1. People & Relationships

Understanding And Dealing With Parental Alienation

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The following article is a collaboration between Linda Gottlieb and Joan T. Kloth-Zanard

Are You a Victim of Parental Alienation?

Greg Downing asks, “Did you grow up with one parent? Do you know a child who has been restricted from a parent aunt or grandparent, without just reason?” If you answered yes to Greg’s question then you are now talking about a form of psychological abuse called PAS or Parental Alienation or you could call it Parentectomy.

Back in the late 1930’s early 40’s, there was a doctor, Dr. Murray Peshkin, who worked primarily with Asthma patients and in particular children. What he noticed was that when he removed the parents from the situation of a child with severe asthma the child’s symptoms subsided and improved. He aptly called this Parentectomy. Today, we would say, why are you removing the parents instead of getting the entire family counseling to help deal with the stress factors?

Little did Dr. Peshkin know, but 40 years later Dr. Richard Gardner would give it another name, that of Parental Alienation Syndrome. Only Gardner’s case, it was not a doctor doing the removal of the parents, but a parent who was doing the amputation of the children from the other parent’s life. This is the Ultimate form of Parentectomy!

No one is exactly sure what percentage of divorces or even families are suffering from this form of child abuse. What they do know is, because the courts are not doing anything and counselors/therapists are not properly trained the problem is growing exponentially. Especially when you factor in that children of this form of abuse tend to perpetrate it upon their offspring, making it a multi-generational process.

Add into this mess the fact that the alienating parent files false allegations of abuse, delaying the courts, agencies and counselors ability to proceed in a timely manner, and this situation spirals out of control.

There are hundreds of signs and symptoms of Parental Alienation, but the most obvious are these:

Does Either Parent?

  • Use their child as a spy?
  • Have the child take sides?
  • Put their child in the middle?
  • Berate or demean the other parent?
  • Force their child to choose a parent?
  • Allow the child to make adult decisions?
  • Twist the other parent's good intentions?
  • Bribe their child with gifts or lack of rules?
  • Use their child as a witness in Family Court?
  • Use violent outburst to intimidate their child?
  • Emotionally blackmail their child to feel guilty?
  • Not allow child to display affection towards you?
  • Withhold attention and affection to elicit loyalty?
  • Try to destroy a loving relationship with a child?

One Way To Deal With Parental Alienation:

In revealing the entire traumatic sagas of several of the alienated parents whom I wrote about in my book, I made a video recording of their interviews, and I provided the video of the interview to those parents who requested it.

At some point, these parents are anticipating the opportunity to view the video with their alienated children. We all pray and hope that it will not be necessary to leave the video in their will for their children to view; but regrettably, many are resigned to this being the only possible positive outcome.

Should You Make Your Own Video?

The suggestion to make a video is a very personal and painful decision, and there is no right decision to do so or not. But I offer it as one option to free your children from the “pathological triangle” better known as the parental alienation.

You do not need a therapist to ask you the following questions. Any trusted friend will do. The following are the questions I asked of the parents I interviewed for my book, and they should be adapted to your unique situation. Here goes:

  1. Tell me how you first met your child's other parent.

  2. Tell me about how the relationship developed.

  3. What qualities did this person have that made you attracted to them? (This is an important question because it indicates to your child that you can be objective. I assume that if there was an initial attraction, there must have been some good reasons for it.)

  4. Tell me about the decision to become a family.

  5. Tell me what the pregnancy was like for you and the other parent.

  6. Tell me about the birth of your child.

  7. What were you feeling and thinking?

  8. How did you adjust to taking on the responsibility for another human life?

  9. What did it mean to you to be a parent?

  10. Tell me about how you were involved in parenting your child?

  11. Did the other parent support your involvement as a parent?

  12. Did you have different parenting styles and if so, how were they resolved?

  13. Describe the co-parenting relationship.

  14. Describe some positive memories and interactions you had with your child.

  15. Discuss your feelings about these interactions.

  16. Discuss any significant trauma that occurred in the family's development that affected your relationship with the child.

  17. Talk about any difficulties you had with your child and any interactions with your child that have left you with strong memories one way or the other.

  18. Tell me about how you and your child's other parent grew apart? (Be careful how this is worded because you do not want to criticize the other parent to your child. Nevertheless, you should correct any lies, misperceptions, and fallacies with which you were slandered. Correct any misinformation about you but avoid as much as possible casting aspersions on the other parent.

    If this will be seen by your adult children, you can reveal a bit more about the transgressions of the of the parent if it is necessary to set the record straight about you. If you believe that you could have handled the separation from the other parent in a better manner, apologize for your mistakes. If you did make mistakes as we all dom, apologize. Your child will appreciate your objectivity but emphasize that when relationships fail, it is always 50-50. Request that your child also keep an open mind about the family’s history.

  19. Once you and your former partner separated, what events occurred that interfered with your relationship with your child?

  20. What efforts did you make to maintain a relationship with your child?

  21. What role did all the professionals who intervened in your child custody case play in the outcome of the legal situation and your rights to have a relationship with your child.

  22. Describe the cost to you in time, money, and energy in pursuing a relationship with your child.

  23. Describe any and all miscarriages of justices you were subjected to and any false cases of child abuse and domestic violence that were lodged against you.

  24. Is there anything you would have done differently had you had the opportunity to do over? (Many alienated fathers expressed to me that they had decided not to file legitimate abandonment and/or domestic violence charges against the mother so as not to hurt their child by seeing their mother sent to jail. In the end, these mothers used the system to file fallacious allegations against them, and the alienation resulted and/or was deepened.)

  25. Describe how the mental health, child protection, law enforcement, and judicial system perpetuated the alienation and interfered with your relationship with your child.

  26. If you were to have the ear of the professional who intervene in child custody, including the lawyer for the child and the judge, what recommendations would you make to change how we adjudicate child custody?

  27. What was your biggest regret during this entire trauma?

  28. What are the fears and concerns that you have for your alienated child?

  29. What has the loss of your child meant to you?

  30. How has the loss of your child changed your life?

  31. Do you know how your child is doing, how and what is happening in their lives?

  32. How has it affected you that you are not participating in these events with your child?

  33. Do not hold back your tears as your children should know how painful this experience has been for you.
We are sure that there are many more questions that could be asked which would convey to your child what this ordeal has been like. In fact, we would welcome anyone to make additional suggestions as to what could be asked. Please email them to lmft@version.net or to PASIntervention@aol.com If you feel you are a victim of parental alienation or know someone who is, we highly recommend you read the following two books listed by author alphabetically:

Joan Kloth-Zanard's, Where Did I Go Wrong? How Did I Miss the Signs? Dealing with Hostile Parenting and Parental Alienation, as well as visiting her Federal Tax-exempt organizations website, www.PAS-Intervention.com.

Linda Gottlieb’s The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Family Therapy and Collaborative Systems Approach to Amelioration and visit her site, www.EndParentalAlienation.com.

Additionally, it is recommended that you join one of the FREE International Online Support groups sponsored by PAS at www. PAS-Intervention.com, then click on the link for FREE Online Support Groups.

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