The Battle for the Child’s Mind: Parental Alienation Awareness Day 2015

Today is Parental Alienation Awareness Day around the world. In the UK we are launching  Living Losses, bringing together women from mainland UK as well as Jersey in London to begin a year long arts based project to raise awareness of the problem of alienation and how it affects mothers, fathers, grandparents the wider family and most of all children. The project is already supported by women from all over the world and will begin a series of sewing circles in which women will sew the names of children to a growing tapestry which is testament to those they have lost to parental alienation. The tapestry, along with audio, visual, written and other creative media testimony, will be displayed in London at an exhibition entitled Living Losses in 2016.

The battle for the child’s mind which is caused by parental alienation is hugely damaging and can cause long lasting harm to children. In the UK, where this battle is increasingly forced upon the child by the reliance by family services, on children’s wishes and feelings to determine outcomes, the problem of alienation is set to grow bigger. Giving enormous amount of weight to what a child says should happen when parents separate, especially in the family courts, only encourages those parents who are willing to use the child’s mind to win outcomes to go further and stronger in their efforts to influence and persuade their children.  And yet this approach is endorsed and practiced systemically in the UK and is held up as good practice, when in fact it is nothing short of collusion in the systemic abuse of a child.

Children’s wishes and feelings should not be the determinant of what happens after family separation. For certain children should be consulted and their views taken into consideration, but at no point should any professional concerned with the wellbeing of children, ever give the child (or their parents) the idea that what the child says goes.  This only gives the child the message that they and not their parents are in charge and paves the way for an alienating parent to do what they do best, which is use the child’s mind to influence outcomes.

Today I will be working with women all over the world to begin to raise awareness of this problem as well as begin a multi layered approach to recording and analysing the problem of reliance on children’s wishes and feelings and the contribution this makes to alienation.  Today we will be sewing, but over the coming year we will be recording, filming, writing, painting, making, stitching and more to gather testimony from families affected by the problem.  We will be working with women in our sewing circles but as the year unfolds we will be opening the project up wider and wider to include all of the voices of families affected by parental alienation including alienated children and those previously alienating parents we have worked with who have healed.  Our aim is to bear witness to the problem, the lack of help available to overcome it and the way in which the battle for the child’s mind is made worse by the focus on over reliance on the child’s wishes and feelings.  We will also be writing and publishing new ways of working with families in the area of parental alienation and domestic violence, examining coercive control patterns and their presence in post separation struggles between parents.

Living Losses launches today on Parental Alienation Awareness Day 2015, but  the work we will do throughout the coming year will bring vital evidence and testimony of families themselves to help us to understand further the problem and how to help to heal those affected by it. Our aim is to create a movement of people who know what is needed so that we can bring pressure to bear on those things which need to change so that we as adults and parents take responsibility, so that our children and our children’s children, do not have to.

Living Losses launches today at the Family Separation Clinic in London. Audio and Visual testimony from mothers affected by the problem will be available here shortly and at and soon on Instagram.  A twitter account is now promoting the project @livinglosses hashtag PAAD15


    1. You are not reading the article through to the end CP. I have just responded to Neil on the same question. Men are not excluded, reasons for women only are in my response to Neil. K


  1. Because the illusion that it is mainly men who are affected is just that, an illusion. At the Family Separation Clinic we work with 52% men and 48% percent women. Because we want to gain media attention from this project and working with women is a safer bet for that because everyone loves women working together whilst no-one really cares about men (not something we agree or endorse but we are media savvy and we are using the media’s own bias to our advantage) because you haven’t read the article through to the end, as the project unfolds men will join and because women working together on creating something is an age old tradition and because we are doing it not just for women but on behalf of our sons and grandsons our nephews and our brothers to raise awareness of the issue as it affects everyone.


  2. Karen, I understand and appreciate your concept, you are indeed media savvy but more important you understand Children and the Family dynamics far better than most. It is high time Karen that you, your Husband and colleagues are given the recognition for all your tireless work not just returning Children to safety but for championing the fact that all the misery that Parental Alienation causes and its destructiveness.

    Today should be your day Karen, I thank you on behalf of all Parents, Grandparents, Children and Families. I would very much like to see that some philanthropist out there would fund your Clinic to be a Foundation of excellence to educate interested individuals to carry out your work in order that we can eliminate the indignity to alienated Parents, not to be dragged through the Court system and not have to wait an eternity to be able to embrace their Children. Hopefully one day our Goverment will see the errors of their ways and finance your work as so much money is being wasted by the Justice system, Social Work and the NHS.

    Karen, thank you and I wish more people would take the time to read your blogs and they would understand the evilness, of a good caring responsible Parent being illegally restraint from any contact with their Children. That is criminal.


  3. Karen, I entirely agree and support what yahnalablog says. I have one caveat: i would hope that emphasis on taking weight away from children’s wishes and feelings would not result in the children’s voices being lost in cases where one parent has a severe personality disorder, such as narcissism or sociopathy. Such parents usually present a highly believable front to Judges, doctors and social workers, but their children (and ex-spouses) suffer great harm from living with them, and can find that no one listens to them. Professionals dealing with the case can say that what the children say they want, (ie living with the other parent) is “not in their best interests” and the children are then stuck in a very harmful environment, unable to escape or to convince the professionals of the emotional and possibly also physical abuse they are suffering.
    I thought that your blog on why fathers commit suicide after being dragged through the family courts for years was absolutely spot on. I also agree that the emphasis on the children’s wishes and feelings opens the door to parental alienation: but I do feel there might be dangers of going too far in the other direction. If all social workers were as skilled as you at understanding family dynamics that wouldn’t happen, but unfortunately few are!


    1. Susang: Good point, but it cuts both ways. What if the child’s ‘wishes and feelings’ that the court respects are in fact the wishes of a personality-disordered aligned parent that the child is forced to parrot and internalise?

      I believe that this was the case with my daughter, who presented to the guardian and the judge as someone who could not abide my company, but who proved willing (if wary) to talk to me at school when I made an ‘unauthorised’ (by the court) visit and at her home on an occasion when her mother was, for once, happy to see me – because I had offered to buy them a new IPad!

      From the Murphy’s Law website

      “If a Murphy law is tried to be used to have a desired outcome, the law will backfire.”

      I’ve read somewhere that lawyers have a version of this, that if a law is intended to secure a particular outcome, it will be used in the courts to secure the opposite one.
      The emphasis on respecting the wishes and feelings of the child in the Children Act 1989 would seem to be a case in point. Enlightened in principle, it is exploited by ruthless, quite possibly personality-disordered, parents to achieve the opposite: the wishes and feelings of the aligned parent, using the child(ren) under their control as mouthpieces or ventriloquist’s dummies.

      This is where the skill in interpreting family dynamics that you mention is sorely needed. But how many social workers – let alone CAFCASS officers – possess it?


      1. Daddyhardup: indeed it does cut both ways! I think we are in agreement that better quality Cafcass and social workers, and also judges, are sorely needed. I agree too about Murphy’s Law, which was really what my caveat was about. I feel we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that sometimes a child’s wish not to return to a parent is because that parent is genuinely abusive, often both emotionally and physically, when out of sight. It is very difficult for frequently changed/replaced “professionals” to tell whether the abuse is actually happening, or is invented using parental alienation techniques. Parental alienation used against an innocent party is indeed child abuse. But sometimes the child’s wishes and feelings are borne of a real need to escape the abusing parent.


      2. where that happens Susang it is called Justified Rejection and that is not what we are discussing on this blog. The reason this blog exists is so that parents whose children are alienated have a safe place. That means that we start from a given place, that is that parental alienation, which is the unjustified rejection of a once loved parent by a child is caused by dynamics which hurt the child and the targeted parent. We are not here to give voice to whether or not PA exists, it does, we know the difference between it and justified rejection and we do not need to go into that territory here.


  4. Wonderful initiative – yes, since we generally respond to female suffering far more than that of males…in this case, addressing female suffering requires confronting the persecution of their men (and so the wider family).

    No wish to interrupt the launch day – however, at some point it would be helpful if the gender stats regarding those affected could be clarified. It would be completely understandable if there were pressures on the Family Separation Clinic to accept referrals on a fairly 50/50 basis. However, that may not be the issue – rather, aren’t the Courts inevitably going to refer a far larger proportion of the smaller pool of female victims that come to their attention to the clinic – thus leading to what seems the significantly unrepresentative 52/48 situation you describe?

    Since the gender feminist agenda which dominates Family Services is about promoting mothers and crippling fathers – it’s obviously men who are being targeted, not women! So it’s rather difficult to believe that men aren’t vastly the most immediately affected throughout the country.

    Even without a drive to alienate being the ‘full blown’ one, separation of any kind, is – by orders of magnitude – more likely to militate against children being able to have the relationship they need with their fathers, than their mothers. Of course, beyond every targeted male – will be the suffering of all their other relatives, and who can say, which, amongst those – will be the most affected?

    Most importantly, wouldn’t the measure to deal with alienation be to follow through the vastly increased levels of childcare competence shown by men in the last few decades? Shouldn’t there be an adjustment to accommodate this by basing resident parenthood in cases of separation primarily on the level of cooperation displayed towards whoever is to be the non-resident parent. Such a measure would single-handedly virtually eliminate parental alienation – as there would now be the strongest, most relevant, both ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’ MOTIVATIONS in place – to prevent it.

    That is, maximum levels of helpful communication would be required in order to JUSTIFY and MAINTAIN residency…while any attempts at alienation – would risk LOSS of residency.

    This approach would benefit both conservative and liberal males equally. A more conservative male less suited to childcare would be required to be given as much opportunity to engage with his children as he could manage, while a male who could demonstrate more suitability for the overall childcare role would have full opportunity to do so…but any attempt to eliminate the mother – would forfeit that.

    No system can legislate for satisfactory behaviour on all sides, but this change would maximise incentives for the BEST possible outcomes for everyone concerned – instead of the inbuilt tendency toward family breakdown and the WORST possible scenarios when it does – that are inherent in the current presumptions of female superiority in childcare.


  5. This is a fantastic initiative, Karen, and you and all at the FSC should be applauded for this by all alienated parents. You will know that I have said before that I would like my children to grow up in a world where there is mutual respect between men and women, fathers and mothers, whether in a relationship, married, divorced or separated, and a focus on our children’s happiness and emotional well-being must be our lodestar.

    Please pass on my best wishes and thanks to all the women participating in the sewing circles. This is going to be a team effort and I look forward to joining the team and supporting the project over the coming year.


  6. Parental alienation has nothing to do with good parents and it takes good Moms and Good Dads to battle those who abuse the children, even the family courts who profit from the Federal kickbacks.

    When the financially strapped family courts collect “awards” that are in congruence with the Federal amounts they receive Billions annually in accordance with Title IV-D. If the family courts encourage 50/50 parenting they suffer the loss of billions of Federal funds.

    It is like paying a police officer simply by the number of tickets written…

    I wonder if similar funding programs exist in your country? It is not the type of thing that makes the front page news but explains how the machine works hand in hand with abusers.

    Knowledge of the existence of such programs is key to raising awareness ….

    Thanks again !!!


  7. It is of great concern that we need to state the obvious to so called professionals (who often do not have children themselves). Of course children should not be put in a position to choose. This is tantamount to further psychological abuse. When we as adults are aware of how manipulative and controlling our ex spouses can be, what hope does a child have of expressing that they would like to be with the target parent at all? Such feelings obviously have to be pushed down and replaced with hatred as a means to survive the environment they find themselves in. (often with a whole family tribe supporting the alienating parent’s viewpoint). Worse than this, the child learns to model the abusive behavior of their emotionally needy and destructive parent and of course, as mentioned, learns that they have power over the alienated parent who obviously, can no longer fulfill anything like a parental role in the rare times they are able to see their child. And of course, chances are, the child will carry the same disrespectful, abusive behavior on to his or her own future relationships along with both the child and alienated parent losing what could have been a valuable, respectful relationship for years.


    1. ….there speaks the voice of experience understanding so widely kicking in this field


  8. Ooh Karen I can’t tell you how relieved I am to find you and all of the people on here.
    My partner and I are just being faced with this heartbreaking situation, my partner being the alienated parent.
    What I am reading on here is ringing so true to me and just as we felt that we were so alone in this pitt of darkness it is good to know that we can talk to other people who can understand.
    We are still going through the court process so we still do have some hope but we feel like our lives and those of children are in the hands of others.
    We are going out of our minds with the worry of what the children are going through and what damage is being done to them when their mother is playing games with their minds that we refuse to get involved in as we understand the damage that can be done.
    Would it be ok for me to print off some of the pages on here Karen to hand over to Cafass to try to bring more awareness to them of this situation? We just want do all that we can to fight to save the sanity of the children and feel so helpless right now.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your work Karen…. if I can do anything to help you please contact me.


    1. HI, glad you have found us and welcome. There is a danger unfortunately in printing off pages and giving them to CAFCASS, that danger is in doing so you may well come up against someone who considers themselves the expert in your case who is not in need of assistance in assessing what is going on. Unfortunately CAFCASS do not have training in parental alienation only what are called ‘knowledge bites’ and their overarching approach to the issue is from a gender political perspective of women’s rights, at least in terms of their public use of research to support their policy and practice. Individual Cafcass staff are all very different and you might find one who is open to it but you cannot rely on that so it is best to take care when giving them information about PA. Managing your practitioner so that they understand the reality of what is happening is a key skill, you have to be able to stand back and let them see what is really going on. If you need assistance to do that we offer coaching at the Family Separation Clinic which you can find at where we offer help to all families affected by parental alienation. K


  9. Karen, I accept your gentle reprimand. My comments were borne of the fact that in our family the mother who has residence is trying to claim that we are alienating the children from her, because the children never want to return to her, and are always miserable when they do at the end of contact weekends and holidays, no matter how much we try to ease the transition. In fact it is the other way round, but the children have such a strong bond with their father that the more the mother inveighs against him to them the more they hold her in contempt. This is not good for them, of course. Children need to be able to love both parents. They watch how their mother gets out of trouble with the police, the courts and social workers by skilled lies and deceit, and their choice is either to learn that’s how to get away with things, or resent her. No way to bring up honest future citizens. We have first hand knowledge of how she continues to abuse the father and indeed the children. Social services have recognised what is going on in our case, and have recommended change of residence to the father, but the Judge is ignoring the LA warning of significant harm if they continue to live with the mother, and the children’s expressed wishes to live with the father, and is using delaying tactics to keep them with the mother. We would really welcome one of your insightful blogs on dealing with justified rejection.


    1. Hi Susang, of course I do not know all the details of your case so I can only give you generic points and thoughts about children who have one parent who is trying to influence them away from the other. It sounds to me that the children are enduring alienating behaviour but are not being alienated, that is different to justified rejection in which a parent does something to a child which causes them to reject and refuse a relationship, some examples of that would be a parent who is drunk or using drugs or who is physically harming the child or exposing the child to harm. That said, even where a child IS being physically harmed they will often cling to the hope that the parent loves them really and will not reject them. The rejection seen in children after separation is usually fuelled and supported by negativity from one parent to the other or between parents. When children do not want to return to a parent we could say that this is transitional difficulty and it is sometimes seen in both directions, a child doesn’t want to go to see a parent and then when they do they do not want to leave a parent. Children who are wanting to remain with a parent and who are expressing that they understand their mother’s problematic behaviour are likely to be in a hybrid alienation situation (though these children sound like they are resisting mother’s efforts to influence them). Many childrn are very miserable at the end of contact times, they can become positively manipulative too as they attempt to avoid transition back. One of the ways to ease that is to acknowledge that they want to stay and focus on the good time they have had and will have again. If all you do is focus on the fact that they have to go back all they will do is reflect back to you that they don’t want to go back so switch the focus and reflect to them how much they want to stay and how soon they will be back and they will find it easier to go back. However hard this is to take you must take this seriously, if you support them splitting their feelings into you = good and their mother = bad, you will become the alienators. It doesn’t matter whether their mother is bad/mad/alienating or all the lot together, she is their mother and always will be, whether they see her again tomorrow or never again in their lives. Supporting children splitting their feelings is alienating behaviour, whether she has tricked, lied or deceived there are more than two choices for children whose parents behave that way and it is not accept it or reject it, it is not see her get away with things or resent her. Children in separated families need to understand that people are good AND bad and that behaviours are unhelpful at times but it doesn’t mean that it is ok to reject someone based on some behaviours you don’t like. YOu can help the children resist alienation attempts AND at the same time not act to alienate them by helping them to keep on making transitions AND understand different perspectives. They will thank you for it in the end and their world will be safer because of it. This is generic advice though and not based on your circumstances because I don’t know you. Splits between Judges and LA’s are very common and denote different approaches to thinking about what is happening, the Judge may view this as hybrid the LA may see beyond that. Generally though, if children are switching their alignments from one parent to the other they remain vulnerable to alienation not healed from it.


      1. Karen, many thanks for taking so much time and trouble to give such a full answer. Very much appreciated. We are reassured that we are already doing our best to ease transition on the lines you suggest. The mother does drink to incapacity; she was arrested and charged for being drunk in charge of the children after midnight in the street. There was a CPP in place at the time after the children reported to their teachers that she had driven them when drunk and crashed the car, and that she was angry at them daily and hit them, usually on the head. Their father was the full time caring parent and earner until he was forced from the house on false accusations, on an ex parte hearing, same judge as now. Long story, very similar to what you describe in your A to Z. The father himself suffered alcohol over-use problems at the time of the break up, but has fortunately recovered his equilibrium after years of physical and psychological abuse in the marriage. He suffered massive panic attacks during the marriage and in the aftermath, but is well now. The children have always adored him and miss him terribly when away from him. We try just to give them peace at the fortnightly weekends, and don’t ask much about home life except in general terms of normality. Sometimes, though, they tell us things which we cannot possibly condone, yet we are aware of the us = good, mum = bad trap, and we are also aware that the father had no one who understood what he was enduring for 12 years, and that the children also need understanding of what they are enduring. This was something that one social worker understood, although most have become trapped by the mother’s believability in presenting as the poor little victim. It’s complicated, hard, and seems never ending. Few people understand the difficulties of living with a person who seems to have a severe personality disorder; it’s rarely officially diagnosed as the person presents so well and refuses to acknowledge it. Thank you again for your help. I wish there were more of your calibre in this field.


      2. very tricky circumstances indeed. The drinking and being arrested and the other issues reported to teachers would suggest the children being terrorised by mother. It is important that you are able to support the children’s understanding of their mother without that becoming their complete rejection of her because if it does the problem they are suffering will simply have switched locations. The victim consciousness is very difficult to overcome but you have to focus on what you can do for the children and not on what the mother does, that way you can maximise the way that you support the children and help them to cope with what is happening. A change of residence in circumstances like this would be supported in our work by an assessment of whether mother has a personality disorder and whether if she has it is treatable. That gives the court a road map, a view of the possibilities and helps the Judge to decide whether a change of residence is right for the children. In these circumstances, if there is a personality disorder present which is not treatable with the children in situ I would suggest a change of residence because to not change residence under those circumstances would be to put the mother’s needs before the children and it is the children whose needs are paramount (supposedly) under the Children Act. Hope you get some progress soon. K


  10. Karen, thank you once more for your understanding and wisdom. The section 37 report does highlight that the LA do not think they can help any further as the mother does not acknowledge her drinking problems and is unable to prioritise her children’s needs, in the LA jargon. It does not seem to be possible to get a diagnosis. All we can do is to relate events as factually as possible, and hope that someone in authority “gets” the possibility of a personality disorder. All the advice we have read on the subject, from doctors and psychiatric professionals advocate strict No Contact, but that is not possible or indeed advisable where children are involved. We don’t know where to go for help.


    1. it is possible in my view to get residence changed and supervised contact for mother and that is really what you should be going for in circs this this if you can. We can offer you guidance on your case at the Clinic, we have to charge I’m afraid because there is no funding for this kind of work but if you email me at appts@familyseparationclinic I can give you more tailored advice. K


  11. There’s a lot of info on the net about Low Contact with a narcissist. I’m, assuming this is the situation. Read as much as possible about the subject and the way a narcissist mind works and how to counteract that. Key terms are Grey Rock Method, triangulation, gaslighting, hoovering, flying monkeys, the types of verbal abuse, manipulation techniques, how to detect pathological lying, and baiting-discarding. Armed with this knowledge you can learn how to handle a person who is disordered in this particular manner. Important is that you realise a narcissist (or bordrline) has impaired conscience and very little empathy. Things will never be “normal” and the person involved will never change, as personalitydisorders arerigid an often for life. Don’t ask for or expect insight, it wil never come. Once you let go of all that, and see through their attempts to control the situation, it is possible, though difficult, to establish, to go Low Contact and keep it that way. Setting boundaries and being and staying businesslike and to the point are absolutely vital with this type of people. In the meantime, you’ll have to be patient, resilient and firm. I hope This information will help you solve this horrible situation and stay strong and healthy yourselves. Respect, Lotte Hendriks.


  12. Thank you Lotte for your help and advice. It’s good to know that the problem is recognised somewhere. We are doing our best to resolve the situation, and follow the advice you and Karen give. The court uses delay as a tactic. Meanwhile the children suffer.


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