Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Hooray for Hollywood? Not for a long time

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

For some reason, I’m watching a lot of old movies lately. Really old movies.

Last night’s selection was Blonde Venus starring Marlene Dietrich and Cary Grant from 1932. In the movie, Dietrich plays a German night club singer who meets an American chemist named Ned, played by Herbert Marshall. They marry, have a son, and then Ned discovers he has been poisoned by radium. He’ll die within the year unless he can find enough money to travel to Germany and get treated by the only doctor who has success treating radium poisoning. The only problem is Ned doesn’t have $1,500 to cover the cost of the trip and the treatment. Yes, let that one sink in for a moment — in 1932 $1,500 bought you a round-trip ticket between the U.S. and Germany and medical treatment for a deadly disease.

In any event, Dietrich’s character Helen returns to the nightclubs against Ned’s wishes to raise the money. There she meets Nick, a millionaire played by Cary Grant. Nick is smitten with Helen and writes her a check that allows Ned to leave for Germany.

The story takes off from there. Helen falls in love with Nick. Ned arrives home early from Germany to discover his wife is cheating on him with Nick. Ned asks Helen to bring his son Johnny to him since Johnny is, “all I have left.” Instead Helen kidnaps Johnny and takes off, moving from town to town to evade Ned and the people Ned hired to find her. Finally, Helen realizes that life on the run is no life for Johnny and agrees to give him to Ned, who asks her to never see Johnny again.

Eventually, Helen decides she does want to see Johnny again and returns home. When she asks Ned to let her see her son he refuses. Helen asks Ned if Johnny remembers her and Ned replies, “I hope not. I’ve been doing everything I can to help him forget you.” Finally, Ned caves in to Helen’s request. Johnny does remember his Mom and asks both his parents to tell him how they met; the bedtime story Helen and Ned used to tell Johnny in happier days. Ned pretends not to remember the story but with a little prompting from Helen and Johnny he overcomes his anger. The movie ends with Helen and Ned back in each other’s arms.

Watching this 80-year old movie just reminded me how much parental kidnapping and alienation are ingrained in our culture — especially our storytelling, cinema and television shows. While these issues are more fairly represented in entertainment today than in the past, a movie like Blonde Venus is just one small reminder of how long parental kidnapping and alienation have been used as plot lines with producers giving little, if any, thought to the messages they were sending to their audiences.

I heard once that it takes three generations within a family to create a negative pattern of behavior and three more generations to undo the damage. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that within the family of Hollywood writers and producers the same timeline doesn’t apply to stories about parental kidnapping and alienation.

Unspoken truth comes from unlikely source

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

On Two and a Half Men the other night there was a touching scene, at least by Two and a Half Men standards, between long-time co-stars Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones that probably resonated with every divorced parent watching the program.

In reality, producers have demoted Jones and his character Jake to recurring status for the show’s upcoming 11th season. To explain his absence as a regular from the program, the writers have Jake, who is now in the Army, transferring to a base in Japan for one year. Before shipping out, Jake goes home one last time to see his Dad, Alan.

Father and son take a road trip and during the trip Jake admits that while he initially blamed Alan for the divorce from his Mom, he now realizes that the breakup wasn’t all Alan’s fault. Alan, touched by the gesture, thanked his son but indicated he wasn’t going to say anything bad about his ex-wife.  Jake replied, “Yea, but you probably hope I do.”

How many of us announce we are taking the high road by saying, “I’ll never say anything bad about Mom/Dad,” but secretly want the child to say something bad instead? Maybe we need a little validation or reassurance. Whatever the reason, if you’re honest you’ll admit you’ll take whatever putdown your child is willing to offer.

Mother’s Day is tomorrow. Father’s Day is next month. This year on Mother’s and Father’s Day give your children a present instead of expecting one. Don’t say anything bad about your ex, and don’t send them the unspoken message that you hope they say something bad instead.

Making the first move

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Baseball fans will remember that earlier this year All-Star free agent Prince Fielder signed a nine-year, $214 million contract to play for the Detroit Tigers. Tiger fans rejoiced, and Fielder was a key element in the Tigers’ run to the World Series this fall. 

Fielder is not the first member of his family to gain noteriety as a Detroit Tiger. Prince’s father Cecil was a slugging first baseman for the team in the 1980s and 1990s. When Prince was a boy, Tiger Stadium was his personal Field of Dreams.

When Prince signed with Cecil’s old team their complicated father/son relationship was highlighted in the media almost as often as Prince’s batting and home run records. According to reports the two had been estranged for years. Prince blamed Cecil for being an absent father. There was also a difficult divorce between Cecil and Prince’s Mom; and allegations that Dad had taken money from his son’s signing bonus to pay gambling debts.

In one story Cecil reported he had recently reached out to his son and the two were talking “a little bit.” When the reporter asked Cecil why he reached out to his son after so long the father responded, “Someone had to make the first move.” 

Parent/child relationships are complicated; even relationships untouched by parental alienation. Parents estranged from their children, however, should not dismiss the importance of “making the first move” — no matter how long it’s been since they spoke with their children. People change. Children grow up. While parents and children tend to think about each other as they remember them, both parties have lived a lifetime of experiences since the last time they spoke. These experiences are often reminders that past wrongs, both real and imaginary, aren’t always very important in the present.

The holidays are in full swing and at some point the media will report on the latest holiday miracle. Parents who make the first move with their estranged children, even after many years, might have their own miracles to report this holiday season.

Holiday miracle gives hope to alienated parents

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Whether you believe in the miracle of Christmas, Hanukkah or the Miracle on 34th Street, you hear the word “miracle” a lot this time of year. Many alienated parents pray for a very specific miracle during the holiday season – the miracle of reunion.

Zach White of Birmingham, Alabama knows a little something about miracles. Zach was alienated from his father when he was two years old. Nineteen years later, a holiday miracle brought father and son together. They’ve been together ever since, but in order to appreciate where Zach and his father are today, you should know where they’ve been.

In all honesty, their story isn’t unique. Zach’s Dad and Mom divorced. Mom interfered with Dad’s parenting time. Mom told Zach and Zach’s sister that Dad was mean and violent. Zach and his sister behaved badly when they were with Dad. The children were coached to say they wanted nothing to do with him. Dad sent presents and the presents were returned.  A court-ordered five weeks with Dad turned into a few days of drama before Zach and his sister forced their return to Mom’s house. Alienated parents could probably substitute their child’s name for Zach’s and insert his or her name instead of “Zach’s Dad.” As we said in A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, the examples that define parental alienation are remarkably consistent.

The last time Zach saw his Dad was 1991. Zach was 12 years old. During a court-ordered visit the children first refused to leave the airport, then locked themselves in a room at Dad’s house and wouldn’t come out. During the same visit, Zach’s Mom called the police and accused Zach’s Dad of abusing both children. A short time later, Mom and Dad were in court. The judge ruled that Dad didn’t have to pay child support and the children didn’t have to see him if they didn’t want to.

“My earliest memories of my Dad are him trying to visit me and my sister and my Mom not allowing us to have anything to do with him,” Zach remembers. “I was very confused. My Mom kept telling me he was mean and violent and I didn’t know enough about my Dad to know any better.”

All it took, however, was a couple of visits with his Dad for Zach to form a different opinion.

“I saw Dad was not the horrible person Mom said he was. At this point my life became very difficult. I wanted a relationship with him but knew I couldn’t let Mom know because she would be furious. I also felt a sense of loyalty to Mom. I knew she disliked Dad so I felt like if I liked him it would hurt her,” Zach also recalled. 

Zach’s sister complicated his life. She was three years older than Zach and he quickly realized that if he was too nice to Dad when they were together his sister would report back to Mom. “I felt like I couldn’t be myself around him,” Zach indicated. “I felt like I was walking a tightrope.”

Zach’s Mom promised Zach that he wasn’t going to have a relationship with his Dad and she was true to her word. Nine years passed. Zach and his father were living in different states, but for all the contact they had they could have been living on different planets. Mom, now separated from her second husband, moved away.  Zach was in college and returned to Mississippi for the Christmas holiday. Ironically, he was staying with his Step-Dad in the home they had shared when Zach’s Mom and Step-Dad were together. The date was December 31, 1999. While many people were worrying that the Y2K bug would stop the world in its tracks, an alienated Dad in North Carolina picked up a phone and placed a call that would jump-start a relationship that had been dead in its tracks for nine years.

Do you believe miracles can happen for alienated children and parents?  If you do, come back on December 22 and have your faith validated.  If you don’t, come back for a story that may change your mind.

Adult children of parental alienation

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

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.

Themes of the alienating parent

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Some mental health professionals and religious leaders empower parental alienation according to Dr. Abe Worenklein, a professor at Dawson College in Montreal. 

Worenklein made his comments at the recent Canadian Symposium on Parental Alienation Syndrome in New York City. The conference drew approximately 200 parents, legal and mental health professional interested in helping parents and children maintain normal, healthy relationships after divorce or separation.

“Sometimes mental health professionals who do not know how to interview parents and children and are unfamiliar with the themes of the alienating parent acutally end up empowering the children and reinforcing the parent’s position,” Worenklein said. “Furthermore, some religious leaders may focus on the parents’ degree of religiosity when telling one parent to limit the less-observant parent’s time with the children.”

Worenklein explained that the themes of the alienating parent are the words and actions a parent uses to damage, and in some cases destroy, the child’s previously normal relationship with his or her other parent. Some of the themes include:

  • Denying the existence of the other parent by never talking about him or her, destroying photos of the parent, changing the subject when the child mentions the parent, or not relaying the parent’s messages to the child.
  • Putting the child in the middle by asking him or her to spy on the other parent, remove possessions or take important papers from the parent and child’s home.
  • Attacking the parent’s career, interests, hobbies and family.
  • Saying things like, “I just don’t know what’s wrong with your mother/father.”
  • Threatening to withhold love or acceptance from child.
  • Scaring the child into believing the other parent isn’t capable of taking care of him or her.
  • Creating a new reality for the child that excludes his or her relationship with the other parent.

Worenklein told conference attendees how professionals can use different interview techniques to identify these themes. “Dr. Worenklein pointed out that asking a young child at the beginning of an interview if the child has anything he or she was supposed to tell the professional is a great way at getting at the child’s rehearsed or programmed answers,” said Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation and a conference attendee. “This not only allows the professional to see if the child’s answers were programmed, but after fulfilling his or her obligation to the alienating parent the child can relax and participate much more honestly in the interview,” Jeffries added.

Jeffries back discussing parental alienation

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, will join Gianni Hayes on her New World Order Disorder radio program at www.americanvoiceradio.com on Wednesday, September 29 at 8:00 p.m. EST.

“The Canadian Symposium on Parental Alienation is October 2-3 in New York City and interest in parental alienation couldn’t be higher,” Jeffries said. “I can’t think of a better way to get ready for the conference than talking with Gianni and her world-wide audience about alienation and A Family’s Heartbreak. 

Hayes is a prolific author, with 14 novel and non-fiction books, plus hundreds of articles to her credit. She has appeared in Woman’s Day, Redbook, US, People, Brides, Parade and Writers Digest. 

Listeners can talk to Jeffries and Hayes by dialing 1-800-596-8191.

A Pointillist view of parental alienation

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Poin.til.lism (noun): a late 19th-century style of painting in which a picture is constructed from dots of pure color that blend, at a distance, into recognizable shapes and various color tones.

Let’s give credit to Attorney David Pisarra of www.mensfamilylaw.com for describing parental alienation both beautifully and accurately. In his recent review of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, Pisarra compared parental alienation to the style of painting made famous by French painter Georges Seurat.

“Parental alienation is a series of seemingly innocent miscommunication, or concerns for the well-being of a child; and it is only when the dots are connected that you see the complete picture,” Pisarra said in his review.

Pisarra also said A Family’s Heartbreak should be required reading for anyone involved in parental alienation cases. “For every man who is enduring this hell, for every lawyer who fights this form of child abuse, and for all the therapists who have to treat the collaterally damaged children, this book should be a first resource in their armament,” he said.

You can find Attorney Pisarra’s complete review of A Family’s Heartbreak at http://mensfamilylaw.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/a-pointillist-view-of-parental-alienation-one-fathers-experience/.

Television no place to address parental alienation

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Wanted: Popular television program seeks one parental alienation family — including alienating parent, targeted parent and alienated child — to reunite in front of a national television audience. No experience necessary. Dramatic presentation skills preferred. Responsibilities include condensing years of acrimony and mistrust into easy-to-understand sound bites that fit between commercials, following the advice of a person you’ve just met, and participating in post-show counseling that Courts have previously ordered and you’ve avoided. Compensation is non-existent, travel expenses are paid. To apply contact The Dr. Phil Show. 

Yes, The Dr. Phil Show is doing another show on parental alienation and Dr. Phil’s producers are frantically searching for a parental alienation family willing to appear on the program. While many targeted parents want to believe that Dr. Phil can reunite them with their children after the Courts, family members, friends and full-time mental health professionals couldn’t, Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, uses his latest Basil & Spice blog at http://www.basilandspice.com/love-and-relationships/category/jeffries-mike to point out that television can’t script a happily-ever-after ending to parental alienation.

Reunion story incomplete without exploring alienation angle

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

In his latest column for Basil & Spice, Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, looks for signs of parental alienation in the case of the mother who was reunited with her children after thinking they were dead for 30 years. 

“The story is heartwarming, that’s for sure,” Jeffries said. “However the media had the perfect opportunity to discuss the reunion within the context of an ex-husband who may have deliberately alienated two little children from their mother for three decades and the media swung and missed.”

To read Jeffries’ complete column and leave a comment please visit http://www.basilandspice.com/love-and-relationships/82010-parental-alienation-theres-no-co-parenting-happening.html.

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