The UK has just gone into a full lockdown situation alongside many of our European neighbours and in line with many other countries around the world. During this time of unprecedented fear and anxiety, alienated parents, already suffering enforced isolation from their children, will feel the pressure of this more than most. This is a guide to keeping yourself as healthy and well as possible as we head through the next few weeks.
As we head through this time we will be bringing you as much support as possible alongside information, guidance and education on staying well and healthy, on developing therapeutic parenting skills and on understanding how your child might be thinking and feeling. Now more than ever, isolated alienated parents need help and we will do all that we can to bring that to you.
Thinking about the impact of what we are all facing, here are those things which are additional burdens on alienated parents.
Enforced Isolation from Children and Lack of Information About Their Wellbeing
One of the most difficult things in being cut off from a child is not knowing how they are feeling or thinking. For those whose children entered into the defence of psychological splitting in which behaviours and responses to normal parenting become distorted, exaggerated and difficult to understand, sadness and loss may be replaced at this time by fear and anxiety as well as some anger and frustration. Keep in mind that your child’s behaviours are not directed at you or caused by you. Your child is trauma bonded to the parent who they are aligned to, in an identification with the aggressor dynamic. Do not dwell on the idea that your child does not love you, keep focused on the reality that your child has had to employ a defence to cope with the impossible position he/she is in.
Not being able to know whether your child is well or not is a particular torture for all parents and mothers and fathers who cannot care for their sick child are likely to feel cut off, depressed and anxious at this time. If you can, send a message to your child, if you cannot send a message, post on social media that you are thinking of your child, hoping they are well and reminding them to wash their hands and letting them know that you are well.
Losing Loved Ones
One of the greatest tragedies for alienated children is when a member of the family they are rejecting dies. This leaves the child with a carved out space which they will, eventually, feel responsible for. This outcome of the current situation is likely to occur for some alienated children. If a loved one dies, then the child must be told as soon as practically possible that this has occurred. They must be told as gently and carefully as possible and ideally by someone related to the person who has died, not the parent to whom the child is aligned. In the conveying of this news the focus must always be upon lifting the burden of responsibility away from the child. I pray that no-one will need to break this news to a child who has been alienated from a parent but if they do, I hope that the news will be broken in a way that does not make the burden that the child carries heavier. The adults in this must take responsibility so that the children do not have to.
Given that the adult to whom the child is aligned is likely to be unable to carry this out in a child focused way, if you have to wait for some time before breaking news to a child, it is better to wait and do it properly than allow it to be done in a way that further harms the child.
In recent days I have had more reports of children turning up on the doorstep of a parent’s home, of emails being received and phone calls being made. If your child does turn up on your doorstep then you must of course welcome them in but you are going to have to help them at the same time to follow guidelines about Covid-19. It would be tragic for a child to arrive home only to bring with them a virus which is dangerous to many people’s health and wellbeing. Surreal as it sounds, remain available but be prepared to follow government guidelines at the same time. Setting healthy parenting boundaries at this time could save lives as well as help your child learn about life in the real world.
If your child turns up online or on the phone, welcome them, reassure them and let them know how much they are loved and missed.
During this time when our own psychological wellbeing will be tested to the limit, your children need you more than you can ever know. Keep the hierarchy in place, be their parent not their friend and help them to understand how the real world works.
Take Care of Yourself
I cannot stress this too strongly, you are your child’s hope for a healthy future. If you can stay well and healthy you can provide for your child a predictable path for recovery. If you fall apart their hope for health falls with it. Keeping in touch with friends and family online, reaching out to other parents who are coping in the same way and refraining from entering negative spaces online is how you will do best at this time.
Following government guidelines, get out for a walk or a run everyday and get as much sunshine on your face as you can. Spend time listening to gentle music or read if you can to keep your mind focused. Eat as well as you can and drink plenty of water. Keep a good sleep routine. We are all going to be coping with sleeplessness and worry over the coming days, setting good routines and recognising the necessity of sleep is vital.
Listening Circles for Alienated Parents
Following on from our Therapeutic Parenting Workshop we will shortly be setting up the first listening circle online. These events will be online webinars in which a parent who has received their child into their care after residence change, will discuss the issues that children face in these circumstances and how to adapt parenting to fit their needs. The format will be an online lecture and then a Q&A session. Coaches from around the world who are working with the Family Separation Clinic, will facilitate these circles. More information on here shortly.
Therapeutic Parenting Online Course
We are working to complete this course for download in the near future, more details soon.
Healing Beyond Reunification – EAPAP2020 Conference in Zagreb
Amidst the Coronavirus news we were shocked by the news that Zagreb was hit by a serious earthquake this weekend. Much damage was done to this beautiful City although thankfully our colleagues and friends are unhurt. We are determined that Covid-19 plus and earthquake, will not stop us from holding the EAPAP2020 conference which has almost 400 practitioners already booked to attend. We will be working on the alternative dates for delivery and will make announcements about this shortly.
In the meantime we send Professor Buljan- Flander and her team at the Child Protection Centre of Zagreb, our love and prayers for a rapid recovery for their beautiful City.
Legal Action Update
Our lawyers are taking robust action in the case of stalking, harassment and defamation which we have suffered since 2017.