You are here

Parental Alienation - description

Singadiva's picture

I came across this while looking for advice on how to de-programme my SS16: wish I could send it to his BM and her mother, the GrandNightmare.....
Are You An Alienating Parent?

Written by: Jeff Opperman

Are you allowing your unresolved divorce/separation/personal issues to turn you into an alienating parent? While you wouldn't do anything to directly harm your children, your behavior regarding the other parent can be detrimental to your children. The following article sheds some light on the subtle ways in which one parent can undermine the other parent's position after a separation.

"If you've ever disconnected the phone so your child's other parent couldn't get through, you might be an alienating parent."

"If you've ever intercepted the other parent's birthday present to the child and told the child 'your mother/father didn't send a gift,' you might be an alienating parent."

The late Dr. Richard A. Gardner, a New York psychiatrist and author of "The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide of Legal and Mental Health Professionals," coined the term parental alienation approximately 20 years ago to characterize the breakdown of previously normal, healthy parent/child relationships during divorce and child custody cases.

What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

In PAS, one parent deliberately damages, and in some cases destroys, the normal, loving relationship between his or her child and the child's other parent. In severe PAS cases, the alienating parent and child work together to successfully eliminate the previously loved Mom or Dad from the child's life.

An alienating parent's behavior stems from the parent's unresolved emotional issues. The parent uses the child to fill his or her unhealthy emotional needs at the expense of the other parent.

PAS experts have identified three levels of alienating behavior - mild, moderate and severe. In reality, these levels are nothing more than points along a continuum of behavior. The alienating parent may bounce between levels depending on his or her emotional state. And the parent's emotions are based on a variety of factors - including how well the parent is dealing with those unresolved issues; and how well the child is meeting his or her new responsibilities to the parent.

Are you an alienating parent?

You might be an alienating parent if you:

Allow the child to talk negatively or disrespectfully about the other parent.
Set up tempting alternatives that would interfere with the other parent's time with the child.
Give the child decision-making power about spending time with the other parent when no choice exists.
Act hurt and betrayed if the child shows any positive feelings towards the other parent.
Use the child as a courier, messenger or spy.
Ask the child to lie to the other parent or betray the parent's trust in the child.
Share the details of the divorce settlement with the child.
Go without dinner and then tell the child the other parent didn't give you enough money for everyone to eat dinner.
Let the other parent worry needlessly about the child.
Infringe on the other parent's time with excessive phone calls or scheduled activities.
If you are concerned that your behavior might make you an alienating parent, ask yourself this question:

"Did I act this way before the divorce or separation?"

For example, an alienating parent may tell the other parent he or she can't see the child because the child has a cold. But before your divorce or separation, did you quarantine your child from the other parent over a cold?

An alienating parent may tell the other parent the child can't come to the phone because he or she is doing homework, watching television or playing with a friend. But when the other parent called home and asked to speak to the busy child before your divorce or separation, did you occasionally ask, "Want me to put him/her on anyway?"

Finally, an alienating parent will often call the child when the child is with the other parent and ask the child if he or she is okay - sending the child the message that the other parent isn't up to the task of caring for him or her. But when the other parent was spending time alone with the child before your divorce or separation, did you call the child repeatedly and ask, "Are you okay? Are you sure you're okay? You'd tell me if you weren't okay, wouldn't you?"

Don't engage in alienating behavior and become a bad punch line. Your children deserve better. So do you.

Jeff Opperman is a writer living in Seymour, Connecticut. He is the author of "Hugs to Heartbreak: A parent's journey through Parental Alienation Syndrome.


Sports Fan's picture

Our BM must of read this because she follows it to the letter and then some.

Teas83's picture

Same here. The first one about allowing the child to talk negatively about the other parent is so true in our case. And honestly my husband does that too. I'm the only one of SD's four parents who tells her to stop when she starts in on the negative things about the other house.

Singadiva's picture

Well, tread carefully... This shit is so damaging and if your skids are affected there are Dos and Donts! I will post them up!

Singadiva's picture

Things you can do to help your case - Fighting Parental Alienation
If all has gone too far then you need to gather evidence, factual and corroborated if possible, the value of which will be enormous to councillors in treating the children and should you go to court over all of this, to your legal team.

Start collecting as soon as you suspect alienation and document well at all times, put in everything, even things that you may not consider important at the time.

Start the diary mentioned earlier on this site and do the entries at the first opportunity, leave nothing to memory. The diary will be your best tool so do not discount the importance of it.

Remember all must be within the law, reasonable and ethical if it is to be used as evidence and or to be given to councillors.

Be ever observant for ...

Age inappropriate words or phrasing used by the children
Other than normal behaviour and patterns
The children saying bad things about you and others around you, do not react to these though or they will close up.
Check with schools, sports coaches etc, where ever the children spend time away from the ex for any possible problems.
Any physical marks on the children, you really do not know the ex any more or the people around the ex.
Attitudes towards you by school teachers etc, your ex may have told them bad things about you.
Anything at all that you would not consider right or proper under normal circumstance.

The below if gathered within the law will prove extremely valuable to councillors and your legal team. Do not let anyone other than those that absolutely need to know and that you trust, of your efforts here. If the ex learns that you are doing these things then they will surely try and condition the children accordingly.

You do not want to subject the children to further abuse by the ex finding out information that he/she will react to towards or use on the children, remember that the children's welfare must come first, so do not do anything to jeopardise that.

When someone tells you something that you can use, do not push them or ask them to give evidence, record it all accurately as you can legally force them into giving evidence by way of saphenae. It is better to remain close to your informers at this stage rather than to upset them and force them away by them saying they do not want to get involved when you ask them to give evidence.

If any one at this stage is prepared to sigh an affidavit, see your legal team now, don't wait as they may change their mind or even forget the details later on.

Be careful who you entrust outside your circle, people sometimes do turn in time as a result of something that you never thought may happen. Put all outside the circle on a "need to know" basis only.

At all times accurately record dates and times if possible, this is the first rule.

Tape conversations with your children saying those bad things if possible, but as laws and conditions on taping conversations can differ from state to state, check with your legal team before doing so. Evidence gathered illegally cannot be used in court. Before turning the tape off, record in your own voice the date, time and participants relative to the taped conversation, if possible. Do not allow the children to know that they are being taped.
Tape conversations with the ex if the ex is saying or conducting themselves inappropriately, again check with legal team first on how to do it within the law. Methods and procedures are important here or the tape may be useless.
Video the children displaying any behaviour due to alienation if possible. Be very careful here as it may result in backlash on the children from when they tell the ex.
Talk to councillors and ask through your legal team if necessary, for written reports on the children.
Often alienation can be accompanied by neglect of the children by the ex, after all they are most probably only doing it to hurt you, so visit schools etc and see for yourself what the ex is feeding them. Be observant of their cleanliness and how they are being dressed etc.
Wherever possible, again take notes even if it is good as this will give base reference to possible changes later on.
Photograph anything relative as much as possible and if your camera has date and time, turn it on.
Make sure that schools etc have a copy of any orders on their files, do not accept the ex telling them what the situation is or providing them with a copy themself, you do it and then you know that they are correctly informed. Talk to the school at the same time in an effort to gain their confidence and understanding, they just may make some comment, and if they do, diarise it. Do not bad mouth the ex here or any where for that matter, as they will wipe you, the bottom line here is that they do not really want to become involved.

Singadiva's picture

Dos and Dont's for those involved in PAS
Look after number one ...that is you, because if you go down mentally or physically you will not be able to help your children as much, in fact you may fail if you go down too much. This is very important and one of those times that it is OK to be selfish, and has to be first on your list of priorities.

If you find yourself slipping, be proactive and seek help from others like qualified councillors, lean on them, use them, you must survive and they do help. They will explain the stages you will go through and you will be able to better understand and recognise them and learn from within, more about yourself. The old saying "that which does not brake you, makes you stronger" is very true, you will come to learn that if you already have not.

Find a way to cope with the pain for now, and be assured that it does lessen with time, you may not believe that now but the day will come that you will realise it. Again, councillors can help here.

Seek legal advice as soon as you are aware of a problem, you must be correctly advised and prepared for what may get worse.

Be the parent you should be and put your children's welfare first wherever possible. This may even involve you making sacrifices that you would otherwise not..

Be more than patient as the situation may take time to correct.

Be honest with all concerned at all times, this includes councillors, solicitors, friends etc and your children wherever possible. If you are asked a difficult question regarding the situation by your children, it will not always be possible to be honest without being degrading, so be an ambassador of peace and good will and be diplomatic. It is better to say "that is grown up's business" than to offer your view of the situation which may aggravate or even cause more concern in the children's minds.

Remember at all times that it is not the fault of your children for what they are saying or doing, it is not of their own mind but what they have been programmed to say, not say, do or not do, and it is more than likely out of fear of the perpetrator, so they are in a very difficult position.

Be understanding and sensitive to this by not commenting to them on it.

Always be the shining example to and in front of your children, as one thing is for sure, the ex is not being that and the day may come when they realise it, and your effort will be rewarded.

Set sensible rules for your children as they all need firm but fair parameters under which to live at your place.It is easy to fall here as the natural thing to do in your situation is to be far too easy on them thinking that will make them like you, it won't and in fact it may lead to them not respecting you.

Take a break from it all from time to time, you will be surprised how it will refresh you.

Reassure your children that you love them but do not be overpowering.

Do all that you reasonably can to ease the situation and this may even involve giving in a bit on some contentious points with the ex. It is a must to show to whoever that you are at all times a reasonable person even under these trying circumstances, it is obvious your ex is not and this may help in court if it goes that far.

Honour all your responsibilities under any court order even if the ex does not. As painful or distasteful this may feel at times, it does go a long way to show that you are a mature and responsible person to the courts and others. It also denies the ex of an opportunity to report you for breach and to use this on the children.

Show a brave and happy face to your children at all times, they will draw positive from that.

Keep a diary of all negative things said and done by the children and the ex, in fact of any negatives at all from anyone including carers, schools etc, note dates, times, actual content in detail if possible and names and particulars of any witnesses. Ask any witnesses to record also what they saw and heard in detail but do not be annoyed if they do not want to be involved.

The diary is extremely importantwhen it comes to councillors, solicitors and the courts alike.

It is nearly impossible to remember event details some months ago as one of the things that is happening to you is that you are under stress and that may cause intermittent short term memory loss. Don't fear this as when all comes good so will your memory.

Singadiva's picture

Do not denigrate your ex in front of or to the children, this should have already been the case anyway, but now it is even more important. I personally believe that you should not build the ex up to the children either, as this may be seen as you confirming to the children that the ex is wise and correct, and indirectly, that they in fact should believe in what the ex is saying. Remain neutral in the children's minds.

Do not Inform your ex of anything other than what is properly required and necessary for the welfare of the children. You must remember that a strong possibility exists that anything you tell the ex will be twisted around and used against you.

The less said the better as the ex will always looking for material to use against you and on the children

Do not Inform the children in advance of any special events or plans you have in mind for them, as they may tell your ex and this will give the ex the opportunity to destroy the event in the children's minds before it even comes about. You are in fact giving the ex another opportunity to perform further alienating behaviour on the children, the less said the better for the children.

I have been told by my children, that I was trying to buy their love with gifts and excursions, prior to the events even happening, all because i had told them what we were going to do the next weekend we were together. I should have let it be a surprise and they would have loved it instead of being programmed against it.

Never even to other people, say anything nasty or severely denigrating about your ex as again, you may have this used against you. It is a good idea to adopt the policy that to say nothing that you are not prepared to have repeated to the ex or his/her solicitor, to your children or in court.

As much as you would like to at times, do not be drawn to comment on the situation by the children, if you were it is likely to be reported back to the ex giving them more ammunition.

Do not say anything to the children that you do not want repeated to the ex.

Do not show disappointment to or reprimand the children when they say or do things that you know they have been programmed to say or do by the ex, be understanding of the situation and say nothing, by doing this you are the better person.

Do not discuss any issues regarding the situation with or in front of the children.

Do not allow the situation take you over or control you, you must stay in control of yourself.

Do not break any court orders under any circumstances.

Do not be aggressive towards your ex at any time, not even on the phone as you may be being taped or recorded and it could be used against you in an application for an AVO etc. or even played to the children.

Whatever you, do not allow your ex to see or hear you react negatively to their actions or words in any way, the ex could be trying to upset you and will continue trying if it is seen to be working. Stay calm at all times no matter what and the ex will end up the one upset, not you, because they will come to think that they cannot upset you or stir you into doing things that will help them against you.

The possibility may exist that the ex you are dealing with now is no longer the person you once knew, do not let this concern you and stay focussed first on yourself and what you must do to help the children, not the antics of the ex.

Do not misrepresent or overstate the situation to councillors or any of your supporters or advisers, as the advice that they will give you will be based to some extent on what you are telling them, do not understate it either, be accurate or the advice you receive will most likely be inappropriate.

Remember that any Kindy, School etc have a duty of care to ALL children, not just yours, so understand and appreciate the situation they are in and do not conduct your self outside their guidelines, common decency or the law in any way. The bottom line for the school etc is that they just want to do their job without getting involved in hassles with either you or the ex, so co-operate fully with the school etc but if you think they are doing something wrong talk to your legal advisers, do not have a go at them yourself. You may think that they are being unjust at times when they are just insisting on carrying out their responsibilities to the children, irrespective.

Glassslipper's picture

I never have seen it drawn out like that, Thank you so much for sharing!

My state requires you to take a co-parenting class withing 90 days of a divorce, I wish they would have reviewed this back in the day...maybe it would have taught BM a thing or two...

Singadiva's picture

I think there's a difference still between taking defensive action against a BMs obvious attempt to disrupt your time together and a campaign of PA.
We've only just realised we've been spied on and I'm not against careful questioning of my SD10 who thankfully adores me and is quite without guile.
We've realised we have a war being waged against us and there's a right to defend ourselves, preserve the integrity of our four walls and to provide a truthful mirror for the children.