Wednesday, February 1, 2023

What is Parental Alienation?

 If you know my story, since September 11, 2018, I've been alienated from my then 2 year old son, Alexander.

I was forced to move out of the home that day and have never been alone with him since.

It's been 2 years since he and I have had any contact, as the parental alienation tactics have just intensified by the alienating parent as time progresses.

One thing that has been clear to me over these past years is how so few people seem to understand what parental alienation even is.

So few people offer real help because they just don't understand it.

On his Psychiatry Podcast David Puder, M.D. and his guests provided one of the better resources for explaining what is parental alienation.

For those of you that care for Alexander and I, I hope you will give it a listen. 

Whenever I read about the topic, it's always amazing how common the behavior is compared to what Alexander and I have gone through.

Everything from the abundance of alienating parents having borderline personality disorders, to even behavioral trends like alienating parents going out of their way to even alienate pets that the child loves. When my ex-wife who had lived with and loved my dog Malia for 7 years, turned on even her...kicking Malia, picking her up and throwing her, to seeking court intervention to not allow Malia and Alexander to spend time together over a simple scratch Alexander got from Malia...

It's all these little factors that people never even consider when they hear the term "parental alienation".

If you don't listen to the full podcast episode, please take the time to at least review these notes from it. 

If you do listen to it, please consider also reviewing the material included on the What is Parental Alienation podcast episode page

Psychiatry Podcast with Dr. David Puder

Episode 159: What is Parental Alienation? 

Guests: Alyse Price-Tobler and Mandy Matthewson, PhD

Parental Alienation Checklist:

* Alienating Parent is exerting coercive control over the child while blocking the child from having a relationship with the targeting parent

* Is parental alienation behavior from the alienating parent conscious or unconscious?

Some do it naively but for most, it is a deliberate attempt by the targeted parent

* Alienating parents often learn alienating tactics through intergenerational background

* Alienating parents will often manipulate the child to believe they should be deprived of the relationship with the targeted parent

* The child is forced to adopt the narrative that the other parent is bad, and put in a position to be the stabilizing factor for the alienating parent at the cost of the their childhood...a role reversal of a normal parent/child dynamic

* An alienated child is forced to play a role as a stabilizing force to the alienating parent, at the same time, the alienating parent will infantilize the child at times, treating them with the frailty of a newborn

* Coercive control on the child by the alienating parent puts the child in a state of trauma, as they are forced into a dissociative life by blocking the positive emotions they have for the targeted parent

* Alienated children are forced into a meshed trauma bond with the alienating parent, encouraged to reject the positive feelings they have for the targeted parent

* If a child has a loving relationship with the targeted parent and then verbalizes that they don't want to see the targeted parent after being coerced by the alienating parent, it's a red flag as it is a sign that this is not normal behavior by the child and a sign of parental alienation

* Important for people connected to the alienating parent (family, friends): 

Do not ever take a definitive stance with the alienating parent, because they will use any words said as justification for what they are doing and treat these outsiders as allies, encouraging the denigration of the targeted parent in front of the child to further the case of the alienating parent

* Alienating parents will go as far as to not allow the child to have relationships with even animals, pets from the targeted parent

* Alienating parent behavior doesn't common lasts forever until the alienating parent passes.

* Alienating parents will turn their children against other family, including siblings, if that other person has a loving connection to the targeted parent

* Denigrating the targeted parent in front of the child is used to reinforce the false narriative by alienating parents 

* Alienating parents create a phobic reaction for the child, that the targeted parent is a fear to them

* Alienating parents won't accept gifts sent from the targeted parent to the child, so that the child believes the target parent doesn’t care about them

* Alienating parents will twist the meaning of gifts given to the alienated child by the targeted parent as a sign of abuse or the parent being self-centered (example: child receives a gift and the alienating parent says “see, they don’t care about you because if they did, they would have gotten you X instead of Y”)

* String of allegations by the alienating parent, forcing the child into a world of adult content, such as sexual abuse allegations

* Child is forced into trauma as the alienating parent introduces the fear of sexual abuse or domestic violence into the child’s world, by telling the child that events happened when they never did with false allegations.

* Court reaction is to stop visitations for the targeted parent, called the "custody silver bullet", because visits can stop for long periods of time. And when the child is finally able to see the targeted parent again, the court requires supervised visits which just add credence to the fears the child has from the false information the alienating parent has forced upon the child.

* Fathers often cannot afford to pay for the social workers for the supervised visits, adding additional economic constraints on innocent targeted parents being able to have a relationship with the child.

* It's not uncommon for divorce lawyers to use a script and encourage the parental alienation process for the benefit of their client

* The court system has been the same for centuries, with high-conflict divorces 

* The alienating parent blames the targeted parent for the previous relationship/marriage not working and creates a false narrative, that differs from the reality of the child’s memory as the alienating parent aims to instill false memories to terrify the child

* Alienating parents will move away to make it more difficult for the child to have a relationship with the targeted parent. This is abduction that is not regulated enough by the courts.

* Alienating parents will not allow contact with the child, with threats of arrest for something as simple as a targeted parent going to a child’s school.

* Alienated children are controlled and always supervised as the alienating parent has irrational fears that the targeted parent will kidnap them…or simply prove through proper parenting that the narrative the child has had forced upon them is false.

* A part of alienated children loves and misses the targeted parent, but they are forced to keep quiet with the alienating parent or else the alienating parent will target the alienated child as being a problem

* For parental alienation, true risks don't exist without intensive risk assessment: bonafide abuse such as sexual abuse of physical harm. 

* Even in cases of physical abuse, alienated children still love the targeted parent and want to have a relationship with them. In parental alienation, the child voices that they never want to see the targeted parent again because they have been forced to adapt that narrative by the alienating parent.

* Do alienating parents have personality disorders? The most common issues for alienating parents are Borderline Personality Disorders who are paranoid in their orientation in their world and with other people.

* Alienating parents had their own trauma in their youth in addition to personality disorders, an abandonment wound, and use their alienated child to fill that wound.

* Clinicians need to be able to identify the behaviors happening. Alienating parents try to coerce clinicians such as therapists to become allies, and if they don't agree to be an ally, the alienating parent will end the relationship with the clinician.

* Alienated children never get to be in the space alone with the targeted parent as even when there are visits, the alienating parent will not leave the 2 alone with constant calls and texts to disturb any parental bonding.

* Tips for parents:

- Child needs to be the primary focus

- Focus on what is in the best interest of the child, not the parents

- Don't have arguments or even uncomfortable conversations in the house as children are natural listeners and will want to know when they are going to see the targeted parent.

- If a phone rings, the child might hope it's the targeted parent on the phone

- Children go through the same grief with the loss of a targeted parent from their life as an adult does when losing a family member.

* How to help targeted parents:

Arm yourself up with information about parental alienation so that targeted parents can speak freely about what they are going through and be believed. In order to help, you have to put in the effort and be aware of what parental alienation is

* How to get out of the hole as a targeted parent:

- Parental alienation is like grieving a death.

- Get as healthy and well as you possibly can.

- Work on building your strength

- Learn about the trauma abuse your child is going through: they are not the same child they were when they were in your life, they have been living a trauma forced to think like an adult

- Be positive

- And be positive on social media so that when your child has access to it, they know where you stand

- An alienated child can get dissapointed and it can be heart wrenching for them, the child needs unconditional positive regard from the targeted parent

- Show your thoughtfulness for the child

- Be strong

- Understand your child went through trauma, had to believe alternative narratives that have twisted their reality, having to meet the needs of the alienating parent and not themselves

We are taught to do what we are told, so it's difficult for children to break the cycle to reach and repair...instinct is to retreat.

- Do not talk about your side of the story to children of alienation unless they ask, because they need to drive that space

- Unconditional positive regard is needed, weather the storm of the alienated adult children, be consistent

- Alienated children have no autonomy so you need to put that first for them.

- Think of yourself as a listener with an alienated child: you are there for them to take care of them and be a parent. You don't need to set the record straight overnight. Bringing your essence and character are the most import...have empathy for the child regardless of what you went through as a targeted parent.

- Consistency, care packages, show your thoughtfulness 

- Nothing is as gut-wrenching as having a child taken away from you. Doing the work to grieve is a way to prepare yourself to help the child.

- Assume the alienating parent is monitoring all communication

- Don't give up. It might take 1 year, 3, years, 10 years. Just don't give up. There is hope!

- All practitioners need to become better aware of parental alienation. 

Lawyers and family court systems need to find the line when they are becoming complicit in a case and causing harm to a child.


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