Individuals struggling with parental alienation often have more questions than answers. While many questions relate to the specific circumstances of their individual situations, here are the questions moderate or severely alienated parents ask most often. At the end, we’ve included two additional questions. The first question pertains to the biggest myth surrounding parental alienation. The second question is in response to one of the most frequently asked questions we receive via email.
Doesn’t the alienating parent realize how he/she is hurting the child?
In the alienating parent’s mind, the soon-to-be ex-spouse just abandoned him/her. The parent is facing his or her biggest unresolved fears. Rather than face these fears, the alienating parent looks for someone to keep them away. A child is often accessible, available and a willing participant.
While the alienating parent makes a conscious decision to say negative things about the child’s other parent in front of the child, the parent doesn’t stop to think what motivates his or her behavior. Nor is the parent conscious of the effect the behavior has on the child. The only thing the parent knows is that the old fears are back, and they feel bad. So the parent forces the child to fill a role designed to make the parent feel better. The parent is ruled by his or her emotions. He or she doesn’t have the emotional distance or level of consciousness to say, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.
How can my child treat me so cruelly?
The change in an alienated child’s behavior is often the hardest concept for a targeted parent to accept. The parent goes from being loved and respected by the child to someone the child hates and despises.
The alienating parent sends the child all sorts of verbal and non-verbal clues that the child can act any way he or she want without any consequences. In fact, the alienating parent often encourages and rewards the bad behavior by elevating the child’s status in the household to that of an equal – with rewards and perks consistent with the child’s new status.
Targeted parents must also remember that an alienating parent and child operate from the same emotional perspective. If the parent is angry with the targeted parent, the child is angry with the targeted parent. And anger is a wonderful coping mechanism. The child allows the anger to wash over his or her guilt, empathy, fond memories, and positive feelings for the targeted parent. The child can’t miss someone he or she is always angry at.
Finally, understand that fear also drives the alienated child. An alienated child is afraid he or she will lose the one parent he or she depends on – the alienating parent. The child knows he or she can’t depend on the targeted parent because the alienating parent says the child can’t. “So,” the child rationalizes, “if I show the targeted parent any love or respect, the alienating parent, the one who takes care me, may get mad and take away his or her love and support. I can’t allow that to happen.”
Why can’t (fill in the blank – attorney, judge, psychologist, police, family member, teacher, etc.) do something to help my child?
There are many factors working against anyone trying to help an alienated child and targeted parent. Perhaps the most important factor is that the alienating parent and child don’t want anyone’s help.
The alienating parent and child live in a very black and white world. If someone shares their perspective of the targeted parent, the person is given access to their world. Anyone who challenges that perspective is banished from their world, and often never allowed to return. Regaining the alienating parent and child’s trust after losing it is nearly impossible.
As far as legal and mental health professionals, the biggest challenge currently facing targeted parents and children is that these professionals either are not aware of, or don’t fully understand, parental alienation. Educating legal and mental health professionals about alienation is a critical step in helping parents and children overcome the actions of an alienating parent.
Will I ever have a relationship with my child again?
The most important factor that will determine your ability to have a future relationship with your child is the quality of your pre-alienated relationship. If you had a normal, healthy, loving relationship with your child prior to his or her alienated position, your chances for reconciliation one day are excellent.
When is that day? We can’t say. Parental alienation isn’t a situation that anyone can manage or control. Absent of successful family therapy or court orders designed to repair the relationship, all you can realistically do is reinforce positive messages to your child – “I love you. I’m still your mother/father. I’m always here for you.” You should remain calm. Keep showing your child you are the same loving, consistent parent you’ve always been.
While you work towards restoring your relationship with your child, please continue learning all you can about parental alienation. If you are knowledgeable about the topic you will be able to make good decisions for yourself and your child. Intellectually understanding alienation is also your best coping mechanism. The understanding provides an emotional anchor. And while understanding may not take away the pain of being a targeted parent, it does dull the sensation a little bit.
Isn’t it mothers who typically alienate children from fathers?
Like Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster, some myths just won’t go away. The myth that mothers are usually the alienators and fathers are typically the targeted parents in parental alienation cases is one of those myths.
This myth is perpetuated by individuals and special interest groups who incorporate parental alienation into broader domestic violence, custody and shared parenting, and child support issues.
The truth is that neither gender has a monopoly on the emotional issues that lead a parent to alienate a child from the child’s other parent. Both mothers and fathers use their children to fill unhealthy emotional needs. Based on the large number of emails we receive at this website, we believe there are an equal numbers of targeted moms and dads dealing with this devastating family dynamic.
How come I can’t find A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation in my local bookstore?
A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation is now available through all major and independent book stores. If your local store doesn’t stock A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, the sales clerk can order it for you and your book will arrive in 7-10 days.
You can also ask your local library to order any book it doesn’t have on its shelves. And of course, you can purchase a copy of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation from this website and on Amazon sites around the world.