What Can You Do if Your Child is Alienated From You?
The first thing is to recognise that this is a difficult situation for the alienated parent to tolerate. After all, if you are the alienated parent, then you are being forcibly separated from the children who love you and need you in their lives.
You are forced to witness helplessly while another person maliciously brain washes them, destroys their love for you and otherwise puts them in a loyalty conflict where they must choose the alienating parent in order to avoid being torn apart.
Children often choose the latter course in desperation, because the alienating parent has created a situation where the children believe that this parent is helpless without the child. The price for a relationship is the child’s unwavering allegiance to the alienating parent.
It is unrealistic to expect to go through this alone, most alienated parents need some external support to maintain a grounding in reality. This is necessary, because the alienating parent is operating in a delusional and distorted reality in which they are prepared to use your children as a weapon against you.
Many alienated parents find that neither legal practitioners nor therapists and consultants appreciate their situation and that of their children, despite identifying a grim future for them without you in their lives.
There are some important principles I have researched and attempted to use in alienating situations. These principles guide strategic engagement with your children. In amongst your obvious and well-founded concern for your children is concern for your own well-being. Many people fail because they simply cannot run the gauntlet of conflicting emotions and sustain the personal marathon required for both themselves and for their children.
Many alienated parents are simultaneously horrified at what is happening to their children, feeling helpless that that they could not prevent it, and outraged that their partners not only got away with it but that the legal system ultimately validated their behaviour despite adverse family reports from court-appointed consultants.
You may require expert legal advice as to how to build a case for alienation as a form of child psychological abuse in Australia.
Some considerations I have researched and learned the hard way:
1. Always remember to act as though your children are in the room whenever you speak to the alienating parent, and always remember that the alienating parent is in the room when you are with your children. By keeping this in mind, you will never say or write anything which could be construed as acting in a manner similar to the alienating parent (which severely damages your credibility with your child), nor provide any succour to the alienating parent.
2. Keep reminding your children of the happy history between you and them prior to the separation. This taps into the children’s memory store of happy moments and loving times. It helps shatter the destructive myths implanted by the alienating parent because such memories contradict them.
3. Do not engage in any behaviour that could remotely be interpreted as alienating. Do not denigrate your ex-partner, especially not in front of your children (and certainly not to your ex-partner). If anything, attempt to at least maintain an objective, neutral stance. However, be prepared for questions about why you and your ex-partner behave in certain ways.
4. Sometimes it is possible to get the alienating parent to stop their behaviour. Often this will require intervention or the involvement of a mediator. Remember that they are as yet not committing a criminal act, certainly in the eyes of family law in Australia. However it may be possible to get the alienating parent to appreciate the harm that they are doing to their child, especially if they hear it from an independent third party. The latter may feed into a legal case against your ex-partner. Also bear in mind that the alienating parent by definition may not be able to appreciate the harm they are doing to your children.
5. Try appealing to your children’s conscience, if they are neglecting, hurting or humiliating you.
6. Make sure your children know by your words and your deeds that they need both parents in their lives and their relationship with you does not preclude a relationship with the other parent. By letting go of the rope in this game of tug-of-war, the alienating parent is likely to fall over!
7. Your children need to be aware that if this behaviour continues (either theirs or that of the alienating parent) that they may lose you. This is not because you want to go, but because you cannot bear to hurt them by being part of a tug-of-war over them.
8. Sometimes alienation is so bad that the extended family of the alienating parent is completely disconnected from the child. Make sure your child knows what is at stake.
9. If you are able to spend time with your children, make sure that you have some control over your children’s communication with the alienating parent while they are with you. You have to remember that the alienating parent may set up your children to spy on you, and that the alienating parent is able to exert their influence via telephone call, letter, social networking, e-mail… the list goes on
10. If you are in a shared care situation you may involve a children’s contact service for the changeover between parents. This gives an independent observer an opportunity to become aware of the situation. The observations may be called in as evidence, should you proceed legally. Sometimes they can intervene or at least influence the situation and the children, if not the alienating parent.
11. You must at all costs persevere, even at times of little or no contact. Your children will never forget that you tried, and if you are ever called to account by your children, you will have the physical evidence that you were attempting to maintain contact with them. You have to maintain your efforts, even in the face of humiliating and demoralising projection from your child and constant boundary riding and outright interference by the alienating parent. To do otherwise allows the alienating parent to feel successful and to reinforce with your children that you do not care for them.
12. Passivity will send a message to your child that they did not count in your life.
13. In extreme cases of parental alienation, you must remember that your children are victims of mind control as through they have been subjected to a cult-like environment. Your children will need a great deal of reassurance that they are safe to be with you without affecting their loyalty and their love of the other parent-however abusive they have been.
How you implement this, if at all, depends upon your unique circumstances. You may do all of the above and still lose your connection with your children if only because the children cannot bear the tension, you cannot bear to hurt them or because you cannot bear your pain. This pain is something very difficult to explain to others, it can seem like you are not allowed to feel this pain. This is because this process is still not considered as child abuse and many parents are astounded that a parent may hold their children’s welfare in such little regard. Many well-meaning people will fob you off with something like ‘he/she will rebel when they are (insert age) and come looking for you’.
Alternately, you may be subjected to various professionals attempting to hold you at least partially accountable or minimising the abusive and harm aspect. These professionals may not understand the extreme alignment/parental alienation dynamic and therefore will not question the basis of what the children say.