It is Mother’s Day in the U.K. and this post is in support of those mothers who are rejected by their children after divorce and separation in situations where they are subjected to ongoing coercive control and domestic abuse strategies. These are the true victims of abuse, whose voices are too often silenced by the campaigners against Parental Alienation Theory, these are the mothers with whom I work regularly.

I understand domestic abuse and coercive control of women and men because I work with it daily. I see how mothers are rejected by children because the control behaviours that they have suffered, have been switched to their children in the process of divorce or separation. I know that those mothers who suffer the most are those whose experience is ignored in favour of the good women/bad men trope which drives the campaigners who seek to hide the harm being done to children by some women. My work with equalities for the Oxfam UK Poverty Programme however, taught me to understand domestic abuse and coercive control from a psychological perspective rather than through a feminist lens and I continue to work within that framework, identifying and supporting those who are true victims of this pattern of post separation control.

Children who reject their mothers after divorce and separation display a pattern of behaviours which includes contemptuousness, an omnipotent belief that they are entitled to cut off their mother and often, mimicry of their father’s portryal of their mother as mad or bad or otherwise deficient in parenting. Fathers who cause children to reject mothers, display the same behaviours as mothers who cause their children to reject their fathers, showing distinct patterns in which they will claim that the mother was never really maternal, didn’t bond with the children, was a poor/absent/working mother, was cruel or unkind and other claims which are not substantiated with evidence. Fathers will say to professionals that they really want their children to have a relationship with their mother ‘if only she would change her ways.’ Fathers who cause children to reject their mother often have their own mother or sister acting as if they are a replacement mother to the children. The atmosphere of mother rejection is familiar to me and alienating fathers are often very difficult to work with due to their resistance to intervention, especially by female practitioners.

Standing up to fathers who manipulate their children requires a capacity to say no to a man who has hitherto had everything his own way. Men who manipulate their children are skilled at manipulating adults too and can be charming, friendly and welcoming, until their narrative is challenged, at which point they may become vicious in their pursuit of the person who has caused narcissistic wounding. Some of the worst patterns of harassment that I have experienced, has been at the hands of alienating fathers after an intervention to remove children from harm, so much so in some cases, that restraining orders have been necessary, (making the constant claims that I am misogynist in my work, ironic to say the least).

On Mother’s Day in the U.K. I want to say to those mums whose children are rejecting them due to the behaviours of manipulative fathers, that I see you and I hear you. I understand your plight and I know that the situation that you are in is increasingly recognised as child and partner abuse. Amidst the noise from the ideological campaigners, it is difficult to know that progress is being made in understanding and treating the problem, but it is and it will continue regardless of what is done to try to prevent it.

Children need their healthy mothers, underneath their rejection is the love and attachment which belongs to you and only you. As we say in our Listening Circles, attended by many mothers from around the world, the only person holding the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle, which is the child’s recovery from attachment trauma, is you. Mothers in the rejected position after divorce and separation matter, they matter because without them, children cannot complete the recovery from the defence of splitting and cannot experience an integrated sense of self.

Abused children of divorce and separation depend upon parents in the rejected position to be there when they are able to come home. To all of the mothers who are waiting for that day, I send you my love, my solidarity and my support. I know who you are and I know from my work with alienated children, just how much you matter.