Alienated Child Whispering

I work with alienated children, I know them well. I work with them when they are alienated and fiercely determined not to see a parent and I work with them through and beyond reunification towards a place of psychological balance. This year so far I have undertaken seven reunifications with fifteen children and all have been successful. None have used force, all have utilised the reconfiguration of the dynamics around the child via the legal system with a subsequent quiet and peaceful encounter with the rejected parent. What I know about reunification of children is that it is not a mystery, it is not a magic wand and it is not something which is within the skills range of only a few people. Anyone can reunify a child if they understand how to work counter-intuitively and are sensitive the alienated child’s way of speaking.  To do this one has to get out of the way of everything one thinks one knows and start again.

Alienated children do not speak the same language as other children, they speak with their bodies as well as their mouths and they convey meaning as much in the unsaid as those things they tell you.  When I am working with an alienated child I spend a lot of time with them doing ordinary things. We will play games, go for walks, eat cake, watch tv and hang out.  When I do these things I do so to learn the language this particular child is speaking, because although all alienated children say the same things, they each have their own dialect.  As I learn the dialect and absorb the things which are said and unsaid, I begin to understand the way in which this child entered the split state of mind. I find out how, who, why and when and by that point, I am ready to go with reunification.

The easiest reunifications are done when the framework of power is properly configured. I want the Judge in the role of super-parent to charge me with the power to do the work. I want the alienating parent’s power over the child to be completely constrained, by force if necessary. Then I want the rejected parent to be right beside me with all of the understanding in place which will assist when the time is right. Getting to this place isn’t always easy because we often have a court process to go through before we get there, but when we do, we are ready and when we are ready, we wait for the signals that the child is ready. This is not about hanging around waiting until the child says they are ready, for if we waited for that time we would wait forever, it is about taking the time to listen to the language of the child so that we use the best opportunity available.

I do undertake forced reunification where children are removed from a parent’s care and taken to the other parent. These are not easy interventions but they work. What happens during the removal in such circumstances is that the power dynamic shifts from the alienating parent to the person carrying out such a removal and then to the rejected parent. In direct transfer of residence, this is can be initially difficult for the child but with the right person who understands the psychological shifts the child has to make doing the transfer, the child arrives in a place where the alienation reaction is starting to lift.  Unfortunately, those transfers which are done in this way without the right psychological intervention, means that the problem of alienation is transferred with the child.  Recently in the UK I have been asked to work therapeutically with children who remain alienated from the parent they have been removed to, so that the child remains rejecting, angry and difficult for a parent to manage. This is because the failure to undertake the psychological work which is necessary in transfer which is rooted in the management of exchange of power, leaves the child psychologically split. This is hugely problematic and something that I will write much more about because we must raise awareness of the need for the psychological intervention which addresses the split state of mind to be undertaken along with residence transfer if the treatment route is to be absolutely right for the child.

I prefer however, those quiet reunifications in which a child is helped to reconnect easily and peacefully. One such reunification took place last year which exemplified the way in which an alienated child speaks a different language.  This child had not seen his father for three years. Much time and litigation had passed. The usual story of allegations made and dismissed in court. The usual delay. The usual lack of understanding about what to do.

Fortunately, this family was seen by a Judge who really ‘got it’ and who did not spend any time creeping around the issue.  The power dynamic was changed. Mother would do as she was told. Father would be reunited and a week later he was.

I watched as the father entered the room. The child continued to play and appeared to be ignoring him. I gestured to father to go closer and crouch down which he did. The child appeared to ignore him but in the drop of the child’s shoulders I could sense that he was fully attuned to his father.  Dad sat down and without looking at the boy handed him a brick to add to his building. The boy appeared to ignore him. Dad put the brick by the boy’s feet and looked straight ahead. I saw the boy glance at his father to check him out. Dad picked up another brick and the boy pointed to where he wanted it to go. Dad put it there and the boy put another on top of it. Dad picked up another brick and gestured with it very slightly, did the boy want it here, or there? The boy took the brick and put it where he wanted it to go and looked at the bricks to say ‘give me another.’  Dad handed him another and so it went on for twenty minutes. No-one spoke. The room was absolutely silent and yet, within those minutes, so much communication was going on between them that it was as if a symphony were playing.  Twenty minutes later the boy turned and fully faced his father who stood up as he did so. The boy reached up his arms to be scooped up by his dad and the hug which followed was accompanied by the ‘click’ which happens when the alienation reaction lifts and the need for rejection has gone.  Nothing left to do in terms of reunification. So much to do in terms of educating, assisting and working through the recovery journey with the child.

That comes after reunification however. What comes before is the shift in power dynamic which brings the attachment relationship to the fore and the work to give the child the knowledge that things have changed sufficiently for them to let go of the coping mechanism of rejection. That lies in the hands of the facilitator of any such reunification and the better one gets at speaking the language of alienated children and the stronger one becomes at getting the external framework right, the easier such reunifications become.

The more that I work with alienated children the more I know and understand them.  The more I know and understand them, the more I know that the answer to their problems lie in people who know what to do in terms of changing the dynamics around them and who are prepared to go out on a limb to do that for them.

Alienated child whispering is a somewhat tongue in cheek title for this week’s blog, but it speaks of the skill which is necessary to do this work well and it speaks of the need to learn the unknown language of the alienated child.

A language which is barely understood at first and which is spoken in only a whisper.  A voice underneath the narrative about a parent they tell the world verbally that they never want to see again, whilst all the while they are also telling the world everything that they needed in order to be helped, but in a language not enough people can understand.

Alienated child whispering, it is less about doing, more about listening and all about forgetting everything you think you know in order to hear what is really being said.

So that what is eventually heard is the true voice of the child, which when it is fully liberated, roars like a lion in an unmistakeable upsurge of love.

Once witnessed.  Never forgotten.  Once loved.  Never truly rejected.



23 thoughts on “Alienated Child Whispering”

  1. For these few children and parents successfully rescued, I am glad….. and jealous and sad and resigned….. no such joy of reunification awaits on my horizon…… my child(ren) grow up without me…..of those you talk, they are the lucky few…….as of today the reality remains bleak for the broken majority……until such happy scenarios can have a wider application…..


  2. Thank you soo much. I cant read about this bc its pure agony, i feel like i have been permananetly sucked in my stomach.

    I was the primary care giver, kids all thriving. It’s inconceivable what has happened. I was married to a control financial freak..

    Thanks foralll your work, please continue if possible

    Sent from my iPad


  3. I’ve given up on the last remaining therapist we have had. She doesn’t see the true issue, and she won’t take in the literature, including yours, that I have repeatedly offered. I’m back to one-way communication, praying I say all the right things to plant the seeds that might help my children and me reunite someday. How I wish someone like you were here to help us.


  4. What a wonderful calling and perspective you have. Like the parent above I am excited for them but jealous and saddened from my own alienation with my daughters (3 years, even months and 17 days). I wish that you were able to teach more people around the world how you are able to get past the parent, lawyers and court to even engage with the kids. God bless


    1. it isn’t easy Sean, to get to that place there was three years of litigation, seven hours of cross examination, endless reports, investigations, meetings, rebuttals, allegations and more. I make it sound easy I know but before we even got to those twenty minutes there were years of struggle. It should not be this way. The family courts should not allow unwell parents to use them to further their own agenda but unfortunately because of lack of knowledge, they do. But it is getting better in the UK, not everywhere but in places. And we have the new European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners starting up to train more people and raise more awareness. Practitioners want to help they just need help and support to do it the right way. It is changing. Too late for some I know but it is changing. Before I finish my stint I hope it will be very very different right around the world.


      1. Please do not stop your wonderful work. If a few children are reunited and some cases making legal precedence there will be more hope for those that are still to be sent down this path. I found this article with statistics of suicide in Australia Devastating statistics and many come from the family courts even though the media only talk about the abuse of men on women. Both fathers and mothers can be equally evil as I am sure you see in your work. I was fortunate to have come out the other side of my sadness and shame that was placed on me my by ex-wife and children. I am lucky that I have now married by best friend and business partner 3 weeks ago. She and her girls have not filled the hole in my heart where they were and should be now, there was always plenty of space for more.


  5. Karen this plain and simple explanation for people going through this horrendous process is an excellent ‘idiots guide’.

    I say that as all to often ‘experts’ (barristers, solicitors, guardians, social workers and judges, ) quite simply do not have the interest to be progressive to challenge what is the ‘accepted norm’, and this blog can be shared with such experts to test their understanding of a very delicate and difficult situation.

    My heart reaches out to those people surrounded by such inertia in the process, I too had the misfortune of having to deal with two local authorities and a very hostile maternal family, maintaining a false narrative.

    Never give up and keep the faith. Xx


  6. I tell this story often, but when my stepson came over last year after a year of alienation, he immediately connected with my husband and me at the same level he always had (that is – in a positive manner). Hugged his dad and told him he loved him after a two hour visit, and then was present in our lives for the next two weeks or so (he was 16 at the time). Then he took offense to something (or she did, who knows) and he’s been gone again, now for almost a year and a half. I’m still astonished by how quickly he turned right back into who he always was with us, and how quickly he disappeared again.

    I can see how a young child like the one above becomes alienated (I assume he’s young since he’s playing with blocks), since they are so utterly dependent on parents and so naive, but it’s hard to understand how it persists into late adolescence and adulthood. I hope you will write some about that sometime soon.


  7. Cara (Quoting you) : but it’s hard to understand how it persists into late adolescence and adulthood. I hope you will write some about that sometime soon.

    I hope so too.


    1. Yes guys, me too!
      I’ve fought the good fight for 4 years and now’s my son is 17!
      Hugged me when I have him cards for his birthday….. I was overjoyed… nothing!
      That was a month ago and I feel like I’m just falling……
      I adore him but those round me say he’s of an age to know better and almost a man!

      Karen, what do I do now? Please help!



  8. My son terribly abused by his father, i never even had a name for this nightmare i have lived and he hAS suffered from. I loved him enough for both parents and i was powerless to fix custody in court so he would spend half time with me only to have it washed away with hate when he would have to leave; When he was young he would break out in hives when he had to go, it would be agony. I tried everything, and lost every dime fighting this. Today he is just severed in two. . I believe somewhere in him he knows i love him and always loved him, maybe not, but i have to believe every memory was disected out of him i have so many and he has none, he says all he remembvers is pain and ubliness and crying and i did nothing. He says he hates me so much that he wishes i were dead. i have begged him to tell me what i have done to hurt him this much and i will fix it best i can, and he only rants and tells me he never want to see me again. The despair and pain isn’t about my feelings, it is about the horrible pain he us in , what this has done to sever being able to receive love, and be loved. The twisted battle in his hearts he has to face and the rage that he experiences of not being able to understand their minds and their hearts. My x has NPD, at least from what several attorney'[s witnessed and therapist that i went to along the way, he has never been tested. He is able to convince anyone of anything, is charming and has his scripts down perfectly. My own family has come to believe it was me, not my X, at times my own reality in pain thinks i must have been crazy. And i start thinking i have noone to validate that i was a good mom. and reality starts slipping away in pain. The only time i realize that i am not crazy , is when my x called to gloat, and to rub it in my face that he hates me and i lost. How can anyone do this to their own child. My son turned 18 and that is when it all came to a crises, i was planning graduation and various things, and he hadn’t given me one of his tickets even though i persistently asked him The day before i said , I can’t get in the arena with out a ticket, and all hell broke lose. he screamed in agony and cried, then was angry and then silent hate in his eyes. . He finally blurted out that he didn’t want me anywhere near his graduation and wanted me out of his life, i was a loser and a liar. That the truth is he has hated me all along. He wished i would get hit by a car and die. I sat there in utter shock, a part of me wanted to slap his face for being so disrespectful, but i love this kid, (man) more than i love anything, and i had no words, i just looked gently at him, sat down, and quietly said, ok,” and i sat there wondering what in the world was happening. He then picked up his things and he said, i don’t want you in my life from this day on, you ruined everything i tried to do, you are hateful and horrible, and you will never see me again. . . He said i would never be welcome in his home and he will never be allowed to damage his future wife and over his dead body would i ever ever meet his kids or be allowed to know them. , he would murder before he let me near them. he slammed the door, and in utter complete disbelief and shock i fell to the floor and must have laid there for over 20 hours sobbing . that was 2 months ago. i died that day,. and now i am a walking empty shell with despair that i have noone to share with. How did this happen, how? I thought i could love him enough very day, that they woulnldn’t believe the lies, i had no idea what evil he was doing to them, and i couldn’t stop it. I was totally niave and thought my love would see them through this. I have no way to cope with this, no family or husband i devoted the last 20 years to them. I can’t bear to see them so hurt and damaged. I would have done them better had i taken a gun to my head at the divorce, maybe then they wouldn’t have been emotionally raped every day since then , Maybe the sociopath of a father wouldn’t have taken his destruction of hating me out on them. I am so lost and so confused. Maybe it is all my fault. maybe i was a terrible mother, i don’t know now, its all painful and horrible this is how it ended. it is nothing i would wish on any human being. Total despair that you cannot run from . I can’t find a reason to go on because my pain for them aches beyond words.


    1. Debra, I’m almost scared to to reply to you for fear of causing you pain or saying the wrong thing, but I will do my best as a mother who’s in a position similar to yours!

      We both know we were great mums, maybe not the best ever, but the best for our children!!
      Part of what your alienating ex is trying to do via your son is make you doubt yourself as a mother, I know, I’ve done it too when I’ve hit the dark moments in the middle of the night when i wonder when I will ever hold my son again!! But Debra, I know I will, or at least I know I’ll die trying!! That’s all we can do!! What we mustn’t do is give up or doubt ourselves!!

      I don’t know how much of Karen’s blogs you’ve read (i recommend you read them all) but, hang in there, keep working towards making yourself strong for your son, cause when he returns he’ll need his mum to hold him and tell him it’s ok!!

      I had a meltdown earlier myself, and I mean a meltdown…..but our children need us and I had to think of my son before myself! I’m sending you much love tonight, I know how lonely it can be!!

      We are all here for you….. sharing our own heartache but we will not be beaten!!
      Frankie x


      1. This is part of the cycle of this type of child abuser, they train the child to deliver the abuse for them. Im not sure how much more I can take either of the abuser acting out through the child. The enabling of dom violence through the child done by courts and social services is extreme.


      2. In psychological terms Vicki, this is called ‘Identification with the Aggressor’ it is a defence mechanism not a training of the child. When you say that the abuser trains the child, you miss the reality that in human relationships, defence mechanisms come into play automatically. Identification with the Aggressor causes psychological splitting in a child, that is why the child rejects you. If the child was not psychologically split, they would not reject you. If the child did not identify with the aggressor, they would not split. Whilst I understand that you see the world through a belief system which tells you that men are inherently violent because they are born entitled, the reality is that these defence mechanisms are present in children when they reject fathers too. Whilst mothers terrorise their children differently – by threatening covertly to abandon them if they do not align with their views, children use the identification with the aggressor defence with their mothers too. Your analysis is a social analysis of society, my analysis is a psychological analysis of what is happening to children. Your analysis requires the courts and society to understand and use the patriarchal assessment of men to give women and children protection, my analysis requires the reorganisation of family dynamics to protect children from ANY form of terrorisation which causes them to identify with the aggressor because of overt or covert abuse. Alienation of children cannot be articulated, understood and treated by calling it domestic violence by proxy, children have their own unique needs in these circumstances which are separate from their mothers. Alienation is about the child’s alienation of the self from the self which doesn’t have anything to do with what is happen to women.


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