Karen Woodall

Psychotherapist, Writer, Trainer, Researcher

Stories for Children

The Dandlebear Bridge and Other Stories


Dandlebear is now available as an illustrated story for children on Kindle, you can purchase a copy hereScreen Shot 2017-10-20 at 16.38.42


A Dandlebear is no ordinary bear. A Dandlebear is specially made for children whose parents do not live in the same house. A Dandlebear is small and quick and can send messages without talking. A Dandlebear looks after little children.

Dandlebears live underneath bridges. Some of the bridges lead from mummy’s house to daddy’s house. Sometimes a bridge leads from daddy’s house to Nanny’s house and some other bridges lead from mummy’s house to nursery. All little children have to go over bridges and some get to like it a lot but others find it too scary and so these little children have a dandlebear to help them.

Dandlebears have long arms and big paws. This is so that you can hook them into your trousers whilst you are playing at daddy’s house. Some dandlebears go over the bridge with children and then go back to skimming stones until its time to go back over the bridge to mummy’s house. Some dandlebears stay with little children and get hooked into their trousers so that they are there when they are needed but don’t get in the way.

Dandlebears love little children and they love the bridges that little children cross too. Some Dandlebears are especially fond of growing flowers and plants on the bridges so that as little children skip over them to their mummy’s house, they can smell the flowers and hear the bees which buzz happily as they collect pollen.

One day, a little girl called Milli was getting ready to go to her daddy’s house when she felt a funny little feeling inside. She told her mummy that she did not know what this feeling was but that it had started to get bigger every time she put her coat on to go to daddy’s house. ‘Ah’ said her mummy, ‘that means its time for your Dandlebear to come.’ ‘My Dandlebear?’ said Milli in surprise, for she had never heard of a Dandlebear before. ‘Yes indeed’ said her mummy mysteriously, ‘your Dandlebear’ and without further ado, she put on her own coat and took Milli by the hand and into the lane which lead to the bridge.

The bridge was, by now, something that Milli was used to crossing. Her mummy would go half way up the little humpty back and her daddy would walk up the other way. Half way, on the top of the humpty back her parents would meet and her mummy would let go and her daddy would take hold of her hand and they would walk back down together, after waving goodbye to mummy of course.

Today though, as they walked up to the bridge, instead of it just being flowers and bees and birds singing, Milli could see a little creature was climbing up the ivy which flowed down to the river in great strands of green and gold. ‘Humpppph’ went the little creature, whose arms were as long as a monkeys and whose paws were as big as one of daddy’s gloves, ‘Huumppph’ it went again as it landed on the bridge, just in front of them, smiling in a sort of ‘pleased to meet you’ kind of a way as it brushed down its fur and blinked its huge eyes at Milli.

Milli stood and stared at the little creature, she wasn’t quite sure what it was but somehow she knew it was a kind creature and that it belonged entirely to her. “This is your Dandlebear Milli’ said her mummy, ‘your very own Dandlebear’ and as she said that, Milli felt a lovely feeling coming from the Dandlebear towards her and smiled happily. Somehow she just knew that things would be so much better now.

The Dandlebear held Milli’s hand as mummy and Milli and Dandlebear walked up the humpty backed bridge in the sunshine, the birds and the bees were all around and they were all smiling too. ‘Look’, hummed the bumblebee, ‘Milli’s Dandlebear has come with her today’ and the birds chirruped their approval as Milli and her Dandlebear strolled happily up the bridge together hand in hand.

77 thoughts on “Stories for Children

  1. I was talking with the lady in America under the heading, “Prisoners of a parent’s mind……………” Just wanted to let you know I am still here. The book I mentioned, “The prodigal father”, has spurned workshops across America. I don’t know if they still exist but you might want to check it out.

    Kind regards


    1. I finally figured out how this discussion group works. I posted my response else where.
      Anonymous- you recommended an “Amends” letter in the previous post written to my ex-partner and eldest daughter. I have read the book you recommended “The Prodigal Father” and gleaned some things from it. However, I do not have amend letters written. I have tried writing and drafted a few variations though it seems each try, my draft is telling of my story. I am languishing. Do you assume that I have done some wrongs that caused the ex-partner to treat me so abominably? PA is nothing other than domestic violence and child abuse. There was no infidelity, I was just a scapegoat. Enough about my story. I realize that an amends letter is cleansing if nothing else. I have previously attempted to meet with the ex-partner a few times, but he has no interest. You see he won and got what he wanted money and kids and me tossed aside mildly put. Why would he bother with an amends letter or meeting me? If anything I think he would make more drama and show the letter to the children as he done previously. This would probably go to his head and grandiosity and think I am begging to be back. It would only fortify his ego. Please remember that he was the one that took the kids and abandoned me. I am going to need some help in drafting an apology letter that I have nothing to apologize for. Don’t get me wrong I am not perfect and I have done my mistakes in all this, but I did the best I could and know how to deal and cope with PA


      1. I am not for writing amends letters in such circumstances. These do nothing but feed the narcissism of the alienating parent and it is wholly wrong to put yourself through this. I don’t know the full context of how the amends letter is being suggested but I would advise you do not try this at all unless you do know that you have contributed something to the situation which triggered the flight of the parent who took the children. If you did not, do not go there because it will trap you in the dynamic and feed the dysfunctional reaction of the alienator. Remember people giving each other advice on here are not experts, they are sharing ideas that have perhaps worked for them. Unless your expert has your whole story in the round advice about amends letters should not be accepted as being authoritative.


      2. My own and only view about ‘amends’ letters is that it is important to keep your own side of the road clean, by which I mean you can only start to heal yourself when you own up to whatever it is inside of you that has been your part of whatever has happened.
        However, some time ago I did work through the 30 day ‘The Forgiveness Challenge’ as set up by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter – there’s a link here http://www.humanjourney.com/forgiveness/
        Personally I found it challenging, and useful. I started it because i had been trying to get to a place where I could find some forgiveness for the behaviours I had been subjected to. I sought to humanise the alienating parent, and wanted to take away some of the power I was giving that person. Note I said power I was giving that person, rather than power they had over me. As with all therapy and/or counselling I found myself pulled and encouraged (challenged) to think about my own behaviours first and foremost. I did 29 of the 30 days (as I didn’t want to ‘finish’ the programme). I certainly found some peace. I came to the real place I am today which is one of welcome should that person come directly into my life again, as they are the other parent of a much loved child, who will always need two parents in their life. Its no good if we welcome the children back and then help them (even unconsciously) to alienate the previously aligned parent. That won’t help them at all in the long term.


      3. Karen-thank you. This is a relief. I was feeling a whole lot of different emotions thinking about drafting an “amends” letter to the alienating parent and to the target child who has been “parentified” ; the eldest daughter.The “prodigal Father” book includes a series of questions examination of the conscience of things that were behaviors that caused the divorce. The book is not about PA. Then write your wrongs down and sending an amends letter. I do agree in my situation this would only feed the narcissism. I just did not know exactly how to express it.

        I was just trying to reach out and break through to my daughters; the eldest daughter (28 yrs old) who acts like a bully and keep the youngest daughter (24 yrs old) inline. It seems I cannot do anything until an opportunity presents itself and the girls come to me. How can I free my daughters from the toxic situation and the trap they are in?


      4. Yes you absolutely must not write such a letter to a controlling narcisstic father because he would relish the power it gives him.

        The issue will be that your girls will believe you are weak and hopeless and that you are the reason why they do not see you. The eldest girl will in a pseudo spousal relationship with her father and she will not want to give that up because it gives her status and importance in a world where underneath she knows she is trapped and helpless. The 24 year old is the one you need to reach out to and if you were to be writing letters or emails it is to her that you would write. I can’t give you generic advice because it’s not helpful when I don’t know the route into the alienation reaction or how long they have been gone etc but that would be the starting point. The eldest girl will only give her position when she realises there is an open road which will free her for good of her father. She is truly trapped in the mirror at the moment, have a look at that book it will give you some clear thinking on where she is which will give you better ideas of what you need to be thinking and doing. K


      5. In my husband’s case, I think an amends letter would only solidify the alienating parent’s narrative that she is the blameless victim of an abusive ex-husband, and would just the further the dynamic they had in their marriage (and she has with the alienated child), in which everyone is expected to appease and apologize to her regardless of her role in the problem. This would mean my husband has to make amends for leaving her, while she takes no responsibility for the affair that preceded him leaving her. It might briefly make her more civil and cooperative but that would not last long, as it never does unless she feels that she gets her way in everything, and her way is often illogical and impossible to figure out because it’s based on her internal state and not reality. That being said, my husband certainly made mistakes (as did I) in dealing with the alienation situation, and hopefully we can someday discuss those with the child and make amends to him, not to the ex-wife. You can “make amends” and own your own behavior in your mind and heart without putting them on paper and sending them to someone who will not take them in the spirit intended.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Now an amends letter as a self healing process, that’s a different matter and something worth doing, making amends with yourself is also worth doing because self blame is such a core feature of this. I will write a bit about that soon. K


      7. Hi
        My experience of such a letter.
        Instead of writing i went to meet the mother and try reason etc , i would apologise and accept my wrongdoings in the relationship and explain i wished her well and would like only to see my children.
        When i turned up at a coffee shop , she took my daughter and launched a brutal attack on me.
        I didnt react and stated what she was saying wasnt true and i would speak only to defend that in front of my daughter.
        Disaster and i wrongly felt her bitterness and anger meant we could resolve this bearing in mind this is 7/8 years later so i set up another meeting , this time we were alone and i said what i had to say but she was indifferent and cold.
        Then several weeks later after many years of hard work with my daughter she made me an ultimatum (the daughter) she said that i must apologise for everything that i did on her mum and them , that i MUST accept that it was all my fault and until i did this she wasnt going to talk to me.
        My part was that i took my children when their mother ran off to have an affair , when she strengthened that relationship she came back , took the kids and moved to another country , i had no choice but to seek legal advice.
        I feel that meeting with the mother on these times was a massive mistake and gravely underestimated by me , her motivation is to destroy and denigrate me so she brought the daughter along and acted hurt and upset and im standing there dumbfounded unable to say anything to prevent an argument.
        That play shows me as remorseful as the attacker and the mother as the victim.
        My further meeting re-enforcing the play where im seeking redemption through her.
        And the daughter then re-enacts this on a power trip seeking my soul almost.
        I cannot give her this and i feel it would drive all the pain far too deep , it would give her an excuse to bury it and accept it as the truth and she may never see the light.She is splitting and cannot see the whole picture and my sacrifce would only add to the damage.

        SO my advice is to stay well away from the alienating parent at all times , be it by email , phone , meetings , letters , just 100% end of contact as you are being played all the time and they know all your weaknesses and are ruthless , as hard as you try and as strong as you are you will succumb.
        Any such letter or meeting will be used against you and used as further evidence that the children are right to reject.
        My experience tells me that the other parent is very disturbed and no matter how much you try they will not cease to denigrate you to the children , by making any sort of contact you are giving them further ammunition.


      8. Hi Karen-I hope you are getting rest and your shoulder is healing. I would like to work with you after your rest. You mention below to write “The 24 year old is the one you need to reach out to and if you were to be writing letters or emails it is to her that you would write.” I do write to my 24 year old, but what to write so to have a lightbulb moment. I do send emails, but it is extremely hard when it is a one sided relationship. I can also send postal mail letters as I know where she lives. She only lives 10 minutes away from me. I can go to visit her but I don’t know that is a good idea nor do I know what to say or even if she will receive me and open the door. I am blocked from all social media and phone. I can call from work number but she does not respond and then after the attempt she will block the number. I can send care packages, is that necessary? It seems that the alienating parents brainwashing is still working; it is hard to erase what the alienating parent taught her which is fear me and that I am an abusive parent. There is so many elements to PA. I am not only dealing with a narcissist alienating parent who is relentless in his viciousness, but I find I am overwhelmed with PA elements. It is very hard to work with a distorted mind. It is hard to work with a brain washed daughter to peal all the layers to fix it.

        By the way, I do like your new set up of discussion with the sub titles, that is akin to the course online I was taking at the university.


  2. Hi anonymous, thanks for your comment, hopefully the commenter you mention will find you here to continue your discussion.


    1. Hi

      It was me who suggested the amends letter. I had hoped you might do some research and find the man who wrote the book. He started small groups across America and I imagine these would be worth trying out. I am a member of a small group called Families Need Fathers who meet on a monthly basis. We get huge benefit from meeting and sharing our experiences. Similar to us all getting benefit from sharing experiences on this blog.

      The amends letter is not a confessional. It is not about giving in or taking the blame for something you haven’t done It is more about allowing yourself personal space to take control.

      e.g. If I were your next door neighbour and was annoyed by the fact you cut your lawn at 7.00 pm when I was putting the children to bed and you chose to ignore me when I asked you stop I might in turn do something irrational and annoying like chuck grass cuttings over the hedge into your garden. If you wanted to regain a good relationship with me you could write a letter which would evidence your part in our disagreement. You would accept your part in the argument even though you were still upset that I had dumped my grass cuttings in your garden.
      No bad can come out of this.

      I can’t write an amends letter for you because I don’t know your personal circumstances. It might go something like this: …………I remember …………….when we first met. I like what you have done.
      I am proud of your skills as a father.
      It must not contain any sense that you hold your Ex responsible or blame him. It is not an opportunity to share blame nor mete out proportionality of blame. You are trying to rid yourself of anger.
      Rather than refer to your Ex as a narcissist, reflect kindly on his likes and desires.

      Lastly, as Karen says she can not vouch for this method from a professional stand point. I speak from personal experience and the experience of others. However the opinion that narcissism is best treated by helping the narcissist love themselves is not without support in the academic world.

      Peterson, J., & DeHart, T. (2014). In defense of self-love: An observational study on narcissists’ negative behavior during romantic relationship conflict. Self And Identity, 13(4), 477-490. doi:10.1080/15298868.2013.868368

      Kind regards


      1. I think the problem here is that FNF are a self help group and not experts and whilst I am all in favour of sharing thoughts and things that have worked one must take the greatest care in this field because narcissm, if it is present, is not possible to treat or remedy by engagement with the narcissist. Narcissists are very difficult and often quite dangerous people who leave their victims (and I say victims because the relationship with a narcissist is often a power based relationship) helpless and damaged. If someone is narcissistic the best thing to do is leave them be and understand that you as a possible source of their narcissistic supply are at risk. Tackling a narcissistic alienator requires strength and skill. When I work with anyone with such traits I have to take the greatest care of my own self because these people are exhausting albeit charming though controlling. If you are dealing with a narcissist you need to protect yourself first, understand them second and then plan a strategy that does not involve feeding the narcissistic need. A good book to read is Trapped in the Mirror by Elan Golomb – many people involved with a narcissistic partner were prepared for that relationship by narcissistic parents. The tried and tested method for dealing with narcissistic alienators therefore is 1. Protect yourself first. 2. Learn as much as you can about narcissism and how it affects them, you and your children. 3. Plan a strategy that does not include feeding the narcissists wounds. You cannot tell a narcissist that you are ‘proud of their skills as a father’ because they will simply despise you for being so weak – they don’t need you to tell them that, they know that they are the best father a child could possibly have, their narcisstic personality tells them that – if you went down that route you’d soon find yourself lost and hopeless. Instead you have to use third party approaches to contain the power they have over your children and protect yourself whilst you are doing that. Narcissism has to be treated by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, even I would not take on a serious narcissist for treatment and you absolutely cannot help a narcissist by helping them to love themselves, what lies behind their grandiosity is a pathology which is serious and not to be meddled with by lay people. K


      2. Judy and John lived together as man and wife. They had two lovely children, Kyle and Georgina; one of each. Judy loved John and John, although he was not given to admit it was deeply in love with Judy and in some ways dependent upon her.
        John appeared to think highly of himself, often disregarding the opinions of others. This could be extremely frustrating not only for his friends but also his partner, Judy.
        Whilst most healthy relationships are built on trust and understanding this situation was different. Judy understood her husband and because she had the ability to empathise was able to avert arguments by stroking John’s ego.
        She recognised John’s good qualities, his application and his devotion. John would sometimes be overtly dogmatic and opinionated, wilfully prejudiced and insistent upon support for his views, especially from his family.
        Judy’s friends would tell her that she shouldn’t have to put up with John, she had a right to voice her own opinion and have a say in her children’s lives. Judy possessed emotional intelligence. She could judge and predict mood and behaviour not only in herself but in others too. She read John like a book and knew what John needed in order to be happy with himself and with others.
        In the company of others Judy’s friends couldn’t believe how patronising she was with her husband, but perhaps more surprisingly John seemed to glow with all the praise and recognition he received from his partner. John believed Judy when she praised the man that stood behind the thought of his outlandish behaviour. Whilst others saw this as patronising, even sarcastic, John lapped it all up believing in the unerring defence of his inflated opinion of himself.
        “yes dear” was one of Judy’s key phrases. She rarely had to compromise her own position because in spite of John’s huffing and puffing Judy quietly went about her business framing her ideas as if they had come from John.
        Judy’s main concern was the protection of the minds of her children. In private moments she would present the world as a place of passion and fervent opinion tempered by goodwill and understanding. She described situations well and let opinion float harmlessly in the ether. She listened well and directed by suggestion, as a farmer scattering seeds on fertile soil.

        Kind regards



    To discuss this issue press reply under this comment.


    1. My eldest grandson is now 16. He was 15 when he become alienated from his dad. It came suddenly and unexpectedly following a row. He went on work experience for his stepfather for a week. During that week he changed his phone number so that his dad could not contact him. He later phoned his dad and said there was no point in him ‘visiting your house’ as they were always arguing. He told his dad that he was changing schools and getting a job in IT with his stepfather. He said that my son would only stand in his way. This was the first my son had heard of this despite a shared residence order. That was in December. We have not seen him since. We don’t even know if he has left school following his exams. My son has messaged him on the PS4 a couple of time. At first my grandson would respond very rudely, now he does not respond at all. He has been sent gifts once or twice, and as I understand it, he has accepted them. My niece sent him some money for his birthday and although he messages her occasionally, he has never thanked her. I now wonder if he received the cards and gifts.

      In desperation my son messaged stepfather to suggest they had a talk regarding his son. The response back from stepfather, was he does not respond to demands to make telephone calls. He also said that my son couldn’t be a good father otherwise why would my grandson not want to see him. He also said that my grandson ‘knew the truth’ and that by messaging his son, he was putting his son ‘on a guilt trip’. My son responded by saying that his ex. and stepfather should be trying to build bridges to bring a father and son together. Stepfather insisted that they had tried, and then told me my son not to message them again. To me that does not sound like trying to help, in fact, quite the opposite.

      We have another grandson who is still coming as usual and don’t want to do anything to disrupt the good relationship we all have with him. I can’t believe our eldest grandson has refused to see his dad. I have wondered once or twice if my son has been at fault in some way, but most families have arguments now and then, that’s what life is like, so it just doesn’t make sense why a family argument could lead to a permanent rift.


      1. re: “it just doesn’t make sense why a family argument could lead to a permanent rift,” Craig Childress (or was it Karen or both?) has written about the psychological bind the child has been put into by the controlling parent, a hostage really, and how the child is looking for an “unforgivable event” from the other parent to justify in their own mind cutting off all contact, thus easing the burden of balancing on this tightrope of two loyalties.

        I try at all costs not to create such an event with my 17.5 and 14 year old daughters, but one such cost has been an inability to exercise a normal amount of adult authority and having to put up with alot of crap from these overempowered kids, so as to continue their custody time with me. And the pain of watching their development stalled by enmeshment with the alienator. I know if they decide it’s over and they’re out of here, the court won’t help me because they appear much closer (actually hyperbonded) to their charismatic disordered mom, who can out manipulate anyone and create a great impression.

        Do you have anyone you know who stays in contact with your oldest grandchild?


      2. I was going to say something similar to what David has already said. It is far too easy for an alienating parent to exploit a row or similar, which under normal circumstances would only lead to a few days of sulking before it is then forgotten, to create a permanent rift. Also alienated children are brought up to think in absolutes, black and white, good and bad. They are not trained in accepting the less than perfect, in valuing people for their good points despite their imperfections or indeed that those imperfections is what makes us human. Combine that with the over-empowerment where they are allowed/encouraged to judge a parent and you have a very toxic mix.

        I think it was Karen who once said that you have to lower your expectations of acceptable behaviour if you are in a situation where you may cause a triggering of full alienation, but to lower those expectations and then hold them. I see with my step children that they behave in ways that neither I nor my husband would tolerate from our children. It makes you worry that they will grow up thinking it is ok to behave like that. Other behaviours we have been able to address but it has to be done in a softly, softly approach to not send them back in the arms of the alienator. As I said in another post we have found app 16 years old a time where they have started to slowly free themselves. This is clearly not a universal situation judging from David’s and Yvie’s post . I am not sure why this would be the case. I know both my step children have found support from their friends and friends families who have pointed out that mum’s behaviour is not right, which may be helpful for them to start seeing what is what. However the alienator’s behaviour probably has to be quite extreme before friends and their parents start voicing concern.


    2. We have just found out the college my 16 year grandson has enrolled in. It is focused around IT, digital, the games industry etc. It looks a good college and my grandson could do well. Stepfather works in the games industry and his brother has his own business in the games industry. All this looks positive, so why did my grandson need to reject his dad. Cant hep wondering if he has been enticed by all of this, and his dad is now an irrelevance.. He did say that his dad would ‘stand in his way’. Perhaps this is all there is to it. Perhaps not alienation at all, but just been persuaded to move on. He didn’t seem to take much persuasion. Sorry if this sounds negative, but maybe the explanation is a simple one.


      1. Why does your grandson think that his dad would stand in his way of pursuing this? There are two options either your son would actually stand in his way or your grandson has been persuaded that your son would stand in his way. Given that this is all happening behind dad’s back, the second option seems more likely. If the latter is the case that is an alienation technique: “your dad would not understand” “your dad would not want you to do …” etc. To put it into perspective I was talking at our recent open day to a prospective student and his family (mum, dad and older sister had all come, as well as the son who was looking to study with us). The dad was quite open “all the family is into arts, but our son is into science, so we feel a bit lost” They may have felt a bit lost, but they were all there to support their son doing something different to what they might have thought he would do and I think that is far more normal than standing in the way of your child pursuing their dreams.

        We have found that the alienating parent has carefully planned the careers of the children from when they were young and made it quite clear that she disapproves of the “rebellion” that one of them wants to do something different. Maybe what you are looking at is their projection of what they would do if the roles were reversed so to speak?

        A more positive perspective, you now know where he is going – great opportunity to send a card to congratulate him on his achievement and letting him know how happy you are for him.


    3. Hi ,
      I would like to contribute and hopefully someone can understand the tragedy of where ive found myself , it helps me to unload at times too.
      My situation (ill keep brief for reasons later)
      8 years of alienation from 2 children now aged 17 and 13
      Relocation 5 years ago and moderate/severe alienation from eldest child and moderate/mild from youngest.
      Ive noticed the cycles of anger , rage , motivation , hopelessness , bleakness , sadness , hope , rejection and numerous more all muddled and mixed up with no sense.
      On a personal level i have went on a very deep and personal journey to understand better my part in all this , not an easy journey but the awareness makes it so obvious that the children had 2 very dysfunctional parents created by our own pair of dysfunctional parents and god knows where before that. This is what made us so easy to join at one time and so easy to drop at another.
      The one thing we didnt have were the insights and tools to protect the children , our own dysfunction ruled. I can only change me but the damage has been done , i was so easy to manipulate. In the simplest of abuses i could be easily relied on to act just like a puppet on a string to every drama laid before me , the children primed to notice the negative subtleties in the man they dared call their father and equally the children primed to note the strength and character of the new role model and how he protected and provided the perfect solution to peace and happiness within the family unit. Maybe i was ? How can one man detect the most devious of abuses? In my case it was small things said , Are we having pizza tonight dad? We ALWAYS eat such bad food at your house. Picking them up from school , hey guys how was your day? A feeling of suspicion toward me, a feeling i couldnt understand or bear to think too long about , at the start , a few minutes , then 15 minutes , then hours , then a day , then a weekend. now what? a childhood gone , adulthood , when im gone?
      When did i accept something was seriously wrong , when the children were primed and ready to see things from very different perspectives , Oh what a fool i. And how easy and gullible i was to show the children how bad i was. The kids were starting a new life away from all the bad things here , poor dad , i wish it was different , we just didnt realise what a bad person he was and how unhappy he made us all here , we will all be much happier moving to a new country but dont tell anyone , he will only go mad and do something stupid , maybe even try to get me to spend the rest of my life in jail , he might try take all of us to court and jail us.
      12 and 8 years old , how cruel a thing to do to my beautiful little girls.
      Of course the bad stupid man walked right into it , oh how she must of gloated ,the kids seeing the real me , the tipping point , the damage really done.
      I did shout and call her names , i did take her to court , i re-enforced all those small things those little angels were starting to think about me , they must be true.
      Of course with distance now a fine accompaniment the rest would be easy.
      My idiotic musings , oh they will miss their dad , things will be better now they get what they want , their mother will be happy and they will be happy , this nightmare will be over.
      Musings of a madman!

      Which brings me to the point (at last) and i thank the anonymous internet for allowing me to get the unspoken in my head out ( i try not to lean too heavily on those closest , they live through it too)

      Its a deadly poison all right.

      Now i wait for my daughter to be free from the family unit , university , all my hopes are pinned there.

      How do other people deal with talking to others about it?

      Its such a spider web , if you try to explain it you know people think your half mad and say the auld classic ” they will grow out of it” and run a mile or offer “its an age thing”
      I tend to say very little these days.
      But i know the alienator never rests , only working at 1% of effort now the kids do it for her but ive noticed things said among friends of friends etc.
      Just enough done to extinguish the small flames that sometimes i gain hope with from my daughter , we might be about to meet then accusations , terms , hostility.
      The latest and step too far for me is this i must apologise for causing all this , all the hurt and pain is all my fault and i must apologise.
      How i would give my ignorance to offer this small sacrifice for some peace for her but the damage would be too deep , i cant let it become her , she will be my age before she resolves it.

      Shes angrier now , thats a good sign i think , she swears at me and blocks me on Facebook and stuff , thats progress believe me , i need to believe it.She was eerily cold before , it scared me.

      I dunno , how do you explain how you find yourself here? how do you explain to people when they ask , what happened between you and your daughters?


      1. “How do other people deal with talking to others about it?”

        After looking fruitlessly for a local parental alienation support group, I started one on meetup.com, we meet monthly for a couple years now and it really helps each of us. Sad fact is, only people who experienced this will ‘get’ it. Live, in-person contact with these supportive others helps. Anyone else, in the back of their mind is the unspoken idea that it’s probably a he-said, she-said / standard difficult teenager / “get over your divorce already” situation, no pathology involved.

        “how do you explain to people when they ask , what happened between you and your daughters?”

        Depends who is asking, maybe that the mom is still very angry at me and it’s leaked over to the kids, or that they’ve been forced to choose in a loyalty bind between mom & dad, just a sentence that they can understand, that doesn’t disparage the mom too much. Wish I could say “mom has a severe personality disorder and is using the children in a role reversal relationship to take care of her unstable emotions and continue her war against me,” etc. but that’s better saved for a catharsis to other group members.

        My kids are in the eerily cold stage now, it’s practically intolerable but I’m getting acclimated and working on developing a life less focused on them.


      2. David , thanks for replying.
        Yes its frustrating that its so obvious and apparent yet so invisible and insidious.
        I have an opinion that the majority of conflicting break ups cause PA in a child , my belief would suggest the majority of children in these cases being affected , yet no one dare mention it.
        A support group is a great idea , i meet a lot of people in my job and sometimes i meet others through that to compare and support. A lot of men and women who experience PA of varying degrees and thats just in my small social and work circle.

        What to say about what happened is pretty much how i see it , you have to almost praise the mother for fear of sounding bitter or entrenched , yet people suspect that you are the issue. Its such a cruel abuse. I want to scream “im just a father who loves and cares for his children”
        Also frustrating that through my own self awareness i can see just how damaged the mother is and how easily it could all change with professional help but totally powerless and just imagining the damage being imprinted onto the kids.
        Maybe one day soon awareness will come and end this needless suffering for all the children and break the cycle.

        Have you read Warshanks article on letting go?
        One understanding i have is that i can only change myself , at some point i started to let go , i need to be there sane and healthy if my children return and also for myself.
        As long as our children are in the care of an alienator there is nothing we alone can do sadly.
        The pain doesnt go away but i try to use positive approaches to it , man it hits you all the time , walking by a school , seeing a child hold her dads hand , seeing a group of teenagers laughing.
        Its a grieving that has no closure you just learn to deal with it better.
        And the tragedy of that is that its only a mirror of the pain our children carry and dont have the ability to cope as we do.


      3. Cara , (and anyone else on the thread )
        Ive been thinking about a few things recently , my partner and i had a small argument about how i should deal with alienation in my youngest , more frustration on my part surfacing.
        Anyways , what stuck me was me telling her how much it hurt.
        I dont think ive ever really felt that and been honest with that to her.
        Maybe all the intellectualising on PA and reading and forums etc are what i needed to do to turn my focus from just how much it hurt .
        Maybe the years of that and more of a “letting go” attitude has allowed my emotions to come to the fore.
        Instead of focusing on debating PA and possible scenarios of what my daughter must be thinking/feeling.
        I just said how much it hurt , how much it really really hurt.
        I dont think we allow those feelings as much as we should.
        i found it therapeutic and i am going to try open up more about my feelings to my partner rather than rationalise my kids behaviour toward me or intellectualise the experience.
        Maybe other partners see how much hurt and pain they are in , i think once at the letting go stage its time to let some of that emotion out and i think that is going to help with our relationship and my mental and emotional health.
        Another small step


    4. I’ve been talking to my son recently about letting go. I will remind him he has Richard Warshak’s Divorce Poison. From what has happened, I have no doubt that the children are being subjected to constant criticism of their father. How to combat that I have no idea. The realisation has hit home to my son that he has lost one son and possibly may lose the other. The energy seems to have drained away from him, and my fear is that he wiil not be able to withstand the strain. All I can do now is to be there for him. I feel I want to confront stepfather at hand over time and tell him that children have to be taught to hate and that he and my ex.dil are fanning the flames, but I know it would only make matters worse.


      1. My husband was afraid to “let go”, thinking it meant “giving up”, but once he saw the difference between the two, it’s made a world of difference. Karen has a good article on this site about changing the way you think about the alienation so you aren’t in constant despair. Though of course my husband is sad and misses his son, he is also thriving now that he’s stopped “fighting” the alienation and put the focus on himself, his life, our marriage and being as healthy as he can be. If his son returns in the future, finding a broken father won’t help him whatsoever. Also, not engaging with the alienator or the alienated child takes the toxic drama out of your life. It’s a horrible situation that you have to somehow come to terms with and learn to be happy anyway.


      2. Yvie ,
        Very sad and i fully understand how your son is feeling.
        Perhaps he is at that crossroads where something has to give , i was very lucky to have a strong partner who supported me , maybe you can be there for him.
        As others have said , its not giving up , its letting go of the drama and focusing on being the best you.
        You cannot combat PA , its futile whilst the kids live exclusively with that parent , took me 5 or 6 very tiring years to work that out. Your caught up in a drama and feeding the drama by acting or not acting , no matter what you do. No-one can keep up with that.
        There are positives but its a long struggle , he is only caught in the spiders web by trying to fight and being weakened year by year, there comes a time to look after your own health.


    1. I found the book ‘How Men Heal’ by Tom Golden to be very useful in helping me understand how to support my husband.
      I echo the comments made by pigletsmum that the ‘it’ll work out’, and ‘they’ll come back’ comments often rolled out are trite and trying, even though said with the best of intentions. Just said by people who don’t (thankfully for them) understand. I’ve learnt not to say hollow things when my husband is upset and depressed, but to acknowledge the pain, and then work to move on.


      1. I think the problem with “they’ll come back” is not just the lack of realisation that that is not likely to happen until they are well into adulthood, but it has the wrong focus. The reality is that the children is suffering, and probably more so than the parents affected, and the statement “they’ll come back” ignores that the focus should be on the children and their well-being. However well meaning it is, what it shows is that our society really does not understand that children suffer when they lose a parent.

        Thanks for the book recommendation.


    2. Some time ago I met a partner of an alienated parent.
      That was the story of the person sitting next to me attending a course on “Parental alienation”.
      What struck me as odd was why would the new partner of the target parent be sitting next to me and not the target parent themselves. Surely this course was designed to help target parents in recovering their relationship with their children?
      Surely the main players in this family conflict are the two parents and their children?
      I endeavoured to find out why her new partner was not with us. Perhaps insensitively I enquired after her new partner. I found out that he was busy at work.
      This response posed more questions than answers, though I thought it insensitive to enquire why her new partner thought his job more important than this course; it was none of my business.
      There may be other factors why the target parent has taken a back seat. It is no easy task dealing with your alienator and over the years, full of unsuccessful attempts at the reunification the target parent will be suffering fatigue and perhaps mental health problems. The task of reunification may fall quite naturally onto the lap of a third party. This could be any; the trusted solicitor, my therapist, Mum, Auntie Jane or as in this case the new partner.
      The new partner and her children are now part of the equation so maybe meeting her rather than the target parent is not so inexplicable after all.
      Somehow I still felt uneasy about the situation; could I see myself not going to a course on parental alienation and simply gleaning second-hand information from my new partner when she returned from the course I should have been attending?
      What was the state of mind of this target parent such that he wouldn’t be desperate to clue up on the state of the art technique in “parental alienation extermination”? Had he lost his mind? Was his mind being controlled by someone else? Did he ever have a good relationship with his children? Was he the submissive type of personality? What would he say to his new partner when she got home from a day on the course?

      I began to feel uncomfortable at his absence.

      As the day unfolded and stories emerged, exercises were attempted and lessons were learnt, drama re-enacted, knowledge imparted, thoughts supported and explanations given I began to see more clearly the barriers target parents set themselves, the hurdles they encounter and who was responsible for rectifying their situation.

      But then who was I to judge?

      Kind regards

      P.s. I don’t mean to denigrate the emotional and technical support that friends and family give to target parents; this is invaluable.


      1. I was certainly guilty of trying to “fix” this problem for my husband. Partly because I am in the mental health field and mostly because that is my tendency (hence being in the mental health field). I deal with issues by reading about them, learning about them, trying to solve them that way – he deals with things differently. Of course, you know what happened – I would get frustrated that he didn’t want to deal with things my way. It was (is still at times) my way of trying to contain my anxiety about what I was in the middle of, which was traumatic for me, too. When my stepson, at 11 or 12, would come into our room at night, crying and apologizing to my husband (now we know, because he had just lied to the attorney/therapist under pressure from his mother), I would end up crying myself to sleep. I wanted to take away the horrible fear and helplessness my husband experienced as he watched his son slip away from him. Nothing helped – the therapists and attorneys all made it far worse – and even though we saw what was happening, we could do nothing to stop it. And I wanted to help my stepson, who was the real victim.

        Gradually I’ve realized that I can’t do anything except be there to support my husband and love him. This problem is far bigger than me – my husband has a troubled relationship with his own parents, the other parent does with hers as well, her older daughter was alienated from her (different) father … this is multi-generational dysfunction and all I can do is try to be a support to my husband and maybe, someday, my stepson. Now, my participation in stuff like this group, is for ME, not for him. Though I will share what I learn. My husband copes in his own way and I can’t fault him for that. I can’t imagine living through losing my child to alienation and coming out the other side in such good shape as he has.
        We’ve found peace – unfortunately, because the alienated child is no longer coming around and so we are not exposed to all of this toxic drama and stress, If you had told him in the middle of it all that he would be alienated from his son almost completely and still be able to find peace and happiness in his life, he would never have believed it, but he has – in his own way.

        All this is to say – we all handle things differently. Just because the target parent wasn’t at the training it doesn’t mean he was submissive, or not caring, or didn’t have a good relationship with his children. Maybe he attended a different training and wanted her to attend, too. Maybe he could not come due to work pressures and wanted her to attend so they didn’t miss it. Or maybe she was coping in her own way, and her partner copes in a different way.


  4. Hello Ms. Woodall…

    I live in the US. I have a son that is married to a woman with BPD. From the very beginning of their relationship, this woman would do whatever she could to keep my son away from me. As a result, my son and I are now estranged and I have not seen my grandchildren in almost 10 years. Do you have any advice?


      1. From what I’ve read about abusive relationships, your son likely cut you out to keep the peace in his home. The best thing to do is to keep in touch with him, but in very neutral ways that are not threatening to his wife – like birthday cards that are just happy and pleasant, without any pressure or guilt attached. That way your son knows that you are still there, still love him and are not angry at him for the estrangement, and that sort of neutral communication will be less likely to cause a fight with his wife. In the past, contact with you probably created a great deal of conflict with her that he would like to avoid, it’s how she’s managed to cut you out. It’s not a whole lot different from how alienated parents are advised to communicate with their minor children who have cut off contact. The dynamics are the same.

        It’s very painful and taking care of you is very important. Don’t let this destroy you, find ways to be happy and heal despite this loss. I know it sounds impossible, but it isn’t. Above all, don’t take it personally, it’s not your fault (though make sure you examine your part in it, too, if there is any).


      2. Are you keeping in touch with cards for grandchildren’s birthdays and indeed your son’s birthday, maybe even your daughter in law too? I don’t think there is much else you can do other than just gently send reminders like that saying indirectly that the door is open if your son wants a relationship. I have seen this before with a guy who became estranged from his parents in a similar situation. He realised what had happened when his marriage broke down and now has a good relationship with his parents again. I have also seen this skip a generation and contact being established between grandparent and grandchild without much contact between the parent in the middle and the grandparent. Avoid any blaming and avoid any guilt trip even indirectly and just keep gently sending the message that you are there. Don’t give up however many years it may go unanswered.


  5. I have two boys now aged 13 and 10years. I have a healthy loving relationship with my youngest son who has adjusted to separation from my controlling ex husband but does fear him. My eldest sun is enmeshed and a mini version of his father in some ways. For example he can be ott and lies. They both repeat the same lies about me. They have no evidence to support their lies and these do appear ridiculous to outsiders with any ability to reason. They are both denigrators, totally negative about me. They are all good or all bad thinkers, splitting is going on with my son. His dad has been all good and I was seen as all bad by manufacture and lies. In the beginning a Guardian identified the grooming and alignment and the lying to lay false blame at me and away from the father. In a final hearing this was ignored and the father embellished lies. By then has my son been so brainwashed he believes the lies or is he simply repeating the words of his father. In those days he was not mature enough to reason or critique. I get support from the local women’s refuge who help me when the ongoing incidents of him controlling me happen. They understand the situation honestly and believe the system failed us. The system itself is abusiive in its collusion with a dominator abusing a child. It fails the child first and alienated parents second. I once had a head teacher being cruel and abusive stemming from the father through manipulation. He squirmed in his chair because he knew what he was doing felt so wrong. He went along with the alienator so readily giving credibility to abuse in the socialisation of a child and leading the child to feel it’s ok to be cruel. Legitimising abuse. No where in the framework working with children is this permitted nor is emotional and psychological abuse / harm in a hierarchy with other forms.
    Skip forward, my son is gaining power and realisation in his relationship trapped by his father. He is verbalising at school the words which show he knows he has been controlled and missed out. Do alienator said not recognise it could backfire on them? And the professionals who collude, for ease, with the abuser? When will they learn not to over rely on the words of a child described as Stockholm type situation?
    I kept going..I went to things when it was really hard and I faced hostility from my ex husbands partner who was helping him. The local authority did try and said she has to stop because it’s emotional abuse but she did his bidding and was smug. At first. She has thrown my sons out twice now with the father, because she can’t cope with him mentally abusing her. Ironic when the psychologist expert witness decided he should have residence for the stability of the children. My independent social worker described the case to the regulatory body as a failure a safeguarding failure, because the father displayed narcissism and threatening controlling behaviour. We were and are all afraid of him. Other females before us too. She used it as a text book case for the college of social work, anonymised, as what not to do when she went to work for them. There has been another mentioned by Sir James Munby from the same council CS Dept.
    here is a sad joke: The expert witness view to justify residence to the father: living with the father will give child best chance of establishing a relationship with the mother. Father will work with professionals. Child needs to be re United with mother as a matter of urgency.
    If you are reading this and know how alienator said like him behave you will understand why it is so wrong, in fact pathetically and seriously wrong. Of course it was proven this never happened and never will whilst he drips the poison that they knew he was dripping. The workers involved knew.
    I wish all of you who feel the pain we sadly feel my sympathy and love. Love over hate. Love and tolerance over division.


  6. New Subject – Parental Alienation or Estrangement

    Great to see the new discussion group Karen, still waiting for my article to be published but will certainly mention your site and discussion group.

    Just wondering what your thoughts are!
    I have come under some ear bashing recently regarding the difference between estrangement and Parental Alienation. I see myself as alienated for over 25 years even though I have had contact with my children and grandchild for a short period of time.

    Karen could you please clarify for many people who seem to think that for an adult over the age of 18 who can make their own choices, PA suddenly changes to Estrangement. Taking into consideration all the circumstances in my case I certainly do not think mine is a case of estrangement. Very interested to hear everyone’s comments. Many thanks Linda


    1. well I can reply as an alienated adult child who believed I was an estranged adult child for many years and struggled with it immensely. It wasn’t until I understood that the estrangement was caused by alienation that I really began to tackle the issue personally and as a result of course that led me into professionally being able to see the difference much more clearly.

      As far as I am concerned once an alienated child always at risk of being alienated again and once an alienated child, always left with the legacy of alienation. Psychological splitting, which is the underlying pathology in alienation causes immense struggles with perspective, sense of self, lack of esteem ability to hold ambivalence and more.

      Therefore, a child who is alienated remains alienated beyond the age of 18 and until the alienation is tackled as alienation and that part is properly recognised and acknowledged, alienation reaction remains a risk.

      An alienated adult child has a lifetime of recovery to undergo. As the once targeted parent if you are back in relationshiop with your adult child keep that in mind at all times. Alienated adult children find it very very hard to stay focused and balanced, their perspective is poor and they are at risk of alignments and rejection all the time and have to work very very hard not to react in an alienated manner.

      Estrangement is when someone does something hurtful and is rigid in their blame of other people, alienation is when a third party acts to encourage or make estrangement happen (which is sometimes expedited by the reactions of the targeted parent who acts unconsciously).

      PA certainly does not change to estrangement at the age of 18 and alienated young people often remain that way because of the conditioning of their mind. It is entirely possible for example for a 25 year old to continue to remain alienated because of the way they have been brought up to think and feel.


    2. Personal experience.
      I was almost 40 before i understood what happened to me (scary)
      i went to therapy as i felt my own troubled childhood meant i was somehow subconsciously driving the alienation of my children , i knew the counsellor would ask about my parents and i was determined to tell the truth , i would tell her how my mum never loved me and left me etc etc.
      Lightbulb moment when i was defending my father and what i always seen but refused to let in.
      took a few years but right from that moment my life changed.
      Sadly my mum lives far away and its difficult to repair and heal so easily however we meet and keep in touch and have talked openly about things.
      My father was the alienator and when he lost all the control over me went all out to denigrate me to all and sundry , rather than accept there was a problem, face it and deal with it , he chose to attack even though there was no need. I was no use to him anymore as he couldnt control me.He very nearly got away with it too.Reading that book the drama of being a child , its worth reading.
      im trying real hard and hoping to break the cycle of dysfunction

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for sharing your story, it gives us all hope and encouragement.I hope your relationship with your mother grows and continues, distance should be no barrier. I am sure she loves you very much and always has as we all do.I wish more people would speak out and maybe things will change in the future. All the best. Linda xxx


  7. Karen, I appreciate this discussion board but would like to point out that when you come back after a day or two and you only want to read new posts, not re-read old ones, there doesn’t seem to be any way to identify where the new posts are, other than slogging through everything. As the total number of posts gets bigger, it’s getting more and more cumbersome to do this.

    Am I missing something (which frequently happens) or is there a way you can make it more user-friendly in this regard?


    1. Hi David, I haven’t thought much about it to be honest it was an experiment whilst I am resting my shoulder. We have a forum built for our new site but I thought I would see how this one went whilst we prepared for launching that. I will have a look at what we might be able to do to make it easier in the meantime. No point in having such a group if it is too difficult to read it! K


      1. both David and Karen
        two thoughts
        – one option is to set different blog pages up for each topic, so each conversation is kept within its own framework, rather than all together
        – the other is to select ‘notify me of new comments’ and then an email is sent to you with each comments – at least then your email sorts by date received/posted


      2. I wonder if we try both ways too – what topic headings should I set up do you think?


  8. just the ones that have already been started – can you migrate comments from one post to another? If you can, then if a new topic is started independently then you can migrate that across to a new topic too.
    If not you’ll have to start each fresh page with a transcript of the conversations to date in the heading, as it were


  9. New Subject – NSPCC

    Hello everyone – just had a question on my website and wondered if anyone could answer

    Q – should I report parental alienation to nspcc?

    Many thanks


    1. Our experience of the NSPCC is very poor. Their conclusion when we talked to them was that it did sound like mum was damaging the children’s social and emotional development but as mum was doing it with good intentions it was not a problem.


  10. Hi guys, I’m finding this discussion helpful and healing. I have been separated from my entire family for 6 months now ( after a 25 year marriage. My circumstances arose from financial stress that led me to become depressed and say and do things out side my control ( no physical or emotional abuse or violence) The alienator in my circumstance is one of my Children ( 20 yrs old) who has alienated all my family to the point they are playing my wife against me ( threatens that they will leave home if i go back ) and my other children, and all other family members, where I have had no contact with them. God only knows how much effort I have put in to reconcile. I still financially support them entirely and live on fumes for my basic requirements ( currently living with a good friend) I was forced to leave our house because of the emotional abuse I received from my children and wife for over a year,. I was diagnose with chronic depression and anxiety, but my family don’t believe in mental illness and suggest they did what I did or attention ( self harm)


  11. To the lady who suggested the amends letter…. no I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but my narcissist, abusive ex husband would simply revel in me writing to him to apologise for my part in the alienation of my son!
    How I left him, not for the abuse I suffered but the abuse he was directing towards my son. How I had to apply to CSA as he would not pay for his son or daughter! How he puts the welfare of my son in jeopardy just to keep him from me cause I have boundaries for my children. How he allows my son who is underage to smoke, drink and has taken drugs and who blindly ignores his daughter who is no use to him as she resides with me!!

    I think not!


  12. “What do you mean an amends letter? said John, rather indignantly”.

    Don’t you think I’ve been through enough these past seven years. I’ve had nothing but grief from my Ex. She abused our children, she contaminated their minds, she even physically assaulted one of them………..and now you want me to grovel?……………..Don’t you think I might have tried to be reasonable from the outset? That is the reason we are where we are. There is just no talking to her. She just wants to do the maximum damage to my relationship with our children. And what is worse the law lets her get away with it. Her move away to Portugal got the rubber stamp and at the same time blocked me from making reasonable contact.
    “Don’t you want to wring her neck?”, said Charles.
    You would have thought the law had never heard of shared parenting.
    I see you’ve been having a go at her on facebook again; you still feel real sore?

    “I miss my children, all of them”, said John. I want her to know that whatever she does she can’t destroy me” I have to put on a brave face despite the pain I am suffering. I can’t let her see me as the broken man that I am.

    Adriana had left John in a hurry. By the time John arrived home Adriana and the kids were on a flight somewhere over the Bay of Biscay. The prospect of a return to the homeland was the only answer to her dilemma that Adriana could contemplate. She had only stayed in England because of the security of her family and marriage to John. Now that John and her no longer lived as a family in the same house it was almost impossible to make ends meet and anyway most of her family lived in Oporto. This was where she would feel most comfortable and naturally where she would take her children.

    Seven years is a long time and John’s relationship with his children had all but broken down. Flights to Portugal had been futile, Adriana had been evasive; she had found a new partner. John’s relatives on his side of the family had all suffered from the absence of John’s children; it was as if a great wall had arisen separating off two sides of the family.

    Back at the meeting Charles said to John, “what if Adriana were to write you an amends letter what would you like her to say to you?” That’s ridiculous she would never do that! Pigs might fly! Narcissists never admit to making mistakes!
    Charles continued, “let me play the part of Adriana and I shall write the amends letter you would like……….now tell me what you would like to hear Adriana say. Ok ok John said mildly protesting but at the same time curious.
    John told his story to Charles as if he were Adriana, then Charles (playing the part of Adriana) constructed this letter.

    Dear John

    Sorry for being such a bitch. It was extremely selfish of me to take our children away from you. I should have stayed and you would have seen to it that we shared parenting in the best way possible. I should have gone for that job you showed me in the local paper and if I had allowed you and your mother to share more childcare then life would have been so much better for the children. I am sorry I told the children bad things about you which were only partly true. I regret that they now have such a poor and distorted view of you as a father because at one time I truly loved you and things could have been so different. That was then and I can’t change the past and I know that sorry doesn’t do enough to make amends but I want to make things better for the children, but at the same time I don’t want to lose face myself. I couldn’t bare it if the children rejected me. Can you help?

    Regards Adriana

    When John heard those words he started to smile then tears trickled down his cheeks. Pigs might fly, pigs might fly he muttered to himself.

    Charles sensed he had painfully taken John back to a place where his feelings were most vulnerable. Tell me what you are thinking and how you feel, John.

    I am in shock and disbelief. I don’t believe what she said, and if she did I wouldn’t trust a single word. Someone must have written it for her.

    Yes, you did, said Charles, because it is what you wanted to hear. I know your relationship with Adriana broke down but isn’t it true that at one time you trusted one another implicitly. Oh yes that’s true; but that was before the four horsemen of the apocalypse rode into town (reference to Gottman, “the heart of parenting”).

    I get it, said John, in one of those eureka moments. Now I can imagine this letter in the context of better times when we were in love I feel relieved that she has sent this letter. How I interpret the letter depends on what frame of mind I am in.
    Ok, so what do you like about her letter? said Charles.
    1 That she takes sole responsibility for the situation
    2 That she doesn’t blame me in any way
    3 That she asks my opinion
    4 That she wants to make amends

    Steady, said Charles, one step at a time.
    That she shows confidence in me, she shows me her vulnerable side, she is reaching out wanting to trust me, respects me.

    Charles, he said you make a great Adriana, I’m getting to like you. Do you honestly think that after all these years she has fond memories of us?
    I don’t know, said Charles, do you want to find out if there is anything left in the tank?
    This isn’t about regaining lost love with Adriana, its more about gaining enough dignity and respect for humanity that allows a way back to your children.

    Now, do you need help with that letter?

    Dear Adriana

    I am sorry for my part in the break-up of our marriage.
    I paid too much attention to work.
    I was insensitive to your language difficulties and the problems you were having keeping in touch with your family back home.
    I blamed you for……………………when I could have done………..to help.
    I should have created more time for us.
    I denigrated your dream of a large house in the Country with swimming pool.
    I gave you my realism when you wanted to share your fantasy.

    For these things I am truly sorry, although older and wiser now, if I could only put the clock back.
    There is a massive gap in my heart where the children should be and I would like to make it up to them. I have two weeks in July and would love to meet the kids. Perhaps you could show them some earlier photos of us and tell them their Dad is coming through, at your convenience……………………

    Kind regards


    1. It is evident you are still of the mindset that amends letters would make a difference – I personally don’t believe they would. Perhaps if the situation was between two reasonably healthy people, but in most cases of alienation, the alienation is driven by bigger things that just what appears on the surface. No emotionally healthy person destroys their child’s well-being just because they are angry that their ex paid too much attention to work. It’s rooted in much deeper issues, ones that this sort of amends letter would not touch. As others have said, it would only cement the narrative of the alienating parent as victim of the terrible other parent. If a letter like this, not sent, makes John feel better, than he should do one – but sending it to an alienating ex wouldn’t make much, if any difference, and might make it all worse. IMHO.


  13. Estela was pleased as punch, now 14 she had personal access to the school computer.

    Her mother, Abigail, had recently shot herself in the foot; not literally of course but she had shown her vulnerability when previously it was her toughness and no nonsense stance which had seen to it that Estela would have no reason to have anything to do with her birth father.
    You will remember from the previous chapter that her father, John, lived in England and had seen precious little of his daughter for the past nine years. Not for want of trying, he and his mother especially had borne the brunt of losing his children to a new life abroad.
    Abigail received the letter which John had put off sending because he feared the worst. He knew what Abigail was like and the last thing he wanted to do was vindicate her behaviour by taking responsibility for his split with Abigail all those years ago.
    She rushed onto the red tiled patio overlooking the sea brandishing the letter in her hand. Carlos, she exclaimed in exultant tone, “that pathetic fool has finally admitted responsibility”. Abigail was visibly relieved, now she could talk to that curiously suspicious Headmaster without feeling that she had done anything wrong. Perhaps now he would see the sense in blocking all the end of term reports which she believed John had been sent.

    A celebratory glass of vino Verde was of the order.
    Later that evening by Estela’s bedside Abigail broke the news to Estela that her father had finally admitted to being a poor excuse for a man. Wasn’t she lucky to have found love with Carlos.

    Estela was indeed surprised that her father should be writing to her mother. She became curious but managed a sympathetic smile for her mother because she could tell she was pleased to have been vindicated.

    Estela was quite aware that not all mothers and fathers lived together and a couple of her friends had just the one parent most of the time. On facebook Estela was touched to see how much she meant to this man whom she didn’t really know. The early photos of her and her younger brother were some that she had never seen. Her mother had been careful to erase any links with the past for her own good. Estela knew it wasn’t going to be easy to keep this relationship going because her Mum would be dead against it; she may even reject her if she knew a friendship was developing between her and her Dad.

    Estela was touched by her father’s vulnerability and his willingness to admit to mistakes. She had long found her mother’s perfectionist approach to life jarring and it was a relief to know that it was ok to make mistakes. She began to feel strong connections to this man she barely knew.

    Kind regards


  14. I don’t know how this discussion board works. I’m sorry. I don’t know whether I posted this. It vanished and I can’t see it anywhere so I’m posting it here. Apologies if it appears twice!

    My husband believed that all he needed to do to be a good husband was do the ‘man’ jobs around the house (which I fully appreciated) but women’s work was women’s work and so it was me who dealt with all the household chores and all the childcare while he looked on and played a minor fatherly role. Our first child was born with a very rare degenerative genetic disease that meant she never really progressed beyond the age of around 12 months and became profoundly mentally and physically handicapped. She died age five. Our second daughter was 2 years nine months old when her sister died. At no point did my husband do anything to help me practically. I was exhausted physically and mentally. He complained ‘other women cope, why can’t you” and left me to it while he escaped to continue his hobbies. When my youngest daughter was five I returned to teaching full time. Still he did only man jobs.

    We had tough times (mostly because I complained about lack of help and lack of attention) and very good times (lovely family days out and holidays). But, when my daughter was fifteen he took voluntary redundancy. He went through his own crisis, said he felt like a ‘non-person’ and felt like he’d lost his standing. His ego took a hit. Then he decided he didn’t much like me and he set about pulling me up for anything he saw as a slight or ‘threat’ no matter how silly. Then he started to involve our daughter. She started to disrespect me, to speak to me however she liked. I had no comeback because she would shoot me down. I said to him more than once and in front of her, “You can’t let her speak to me like that” He replied “It’s nothing to do with me, it’s between the two of you and anyway I agree with her. She’s an adult (aged 15!!) and perfectly entitled to have her own opinion about you” or, he’d smirk and laugh as she was putting me in my place – just as he constantly put me in my place.
    And so I trod on eggshells around my daughter for nineteen years until, when she was 33 years old, she told me to get out of her life, she never wanted to see or speak to me again. My husband shrugged, it made him sad but what could he do and anyway, I’d brought it on myself because I’d treated him so badly (!!) and spoiled every one of THEIR holidays.

    THEIR holidays: my husband had always had hobbies and they all involved speed. Before the children were born he’d started a hobby which involved racing. I’d supported him, gone with him and enjoyed watching him race. My youngest daughter grew up in this atmosphere. She made friends with foreign children all over Europe. She belonged to teenage ‘gangs’ and the racing supplied her first boyfriends. By the age of fifteen she was ripe for picking – picking by my husband who made her his best friend and closest ally. He started to exclude me from their clique and on two holidays abroad (racing) he actually disappeared for the day with my daughter without even telling me he was going. I’d done nothing. They both just left and never even thought to tell me.

    After the second of these incidents I wrote pages and pages and gave them to him telling him how it all made me feel. How I felt like I was on a treadmill and wanted it all to stop. I listed all the passive aggressive things he’d done to ‘get me back’ for some slight he’d seen. I told him that the verbal abuse had to stop. Please could he stick to the point if he wanted to argue with me and not throw verbal abuse and character assassinations my way. After he read it he called me a liar and a fantasist.

    I knew I couldn’t go on holiday with them anymore. It was hurting me and causing too many fallouts infront of our adult daughter who would back her father up all the time and turn on me. I told them I’d still pack the caravan and fill it with food but I was staying at home because I had to stop what was happening. I thought it would make things better. What did I know. For seven years they went on holiday (racing) without me. I waved them off with a smile but it wasn’t the end of the problems. By then there was THEM and there was me. My daughter found every fault she could. My husband told her about every fall out or disagreement we had. When I latterly asked him if he thought it was right that he did that he told me “Why shouldn’t I tell her, she’s my daughter and anyway, she has every right to know the truth. We have no secrets between us.”

    It was shortly after that that another engineered fiasco occurred and I left. My husband told me “You’re only leaving me because for the first time in your life you can’t get your own way.”

    Nine months after I left my daughter got married and her father walked her down the aisle. I didn’t even know she’d got engaged let alone married until I found out by chance after searching the internet. Had I not put her name, her partner’s name and the name of their village into a search engine I’d never have found a post by their wedding photographer.

    It’s almost 18 months since I moved 150 miles from them. I wrote a last email telling me daughter how very much I loved her and hoped she’d get in touch one day. I told her that my biggest regret was that she’d been dragged into what was going on between her father and me. I apologised and told her she was in no way to blame. I told her I had to move away because I couldn’t stay and watch her dad have such close contact with her when I’d have none. It was too painful and so I was going. She sent me the most vile email in return.

    For the first year I sent her cards and short emails to say I was thinking of her. I sent her a birthday card at the start of the year and in Nov will send her a first anniversary card to say that I was sending genuine congratulations and best wishes to both of them. I have not had and don’t expect to have any communication from her.

    Until she was fifteen I did everything with her. I took riding and went with her to competitions. My husband wasn’t interested in going with us. He said “I can’t stand around all day doing nothing”. I gave her all the love I could. I did my best. Then she entered the adult world, the seductive and very attractive world of racing. I was boring by comparison and both of them told me so. And I lost my daughter. My husband made her his best friend and ally and she cannot see anything right with me. I am nothing to her. I have no significance to her life. I cannot think of any question to ask here because I know the answer – there is no hope for a reconciliation.

    I went through hell after I found out she’d got married but I am a survivor. I will survive and ……… the memories I have, the good memories of my second daughter are fading. I am beginning to heal in spite of myself.


  15. Karen if you read this post:(or anyone)

    I’ve just found this on one of your posts Feb 16th – How Alienating Parents Use Justified Rejection Reasoning:

    A child who goes back repeatedly to a seemingly innocuous event and describes it as if it is evidence of the evil that a parent has done to them, is demonstrating that they have been coached to believe that something which actually happened is much worse and much more dangerous to them than it actually was in reality. The difference between a child who is justifiably rejecting a parent and one who has been told that their rejection is justifiable is that the child who has really been damaged will rarely reject a parent outright but will seek to go back and try again, sometimes to be hurt again, sometimes to the degree where they have to be persuaded to think differently. The reality is that a child who is being harmed by a parent will usually blame themselves first before they are able to blame the other parent and can often not understand what a parent is doing that is harmful. (This is a taster from Chapter Three of our book Understanding Parental Alienation: Learning to Cope, Helping to Heal)

    I’m asking myself Is this true? Is it always true? I’m asking it because I’m hoping the answer is yes. I’m hoping it’s yes because I was that child who very nearly rejected my own mother but kept on going back and felt guilt (guilt is the word I used but I will never be able to describe how she made me feel) until the day she died. I kept on trying and I kept on getting hurt. She simply couldn’t relate to me in any way.

    My daughter was alienated from me by her father, my husband who decided he didn’t much like me after he took voluntary redundancy when she was fifteen. He always insisted (when I tried to tell him how it was making me feel) that it made him sad, but what could he do about it. She was an adult (at fifteen) and entitled to her opinions about me and anyway, I’d brought it all on myself.

    I’d never hears of PA until I left both of them a year ago and spent ages on the internet trying to understand how in heaven’s name I’d ended up as I had. I’d trod on egg shells with my daughter and husband for 19 years and it’s almost two years since she told me to get out of her life (see my first post above).

    I just need to know for sure that it was him and not me!


  16. Hi Marylin
    I am going to chip in here to let you know that someone is listening to you. I hear your call for help and will try to give you fresh ideas to explore and find a way back to your daughter.
    Whilst analysis of the past may help us unravel the stories and give us better focus on solutions it must not be used as an impediment to future plans.
    By this I mean, for example……….my Ex is an alienator therefor I can’t do anything to help my children………..my Ex is an alienator he is a mean and nasty person.

    What we can do is concentrate on behaviours, skills and mental health. (I speak here from personal experience and am for ever an eager student).

    From reading your story I have identified specific topics which warrant further investigation if you have not done so already and I have some references which may be of help.

    1 ………controlling and domineering men.
    S. Forward & J. Torres. “Men who hate women and the women who love them”.
    M.Lawrence. “Fed up and hungry, women, oppression and food”.

    2 …………….mother/daughter relationships.
    Terri Apter. “You don’t really know me”
    Faye, Cleese and Bates. “How to manage your mother”

    3……………..problems relating to your own mother.
    I don’t have any extra references for you on this subject but I can speak from personal experience.
    It is possible to try too hard and expect too much from your mother in terms of having deep and meaningful conversations. Her perspective on life will be different from yours and for me it was more about accepting the things my mother would talk about and the things she wouldn’t. Don’t let opinion get in the way of a good relationship. You have to treat people in the way they would like to be treated in order to gain their trust and confidence, be interested in them, everyone has a story. They are more likely to listen to you if they feel you are attentive to them. Be responsive to feelings rather than facts. Facts are the breeding ground of contention but feelings accepted are grounds for a trusting relationship.

    4………….mental health and personal development
    W.Dyer. “Your Erroneous Zones”
    This is important because we can’t work on our problems effectively if we aren’t in good condition ourselves. Broken relationships are a massive downer and this takes its toll. Sometimes we don’t even realise how ill we are, lurching from despair to worry, anxiety into numbness, intractability and separateness. We become sour and bitter and vengeful and distant.

    Lastly, I have a family relationship situation different from yours and like you am searching for solutions:
    My recently turned 20, daughter has been staying exclusively with me these past few weeks. For the previous ten years she has lived mostly with her Mum, visiting me only at weekends. She has a difficult relationship with her mother, as her mother had with hers.
    For these last few weeks she has been moody and sulky despairing of her mother. She won’t go and see her mother saying, “what’s the point, she won’t speak to me”

    Believe me when I say I am no “alienator”, for the last nine years I haven’t said a bad word about her mother in front of my daughter. I can’t seem to help my daughter get on with her mother. All I am doing at the moment is offering her safe refuge at her Dad’s hoping that she will see a way back to having a relationship with her mother. On Sunday I made a traditional meal and me and my two children sat around the table together. Since then my daughter has begun to talk more and smile. She has spoken to and visited a close friend in the village, but she still hasn’t spoken to her mother, who only lives around the corner from me. I don’t even know what the specific problem is but I can guess it is borne of the high expectations her mother has for her. I am not like that; I tend to be the conciliatory and supportive parent.

    Kind regards


  17. Hello anonymous, I’m sorry your daughter isn’t speaking to her mother. You said “for the last nine years I haven’t said a bad word about her mother in front of my daughter.”, Does that mean that you did say things about her mother before that point I wonder. I think it’s so sad when any family shatters and family members can’t or won’t relate to one another. Yes, personality clashes can come into it. In my case I am sure my husband (knowingly or unknowingly engineered what happened in our family. Rather than take a mistress (which I am almost 100% certain he’ll never do because he would never have time for one amongst his hobbies but also because he’d not want the emotional attachment to or responsibility for another woman or want her to get her hands on his money!) he cultivated our daughter as the next best thing, made her his best friend, his ally and his ‘substitute wife’ in order to validate himself. He didn’t need to make much of an effort with her once she reached 15. He just needed to treat her as a fully entitled adult, never disagree with her or tell her off and to have her involved fully in his racing and the social life that went with it. The effort he needed to make to keep a female partner (a wife) in his life was beyond him because he couldn’t give anything.

    (Aside from the fact that he was controlling and hated anyone else to have an opposing opinion to his since he was never, ever wrong about anything)

    You said “I don’t even know what the specific problem is but I can guess it is borne of the high expectations her mother has for her. I am not like that; I tend to be the conciliatory and supportive parent.”.

    I don’t see anything wrong (as such) with high expectations unless they are totally unreasonable and stem from an attempt to control someone. I had high hopes for my daughter and she did very well through her own efforts. Had she failed at anything, that would have been fine too, but I always encouraged her to be the best she could be – or thought I did. Her dad never ever told her off for anything. That was my job and when, as a young teenager, she shoplifted some very petty things from a shop I gave her a jolly good telling off. I told her dad out of her earshot (expecting him to say SOMETHING to her), he told me “You’ve dealt with it”. And he never did say a word to her. When she was later utterly obnoxious to both of us in front of her friends, I swallowed my response knowing that (by then) If I said anything she would come at me all guns blazing and her dad would either say nothing or he’d agree with her.

    As it was, my husband also said nothing but rowed with me later about it – it was (in his eyes) my fault. When years later I asked him why he’d rowed with me instead of calling her out he told me “I didn’t want to embarrass her in front of her friends”.

    He didn’t want to lose her friendship. He didn’t much care how he spoke to me or what he told her about me. And because he was her best friend and no longer acted like her father, the boundaries changed.

    When she was young she was a mummy’s girl because daddy was busy with his hobbies. Before I left, my husband agreed that I’d been a very good mother but he told me “She grew up and saw you for what you are”. That was what he thought of me.

    As for my mother. I never completely cut her out of my life but I gave up on her when she said to me (while we were having a pleasant and long conversation during one of our family visits to see my parents – my husband was not in the room at the time) “You don’t know how lucky you are to have only one child to see to. The sacrifices we made for you three. We couldn’t wait for you all to fly the nest……….” My five year old daughter had died only a few years before and my parents had attended her funeral but she could say that to me..

    And that wasn’t the first time my mother uttered those very same words. She said the same thing on three more visits and I was always so shocked that I said nothing. NOTHING. She had completely disregarded the fact that we had had TWO children, not one. That was almost 30 years before she died and she was certainly not losing her marbles. She was just too self centred to ‘remember’ such a happening.

    The best book I’ve read to date is Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?”. I wish I’d found it years ago.

    I’ve also read Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children – Stanley S Clawar & Brynne V Rivlin (American Bar Association). That book has a brilliant passage about fathers who make their children their best friends.(pages 92/93). It confirmed all I’d suspected since reading Hugo Schwyzer’s article (link below)

    But the most meaningful article I read when I started on this road of trying to understand what on earth was going on was an article by Hugo Schwyzer. That is what I am pretty sure happened when my daughter was 15 and my husband took voluntary redundancy and felt himself in need of validation.


    I will look up some of your suggested books. And, I will hope you can somehow help your daughter to relate to her mother and her mother to her 🙂


  18. Hi Marylin

    Thanks for all the references.

    We both called each other names in front of the children. Nothing I am proud of. Our adult relationship gradually deteriorated over a number of months, in a similar fashion to that described by John Gottman as “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”.
    When Social Services became involved I was told off for describing my former partner as mad. I apologised and said, what I meant to say was, “what you just did is maddening me”. In other words, I should have described the behaviour rather than the personality. All sound advice but I doubt if it would have prevented the inevitable split.
    The main bone of contention in our relationship was a disagreement over parenting technique; in this respect I feel we may be able to help each other.

    You describe your Ex as having a laissez faire attitude toward parenting and a befriender of a child rather than a disciplinarian. You describe yourself as one who has to do the discipline and your Ex as non-supportive of you at best (sometimes critical) in your role.

    You are not alone, myself and partner fell into exactly the same “parenting trap”. It got so bad that I called in social services to help but I never felt they did that. They interfered and judged rather than helped. Finally delivering the ultimate threat ……….” if you can’t sort it out we will take your children into care”. Fortunately, it never came to that. My Ex became fairly ferocious in the delivery of her diktats, which she called parenting, and I trembled at her aggression which I interpreted as bullying. I saw myself as protector of my child (my daughter would phone me up at work crying her eyes out saying Mummy has been hitting me……….this later came out in the social services report which was subsequently destroyed by social services to suit their agenda) . My Ex would accuse me as being weak, and for a time I did join in with her “disciplinary type parenting” but my daughter went into depression and began to self-harm.


    After gaining help from a Counsellor I came across a book by John Gottman entitled, “the heart of parenting”. Probably one of the best books any parent is likely to read. At the beginning there is a lot of self-analysis in order to establish the type of parenting style you have. Basically there are three types:

    1 The disapproving and dismissing parent
    2 The laissez faire parent
    3 The emotion coach parent

    Most of us tend to fall into categories 1 and 2, perhaps describing our style as one similar to our parent’s style. (a generational influence).

    A lot of parents seem to describe parenting as something they do without having to think about it; but thinking about it is something that every parent needs to be doing.

    The parent who becomes the emotion coach is the one who has become aware of their child’s feelings and is able to respect them. Karen talks about empathy as being a key factor………..she talks about walking in your child’s shoes. This is what an emotion coach does.

    If you haven’t already got it, I recommend the book. It is based on a lot of sound scientific studies. Haim Ginott in the 1960’s was a pioneer of the parenting style which exhibited respect for a child’s feelings. You may have come across an excellent series of books by Faber & Mazlish who were students of Ginott back in the 60’s.
    My daughter spent some time visiting her mother yesterday and returned in a better frame of mind so I am pleased for her. Much more pleasant and cooperative, washing up the pots and sharing thoughts about her plans for a day out with her friends………..I still have no idea what the specific problem is, but I am content to try and deal with the feelings

    Kind regards


  19. You describe your Ex as having a laissez faire attitude toward parenting and a befriender of a child rather than a disciplinarian. You describe yourself as one who has to do the discipline and your Ex as non-supportive of you at best (sometimes critical) in your role.

    In reply to the above. My mother’s parenting style was most definitely ‘The disapproving and dismissing parent’. I swore that when I had children of my own I would not be like her. They would always know that I loved them and was interested in them – my daughter doesn’t deny that she always knew I loved her; she told me that at times it was smothering. That was the word my husband used when he told her from a very young age that I smothered him. I loved him and waited on him hand and foot in the seven years before we had children. I worshipped him . I couldn’t do enough to please him. He was the centre of my world until we had children (one became profoundly handicapped and died aged five) and then he had to share my attention – the attention he had never wanted in the first place but suddenly demanded because the family dynamics had changed. I grew up and because he was never around and never emotionally available, I learned to cope on my own.

    He was never an unkind father. He loved his daughters. But it was me who had to plead with him to pick them up and relate to them. He told me it was boring. I can’t remember him ever doing anything for my first child or even cuddling her. When our second daughter was born I brought her hope from the maternity unit and pleaded to him to pick her up. He wouldn’t. Babies were boring. It hurt. Really hurt. All I ever wanted was a complete family. All he ever wanted was to be left alone to go his own way and concentrate on his hobbies.

    When my first daughter died, our second daughter wasn’t quite three but she KNEW. She didn’t understand but she grieved and constantly asked for her sister. She started to scream every night when I put her to bed. My husband was annoyed. I tried to explain to him that she was grieving but couldn’t articulate or understand what had happened. I began to lay with her until she went to sleep. My husband was doubly annoyed. He told me I should let her get on with it. I just couldn’t, it broke my heart so I defied him and lay with her.

    She also began to refuse most foods. I was grieving too (I know my husband was too but he escaped to his work and his hobbies and left me to it. He never spoke of our first daughter again which really hurt me.) I couldn’t cope so I gave in and cooked for her what she would eat. My husband objected. But he never helped to encourage her to eat. He just rowed with me. One day when she was about five, she refused to eat the sprouts on her plate. He leapt up from his chair, stuffed all the sprouts into her mouth and forced her mouth closed. When he let her go she ran for the loo and retched into the bowl. THAT was his attempt at discipline. He had no idea and I went to bed every night praying that I would live long enough to see her grown her because I couldn’t bear thinking about how he would be if he was in charge of her. He had absolutely no idea.

    When she was about ten I took her to the nearest city to buy her new clothes. I was working full time by then and earning more than him but he controlled all our money. My salary was paid into an account set up by him and I had no means of getting at it. I had a credit card which he kept a regular check on. He could spend as much as he liked on his hobbies, new motorbikes etc and would never tell me what he spent. He knew exactly what I spent and what I spent it on. Anyway, ten year old and I had a lovely day shopping and when we got back she was showing him what we’d bought. He was getting crosser and crosser because I’d spent the money and started a row with me in front of daughter. She got up to leave the room and as she went past him, he shot his foot out to trip her up. I followed her out of the room and she said “Daddy tried to trip me up, he tried to make me cry but I’m not going to”.

    Before I left and while she was still speaking to me (just) I asked her if she remembered those incidents. She did. But by then it made no difference. |Her dad was perfect and I was wholly flawed with no positives at all.

    And the rest I have outlined before: But, when my daughter was fifteen he took voluntary redundancy. He went through his own crisis, said he felt like a ‘non-person’ and felt like he’d lost his standing. His ego took a hit. Then he decided he didn’t much like me and he set about pulling me up for anything he saw as a slight or ‘threat’ no matter how silly. Then he started to involve our daughter. She started to disrespect me, to speak to me however she liked. I had no comeback because she would shoot me down. I said to him more than once and in front of her, “You can’t let her speak to me like that” He replied “It’s nothing to do with me, it’s between the two of you and anyway I agree with her. She’s an adult (aged 15!!) and perfectly entitled to have her own opinion about you” or, he’d smirk and laugh as she was putting me in my place – just as he constantly put me in my place.

    And so I trod on eggshells around my daughter for nineteen years until, when she was 33 years old, she told me to get out of her life, she never wanted to see or speak to me again. My husband shrugged, it made him sad but what could he do and anyway, I’d brought it on myself because I’d treated him so badly (!!) and spoiled every one of THEIR holidays.

    My husband, because of the racing he was involved with (which we had always gone to as a family) had the perfect opportunity to befriend our daughter and make her his substitute wife when he took VOLUNTARY redundancy when our daughter was fifteen. He was able to give up work because I was still working full time and earning a good salary. I was still supportive of him in those days and wanted him to be happy. I wanted a happy family. Once he discovered that she responded to his new role in her life, he discarded me and began his attempts to exclude me from the clique. He couldn’t have had a better result if he’d tried.

    He always said that up until she was fifteen I was a great mother. Apart from ‘her clothes and her food’, he told me he could not fault me. It was what happened from fifteen onwards when “she grew up and saw you for what you are”.

    He was a controlling, verbally and emotionally abusive man. There are no two ways about it. I know that now.
    But I will always regret that I couldn’t see how to prevent what happened with my now ED. I only ever wanted a happy family and we could have had that but he did all he could to prevent it.

    I’m glad your daughter spent time with her mother. It’s a pity the three of you couldn’t get together and meet each other half way, put it all behind you and start again with a smile and compassion. That’s what I’d like but I know it will never happen. It could never happen. And that is what is so sad.

    (I’m not going to re-read this to check for errors. It’s all just a tad bit raw and try as might, I will never understand why)


  20. Hi Marylin
    It is not over. You will always be Mum.
    I would like to talk about this last paragraph in your blog.

    “I’m glad your daughter spent time with her mother. It’s a pity the three of you couldn’t get together and meet each other half way, put it all behind you and start again with a smile and compassion. That’s what I’d like but I know it will never happen. It could never happen. And that is what is so sad”.

    Because your situation is so similar to mine you will understand why I haven’t yet achieved that meeting of the three of us face to face saying goodbye to a difficult and torrid past and welcoming in a new era of compassion and tolerance.
    It would be impossible for me to appeal to the sensibilities of an adult who believes so ardently in dismissive and disapproving parenting; as far as she is concerned I am weak and pathetic. She gains control of my daughter through bullying and shaming.
    Just like you I am treading on eggshells, afraid to upset the great ogre in case she turns my daughter against me.
    In spite of the fact that my daughter was physically, verbally and emotionally abused by her mother she is quite likely to become devotedly obedient to her……………strange isn’t it just.

    However, in order to function as well as possible, like I said, I have read the books that have illuminated my side of the dilemma. You talk about the family dynamic. Within this dynamic I have discovered how I can gain influence. As previously outlined I have concentrated on the feelings of my children and the art of good parenting. It has made a huge difference. The paths of communication between ourselves and our children need to be strong in a parent/child sort of way. The children need to know they can find love and support and tolerance and understanding in a parent.
    We cannot change our Ex’s by highlighting their faults or complaining about them. We can change ourselves and that will benefit our children. In spite of her poor parenting style my Ex has a lot of positive stuff going for her. She is helpful and contributes to the community in a selfless way and she loves her children. She is organised, practical, intelligent and hard working.

    ………………In your situation you describe a sub-servient role for yourself in relation to your Ex which your daughter, at the age of 15, has decided to adopt, mimicking her father in taking you for granted. This sounds like a very unhealthy family dynamic. You need to respect yourself and move away from his powerful manipulations. I am sure you will find masses of literature on this even if you don’t like the Dyer book which I used myself to good effect. Living such a long time with your Ex and waiting on him is not a healthy adult/adult relationship and this will take its toll on you.
    So there is plenty of work to do on yourself. You cannot change your Ex’s poor attitude, ignorance and miss-behaviour but you can develop and grow yourself. This will make his poor behaviour less important.
    You also mention………………
    “Before I left and while she was still speaking to me (just) I asked her if she remembered those incidents. She did. But by then it made no difference. |Her dad was perfect and I was wholly flawed with no positives at all.”

    I think asking your daughter to remember her Dad doing nasty things to her in the vain hope that she will align with you rather than him is not a good ploy. Your daughter is being put in an impossible situation being asked to choose between you who is being treated like a doormat by her Dad and is claiming her Dad is the baddy, and her Dad who happens to be calling all the shots. The consequence will be your daughter will believe that she has done something wrong, not her father, (e.g. Dad tripped me up so it’s my fault because I must have done something to upset him). She will likely conclude; I must be more obedient to Dad and behave myself.
    If my daughter were in the same situation I might be making sure she had her favourite toothbrush with her. I would be giving out positive supporting parenting messages. Anything that upsets try labelling it as an interesting opinion rather than trying to oppose the argument with sound logic.
    Lastly I see you as being a strong individual in your own right. Pushing yourself into new areas of personal discovery, more determined to confidently face your situation, strong in the knowledge that you know better how to deal with feelings and that one day you will breeze into your daughter’s life with greater confidence and assuredness.
    In your co-parenting situation the belief that you are equally important to your daughter comes from you, not from your Ex. You do not need his approval and you don’t need to directly oppose those who are against you.

    For myself, I have just made a tricky decision to stop paying my Ex. to care for my son. I haven’t told my Ex. Perhaps I should have done, but I didn’t want to get into an argument. I have my reasons, earning less money than my Ex………my son spends a lot of time with me now……I pay my son a little money direct into his account.
    I will just have to deal with the consequences, and protect my children in the best way I know how.

    Kind regards


  21. I think it’s difficult when as a parent you yourself have been victimized. There is a lot of resentment and guilt however you did not become vindictive or manipulating bc of it which shows you are stronger and much more healthy. If there is any comfort in this fact take it! And build on healing yourself and forgiving yourself further. It is only from a more self actualized empowered place can you then view where your children are really at compassionately and not take it personally. Easier said than done and just my two cents. I wish there was a clearer road map out and solution. I do think you have to recognize and bypass a lot of the traps and flying monkeys designed to keep you stuck first though. And greater education in the mental health field and in family law to this abusive power dynamic to stop it in its tracks would be very appreciated and so needed! We cannot do it all alone! Thanks to all who provide true help!!


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