Those of you who are familiar with the language of parental alienation will be aware of the label ‘target child.’ This label, which is used widely, denotes the child within a family system who has been singled out for the attention of the alienating parent. Thus we see the common dynamic in such situations, where one child is severely alienated whilst the others may not be. This can be something which resolves itself in reunification processes but it is also often the case that one child will remain stubbornly rejecting and aligned to the alienating parent even though the other children are returned to normal behaviours. This child will often set himself apart from the others during reunification processes and is certainly during the phase of alienation itself, actively working to support the alienating parent in aligning the family system against the parent being rejected. The label target child is useful in that respect because it allows us to see where the flow of influence is concentrated. Different to the Family Systems Therapy idea of Identified Patient, it is critical to recognise that the target child is not the carrier of the family’s projection of unwellness but the conduit through which the negative influencing by the alienating parent is delivered. In this respect the target child is the alienator’s proxy, which is why the fused dyad of alienator and target child is so powerful in terms of ensuring that siblings come onside and reject as they are required to.
The target child is, in my experience, the most abused child because they have received, with an undiluted force, the full might of the negative emotions of the alienating parent. This undiluted force of hatred, resentment, dislike and determination to destroy, sweeps away any resistance a child might have to joining with the parent in a campaign of denigration. These are the children who witness the rage of a parent at the end of a relationship or who are called upon to keep parents alive or who find themselves befriended by a parent who elevates them to the role of spouse or confidant, bestowing a special status upon them which is toxic over time. These children find it very very hard to recover any of the innocent love that they felt for the parent they have denounced and are often unable to face within themselves the void that is created when that innocent love is swept away. These children may find themselves in a position of not having any sense of being parented as they grow older, for they have cast off the hated parent and they will wait in vain for the compensatory love that they hope to receive from the alienating parent. Often, when the alienating parent has long done with her venting and projecting and has moved on to a new partner, the child is left holding the hatred and wondering why they no longer have the love of either parent. This is when a cold settling of hatred for both parents can set in and the child can become devoid of the skills that they need to rebuild a sense of authentic self in which feeling and emotion are a normal part of life.
Targeting a child for rejecting of their other parent is child abuse. It is mental, emotional and psychological cruelty as it removes the child’s right to a childhood, to being parented by both parents and to a normal range of feelings and emotions. Unfortunately it is rarely recognised as such by family services who appear unable to see that a child who rejects a parent with vitriolic hatred, is exhibiting serious signs of attachment disorder. When the target child is locked into a self righteous and indignant campaign alongside the alienating parent, the impact on siblings can be immediate and severe. Target children are often the oldest children in the system and they can be either boys or girls although there is anecdotal evidence from our practice that alienating mothers will target their sons and alienating fathers will target their daughters, particularly if these children are first in line. Perhaps because the eldest child already has an inbuilt sense of being in secondary charge (of the sibling line), a readiness for being promoted is present. Certainly there is a sense that the eldest child carries a sense of responsibility that the other children do not have, perhaps because this child was the first to experience the family as a unit and therefore the first to experience at first hand, relationships with both parents. There is also the factor of the alienating parent leaning upon the eldest child and conferring a sense of specialness or being grown up because of it which is enticing to the child. However it happens, the taking of the child into the adult world of grief and loss is an act of abuse and creates for the child a terrible dillemma which can sometimes remain unresolved for many years. The dilemma is this. If I do not side with this parent will I also be cast from this place and hated with such power? Now that I have sided with this parent, will it ever be possible to extricate myself from this place? The answer to these questions being yes and no respectively, leads the child to unconsciously begin the process of working to bring the other children onside in rejecting the cast out parent. Stabilising the family system by ensuring alignment across all of the relationship lines is a critical task for the target child who can often be seen actively and consistently enforcing the demand to conform in therapeutic work.
So how to approach such a case. The first task in any severe alienation case is separation from the alienating parent. This should be an easy task but it is woefully apparent that family court professionals and family services professionals alike are terrified of undertaking it. It never ceases to amaze me that abuse is seen by some professionals in every single corner of their practice and yet when it comes to an alienated child there is a collective terror of taking any action at all. Perhaps that is because the child presents so well in every other respect that it is far easier to believe that the things the child is saying about a parent are true, than to ask any further questions. The questions that should be asked are ‘why is this child saying this right now? What evidence supports what the child is saying? Why does the child focus only upon the parent they are rejecting, what has happened to the child’s ability to hold ambivalent feelings? Who is the child emulating? Whose story is the child telling me?’
If a child comes to us with broken bones and bruises we ask questions about how they came to receive them. When a child comes to us with broken perspective and one sided hatreds, we should similarly ask questions about how they came to receive such emotional and psychological injuries. We should also remember that a child who is broken and bruised will often still love the parent who has harmed them. A child who is broken and bruised emotionally and psychologically through alienation does exactly the same thing through upholding the campaign of hatred in support of the parent who is abusing them. Whilst the alienating parent is busy projecting a film for you to watch, in which the rejected parent has caused the child to behave in this way, it is they and not the parent they want you to blame who is doing the damage. Working with alienated children and their families requires professionals to look the other way to catch the perpetrator and to look at the child to see the force of the damage being done.
Separating siblings in reunfication work is as essential as separating the target child from the alienating parent. In many systems the target child has become the replacement spouse and the younger children are simply being parented by the alienating parent in cahoots with their elder sibling. The elder sibling can also be in a position of parenting the alienating parent which pretty much means that this child is top dog when it comes to managing the family system. Separation of siblings is an essential part of restoring the correct hierarchy of power in a family system and is often necessary as part of a transfer of residence route.
I speak breezily of separation and transfer of residence and yet I know that in real terms these actions, which bring about relief and healing for such badly abused children, are incredibly difficult to achieve in our court system. Similarly, in our family services, the resistance to residence transfer or strong intervention of separation periods for siblings, is immense. I recognise this as a sort of parallel process in which the professionals become captured by the power of alienation and find themselves frozen and unable to act. Alienation is a systemic phenonmenon which I often liken to an infection. Too many professionals, in approaching alienation will, instead of stripping off the plaster, peel it inch by painful inch from the skin, repeatedly applying doses of therapy, persuasion or encouragement in the blind hope that the child or children will come to their senses. But just as it is impossible to treat an infection without applying the right kind of anti-biotic, it is impossible to treat alienation with snake oil and wishes.
Separation of siblings and separation of alienating parent and target child are the only remedies when alienation is severe and continuous and should be applied without delay to stop the abuse. The sooner we recognise that the quicker we will see children being healed and protected from this awful experience both as target children and siblings, all of whom deserve better than what they are getting right now.
Wow – this is so profoundly descriptive of our own family situation. Some degree of apparent reunion with the eldest (a girl) has been been haltingly in place since September, only to break down dramatically again in a Christmas attempt to build on this.
This seemed very much to indicate that the underlying foundation for a more genuine reunion – simply wasn’t properly in place.
Although the current impasse is ever so painful once more, it does in fact strongly set up the situation where it will in future be essential to discuss the deeper family dynamics that are present…instead of ignoring these as was (had to be, really) the case this time around.
I imagine this disjointed reunification process would be very typical, though. It hardly makes sense that one could move smoothly from 5 years of being the target child – to shedding this “overnight”.
Your outstanding family therapy provision leads the way for the entire profession…and the rest of us may be able to benefit by drawing on elements of this as best we can in our various situations, and presenting it to those who are sympathetic to some degree, as I will be able to, for example, for the Special Needs Coordinator at one of the other children’s schools. As such this is extraordinarily helpful.
I am really pleased that it is helpful Woodman and pleased to hear from you again. Despite our clashes of opinion at times on matters feminist I have missed your contributions. You are right to think that it is not possible for a child to go from target child to healed child overnight, the disortion of beliefs and the twisting of perception is severe for children when they have been coached to believe things about someone. Turning that around takes time and consistency, from all around the child as well as the rejected parent who is at the end of the day the child’s very best therapist in terms of restoring concrete beliefs about the world which are healthy. It sounds as though you are going through a typical reunion process, all rocky and spikey and changeable. Be patient, it does take a lot of time especially for the targeted child. They get there in end if you are able to offer safety from the alienating parent. Keep us updated Woodman. Very best wishes Karen
So… four children have been alienated. The grandparents have played such a strong role in this as well….giving expensive gifts, trips, cars etc. I can not compete with this ( however I am not trying to either). Now my children’s father has lost his job as a teacher after an investigation. “Inappropriate involvement with students” is the reason. I understand that there may be a court case over this as well. Many of my friends say that my children will come back as they realize how bad this situation really is. My question is, will they come back? Will the grandparents give some story or give some gifts that will make my children believe them or think that what he has done is acceptable? I am always hoping but does this sound like a situation bad enough to shock them into realizing their father is a manipulator?
I think the issue is CAN the children come back not will they. It depends upon the strucuture around them holding them where they are. You don’t say the ages of your children or the circumstances surrounding them but those things matter in terms of thinking about whether the children can come back. The grandparents sound powerful, children often find it very very difficult to go against the power of the older generations, all of this would need to be unpicked and understood before I could give you a steer.
Thank you so much for you response. I am assuming that you are so very busy with people writing to you all the time. You have much knowledge. My children are ages 18, 20, 21 and 23. And I think you are correct…..Can they go against their grandparents who are extremely strong in this. This is their doing actually as their father was content to just leave and have his women and his music in the beginning but his mother was the one to make this happen. She controls him for sure now. I knew for a long time that the grandmother is the ” Queen Bee “. My middle two children ( a girl and a boy ) are on their own at University right now but my oldest and youngest ( a girl and a boy respectively ) are living with their grandparents for this year. They are both working. I am in China for this year and am hoping that in a year at least one of mine will be back. This news about their father is shocking and it might turn into a court case and maybe jail time. We will see. I write to my children all the time ( every Sunday and in between as well sometimes ). I am so worried about their morals and values about all of this that has happened to them.
After the last post, this one is a lot more reassuring to alienated parents.
I fully appreciate the difficulties in even discussing, let alone taking, responsibility when we feel at our most vulnerable and fragile. After all, it’s difficult to see how one can take responsibility for a child wanting nothing to do with you when you possibly have not had any contact whatsoever with them for years and they live hundreds of miles away. If there are other things going on (e.g court proceedings, reports etc.) it’s easy to feel like you are under siege and isolated. When feeling overwhelmed, utterly hopeless and wretched it is difficult to be introspective. I’d never shirked responsibility but when alienation struck I felt like a victim for the simple reason that I was.
But, I think there are ways of making the message palatable. Firstly, the words used i.e blame, guilt, responsibility can all have connotations of wrong-doing. They are commonly used in connection with crime and illegality. It’s very hard to move away from this. Ownership is a much better word.
Secondly, the word parent is used loosely. Whilst it is true in a biological sense, when it comes to actual parenting there is often just one parent and more often than not it’s the one not seeing the kids. The other one, that you describe here, has corrupted their parental role and instead worked at becoming a “very special friend” to the “privileged chosen one”. In terms of the roles they play to describe one as a parent is entirely appropriate. To pay the other the compliment of behaving anything like a parent is sometimes undeserved.
I can empathise with the way alienated parents feel wrongly castigated when all they feel they have done is attempted to do their job. But, in taking ownership, it’s important to realise how consistently and conscientiously fulfilling a parental role can actually enable children to be targeted and alienated. When one parent refuses to disagree with anything a child does or says it’s easy to see how the other parent can be perceived and portrayed as a stern-disciplinarian ogre.
Ironically, when contact is restored, children seem to like and feel reassured by the parental behaviours that may have played a part in helping them move away! It’s important to be a good parental role model in order to break the chain of intergenerational alienation that occurs. But, it’s also important to avoid asserting parental boundaries just before children return to their “special friend”. If you do, then you will be providing the catalyst to fuse the dyad even more strongly and undermine your own relationship. There is a very strong possibility that, the next time there is due to be contact, something else will have cropped up.
I know that owning it is a big ask for alienated parents but it is an approach we use at the Clinic to assess the dynamics that have created the alienation. In taking ownership I am discussing that which is yours in the dynamic not the ownership of parental role or imposition of parental boundaries, it is important to be clear about that I think. Those alienating parents who corrupt their parental role are really abusive parents but not seen that way by family services. Unfortunately, in my view, we have the most virulent conditions possible in the way we support separated families for the alienation reaction to flourish….the issue of taking ownership as an alienated parent is so difficult to discuss but in all the cases I have seen success in, the alienated parent has been able to take ownership of their own stuff to the degree that they have been able to stand back, withdraw projection, hold up their hands to what is theirs and allow the truth to be seen. I will come back to this thought again I suspect, it remains with me and puzzles me in terms of how to help alienated parents accept ownership. K
I think that when these realisations arrive they are like “Eureka” moments. What we think does not change as much as how we think about something.
Initially, I think i struggled to make as much sense as i could out of a situation that seemed to defy reason. I could not readily relate alienation to any other experience. Once there is some sort of rationalisation in place i think we tend to hang on to it jealously.
My Eureka moment arrived whilst walking at a monotonous pace along a country path on the border between Tuscany and Umbria. Because of the low winter sun i was looking at the ground and for the first time in a while i was thinking about absolutely nothing. Suddenly, i spotted a porcupine quill and in the instant i bent down to pick it up, the words that the judge had said a few months earlier took on another meaning. I’d previously been indignant at his suggestion.
I went to Italy at my brother’s invitation for a couple of weeks over xmas. Funnily, he’d told me how a break there would probably help me sort my thoughts out because, “this was where Einstein developed his early ideas about relativity”. I remember how we joked that if it was good enough for Einstein then it would probably do for me. It was good too to be somewhere where there were few reminders of my daughter and where a large chunk of each day is spent keeping oneself warm, sheltered, fed, watered and wined.
As ever I read this article with great interest and looking for comparisons with my own situation, to try and help me understand that and a way forwards.
What I am intrigued to know Karen is whether you have seen any tendency for the aim of the alienating parent to shift to a younger sibling when the originally targeted elder child in the dynamic, or that younger sibling, reach a certain age, level of maturity, or perhaps severity of alienation?
To expand on that a little more, in respect of the elder originally targeted child, a focus away from them perhaps because the alienating parent feels the ‘job’ has been done on them, or conversely because they are reaching an age where a realisation of what has happened to them could potentially set in which combined with typical teenage rebelliousness could increase the chances of them trying to as it were break free?
Alternatively, perhaps because the younger child did not respond to attempts at alienation by the alienating parent using their elder sibling as a conduit, and so attention is turned directly onto that child instead in order to ensure they become successfully alienated too?
If this is something you have seen, could it perhaps be considered a negative, a sign of real determination to alienate all the children, or as a positive, that actually the alienating parent is only able to wield their destructive influence effectively over one child at a time, and thus eventually it may be easier to break the hold they have over the children as they get older?
Hi Jay, yes the focus of the alienation can shift to different children in the system. Perhaps if one leaves to go to University or starts to see the light or shows some resistence, that child will be cast aside and the next one focused upon. Sometimes the alienating behaviour is targeted on the most vulnerable child, the one who is youngest or weakest or most needy perhaps. The alienating behaviour that we are talking about here is the taking of the child into the adult world through enmeshment, involving them in adult thoughts and adult behaviours and adult issues. Or flattering the child or seducing the child, persuading the child that they are more special than the others and then sharing thoughts about the other parent. The parents who do this are often personality disordered or come from backgrounds in which attachment disorder was present in their own childhoods. Whatever it is, the parent concentrates hard upon ensuring that the children are aligned to her/his world view through persuasion and coercion etc. The focus moves depending upon the susceptibility of the child and the need of the parent. The issue is that the parent cannot help doing what they are doing often and that they are relentless in doing it so that each child bears the brunt of the pressure at one time or another. Alienators are all different in their motives and reasoning and children are all different in their susceptibility but the common theme is often that the alienator can’t/won’t stop what she is doing because she considers it normal behaviour.
Thank you for you insight again Karen, and whilst I appreciate that all children, alienators and thus situations are different, I have one further opinion to ask if I may?
In my own situation the eldest of the three children remained living with me after separation. I would say this was through choice, but in reality my daughter did not have one, as she never was and never has been asked by their mother to live with her and her younger siblings.
I can only guess that this may have been because as an extremely intelligent, articulate and mature child just entering her teens at the time of separation she was perhaps seen as too difficult to manipulate and control, or maybe her mother simply just thought she was too much like me and could not leave one without the other!?
Whilst it took a lot of hard work from both me and my daughter herself, and despite what was going on with her younger siblings, we managed to ensure she maintained a relationship with her mother throughout most of the time since. However, there have been some gaps, as her mother seems to show an interest in her some of the time when it suits, but on others drops her like a stone.
Its certainly been strange behaviour and difficult to fathom, given my eldest has been free to come and go as she pleases from her home with me and would have spent far more time with her mother at her other home, if her mother had been more welcoming and not frequently ignored her calls/texts/emails.
Again, I can only guess at this might be an integral part of the alienating behaviour of their mother towards her younger siblings as it has often felt like she maybe does this as an implied warning to the younger children, ‘see what happens if you don’t comply kids, I can and will drop you like a stone like I do your big sister’.
So again, I’m just wondering if you have seen this sort of behaviour before when children are split across two households, and whether my guesses at the reasons for it are anywhere near why it maybe occurring?
Whilst I can only guess at the reasons why their mother behaves as she does, what I do know for certain though is that whilst my eldest daughter may have escaped being alienated from me my like her younger sibling, and has managed to have a relationship with both parents throughout her teenage years, the situation for her is in many ways just as difficult as it is for her younger siblings.
Firstly, when she is at home with me, she will be ignored by everyone in the other household, even though when she is there with them they all behave reasonably normally towards her. It is impossible to hide it all the time, so when at home with me she also sees senses how upset I get when another day, week, year, family event etc passes in the absence of her siblings, and can see the stress I have been under trying to sort it out and get justice for her siblings.
Then, when she is there with her siblings at their mother’s, she knows their behaviour towards me is wrong, and that it has been instilled in them by her mother yet she is too afraid to say anything to them for fear of making them feel bad, and too afraid to say anything to her mother as it either gets completely ignored, or she gets an earful then dropped for a while again!
Whilst I fear for my younger children having lost half their family, I also fear for the eldest who even now she is now an adult is caught up in this awful dilemma of wanting to help her younger siblings and father, but not being able to for fear of their mother withdrawing her love for her yet again. It is not something any parent would wish on their child, but she has coped with it all quite amazingly, and on a positive I just hope it is an experience which will have made her a stronger adult.
Thank you Karen. Your blog is 100% accurate and perfectly represents my own experiences but for one area – the alienated child is the youngest. I think the only reason for that is that there has always been a good bond with my eldest as I have had more opportunity for contact. With regard to the experts, the Court, those employed to protect the children and indeed those to whom I have reported my concerns you are absolutely spot on. They don’t seem to want to look at anything that my confirm my concerns. They almost take a ‘what can I do? approach and instead of acting do nothing. They see the signs but then do nothing to clarify why the signs might be present. A very, very accurate blog. Personally, I agree completely that separation from the alienating parent is the only way forward. Well, either that or leave things as they are and hope to undo the efforts to manipulate the youngest child by showering them with love and being as much fun as possible. That is a strategy I have employed for some time and to date with little success. I note comments by others about gifts, cars, etc and I know that tactic all too well but that is of course just one very small part of the alienating parents arsenal. It would seem that separation of the children from the alienating parent is the only real way forward. I know it is a dangerous path and has many risks including resentment by the children but if there is any contact at all, the alienating parent will use it to cause further alienation by reaffirming the bond, dependence, etc with the child. How very, very sad when you consider that all I hope for is to be given an uninterrupted opportunity to build and maintain a bond with my children and even now I would not want to harm the children’s Mum as she is their Mum – I value the relationship that they SHOULD have with her.
sound slike your time with your eldest child has been protective whereas the lack of time with your youngest has left that child vulnerable. I wish we could see swift and firm action in such cases, it would be less abusive for the child in the long run, I despair when I see endless analysis and little in the way of concrete action. The remedy of love bombing that you describe is one which is often proscribed by naive professionals who think that if you are just nice enough or kind enough or not boring or more fun all will be well. What they are doing is just pandering to the child’s coping mechanism. Separation from the alienating parent has risks but the biggest one in my experience is helping the child to manage a balanced relationship between once rejected parent and alienating parent, the risk of children resenting the once rejected parent are really very low indeed. k
Can this/your kind of research get more widely published and more importantly put in front of key decision makers (i.e. senior judges/politicians) to hammer this very important message home?
Maybe create a change.org campaign to get parental alienation discussed in parliament?
We can talk to the politicians but then their underlings/feminists/activist/anit-“shared” parenting lobby groups who have infiltrated parliamentary circles and have the ability to undermine a politicians stance (visit the Tim Loughton “demotion” debacle).
We need to influence from without and within and do it coherently, gently, but persuasively and powerfully and especially relentlessly
These struggles you talk about involving your children who have to live in a world where their loyalties are split between you and your former partner.
Your situation would improve if your former partner could find solace and confidence in you as an equally important parent to herself. Forgive me for stating the obvious.
This is only likely to happen if you can find a way of being an integral part of your children’s lives. Many of us, at least initially try to talk directly to our partners about what we see as common sense. After being rebuffed in angry tones we begin to try and understand why our partner’s are so hell bent on taking over the “parenting role” to our total exclusion. (What we have termed here, “parental alienation”).
For persons like yourself and me we may never reach a point where our former partner’s say, “it’s a fair cop bruv, let’s stay friends and share the parenting; accept that we do the job differently. We can laugh and smile our way through our children’s upbringing helping each other along the way as best we can. Let’s build up some trust between us, let bygones be bygones.”). However….
It is possible to work through this potentially precarious harmful and unstable world in spite of our former partner’s apparent ambivalence to the needs of ourselves and our children.
The first question I might ask myself is; would the situation be any different if I was still living with my partner in the former marital home?
In my own case I fear it might be worse………the sullen silences, the uncontrollable outbursts, the condemnation and blame, insults, sarcasm, flippant offhand remarks. The resulting emotional and psychological harm to our children in this situation would not be good unless I could find a solution.
So, we split. But I still want to bring up our children and yet I now have a different address, perhaps in a far off location.
In my opinion you have to work very hard on your continued role as a parent even in the absence of your former partner and children. Continue almost as if nothing has disturbed the continuation of your parenting role. Think about all the ways you can still see and stay in touch with your children. The best form of contact is the physical one, where they actually see you eye to eye………perhaps at netball practice or a school visit to the local museum.
As you work on finding more opportunities to meet your children you will eventually come across your former partner; don’t miss this opportunity to offer her a lift home or present her with tickets for her and the kids at the netball tournament. Do not expect a positive response. The unqualified gesture you have made is enough. Don’t let yourself be hurt by rejection. It is difficult for her to accept anything from you because it is contrary to the impression she is trying to give to everyone else that you are feckless………..or whatever else she holds against you. This is not an opportunity to argue, nor to put the record straight………it is a gesture that symbolises your intent.
Over the course of time as your children grow older they will simply accept their Mum and Dad as different people. If your eldest child has broken free from her mother’s psychological grip and the younger siblings are still rejecting you then it is important you find ways of having some time with them. Sometimes asking them or sending letters or enquiring through Mum just isn’t enough. You have to go the extra mile. Be there at the school play. Buy the revision book that is so important. Join the parent/teachers association. Present the school with an annual award for “best art work “because that is what your daughter is interested in and present the award yourself.
Above all don’t wait to be invited back into your children’s lives and don’t take unfair criticism from your children personally. There is nothing to correct in your life, simply good things to build on.
To date, my daughter is at Uni and I was rather surprised to hear she had joined a feminist group. In the past she has made extremely derogatory remarks about fathers groups……….and yet she still Skype’s me and asks about stuff and tells me what she is up to. She still has very good strong feelings for me and I for her. My younger son whom I wanted to see more of. I have invited him around for pizza tonight. It’s not his night with me so he probably won’t come, but I am still going to pick him up from school……gives me a potential 20 minute chat in the car. If I am lucky he will return my high-five and if we find something more moving to talk about I may be lucky enough to get a hug.
You have to find a way to circumvent/diffuse the negativity coming from your former partner. Because she has said one negative thing about you that doesn’t mean to say that she is a bad person. Be careful about tendencies toward becoming neurotic. The fact that you have labelled her an “alienator” is not something she will like to hear however genuine you think your analysis has been. You may inadvertently fuel her passion to see you disappear.
Ref: Siblings without rivalry by Faber & Mazlish
Just as Prof. Hawking so is able to explain quantum mechanics to a simpleton like me, you once again so very eloquently dissect our issues and help us to understand.
However, you are of course preaching to the converted. Have you any thoughts on whether having read this information myself I should forward it to my children’s mother?
I lovingly wrapped a copy of your Guide for Seperated Parents for her for Christmas, but haven’t heard her thoughts on it yet.
Reblogged this on PARENTS HEALING FROM ESTRANGEMENT.
#siblingAlienations between a sister and brother, follow this young ladies story http://www.facebook.com/SavannahsVoice
This post says: “The first task in any severe alienation case is separation from the alienating parent” — and goes on to discuss how difficult that is with the courts. Indeed!
Now just imagine that you already have 50-50 custody that is followed perfectly! The AP follows all orders, delivers children at handoffs at the exact time, is perfect about paying child-support, shares information about school and medical issues — does little or nothing that a court could possibly find wrong. Yet, when it comes to talking to the children, the words are filled with subtle insidious repeated innuendo and discussion about what is “wrong” with mom, how to cope with her issues, what happened in the divorce, how much money he’s spent to “protect himself” in court.
Alienation happens to their minds, and that’s exceedingly difficult for courts to handle. You hit it spot-on with physical v. psychological abuse: bruises and wounds would be far far easier to deal with; they’re tangible and visible. But those heal. The scars from emotional abuse — to the children, to the targeted parent — are unimaginable.
I wished many times my ex had beaten me instead of gaslighted me and undermined me to all our friends and teachers…. and now our children. Still do.