So the holidays are around the corner, and your parenting time with your alienated children still has not been settled. You are astounded over how much has changed since last year, when your smiling children ran to the door and jumped in your arms to greet you after a day at work. They used to look at you with love and affection and came to you when they had a nightmare or a skinned knee.
So what happened? Why, after ending the relationship with the other parent, do your children look at you with contempt, have little regard for you, profess hatred for you, and claim they never want to see you again? Likely, you already know that your ex’s goal is to destroy your relationship with your child. There are many reasons why a parent chooses to manipulate the children to reject you – anger, hurt, and revenge, to name a few. One thing for sure is that alienating behaviour is a severe form of psychological abuse and family violence.
As a counsellor, custody access assessor, mediator, and trial consultant, I know that alienated parents have to work much harder to parent their children. Child protection authorities typically defer responsibility to the lawyers/courts and alienating parents often manipulate these professionals into siding with them. The courts often reward the alienating parent in three very damaging ways. The first is by not imposing sanctions when the alienating parent disregards court orders. The second is by ordering archaic visitation schedules, and the third is by allowing lengthy, protracted litigation to occur. Alienating parents also incorporate a multitude of strategies to indoctrinate children. By the time an alienated parent notices the change in their child’s attitude toward them, the damage to the relationship has already been done and everything is stacked in favor of the alienating parent.
So how do alienated parents navigate this issue without making things worse for themselves or the children? How do alienated parents feel excited about holiday time with children when they tell you they hate you?
It’s important for alienated parents to understand that what is happening in their family is traumatic and they may need to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress. Additionally, watching your children pull away from you and reject you will cause a grief response. Given the devastating impact parental alienation causes, you might wish to:
- Work with a skilled counsellor who has expertise in trauma-related injuries.
- Hire a divorce coach whose expertise includes parental alienation.
- Immerse yourself in the research regarding parental alienation.
- Employ a lawyer with experience in high conflict divorce including parental alienation.
- Once the court sets a trial date contract, hire a trial consultant with expertise in high conflict divorce and parental alienation.
- Get involved in every aspect of your child’s life and do not expect your ex to keep you up to date with respect to your child’s extracurricular activities, school, or doctor appointments, etc.
- Be creative in finding ways to stay in contact with your children, because a number one strategy of the alienator is to interfere with you and your child’s communication.
If your child is spending time with you over the holidays, here are a few ideas:
- Make your home as festive as possible
- Start new traditions
- Invite family members
- Invite other people your child has not rejected
- Do not talk about the divorce or any adult issues
- Do not make negative comments about your ex
- Do not share your painful feelings with the children
If your child will not be spending time with you over the holidays:
Mail a Christmas card and gift to your child. If you know your ex will not pass these items on, send your child a text or email to let them know the item is waiting at your home for their next visit. If you have no contact with your children, it is equally essential to mail these letters and gifts to your home, so when the children visit, they will see you sent them for that particular holiday.
- Spend time with family or close friends – do not be alone
- Do not try to numb your grief through alcohol or drugs
- Connect with other parents who are in similar situations
- Remind yourself that your child loves you but are not allowed to right now
- Talk to other parents who recovered their alienated children
Finally, be kind to yourself and remember you are human and being human is to error, so if you make a mistake, let it go and try again.