Helping children and young people to heal from alienation is not a difficult task when one understands the process they need to go through in order to do that. For there is a clear and easily followed path to assisting children and young people in these circumstances. I know that because I have walked that path with eleven children so far this year and all are on the road to healing well. Last year I walked it with almost forty children and all of them are healing well, most well enough for me to not need to work with them any longer. Over my working life in this field I have walked with and helped many children, young people and adults heal from the impact of parental alienation. It is not a difficult task, especially if one has a healthy rejected parent to work alongside because this parent is the key to the balance the child (of whatever age) desperately needs in order to begin the journey to recovery.
Alienation is healed when the alienated child can hold three things in mind, heart, body and soul –
- They are not and were not to blame for the ‘decision’ to reject a parent and they are forgiven by that parent for doing so.
- They have two parents, one of whom is healthy and provides stability and balance, one of whom is not. This parent must be understood in order to manage the relationship with them without rejecting them.
- They have the right to seek congruence in their lives.
Helping the child, adolescent or adult in recovery from alienation to reach the above point is again not difficult. Alienation does not have to last a lifetime and if the right skills and understanding are learned, it will disappear never to return. Whilst the impact of alienation is significant, healing it means that the pattern dissolves and the struggle for the child is over for good. This is why understanding how to help a child in recovery (the subject of my current work), is an essential task for anyone professing to be proficient in this field.
I am not a fan of hand wringing tales of woe about parental alienation, I see little value in portraying the problem as being too difficult to resolve, too big to manage and too desperate for anyone to deal with. It is not. An alienation reaction in a child is caused by the infantile defense of psychological splitting, therapeutic work the task is to take the child/adolescent/adult back to the place of the original wound and to confront them with the reality which has been denied. This is why reunification work is so critical with alienated children and why transferring residence without such work will simply transfer the problem with the child.
Without the confrontation with the healthy parent, all reunification work is simply whispering in the wind and without the child being taken down the recovery road, all therapeutic intervention is merely words. It is only the combined confrontation with the split off and denied object which is the healthy parent, the management of the power dynamic around the child and the reorganisation of the child’s internalised belief and feeling system which brings alienation to an end. And when that work is done alienation is at an end, for good, because the resilience the child lacked in the first place, the understanding and the conscious acceptance of reality brings the child to balance. And that is true whatever the age of the alienated child.
The problem of parental alienation is not difficult to resolve when one knows what to do and has the courage to do it. There is a clear, step by step approach to resolving the outer and inner damage caused by alienation and anyone working in this field should know it and practice it. In reality, any practitioner who works with alienated children should be capable of healing the child using the known and proven steps and that should be possible within a twelve week period. A child who is caused to use psychological splitting as a defense must learn, when the outer circumstances are resolved and the relationship is with the rejected parent is healed, that their lifelong task is to understand cope with and manage the behaviours of the parent who caused the problem in the first place – without rejecting them completely. What is absolutely fascinating to me is the number of children who, when liberated from an alienating parent, are able to name exactly the behaviours in the alienating parent which caused the problem for them in the first place. Children liberated early enough can point to it and say it, children who have grown up psychologically split take longer and adults who have lived their lives in this state of mind longer still. But with the right intervention, delivered confidently and competently, every single one understands what was done and how it was done and in the end why it was done (although that is not something we focus upon in the early days of therapeutic work with children, transgenerational consciousness is part of the recovery process).
For young people healing the relationship with the rejected parent can feel like a dilemma in which they are constantly trapped because they cannot speak of this to the alienating parent. Which means that the task in therapy is to help them to accept the impossibility of living with a parent who is intensly hostile to the other and to bring them out of the childhood fantasy that they should be able to have two parents who are accepting of their relationship with each other. It is about bringing them out of their childhood where they are stuck with the primary wound of splitting and into their adulthood where perspective, integration and acceptance of ambivalence awaits.
Resilience building, in terms of bringing understanding, coherence and consistency to the lives of alienated children is assisted in their relationship with their healthy parent and as a therapist, I often work closely with this parent for a period to enable them to reinforce the stability within and without which has been lacking in the child’s life. This is intensive work but again, after a period of twelve weeks, there is little need to keep doing it because the benefit to the child of the reconnection with health is immense and with the steps of recovery having been completed, the forward motion towards resolution is continued.
Resilience building for recovery, it is the responsibility of all practitioners in this field to understand how to do it and do it. And when you know how, the difficulty, like the alienation in the child, is gone for good.
Our one day course for practitioners which will be held on June 28 2017 has one place left. Please contact email@example.com if you would like to know more or book that place. Cost £295 plus VAT. Venue. The Family Separation Clinic. 50 Liverpool Street, London, EC2M 7PY.
I will be writing the next article in the series which began with Alienation in Five Easy Steps for Parental Alienation Awareness Day on April 25th.
Readers in Northern Ireland may be interested to know that I am presenting at the Children Order Conference for the Law Society in Northern Ireland on May 18th 2017.
In the eleven cases you have worked with this year, did all involve a change of residence from the alienating parent to the formerly alienated one?
Hi Susang, I must be careful when I speak about cases I work with as I must not give any information which could lead to anyone recognising themselves or anyone else recognising a case. Therefore I will do this in percentages – 75% of the cases i have worked with as mentioned are residence transfers, the rest are in shared care. K
What happens to the relationship between the child and the former alienating parent?
Having recovered wouldn’t it be a normal reaction for the child to seek revenge on the alienating parent?
Or does the child feel a sense of forgiveness or even pity toward the alienating parent?
Does the understanding of what has happened to them suffice as a panacea and consequent acceptance of why things are how they are?
How does the alienating parent cope with the new reality?
1. The desire for revenge is never present in a child unless the child is encouraged by an adult to want revenge and that would mean that the child has been coerced by the formerly rejected parent to want revenge. Why would a healthy parent want to cause a child to seek revenge? They wouldn’t. A child wouldn’t want to seek revenge because they are hard wired to love a parent not hate them and even in recovery, when parents have done terrible things to them, children still want to love them, it is their natural drive.
The child reaches a place of acceptance. Not pity, not forgiveness always but acceptance that it is not their place to help the parent or even understand the parent although understanding the parent is part of what we help children to do to enable recovery but the child accepts that this is the way it is for them and that is enough. What suffices as a panacea is the realisation and experience of having a good enough healthy parent and the knowledge that balance is possible in relationship with this person.
Alienating parents cope in a range of ways from cutting out the child, blaming the other parent, configuring the change as the child being kidnapped, showing insight, trying to change, understanding the situation and attempting to help and more.
“..but the child accepts that this is the way it is for them and that is enough.”
Isnt ‘acceptance’ a double edged sword here? For equally the alienated/ unrecovered child(ren) can similarly learn to ‘accept’ falsehoods as their reality, and grow to ‘accept’ that “this is the way it is for them”? Whose version of ‘reality’ prevails? Great if it is the ‘true reality’ they are ‘accepting’ but disastrous when what the child(ren) ‘accept’ is a fabrication of half truths, mistruths, and downright lies?
In a case in which a child has been taken from a parent through false accusations of parental alienation and has then been cut off completely from that parent yes, acceptance is going to cause the child to reject the parent they have been taken from and that child will be brainwashed to believe that they were brainwashed by the parent they have been taken from and will therefore be harmed by the process – badly. This is the risk in this work, someone says parental alienation and everyone believes it. Which is why differentiation is key to getting it right and why so many get it wrong. often badly wrong.
“Which is why differentiation is key to getting it right and why so many get it wrong. often badly wrong.”
Elsewhere Karen you have referred to the “8 signs of alienation by Richard Gardiner” as the ones you use to determine whether a child is alienated ……could you state what these ” 8 signs ” are to help my understanding?
“I will be writing the next article in the series which began with Alienation in Five Easy Steps for Parental Alienation Awareness Day on April 25th.”
Karen will this one look at how and what the rejected parent can do / behave like to try to rebuild / keep in contact with their alienated child(ren)? It is so easy to say/ do the wrong thing and make things worse.
I cannot for the life of me think what I could do to reconnect with my 36 year old daughter (alienated from age 15 by her father/my husband). I haven’t seen her in almost three years and she has ignored every email and card I’ve sent her. She even ignored the email I sent to tell her that her only surviving grand parent has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was in hospital. She still thinks her father is the victim whereas the truth is that he was controlling and verbally abusive. Once he realised he could get her on side to punish me, he did just that and sat back and watched me fall to pieces. I left them both two years ago and the card I sent her this year will be my last.
I don’t think there was ever anything I could have done in the face of such an on going force. They were and are such a pair together they blew me away.
The problem here Willow is the power dynamic and the way in which your daughter’s father has inveigled himself into every corner of your daughter’s psyche so that she is a slave to his belief system and bonded by his dazzling light so that you are pushed into the shadow. The core of this though is that in order to cut you out in this way she has to perform some serious psychological moves in order to survive, half of who she is has been cut away, but she is female and therefore as she grows older she will increasingly experience within herself the mother she has cut out. When this starts to happen it becomes very difficult for the repression of what she has cut out to be successful and it will begin to erupt in bursts. You don’t say whether she is a mother herself or not but becoming a mother can cause a massive rupture in the repression as can death of her father. There are events which will occur in her life which will prevent her from being able to simply ignore you and your existence in her internal world. For now, without knowing much about your background it is hard to give you specific advice, what would be really helpful to you is contained in our book which helps you to map out the route to alienation in a child in order to work out what to do to maximise the chances of reconnection. Coming soon, promise. K
Yes it will SS I am writing it tomorrow for publication on Tuesday. K
Roll on Tues then , I can’t wait….I so much need to know what steps to take. Each day, week, month, that passes solidifies the alienation. I want to feel powerful, not passive, powerless and hopeless over recovering my parental relationship….in this I sincerely hope you can help.
As always Karen this is a really interesting article. Your three points at the start of the article, about what a child needs to hold in their heart and mind in order to recover, prompts me as always to wonder how this can be framed in a way that might prompt an alienated child to start to think of themselves like that. Is there a way that these things can be written in such that they act as a flag for a child who may be coming to an age where they may start to emerge, and can therefore in themselves be the catalyst for the beginning of an emergence?
I know that this will only happen for the child when they are ready for it to start happening, but could you write this in such a way that it could be read and provoke the start of a lightbulb moment?
I will try CT-G, I will give it a go and send it to you and see what you think. I also need to send you information about our retreat in France this year which I will do so. K
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My Son and I are in the process of reconnecting after 9 years apart. He is 18. If possible I would like a cc of what may be helpful to him. I do not believe he is familiar with the concept of Parental Alientation. Although, it is absolutely what he experienced. I am his mother, I have not and will not speak ill of his father to him. I am desperately concerned about his mental health and well being. He seems well adjusted, but has mentioned that he suffers with depression from time to time, which from my understanding is common for a child that has been alienated. Thoughts? Thank you!
Hello Karen, I really appreciate everything that you are sharing in your posts about your work. In this post you write about bringing young people out of their childhood and into their adulthood; and if I recall correctly in earlier posts you have also written something (please forgive if I am paraphrasing inaccurately) about freeing the child to resume the authentic and unconscious experience of childhood. Is there any tension between these two ideas? For any specific child, does one or the other of these dominate, based on factors including the child’s developmental stage?
For younger children the return to the authentic childhood is the goal and this is achieved largely through reconnection with the rejected parent who then safely takes on the role of holding the tension around the child so that the alienating parent cannot continue their behaviours. In older children, those over the age of say 13/14, that childhood cannot be returned to and so the goal is to help the child understand enough to be able to rest in peace in their minds and not take on the responsibility the alienating parent is attempting to foist upon them. In older teenagers who are free of physical dependency upon their parents the goal has to be to take them back to the primary wound, hear the alienated child’s voice and authenticate the experience of being in a double bind but swiftly bring the inner child to adulthood through use of strategies to enable understanding, perspective and balance. The older the child the more grief work has to be done in order to resolve the primary wound. But it still doesn’t need to take a long time, it can be healed swiftly and it should be. Psychological splitting is not a lifetime’s wound, it can be resolved and it is not difficult to do it.
Thank you for this additional info, which is helpful and relevant to my current situation.
Hi Karen. You write about “Confrontation with the healthy target parent”. I agree with that, but for my adult children now I would think that maybe I would need a therapist well educated in the subject matter to help in the confrontation to make it work. Coaching if you will. I have a couple of questions/ scenarios.
1) How do i get the kids to come and talk this confrontation out? This maybe a waiting thing now until they are ready.
2) Suppose a child now an adult comes back but does not want to discuss the past but wants to have a relationship with the target parent without confrontation. I am thinking that adult child is not ready to go deep in the forest of the past yet since he is out numbered. How does that work? Is this a good solution?
Anonymous-mother of three
Not all children need to talk it out, some need to live it out, some need to feel it out, what your children need is what you need to do most of and they will show you what they need.
an adult child who wants to come back but not discuss the past should be welcomed with open arms and the past should not be discussed with them. Discuss it with someone else but not the adult child. The worst any parent can do with a returning adult child is force them to go over the past, if they don’t want to do it, don’t force it but enjoy the reunion and show them they are safe and loved and you are well and when and if they need to talk they will.
**********This is a note for all parents whose children reunite***************.
The past should only be revisited by the child with the parent following, to force a child who is reunited with you to go into the past with you is to act in the same way as the alienating parent – it is putting your needs before theirs and when you do that you disrupt the attachment hierarchy. Alienated children who come home do not need to know/understand/admit/agree they were alienated from you, they have been through enough. Only revisit the past with an alienated child when the alienated child leads you to do that, otherwise stay in the present and enjoy it as much as you can with your child and give thanks for their strength in returning to you.
Thank you, Karen. My reply may be out of place and sorry about that. It’s like if the adult child has figured out some things and does not want to discuss the past. Honorable! Additionally remarkable the alienating parent is still in the adult child’s life too. Sometimes I feel like I am meandering expressing my response and thoughts. Writing does not come easy for me.
How do we know if the adult child is recovered and healed or gauge where he is at? How would we know if the adult child still believes the false abuse allegations and fabrications and fear that were drilled in him? So parents must never discuss the past in attempt to fix these false allegations? How do we help in this circumstance so the child can stand up to other siblings and stop the fabrications?
the healing of the child must be child led in spontaneous reunification, however old the child is. If you, as the alienating parent, attempt to take the child back to the past it is going to put the child back into a place where they feel pressured but this time by you. That is not to say that you cannot speak of the past but you must wait until the bond is repaired ENOUGH to be able to do that. Too many parents struggle with this idea and think that they should speak of the alienation and the past to help the child. The child will let you know when they are ready, they will ask questions and take conversations into the past, when they do this you can speak your truth quietly and clearly and tell them that it has always been this way. The child will find, in this approach, the firm ground they are in need of and will build trust back into the relationship with you, as this happens you can open up with the child more and more because the child is ready. It takes a HUGE leap of faith for a child to reunite spontaneously and I have cringed in despair at the stories told of when the child knocks on the door the court bundle is ready for them to look at – NO. Please do not do that, Please do not show the child books or articles about parental alienation, pray that your child can heal in the relationship with you without ever having to know the words parental alienation because that is the way that your child, however old, will find peace. Unfortunately, as the targeted parent, this is the burden you must bear so that your child doesn’t; have to, this is the damage you must repair because your child’s other parent handed them a heap of sorrow to deal with. Lift the burden from your child and give them the space. When the time is right your child will ask and you will have your chance. In the circumstances you speak of above where the child is adult and facing difficult stuff from other siblings and parent, love, love and love some more. Give love, time, patience, kindness and keep giving it, keep going and keep loving, it is your love which will speak your truth and this will offset the power of any false allegations from the past. Alienated children crave love, love from a healthy parent, give them it, don’t let them down by making them feel you are like the other parent by wanting them to listen to things from the past. K
How I needed to hear your advice here before I put my size 9s in it again! Can you just clarify for me that ‘the past’ is not out of bounds completely in conversation as long as it doesn’t touch on ‘alienation’ or is ‘the past’ taboo full stop??
“If you, as the alienating parent,…”
Karen, is this a typo? Did you mean to write ‘alienated parent’?
I can’t find where I wrote that SS, it will be a typo though wherever it is
“If you, as the alienating parent, attempt to take the child back to the past it is going to put the child back into a place where they feel pressured but this time by you” is from your reply Karen to Anonymous above….sorry, didn’t mean to be so cryptic!!
yes it is a typo ss, I guess I was thinking that if someone did that it would feel to the child like a parent was attempting to alienate but in the other direction so my unconscious wrote it that way.
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I read this longingly. I’m Hopeful that one day my son can see what he cannot see now fully yet. That it’ll matter to him. That what’s been done isn’t strong enough to muzzle or anaesthetize his love and desire to know me in another way.
“They have two parents, one of whom is healthy and provides stability and balance, one of whom is not. This parent must be understood in order to manage the relationship with them without rejecting them”
Karen you say the above is one of the three things an alienated child needs to hold ” in mind, heart, body and soul” for alienation to be healed. However, doesn’t this require that the ‘healthy’ parent is correctly identified? Yet in the cases not involving you, isn’t this where problems arise when the ‘wrong’ parent is officially classified as ‘healthy’ and the child(ren) is told by professionals their classification is right?
yes it does SS and I am often brought in to sort out cases which are incorrectly identified – social workers find it hard to admit when they are wrong though.
Thanks for your reply. I’d love to know what the typical responses are of SWs you find to have been wrong in such cases and what judges have to say to such SWs when they choose to accept your analysis of a family rather than the SWs?!?
I’m further left pondering about the multiple cases, in which you are never involved, which should be reassessed and corrected, but are left with the original mistakes intact and hence where the child(ren) are left believing a falsehood about, in essence, both parents….and how a targeted parent in this position can best deal with it? When recourse to the courts is a financial impossibility, it really seems a bleak hope that any positive changes can be effected. Or am I being unnecessarily pessimistic? Can you offer any crumbs of hope?
sadsam – we are one of those cases, and whilst Karen has worked with us, and spoken to people who have care of the child in our case, we were never able to get her more direct contact. Maybe in years to come when the child is an adult. Maybe. In the meantime we did everything we could and pursued the court side of the case almost as far as we could (stopped short of a full hearing for fear of deeper damage to the child, but continued to pursue through regulatory channels). Never got anywhere due to the culture within these organisations of not accepting responsibility for bad decision-making, although impossible to know what impact our endeavours had under the surface. In responding to your question, I have thought for a long time I’d like to write to the SW, now it’s nearly 3 years after he recommended ‘no direct contact’, to let him know how that’s worked out. There no contact at all now, other than through the resident parent, so no contact. I think it’s appalling that there is no follow up required to what are its changing decisions by the court. The bad decision-making has been validated, and presumably continues, damaging others in its wake.
Thank you CTG for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you.
“I think it’s appalling that there is no follow up required to what are its changing decisions by the court. The bad decision-making has been validated, and presumably continues, damaging others in its wake.”
I think this is a really important point you make. Where are the longitudinal studies on these cases assessing the impact of SW and court decisions, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years down the line? These people can walk away from the consequences, with no repercussions. It is the subjects of their actions/ decisions that are left to live out the after effects, who are left by the roadside bleeding.
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Karen, can you elaborate a little on what you mean when you write that the children “have the right to seek congruence in their lives?”
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Karen, I too would welcome some further explanation of what you mean by this?
I am an adult alienated child and it seems to be too late for me to establish much of a relationship w/ my very wounded mother who also lives far from me. I would love to go to the source of my childhood wound, but I was four years old when alineated and have very little memory of it. How can access that to heal fully? Is this possible? I am almost tempted to do hypnosis just to get this wound up and out. I want to reclaim my authenticity. I get close through meditation and other healthy habits, but I feel I am not “there”.
Dear Dana, I have just read your latest piece on your blog and I would say this – it is not too late for you to receive the mothering that you crave and need and have missed out on. This lack of mothering in your life is the core of your authenticity which you are trying to reclaim but cannot get enough of from your mother because she is not ready or able to give you that – yet. What is happening is a concurrent journey of recovery but each of you have different tasks to complete before the systemic correction of the relationship can be undertaken (which basically means before your mother can be mother and you can be her child again). Your mother has had to survive the loss of her child at the age of four and you, her child, have had to survive the loss of your mother at the age of four, a catastrophic loss for both of you which has caused a primary wound which needs healing. That four year old child in you needs her mother to be closer and needs her mother to be strong enough to mother you. Your mother is not strong enough to mother you – yet. In therapy, I would invite that four year old child to speak and let that child be heard well. There is grief and sorrow and loss and abandonment in your writing which needs hearing. Eventually your mother needs to hear it but she will need to be strong enough to do so without crying. For now your mother needs holding and hearing, the young mother in her needs to be enabled to speak. It can be done, it just needs to be done by someone who understands how to do it. You can be heard and so can your mother and you can heal, you can find peace in being your mother’s daughter and she in being your mother. If you would like help I can offer it by Skype and I can help your mother too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel it might assist you. K
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Thank you, Karen. What you say makes perfect sense to me. Unfortunately, my mother is so wounded, far away, and has little means of contact (no email, text, skype) that I feel she is mostly unavailable and unwilling to go through a healing process. Is it possible to do this without her? I will email you.
Yes it is possible Dana, do email me, we can Skype and I will be in the US in the fall too with a seminar planned in Boston and a weekend trip to Cape Cod planned so it may well be possible to meet up too. K
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At the risk of being told I’m completely wrong…. I can’t imagine your mother doing anything else but hugging you tightly while brushing away a tear or two!
I wish you every success in your future journey back to your mum!
Those of us reading this have dreamt of the day……I would love to know what happens!
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Dana I clicked on your name which took me to your story, it was very moving. I read it and felt love on both sides as well as a hurt that can’t speak. I truly wish both you and your mum happiness and resolution. If I was your mum I’d want to read that piece of writing and I would fall into your arms overflowing with love. So much lost time…
I’d like to think that one day my daughter would be able to feel the love you show in your writing but all I saw was her contempt and rejection. She doesn’t have any of the soft edges that show in your writing. She changed so much. And to be honest, because of that, my soft edges have begun to harden.
I hope you both get there one day 🙂
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Dana I hope Karen can help you and your mum because reading your blog it seems to me that if there is anything crying out for a hopeful outcome it’s your story. I’d love to ask you about your back story (how you came to realise you’d been alienated) but know it wouldn’t be appropriate; instead I am really hoping for a happy outcome for you.
Good luck 🙂
Im billing you for a new monitor! x
Thats even worse!
Reminds me of a manics lyric…”blackout the words for the blind have eyes” are you having a problem with space invaders of somekind or daleks? Let me at em, ive got my sonic screwdriver. x
Karen, please can you remedy the problem highlighted by CJG on the blog posts list page…..the words are virtually invisible against the grey background where the blogs are listed!!!
Karen, are members of the public permitted to attend your talk at the law society in Northern Ireland, and if so where is it being held!
After 4 yrs of hard line alienation by his father my son got out of hiscar today and gave me a big hug as I handed him cards from my family for his 17th birthday! Thank you for keeping me focused, strong and determined and sharing the wealth of knowledge and experience you have_ I fear had I not found you, I may not have been around today!! It was only a hug but my heart is full!!
To those parents who fear it will never come good, please take solace of my situation!! God knows when I will see him again as my ex kept him from me for 4yrs….could be another 4 til the next time but I will be here when he needs me!!
So want to hear you speak Karen, you are that light at the end of the tunnel!!
Thank you Frankie for your comment. I’m so glad you got your hug. It’s good to hear of the breakthroughs, however small, and that hug must have felt huge. It gives the rest of us hope, although it feels pretty slim right now. My best wishes to you.
I have absolutelyno doubt that my son suffered for “my hug”, I messaged him today, which is his birthday and have received nothing back! I’m sure his father had plenty to say once he got back into the car!!
I wanted to share this poignant if small gesture by my boy to give a little hope to others!
I’m not fooling myself by any means…. it may be his 18th before I get another hug, and that would make 2 more than I had this time last year!
I’ve opened my soul at times to the dark places my son’s alienation has taken me, so I wanted to share the “hopeful” ones too, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t cried sore today and am holding the pieces of my broken heart together!! The eyes I looked into were still my beautiful gentle son’s eyes!
This makes me want to cry Frankie, you have seen the absolute truth of what alienation does to children, well done your boy for being brave enough to break out, he will do it again do not worry about that, it may take him time but he will do it. x
I am going to find out if you can come to the conference on the 18th, I will come back to you x
Dear Frankie, and the eyes your son looked into were his loving mother’s, so he won’t have forgotten that either. I don’t know whether my stepson remembers, but I remember that the last conversation he and I had was where he apologised to me for his mother’s behaviour, and I said he was always welcome in our house, and that she was always welcome also. And the last time my husband spoke to his son, and looked him in the eye, he told him he loved him and was proud of him. So I hope those are the things that have stayed with him. Its been years now though so it’s hard to feel hopeful. Thank you for sharing. My best wishes to you.
Prior to this, the last contact I had with my son was 2yrs ago in the presence of a GAL and senior practitioner from social services! It had been arranged by the court to enable me and my son to meet without interference from his daddy….but his father sat outside and my son was in hysterics! He cried to me that he wasn’t allowed to see me that day but that the arrangement for him to come to my house for dinner the next night was ok, daddy said so!
How could I put my son through that?? Having his father drop him to my door after seeing him almost on his knees at 15yrs old! I phoned the GAL and said i didn’t think it was a good idea as my son was obviously traumatised to within an inch of his life!
The judge, social workers, the GAL and solicitors and all concerned commended me on my concern for my child and his well-being and how his father had totally ignored the request of the court for him to stay away!!
He was indeed manipulating and intimidating our son…..said the judge!
After that…..nothing! The prior encounter with my son had been wonderful, we hugged, we laughed and we cried but when the social worker told daddy this he informed her that my son had requested no further contact with me!
The system is a shambles and those involved are aware of this! My last social worker told me after our final “Child at risk” meeting that although she advised, via a very thorough report to all the professionals, that my son stay on it due to the emotional abuse by his father, she had been notified by her boss 20 minutes before to vote to remove him, and my daughter who lives with me! She resigned her post that day and apologized to me! It took her 4 days to compile a report stating her concern for my son and in her words she said “How stupid do I look, that I now have to vote against my own recommendation?”
As far as the system was concerned my son said he didn’t want to see me, and his daddy said they couldn’t make him!
If I hadn’t discovered Karen and read “Please let me see my son” I would have been in a box long ago!
I send you my best wishes and please don’t give up….your strength runs much deeper than you will ever know!
The last contact my husband had with his son was by accident, in a cafe, when he saw his son with a friend. My husband spoke only kindly, and told his son he loved him. His son didn’t speak back to him, but clearly later told his mother he’d been spoken to as it was used against my husband as ‘proof’ that his son didn’t want to have any contact with him. I asked Karen at the time why his son would have told his mother he’d seen his father, and Karen’s response was that it would have been to offload the guilt he was feeling, that by unleashing his mother’s fury and being reminded of all the reasons why his father was worthless, it would somehow have vindicated (for himself) his ignoring behaviour. The last contact before that his son kissed him on the cheek. In between was a world of bad action and words from the guardian and court which most certainly made things worse. My husband, like you, chose to stop the court proceedings and walk away, in order to prevent his son (as best he could) from being further harmed by the pressure from his mother, which was only increasing as the court process continued. My husband was praised by his solicitor for the way he was dealing wit this, and not responding to the angry aggression his son was showing him, but it made no difference. What does make a difference is that my husband (and I) can say we are living honest lives, and living by our word, and don’t have anything to be ashamed about in how we’ve behaved (although thats not to say we wouldn’t do something differently, given this time again). That’s priceless, although sometimes feels hollow.
We try to life the wealthy lives we deserve. In my own separation and divorce my husband and I agreed, before we agreed anything else, that we would keep our differences between ourselves, and put the children’s welfare above everything else. And we still live that way, so my ex-husband came to the wedding reception of myself and my current husband, so he could show our children, and our family and friends, that he supported us, and he has holidayed with us all together, for the same reasons. Its not always easy, but it is the best thing for our children.
The system was broken for us, but there are shoots of change showing through the hard earth. Sometimes I think back and think we just over-complicated our response to this. Instead of the pages of details of the broken contact and interference between father and son we should have just asked the simple question – what evidence is there that unadulterated contact is being promoted and supported.
It will be Father’s Day soon, and before that my husband’s birthday. In the four years preceding the complete loss of contact, even when my husband and his son were still seeing each other, on those birthdays and Father’s Days there was no card sent from son to Father, because it wasn’t promoted (allowed) by the mother. For Father’s Day the story for those last few years was always the same – ‘he can’t see you because we’re spending the day with my father’ (the grand-father) – even though the child lived full-time with his mother and his maternal grandparents. Such simple ways to show how contact was thwarted were ignored by the court (the Guardian said he wasn’t interested in anything ‘historical’).
Thank you for your kind words – we are strong, but the support we’ve gained from Karen and contributors has certainly been a real lifeline.
Your husbands journey with his son and mine seem very similar in as much as we have both wanted the best for our children and have suffered to make it so! What I have learned over many years is that people like your husband and I are not responsible for other people’s behaviour and all we can do is deal with what we can control within our own lives!
I find it so very difficult to deal with a father who only wants his son in order to hurt the mother, and who gives very little attention to his beautiful daughter who was once his little princess because she choses to live with me!
My son’s father abused me physically and mentally for many years but I stayed for the sake of my children, I did however refuse to allow him to do the same to my son, so when it happened, I took them and left!! That’s their daddy’s problem, he lost control!! Believe me I understand only too well your husbands frustration and pain. The last beating my son got at the hands of his father has now been turned on me! The little boy I protected for 13 years has now stated that it was perpetrated by me, but the children are being brainwashed and for my part all I can do now after 4yrs of courts and social workers is be there for him when he realises this! Part of the plan of an alienating parent is to destroy the targeted parent….please don’t let it happen! I’m living proof you can get through it, and live with whatever pain is felt!
I watched my son, drink, smoke, take drugs and let his education go down the pan, and his daddy stood and watched me fight to stop it!!
There are so many of us it’s hard to believe…. I wait with baited breath on their daddy’s next move and my only concern is keeping my children safe, it’s all we can do!!
things don’t really change!!! It’s 4am in Ireland and after having watched my son drive up to collect his sister with his daddy beside him in the car (L) I had a complete meltdown!! I don’t know how the hell I will get through this living hell and sometimes in my dark times, I don’t want to! I’m sounding off here cause I thought something “more” would happen after the hug, but it hasn’t!! I feel a pathetic mum, which in a way is precisely what their father wants!!
I’m lost and I don’t know what to do anymore…..suggestions on a postcard!!
If I don’t try to laugh, I’ll cry!!
Karen, I wish I’d had you 4 yrs ago when this all started instead of a Court Welfare Officer who couldn’t have spelt Parental Alienation!!
There’s so much self-pity in this comment, I apologise!
Dear Frankie, I am sending you a hug. I have spent today with a child aged 10 who is now reunited and I am only now uncovering the depth of what this child has had to deal with. What this child would want you to know is that the love never dies, the knowledge of your love never dies and there is always the double pull of love and fear when the alienation is at its worst. What is happening is terrifying because you don’t know what is happening, what is happening to your boy is that he doesn’t realise what is happening and when he does he may not be able to get free. But that hug was not unreal or false or not from anywhere, it came from the healthy child underneath. The hug released the longing though which makes the subsequent encounters too painful to bear. Stay with it. Take CG’s advice, don’t push the river, wait, bide your time, mend your nets like fishermen who cannot go out in the storm. I heard today from someone whose boy came back this weekend, that in itself is the start of a new phase. This is a roller coaster of a time but do not let go of that hug in your heart, it was real. I promise you. Sending my love and support Kxxx
I’m sorry for your crisis. And don’t worry about the self-pity – its hard not to feel alone and lost. Sometimes you have to let that wash over you. Its grief after all. Then pick yourself up and move on. Its the only thing you can do. Being downtrodden doesn’t change anything. You can’t change what’s happening but you do have control over how you feel about it and how you react. Without wanting to sound trite, of course you can have no idea what’s happening for your son inside. I have no doubt the hug came from the authentic child. That moment will have meant something to him, it just needs to get to a place where the fear of not doing something about it exceeds the fear of doing something about it. Added into that the complications that children want to love both their parents, so going against his father will eventually need to feel less urgent than the need to have another hug. How your son responds is beyond your control. Have faith.
I don’t have any answers on a postcard, but I do have soothing music that we play sometimes, that really can help to heal the soul. A long suite of pieces is called ‘The Prayer Cycle’ – its various artists but the names that usually come up are Jonthan Elias, Alanis Morrisette and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Then another old favourite for zoning out is Speigel im Spiegel by Arvo Part. Keep going – your child needs you. Your comments are also undoubtedly helping other people in this situation. There are many many people who silently read these posts. And you can have no idea how your honesty is helping others – small comfort but a comfort to be had none the less. My very best wishes to you
I hurt for everyone who is caught up in parental alienation. I’ve been there….it was heart wrenching. I felt lost, in disbelief, and alone at the time. After the divorce my teenaged son with whom I always had a healthy, happy and supportive relationship, would not see me for over 2 years, and seemed as if under a spell, believing awful things about me. I believe PA is insidious psychological abuse of a child by a mentally unwell parent who is triggered and unhinged. The children are victims and should never be blamed, no matter what behavior they show. We need to find a way to recognize and stop PA through the courts and the therapeutic community, both of which are generally impotent with regard to this pervasive abuse. The adversarial legal system is partly to blame as it inflames conflict, triggering mental health weaknesses in all involved.
When I was going through it I looked everywhere for help to bring my son back. There were very few Internet postings of parents who were able to reunite, or who could suggest how. So I would like to post my experience to give hope for reuniting, and say what helped me. I urge you not to give up, because you are and always have been their parent. Your child loves and needs you to be strong and actively creating an environment that inspires reuniting. Thank goodness and with great gratitude to published guides like you and other professional leaders in the field, and all the family and friends who helped when asked, my son returned 3 years ago, and we are healing wounds and have made so much progress. He is a thriving young man with two parents and extended family on both sides now to support him through life.
-never give up
-never blame the child
-reduce tension in relation to ex- be respectful, civil, show you are able to speak together in front of your children. This parent is a part of them so rejecting that parent is felt as a rejection of them, causes painful internal conflict. To reduce that conflict children feel they must choose, and may stay with the parent whose love is entwined with need, or is more conditional, often on the rejection of you.
-I did not use family court as I had experience with its relative incompetence and lack of care during the divorce, giving me no confidence in its ability to help the situation. I had a strong sense it would backfire and cause more resentment in my son, would add to his sense of conflict and stress, and use up funds I needed to pay his college tuition.
-I fought hate with unconditional love-patient, continuous, unflinching. I behaved based on my own code, not in reaction to others’ behavior.
-I believe parental alienation causes self-loathing and great anxiety in a child, which is behind much of the negative behavior. The only way to heal this is to show you believe in them and love them no matter what, to help them love themselves again. Only after they feel self-love can they begin to show others love again. Be patient and reassured this will happen with the power of your consistent love and support.
-I took time to heal myself, to soul-search, read and learn, to plan a strategy to bring him back to me and his whole family
-I researched PA extensively, read multiple books. I most benefitted from Richard Warshak’s Divorce Poison.
-I continued living my life as fully as possible-consciously focused on gratitude for what I had, worked hard to be financially independent, found a new loving supportive partner, spent time with friends, sought new experiences, spent a lot of time in nature.
-I committed to writing my son brief loving cards including photos, each 1-2 weeks. No negativity, expectations, or guilt. Occasional suggestions of what fun things I envisioned we could all do together someday when he felt ready.
-I tried not to be pushy, and to relax in the knowledge that someday he would return, on his own timetable of healing
-I stated my boundaries, with kindness
-I asked for support from everybody-friends, his therapist, my family, the family of my ex with whom I worked to maintain a good relationship, to speak to him of me and encourage reuniting. This was key.
-I looked for opportunities, asking to be briefly in his presence, but letting him control any contact
-I kept believing in the good outcome. Envisioning, asking, showing gratitude for any little thing.
I hope my thoughts help. Please keep your hope alive and actively work step by step, undaunted, to heal yourself, your child, and your family.