise I can only imagine the blame, guilt, & hate I would be feeling towards myself. I am desperate for help but don’t know where to turn anymore. I dreamed my whole life of being a Mother and I have been so Robbed. My heart Cries.

    Agonizing Mom

    My email address is


  20. I thought it was very strange that the psychologist assigned to our case did not think it alarming that my ex had been alienated from his mother by his dad and that he was married to his 5th wife, yet treated our 14 year old daughter much like an adult, with “privileges” that were clear neglect and child endangerment, according to other experts I described the situation to (but were not involved officially). He also treated our daughter like a confidante. I noticed the GAL treated her like an adult, too, and did not seem concerned about evidence of anti-social patterns and lies. In fact, the GAL knowingly lied in front of the judge, and allowed my ex and his 5th wife to drag my daughter out of school to come to a court appointment she was not supposed to attend. My ex was always the one to bring my daughter to any of these appointments and wait outside or be in the room with her while I was kept in the dark. Stepmom was allowed to talk to a psychiatrist brought in once my daughter got dangerously depressed, but I was left out except for the bill. I am not against stepmoms being involved — I proactively reached out to include her in recitals, email address to my daughter’s camp, etc., believing the more who loved my daughter, the better… but later the stepmom testified against me, having never laid eyes on me (& not by my design). I assumed the best of her just as I had my ex, and now our family has suffered greatly. I am thankful for this blog and those who understand and educate. It has been a cruel journey.


  21. “One of the common mistakes that professionals who do not understand alienation make is to treat the rejected parent suspiciously. This is often the approach taken by professionals who are schooled in the idea that the voice of the child is of paramount importance in any dispute between parents. ”

    This is what I’m dealing with right now. My 10-year-old daughter’s therapist advocates giving my daughter a voice… which, on the surface, is good and well intentioned. But in the context of alienation, it’s burying me deeper into rejection. This therapist by the way was “mom’s choice”. What can I do? It’s like I’m paying this therapist to help bury me even more.


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