The holidays are an especially difficult time for alienated parents. Despite all the holiday cheer, alienated parents can’t help but focus on the children who won’t visit, call or say thank you for a gift. In these emotionally challenging times, support from other parents who understand the pain and heartbreak of parental alienation is especially important.
Two online Yahoo groups, PASParents and Parents Against Parental Alienation (PAPA), provide alienated parents with a virtual community of support and empathy. There are also countless Facebook groups devoted to parental alienation support. Yet for some parents, nothing takes the place of old fashioned face-to-face communication with people who have walked in their shoes. There are some face-to-face parental alienation support groups listed on the Resources page of this site.
If you don’t have a parental alienation support group in your area and would like to start one, here are a few tips we believe you’ll find useful:
- Attracting Members — You want to attract people with shared experiences and a common goal. A good way to do this is to advertise your group’s purpose in a local newspaper, public place, or on a local Internet site. Many radio and television stations will run community service commercials for free during non-peak listening and viewing times. The goal is to attract people who share similar parental alienation experiences.
- Screening Potential Members — It is important to make sure participants are appropriate for the group. A short interview where you review the group’ goals and ask the individual questions about his or her expectations of the group process should help you decide if the person is a good fit.
- Setting up the Group — A good size for a group is between 10 and 15 people. At this size everyone should have an opportunity to participate in a 60 or 90 minute session.
- Establishing Rules — Who talks when? Any topic off limits? What is the procedure for asking someone to leave the group? While you can’t possibly address every potential scenario in advance, it is important to establish group rules up front and clearly communicate the rules to all members before the first session.
- Selecting a Moderator — You may have started your group, but you may not be the best person to act as moderator. An effective group will need someone who is a skilled facilitator. The moderator is the person to enforce group rules objectively, keep everyone moving in the right direction, manage the time, and make sure all group members have a chance to benefit. The moderator should also be a little detached from the rest of the group — someone who has accepted and moved on from the initial pain of his or her situation and can keep the focus on members who need lots of support, empathy or suggestions.
- Building in Feedback Mechanisms — Feedback mechanisms are essential for improving the group process and ensuring the best possible outcomes. Whether the feedback consists of periodic informal conversations or an anonymous survey, be sure to have a process in place so group members can share their perspectives on how things are going and you can determine whether or not the group is meeting its goals.
- Notifying A Family’s Heartbreak.com — Once you form your group, be sure to let us know so we can add it to the Resources page of this site.