The Enemy Within: coping skills for alienated parents

Never one to miss an opportunity to learn, I have this weekend been musing upon the way in which alienated parents have to cope with intolerable psychological pressure.  This has been prompted by my understanding that the space that I occupy in the discourse around alienation in the UK, is coveted by others.  This is parental alienation as a key market for business in the UK and not parental alienation as abuse of a child. This understanding explains for me the actions of those who write and act in ways that appear that they are holding the best interests of families at their heart, when in fact their agenda is something else entirely. A parallel which is so close to the experience of being an alienated parent that I feel as if my child (in the form of my work on parental alienation) has been subjected to an abduction attempt. This pushes me on to understand those keys things that hold true for alienated parents when the alienation process is underway.

The first and most powerful experience of being an alienated parent is that of feeling like a fish trapped in a net. The harder one struggles the more powerless one feels.  The urge is to shout as loudly as possible, not for help but about the net which has closed in and which holds one firmly in its grip.  The problem is that the louder one shouts in these circumstances, the more the eye is directed to the other person, the alienator, who sits in quiet self righteousness, denying that the casting of the net was their responsibility. This denial, often accompanied with repeated holding up of the trapped parent’s weaknesses and failings, ensures that the first stage of alienation is underway. The first stage being to convince the alienated parent of their own responsibility in the rejection process. This is called gas lighting and leads eventually to such self doubt that the parent being targeted succumbs to the erosion of their self esteem.

The second experience of being an alienated parent is being able to see what other people cannot see.  This experience, in which the actions of the alienating parent are clear and obvious to the target parent but which are seen by others as being innocent and innocuous, leads targeted parents to spend inordinate amounts of time trying to explain to other people what is really going on.  This, when taken to extreme, leads the target parent to fall into the trap of confirming for other people that they are indeed the architecht of their own downfall and the cause of the children’s rejection of them. This way madness lies and many alienated parents succumb at this stage.

The third experience as a targeted parent is to become convinced that nothing can be done. This occurs when the alienating parent enmeshes the professionals seeking to help the family in their own view of what is really going on.  This is readily achieved when alienating parents are able to use professionals without any experience of working with alienated families, a common occurence in the UK but not so common in other countries where the platform for such work is more powerfully constructed.

This is why constructing the right foundations for this work is so important in the UK, this is why the underlying fight for the discource around parental alienation is so important to be aware of.

The battle around parental alienation is not simply for the child’s mind. It is most often a psychological battle between two parents, one of whom is highly skilled in manipulation of people and one of whom is not.  The outer circles of this battle are the professionals configured around the family, here too the psychological battle rages, here too, coping skills are essential.

So how does one cope as a target parent?  Here is a quick step guide to dealing with the psychological battle.  It is a guide which we use with targeted parents at the Family Separation Clinic.  It is also a quick step guide that I use in to deal with the psychology of fighting with fog, a metaphor which I use to describe the experience of upholding what is right in my work with alienated families against the myriad opposition to it.

1. When trapped in the net do not struggle, do not call attention to the net but continue to focus upon your own well being and the reality of what you know you are facing.  Your time is better spent this way than trying to convince other people of the reality of who is casting the net or the net itself. If your children are rejecting you, focus upon what you can do to strengthen your own practice with your children and your understanding of what is happening to them. Work with your guide, coach or therapist to build your knowledge of how to work with alienated children.

2. When you can see what other people cannot see use that skill to strengthen your position instead of telling other people about it. Falling into the trap of telling people that the other parent is alienating you and listing all of the things they are doing that prove that, only ensures that they are able to step back and allow you to appear as the architecht of your own downfall.  When you can see what others can’t, use that skill to build a strategy which will lead your children to liberation. Consult your legal team, consider the actions you need to take and reality test with your guide, coach or therapist, all of that which you can see which is harmful to the children and which you can use to demonstrate the danger that they are in. In short, strategise, focus and remain well and healthy.

3. Avoid becoming convinced that there is nothing you can do. When this happens you enter into a psychological place of weakness and acceptance.  This learned helplessness can be increased by well meaning professionals who themselves are convinced that there is nothing to be done.  To avoid entering this place, work with your guide, coach or therapist and a legal team who understand parental alienation.  There are some wonderful legal people who understand parental alienation in the UK, avoid learned helplessness by contacting us at the Family Separation Clinic for their details.

The battle for your child begins with winning the battle against the enemy within. The psychological battle to stay healthy and well and strategise effectively is one which all targeted parents must win first if success in the outer battle is to be achieved.  When you win this battle you stop focusing upon what is being done to you and focus instead on what can be done and how it can be done.

Which is what I will be doing today and everyday.

Parent Coaching from the Family Separation Clinic is available daily, contact or visit

11 thoughts on “The Enemy Within: coping skills for alienated parents”

  1. My husband’s alienated child is now 16 and becoming an adult. In all honesty she seems more and more enmeshed with her mother than ever, but, do you have examples of where a child has “come round” as they mature. Everyone tells us this is what will happen, but with no evidence to back up what seems a weak possibility it’s hard to accept. We are doing what we can to keep the momentum, of family life, staying strong, healthy etc. my husband is better at this despite being the biological parent. I think he has reached a kind of acceptance. But some hope would be good…


  2. I agree with focus, but many moms who stayed home with their kids (after pregnancy) make less money and/or were not in control of the family finances and cannot afford a legal team or even one professional, let alone a “good,” trusted one who is not in collusion with others in the legal system. This issue is just now being brought to public, thanks to investigative journalist Anne Stevenson, but is not being addressed.


    1. This is one of the things I had experienced. The father had a “team” of family & friends not to mention the woman he married who worked the system by being employed with The Department of Social Services (we’re talking 13 years ago) So it’s been just about 13 years since I’ve seen my son / now 25 and daughter / now 24. I allowed this to crumble me for 7 years until I was able to accept how my life had turned very sour as had my soul. At this point, I’ve been writing to them and praying they’ll see the light and not view me as an enemy. I’m their MOM – no matter what but that hollow spot in my heart isn’t getting healed anytime soon. Very rarely, I receive a letter from my daughter but EVERYTHING goes through her father – to his address. The control is suffocating. God Help Me and have mercy on him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes — the calm, authoritative male is sympathized with and admired by a team — a man has a voice in our culture, anyway (the Bill Cosby issue is one of many examples). There’s often a woman backing up the abusive father’s lies as well as those who work for him, etc. Another difference is that most males can get some access, where so many moms I know are completely cut out and our culture lays the blame upon mothers, just as my ex still blames his mom when it was his dad that forced her away and she had no where to turn. Fathers/men can afford therapists & lawyers, so therapists & lawyers keep saying that this rarely happens to women. Please nurture yourself and keep sharing your story. It’s important to speak up. It takes more than 40 women to be listened to for every one man.


  3. hi karen, thanks for all your work with us targeted parents and suffering children. In the Netherlands things are even more behind than in the rest of Europe and the US. Mij daughter of ten refuses to see me and Child Protection rules that I was the alianating parent, so there will be no contact with her anymore. Not that I would force her, but the pain is incredible. And the shock, I only stated the facts and this was the result. My ex-husband has NPS, so he has brainwashed her carefully. And now I’m the one who is alienating? I have never said a word wrong about my daughter’s father. Just facts, domestic abuse, severe psyhopathology, and a hatred for me that he will cherish untill he dies. Thanks for warning about giving up, I feel like giving up. Or move to some other country and just forget about seeing my daughter and start a new life, out of the trap. I feel I’m losing hope. People tell me she will come of herself when she is older, but I also know people who haven’t seen their kids in 30 years. Now he is fighting custody, which is all that I have left. His behaviour is not allowed in other countries, but like I said the Netherlands are way behind. Strangely, a few days since I posted my situation on facebook, I met a woman lawyer who wants to go to European Court, as In Holland, things are organised in a way that is agianst women’s rights and doesn’t go along with the International rights of women as they have been agreed on internationally. So now, this for the first time, I’m the one who goes to court. Challenging how the State of Holland violates the rights of women and children when it concerns Domestic Violence. We have two well known lawyers who are specialized in human rights and my own lawyer is simply thrilled by the idea, so she’s in it, too. So at least, when my daughter is of age, I can show her I fought for her and her well-being in the highest Court. But I feel exhausted and lame because of all that is happening and I feel so powerless. He’s been in this game from day one and took my child and divorced me, as I had postpartum depression and couldn’t look after her. And the war started right there and then, I have hardly seen her ever since, even with a court order. Effectively, I have never had a child. So this is my story. I want my daughter examined on PAS as this is my only recource. But I will never force her and I have never been negative about her father with her around. Which is what Child Protection argues, from a targweted parent I’ve suddenly become the alienator in their view, it hardly believable. My daughter is living with a diagnosed psychopatic narcissist and there is nothing I can do. Or is there?


  4. Torn2pieces, I am so sorry to hear that by being at home caring for your children and being a good mother you found yourself without the funds for legal support. It’s so unfair.
    On the reverse, the problem we found was that it was easy for the alienating mother to argue that she was the one who was there for the children day in day out whilst their useless father was always too busy at work (providing for them!!). That’s a lot of time while Dad was away from home for insidious alienation games to be played.
    It seems like a parent who wants to alienate will do so whether they are the one in or out of the home. Using whichever argument fits their cause.

    I am merely a step parent, I grieve for all of you facing this as biological parents. I can’t begin to imagine the pain.


  5. What happens when you want to get letters or cards to your daughter and the mother wont pass them on.


  6. Does it ever end? For the last 10 years I have been facing the wrath of an alienating parent and every week my children get further and further away. I dont feel i could ever walk away, I have the hope one day my children will have their own personal freedom and we can get to a stage of being happy without all the emotional baggage. But in the meantime how on earth do you manage what is such overwhelming emotional abuse, so that when that day occurs you at least resemble the sound caring confident parent you were??


  7. It’s good to know that there are legal people in the UK who understand parental alienation (but too late for us). Are there any social workers who understand it? And is anyone focusing on educating them?


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