Adult children of parental alienation

Imagine cutting yourself off from the outside world on July 15, 2000. You’d never know:

  • The Twin Towers are missing from the New York City skyline.
  • George Bush isn’t President of the United States and an African American is.
  • The Dow Jones is 1,300 points higher yet people talk about a recession.
  • The internet is on your cell phone.
  • Kodak no longer makes film for your 35mm camera.
  • There are more Harry Potter movies than books.
  • You could follow a stranger’s thoughts — as long as he or she communicated in 140 characters or less.

Severely alienated children who remain cut off from their targeted parents and extended families years after the alienating parent selfishly pulled the child into the adult conflict are just as in the dark as someone who knows nothing about September 11th or Twitter.   

These now alienated adults refuse the love and attention of their targeted parents and take a pass on meaningful relationships with their aging grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and formerly close family friends. These grown up children intentionally skip making memories that most people cherish.

There are countless adults still alienated from a parent years after everyone else in the family drama moved on with their lives. Perhaps it is easier for them to stay alienated rather than deal with the guilt of accepting a parent who never did anything to warrant the estrangement. Maybe it is easier for them to stay away rather than run the risk of disappointing their alienating parent. Perhaps these alienated adult children are simply too proud to admit that turning away every time the targeted parent tried to heal the rift between them was wrong.

Whatever their reason, these alienated adult children remain in the dark. They don’t know anything about the events and celebrations that define close-knit, loving families. They don’t know anything about the things that comprise one half of who they are. And saddest of all, they don’t even know that they remain stuck in the past while their targeted parents and extended families move forward making more cherished memories.

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61 Responses to “Adult children of parental alienation”

  1. Josie D says:

    Hi Mike.

    Thank you for the wishes. I keep reminding myself of the big picture because the daily lack of support from my siblings and own mother is extremely painful to fathom as a single mom of three who has literally no family other than my mom, sister and brother. There is at least this generation and my mom’s own alienation from her mother (I am also told that this generation was fraught with sexual, physical and emotional abuse, which I do not doubt). I feel sadness for my mother, but it doesn’t entitle her to continue to poison my children (or me, for that matter). I hope my brother and sister see the light of day. I hope that my choice to place the boundary with my mother and my ex and my very recent decision to tell the children that they should not communicate with their grandmother until she decides to respect me and them and be kind to us does not backfire and hurt my children further. (We only made this decision after my mother instructed family to disinvite us from a family event–I backed away at earlier events when my children were not around so that my mom could have the time with family)

    Confirmation that she is in her own little narcissistic world was when after my mother requested that my kids and I not be present at a family gathering and I stood up for my kids’ rights to see their cousins so they went. When my 13-year-old son went to say hi and hug her, she said to him, “I thought you weren’t supposed to talk to me.” Sadly, that has never been his instruction until after that day.

  2. craig says:

    help needed! MY PARENTS ALIENATED ME

  3. Yolande says:


    As an adult-child who suffered from PAS, I would like to comment your assumption which reads: “Maybe it is easier for them to stay away rather than run the risk of disappointing their alienating parent. Perhaps these alienated adult children are simply too proud to admit that turning away every time the targeted parent tried to heal the rift between them was wrong” / let me clarify how I felt: I never felt any guilt nor was I to proud to admit. I was scared, deadly scared that if my mother, the AP was to find out of any relationship with my father or father’s family that she would become so enraged that she could do one of the following things: hurt me, hurt my children, become extremely enraged, commit suicide (she used that a lot on me as a manipulation tool)- i would have felt guilty of her killing herself cause she brainswashed me so well. And then, there is the fear of rejection from the father and his family. These are the elements that kept me away until I was 45 and strong enough to face all consequences of my choice. I was OK if they ( father and family) did not want to meet me and I was strong enough to not let my mother’s reaction affect me ( meaning I was freed enough from the brainwashing and tactics). I hope that my comment may help TP to see things differently in regards to the reason why the adult-child is not running to them.
    Before an adult- child gets to the point of facing all the possible consequences of the choice to meet an entertaing a relationship with the TP and his family, they need to have gone through a series of steps, the 1 st one being the realization that there was alienation, that the AP is lying, then their is a vey long journey of healing, self definition, self-esteem rebuild, trust building, and so much more. So it takes YEARS if not decades before a Recupperating PAS adult-child is at the step of reaching to the TP and Target Family. Guilt has nothing to do with it!

  4. Yolande says:

    Just one more note: yes The relationship rebuild is a very very very slow process. It is very difficult because of the pain , yes Pain, involved in the discovery of the TP…the mourning of the missed relationship, the pain of the realization that the parent was good and that this was taken away from you. The pain is so hard , that small doses at a time can be taken, with time needed to absorb and accept all new information.
    Another thing that will keep distance , in my case, is the following question that keeps reasonning in my head: why did my father TP, left me with this crazy and mean person, why did he not save me from that person. i was a child, helpless and the TP did not pull me out of there…..the TP may have all the most well documented file as to why he was not able, the fact remains that the TP left the child with a terrible parent that abused them in way that it takes a lifetime to recuperate from it! So you can not expect a recuperation PAS adult- child to run into a new relationship as nothing happened. It takes healing on both sides and an incredible openess to build this relationship between the adult-child and target parent.

  5. leslie says:

    Yolanda’s detailed and informative response was, for me , an eye opener. What she said is a golden nugget of information that has been missing for a very long time for the Targeted Parent and that is hearing the child’s perspective that went through this horrifying experience.

    Psychologists can speculate and we can all blog each other to death comparing notes, but it isn’t until we finally hear from adult alienated children themselves do we really know how this process works, how it’s enforced and how this effects their ability to finally break free from the alienating parent’s control.

    Now that these children are becoming old enough to overcome this nightmare I hope that they, like Yolanda, have the courage to speak out. She helped me understand why my adult alienated son cannot break free from his alienating father. He’s a grown man so why hasn’t he come to me yet? Had I not read her comments I would still feel angry toward my son.

    Thank you, Yolanda, from the bottom of my heart.

  6. BR says:

    Straight up.. As an adult alienated child, realizing the alienation and calling out your emotionally abusive AP while reconciling with your TP is not the end of the road. Welcome to a bigger storm of problems, years or decades later. Once you have embraced reality and some awkward embraces from your TP, your AP will freak out into an absolute fit of rage that you get the pleasure of dealing with. From my perspective, life was perhaps better before? Within my harsh reality, my TP did somewhat ‘sacrifice me’ to her own avoidance of the AP’s abuse, so the AP does have a few valid points, however twisted it they may be. I do know one thing for sure.. having the pleasure of being a bargaining chip/pawn in my abusive/neglectful parents’ divorce was certainly a factor in deciding to never have any children of my own. Both of their unworthy genes will end here. Despite moderate success, I feel pretty disgusted with myself for being the product of these people. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this. As an only child, I will certainly prevent misery from penetrating another generation. As a woman, I know that my lack of maternal instinct is strange, but I cannot change myself. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I lack the nurturing abilty to ever be a successful parent. I imagine that dealing alone (no siblings to share the joy) with my TP and AP at the end of their lives, separately and somehow secretly, will expend all of the energy, empathy and nurturing ability I can possibly muster. Unfortunately, I also realize I’ve mirrored some negative behavior patterns of the AP, one of them being prone to guilt, which is probably why I feel the need to help them both out, despite the toll it will take on me.

  7. Donna Henley says:

    I had 2 daughters in my early 20’s. I worked 2 jobs. I met a girl that was involved in drug use. At the time while trying to help her get back on her feet, I had no idea what speed was. I was always responsible and completely dedicated to my girls. A month later, I was doing speed with this girl. (I will call her Cindy to protect her identity) Months passed and my addiction ruined my life. I ended up in prison for violence towards a boyfriend that wanted to kill me. My girls went to live with the dad. After my release, I got my life back on track. I went to court and got visitation rights. But after my daughter wanted to be with me more, the dad stopped bringing her to the visits. No-one would help with re-unification. His family helped him hire the best attorney to keep daughter away. Now she’s 19 and I want to reach out to her and explain that her dad basically kidnapped her from me. He hid her, moved, wouldn’t let me see her. All this time went by and she won’t email me. Her dad’s family lied all these years telling her I didn’t want to be in her life. I ask God to help me. Everyone makes mistakes. I spent thousands of dollars on court fees and attorneys to be back in her life. This hurts. Time has not been my friend. I just want to tell her that her dad kept her from me. My heart aches every single day. The pain doesn’t get better. I wish I could go back in time but that’s not possible.

  8. Tom Lusch says:

    Yolande wrote, “These are the elements that kept me away until I was 45 and strong enough to face all consequences of my choice.” Wow…that is a terribly long time Yolande. Thank you for sharing your perspective, as it is very helpful for us TPs to try to understand how our adult children may be processing their experience.

    My son is 32 now. We’re still apart. It was 13 years ago that I began action to end my marriage, naively thinking that we could work out a dissolution. Darn near that same day my son essentially disowned me (and within a week or so he disowned my entire side of the family!). I recall my sister telling me early on how she thought my wife was poisoning my relationship with my son. I naively thought that she wouldn’t do such a thing. Boy was I wrong!

    My experience is an outlier, as my son was 19 when I made that fateful decision to end the marriage. I figured that since he was an “adult,” and beginning to get out on his own, that he’d be able to deal with his parents divorcing. It certainly didn’t work out that way.

    I got married again in 2006. He didn’t want to meet my new wife, so it was obvious that he wasn’t over things. Then, early in 2011, my 28 year old son actually said he wanted to have lunch with me! That day I met he _and_ his fiancee! I was joyful! I thought we were on the road to reunification. However, about the same day that we had met, my ex wife was being served, as we needed to head back to court for an alimony adjustment, as I had just retired. That apparently rekindled the drama for his mother, and that obviously affected his actions regarding the wedding invitation list. It ended up that my wife & I did not get invited to one of the most important days in my son’s life.

    We sent the newlyweds a couple thousand bucks as a wedding gift. I got a curt email thank you acknowledgement. But it didn’t really hit me until I visited a long-time friend who had attended the wedding, and saw how he had gotten a very nice card in the mail, thanking him for the wedding gift, signed by both the newlyweds. That hurt. Later that year I received a copy of their wedding program from another friend who had attended the wedding. Under “Wedding Participants” it shows “Parents of the Bride,” but only “Mother of the Groom.” It is as if I was DEAD and gone.

    Communication dwindled till near the end of that year, when I got an email from my son, looking for money, as he was desiring to pursue a higher college degree. As the alimony adjustment hadn’t gone too well, we were short on cash, and I had to advise him that we would be unable to help. My “unable” response obviously hit a nerve, as the last email from him showed how much he appeared to disdain me. In my last email to him, I told him that I love him, and that I believe his lashing out at me was more about how he desired to love me, but that for whatever reason he couldn’t allow himself to love both his mother and his father independently, and accept them for who they are. I also told him that I was 100% certain that he was a “victim” of parental alienation.

    In that email I put a condition upon further contact. I told him that if he ever wishes to rebuild our relationship, that I insist that WE undergo joint counseling, with a counselor who specializes in treating adult children who were affected by parental alienation. An expert in reunification that I recently contacted said I shouldn’t have put such a condition upon further contact.

    I think about my son so very often. I am so sorry that he has been so adversely affected by my divorce from his mother. In my continuing to seek an understanding about what occurred, I recently happened across two incredibly informative lectures on this topic…

    #1: “Parental Alienation: An Attachment-based Model” July 18, 2014 (1:46:03)

    #2: “Treatment of Attachment-Based Parental Alienation” Nov 21, 2014 (1:47:08)

    I found both lectures exceedingly helpful in understanding what happened (what is _still_ happening!) in my situation.  I firmly believe Dr. Craig Childress has defined an excellent course of action for getting the mental health community on the same page, so that parental alienation can finally be addressed in a forthright manner. I highly recommend my fellow TPs take action to encourage adoption of this new “attachment-based” model of parental alienation.

  9. alex says:

    Hi Mike,
    I know 2 forty year old brothers who are victims of PA. I have recently come to know about their estranged mother. She is not the antichrist the community was led to believe.
    The now elderly father has always been a little scary and aggressive in my view. The story that l now hear is that the mum was threatened with a gun to her head if she didn,t leave and never see the boys again. This is a very believeable story as i have seen very threatening behaviour from the elderly dad about 20 years ago in an unrelated incident.
    Should l make a comment to the two 40 year old brothers about alienated parents? Perhaps send a link to them? The adult children are just acquaintances now and any comment would be very out of the blue and probably not welcome.
    I am unsure of the moral avenue.

  10. Jennifer Zeavin says:

    I’m a 45 year old female, alienated from my son by my ex husband when my son was about seven. my son is now 20 yrs old and i believe he’s suffering from PAS. i just recently found out there was a name for it. for the last few years, I’ve been trying to reconnect with him and for the last year, desperately so. at first i couldn’t understand how as an adult being free to make his own decisions, why he completely ignores my attempts to reconnect with him. actually, shunning is a better word. i also didn’t get why, on the rare occasion he does agree to see me, that he seems so withdrawn, distant, indifferent and resentful. hes opened up to me on a very minor scale, expressing how unhappy his childhood was. i wasn’t dismissive and i apologized, which he thanked me for, and told me how his father is in denial and refuses to acknowledge his pain. i really was ignorant and in denial myself thinking that my son, having such intelligence and strength of character, even as a child, would’ve been able to see through my ex and his mother’s manipulations, deceptions and control tactics. i guess it was too painful to face the brevity of what really went on. i love my son so much and so want to have a meaningful relationship with him, but hes not receptive.
    i get that he was brainwashed. ive tried to get himto be honest with me about his feelings, he just gets angry only pushing him away even further. we need help. any suggestions? books? counseling? any advice would be greatly appreciated. thank you

  11. Suzette says:

    My Comments are for all, but directed to Donna Henley and Jennifer Zeavin – our stories are similar: divorced my 2 girls father when they where 5 & 3 (he was verbally abusive to me), over the years (when he decided to “up in” their lives it was difficult to say the least, when they where 14 and 11 I screwed up.. a single mother struggling for years I met another Narcissistic that was totally different on the surface, but the same (if that makes sense). Within 9 months I went from working my butt off to provide a good life for my girls (sports/cheer/band/FFA) to nothing! I lost my job of 6 yrs, our home, our vehicles, our stuff and most of all my girls – I tried to fight him in court, but I lost. He had way more money and obviously I was on the back end of recovering from disasster. I was awarded supervised vistation (at a center 3 1/2hrs from my home, to start the following week of court) with no job and no car, I scheduled and missed it. That was it. 1 shot, the center did not have to allow me schedule another – So, the misery started! Let me say: I take full and complete responsibility for making a huge mistake and failing to “bail out” sooner. But the fact is I did not do it. I was emotionally and mentally a big mess and I just didn’t have the strength. One day I found myself thinking I have nothing to live for anymore; then I prayed to God for help. I found myself at church that Sunday and within months I found a job and was determined to rebuild our life and get my girls back (I’d raised them all those years before), so I just knew it would all be back to “normal” in a year. Fast forward 5 years: I soon learned that their father was using my screw up as his “get back at me” opportunity. The girls would not talk to me, they blocked me from every social media attempt (even the fake accounts I made, as soon as they figure out it was me I was blocked). Then I hear the rumor he’s told friends that all the child support he’d paid me (and he did, the difference is I willingly paid since they are my girls, all those previous years we were in court every 2 years because he would play the CS system for as long as he could avoiding sending $ when I had custody).

    Anyway, I could go on and on, my point, my girls are now in college, the oldest did not make contact when she got there, and that killed me, however the youngest turned 18, graduated HS and started college in August of this year; by end of September I received my first contact. it was an IM from her on facebook and all it said was, ” I don’t want to live with regret I’d like to let you know how I am every now and then.”

    This was the pray I’d prayed and the Faith I had kept all these years. I did some research over the years and prepared myself for how I should react and what emotional issues they might had been thru. So our conversations where lite hearted. We talked about school, the weather, everything except the past.

    Now it’s been 2 months and as she has asked (in her way and in her time) questions I’ve answered with the truth. Then reminded her that we can’t go back. What I’ve discovered thru this all is that daily they both where told lies. I don’t mean small lies either! And they both hated my guts! She missed me everyday those years and struggled trying to deal with what she had been brainwashed to believe.

    I am online today because I’m researching to help myself help her deal with what is yet to come. Christmas is coming, her dad does not know we’ve been talking and she wants to see me (and her extended family), but she is scared to tell him. She knows he will flip out and she feels like she’s betraying him. (this part I don’t understand, that is why I’m here now).

    In summary, for those of you in a similar situation. DO NOT GIVE UP! It will be hard and you have to have some emotional supporters of your own, because the stress will make you go crazy. I mean really crazy! and you HAVE to keep your head on straight because the day WILL come that your child will come looking for you… You need to be alive and sane when they do!!!!

    For me, Chapter 2 begins. My relationship with my youngest is now like we never stopped. I have still not heard from my oldest and for the pasted few months neither has her sister. I fear my older daughter is having more serious emotional problems from what they went thru and I blame myself. I blame me, and they blame themselves (and of course my ex (their father)) doesn’t think anything is wrong as long as they don’t talk to me. If they do, and I quote my youngest, “Dad said if we ever talk to you he will disown us. That makes me angry and now I know he’s lied about everything, but he’s still my dad and I love him” – So what is a Reunited Alienated Parent to do to help their child deal with the Alienator????

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