This weekend we have again been working on our new site and thinking about those things which are most useful to parents whose children are currently rejecting them. In doing so I have been trying to walk a mile in the shoes of all those other people who work with alienated parents, school staff, GP’s and those who work in the legal system, be they Judges, Solicitors, Barristers, Social Workers, Guardians or others. In walking that mile I have also been taking a 360 degree view of the world that each of these people inhabit, examining the training they receive, the belief systems that they may hold and the presumptions and assumptions that they may hold about children which are based upon the world as they inhabit it. I have been doing this so that I can find ways of speaking to those people, about children who reject a parent, to help them more easily understand why rejection happens and why it is so important to do something about it. This weekend then I have been writing lessons for legal people and this is part one.
Part one – lessons for legal people
- The first lesson to learn is that children who reject a parent completely after separation rarely do so because of something a parent has actually done to them. A child who completely rejects a parent is usually doing so because of pressure being placed upon them which is largely unseen because the parent who is causing it is either high functioning and able to disguise it, or is being assisted to do so by a legal and mental health system which does not understand alienation in a child.
- If a child justifiably rejects a parent there is a trail of evidence which can be examined and seen. When there is no evidence of why a child is rejecting and the reasons a child gives for refusing to see that parent are visibly weak or nonsensical, this is evidence that the child is captured in an intolerable position and rejection of a parent is the child’s only way out.
- Children who once had a loving relationship with a parent do not suddenly or inexplicably decide that they no longer want to see that parent.
- Both parents do not always contribute to the child’s ‘decision’ to reject a parent. Whilst there may be contributory factors coming from both sides, it is the alignment and the pressure on one side which causes the child to reject a parent.
- Traditional forms of therapy are not the way to treat alienation in a child, in fact traditional forms of talking therapy may well end up entrenching the child’s rejection. Therapeutic intervention with children who reject a parent requires skill, attunement and often team work.
- It may not be possible to treat some alienated children whilst they are living with the aligned parent and trying to do so can prolong the harm being done to the child.
- Children who reject a parent without justification urgently need outside intervention. The rejection is a sign that the family has failed to make post separation adaptations and needs help.
- Leaving a child who is completely rejecting a parent, without investigation, help or route to restoration of the relationship with that parent is harmful to a child’s wellbeing because it is likely that the child has entered into a state of psychological splitting, which causes long term damage.
- A parent who is trying to draw your attention to the predicament that their child is in is not contributing to the alienation of that child but is trying to get help.
- Children who make allegations of abuse against a parent, in a sequence of events in which the allegations confer power away from one parent and towards the other, are often caught in a damaging dynamic in which the allegations are being inculcated by one parent against the other in order to maintain power. (Children who make real allegations of abuse will most often do so in a random manner which is not related to the actual separation of their parents).
For those legal people who are interested in the research evidence, Richard Warshak has recently written a powerful piece about fallacies around parental alienation and it is worth reading it here.
For legal people who are interested in the damage that psychological splitting does to children you can read more about that here.
For legal people who believe that separating a child from a parent who is causing them to reject a parent is harmful, more information about the benefits of separating a child from an abusive parent can be found here.
For legal people who believe that parental alienation does not exist or that there is no peer reviewed research on it in the world, you can read peer reviewed research evidence here.
For legal people who believe that parental alienation is not accepted in the UK Family Courts you can find case law which demonstrates that it is here. This is only one Judgement, other relevant judgements will be made available on our new site which is coming very soon.
If you are a practitioner or professional working with separated families in the family courts and you do not currently subscribe to the belief that parental alienation exists, please take some time to follow these links and understand what the issue is and why it is important to know much more about it. Too many people working with families affected by alienation seek to impose their own belief systems upon the problem, making it much worse for children not better.
The Children Act 1989 in the UK requires you to act in the best interests of children. Not knowing enough about why a child rejects a parent, or being willing to simply leave a child who is doing so without any help, is not acting in their best interests.
If you want to know why parents become so upset and angry about this issue, why not follow these links and upskill yourself, so that you are at least on the same page as the children you are charged with helping.