Dr. J. Michael Bone describes Parental Alienation from a child’s point of view. Systematically manipulating children to reject their other parent is unequivocally a form of child abuse!
Well worth a few minutes of your time!
Divorce is difficult even under the best of circumstances. If you are in a situation where the divorce process seems especially brutal because of an overly uncooperative ex, you may be experiencing the characteristics of a “high conflict” divorce. Why are the challenges in your divorce so extensive and formidable? More than likely, one person involved has characteristics that are consistent with a high conflict personality. Some of these characteristics will be familiar to you, as you may have dealt with them throughout the time you were together.
This characteristic may be familiar, because your partner would have had difficulty accepting responsibility or fault for any problems in your relationship when you were together. Your divorce may seem to be exaggerating this difficult quality. If, according to your ex, you are to blame for everything, communication, co-parenting, or anything else that requires the smallest level of cooperation, is extremely difficult. The focus is turned on you, and none of it is positive. The difficult partner is hyper-focused on detailing every misstep you have made in the relationship, as a parent, and even as a person. This is about condemnation and not about resolving issues that will actually end the marriage.
Because you are to blame, the partner may call you names and bad-mouth you to others, even your children. Acting out in revenge is not out of the question either. The high conflict person intent on revenge will personally, emotionally, and financially damage the other spouse as much as possible.
The high conflict person is a black and white thinker. There is no in-between. You are awful; they are great. You are unfair; they are just. You are mean; they are kind. You are wrong; they are right. You are a bad parent; they are a great parent. You get the picture. This type of thinking is impossible when compromise is necessary. The individual sees the divorce as a win-lose situation and they are not going to lose. In a high conflict divorce, the partner is not willing to agree to anything, even the simplest, most reasonable items. Compromising requires give and take, and the high conflict partner will not give.
Trying to work out difficult problems with someone who is volatile can be impossible. In every conversation, you may find yourself trying not to “poke the bear”. Anger and other negative emotions will still emerge, because this kind of person seeks out reasons to argue and will relentlessly perpetuate the conflict by any means. This elevates the divorce process to a combat zone, making it impossible to move forward safely on any issues or decisions.
High conflict personalities do things that you can’t imagine, have triggers that are unpredictable, and display behaviors seem totally irrational. They break the rules, lie, and are hostile. They will spin a dense web of deception and fabricate stories that depict you in the worst possible light. They may want to get out of the marriage, but if revenge is a factor, they want to do as much damage to the other person as possible first. Nothing is off the table and the extent of their capabilities is totally unpredictable.
There are some things you can do that will help to prevent an escalation in your partner’s behaviour. None of them are easy, but having a strategy will help you feel like you have some control.
This process does not have to be this difficult. We are here to help. Get in touch with Connie or Wendy to find out what your options are.
Family Bridges is a four-day workshop that rapidly reconnects alienated children with their rejected parents . If you are unfamiliar with what a parental alienation is, please read about it here. This workshop is helpful when Courts have determined a change of custody is in a child’s best interest.
A mental health professional trained in the Family Bridges program facilitates the workshop. The facilitator sets the stage for the child to reassert the love they naturally have for the alienated parent. During this process, children are not judged for past behavior. Instead, they are given a face-saving way to end their campaign. Once this is done, they can become, once again, the loving child of a loving parent.
The vast majority of families have found the Family Bridges successful.
He further describes the program as designed for family members in which there is alienation. He stresses that this process does not involve the Court and occurs after litigation is completed. The process gives family members the tools required to re-form healthy, loving, respectful bonds between children and both of their parents. Parents are taught that they can parent their children in a parallel way without denigrating the other parent. The Bridges Program provides its services to the children, the favored parent, and the rejected parent in alienation cases.
The process is experiential and educational. Parents are provided materials (written, oral and visual) to help them realize their motivations, actions and the impact of those actions on other family members. With this new understanding, parents recognize behaviors that are unhealthy and through the program, have learned strategies to address them.
Parents and professionals (evaluators, attorneys, and therapists) who wish to arrange a consultation to explore program suitability should email Connie Lupichuk at [email protected]
Connie Lupichuk is one of two trained professionals in Western Canada. Drawing on this experience, Connie now provides expert consultation to attorneys, mental health professionals/assessors, families, Child Protection Services, and community agencies. She assists to guide these challenging cases to their most appropriate and successful outcomes. Connie also offers expert testimony, training, and education related to alienation and how the Courts and Child Protection agencies can best manage these cases.
The little-understood problem of parental alienation during marriage breakup has been recognized in two family law cases in Saskatoon. Monday was designated Parental Alienation Awareness Day in jurisdictions around the world.
Connie Lupichuk of Aspire Too Counselling and Professional Services spoke to the StarPhoenix about the issue that is gaining attention among Canadian lawyers and judges and giving hope to effected parents and children.
SP: What is parental alienation?
C.L.: It’s a distinctive family response to divorce in which one parent forms an alliance with the child or children against the other parent through a campaign of hatred and denigration.
This pattern of behaviour by one parent constitutes a severe form of psychological abuse against the children. Child protection agencies don’t all recognize it at present.
One parent, referred to as the favoured parent, relentlessly recruits the children to believe that the other parent, referred to as the targeted parent, is unsafe or unworthy. The favoured parent vilifies the target parent and sometimes exerts force through intimidation or guilt. He or she may share a lot of information which portrays him or her as a victim. They might frighten the children, saying the targeted parent has abandoned them so the child fears loneliness and rejection. They may promise the child benefits said to make their lives better if the other parent is out of the child’s life. The favoured parent is often over-indulgent and permissive toward children.
You can tell that the children have become active participants because they go from loving relationships with both parents to absolutely hating one parent. They give illogical, weak or frivolous reasons that do not justify their hatred. Children describe one parent as a sinner and one as a saint.
The targeted parent feels frustrated but does not undermine the relationship with the favoured parent. They try to support it and often try to get the child and the other parent into counselling.
SP: How common is parental alienation?
C.L.: I’m not sure because we’re not seeing as many cases here as in jurisdictions where it has been recognized longer. The few parents I’ve worked with here tell me lawyers say they don’t know how to help them with this, that there’s no remedy. Some say psychologists and social workers have told them to wait until the children are 18 and maybe they’ll come around on their own.
SP: How is parental alienation addressed by family courts?
C.L.: In each case where family courts have found parental alienation, custody was granted to the targeted parent for a specified time, during which they were ordered to participate in an intensive four-day reunification workshop with the child or children.
SP: What is the program?
C.L.: The Family Bridges program is led by trained facilitators.
The program teaches age-appropriate critical thinking skills rather than counselling. The favoured parent is also offered training to understand their role in the alienation and learn healthy parenting. There’s a moratorium on talking about the past. It’s going forward and developing a new family paradigm. They adopt a parallel parenting model in which they don’t communicate but support the child and use similar parenting skills taught in the program to maintain healthy communication and relationships with their children.
By the end of day one you can see improvement. Children are relieved if they can restore the relationship with both parents. Research shows they have a preference to have both parents in their lives.
It’s really amazing to see the change. The transformation is just incredible.
If you have any clients or know a family that may benefit from the Family Bridges program, feel free to contact me at Incentive Counselling to see if a family is indeed a parental alienation case and the steps to address.
If you are a lawyer, clinician or other professional wishing to learn more about parental alienation and the research backed Family Bridges program, please contact me to arrange a training session for your organization.
Why Does a Parent Alienate Their Children?
Often in my practice, parents are confounded as to why their ex-spouse would alienate the children from them. Surely their ex loves the children and would not want to cause them psychological harm? If you are unsure of what parental alienation is, read a previous post here.
Going through a marriage breakdown triggers a grief reaction in people. After all, a relationship breakdown constitutes a significant loss. It affects the brain neurochemicals and hormones), resulting in a variety of symptoms such as loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue, anger, and anxiety. The fundamental difference between the death of a loved one and a marriage breakdown is the person lost, is alive. The added acrimony exacerbates the grief response and can set the stage for pathogenic parenting. Many parents, typically early in separation, do engage in alienating behaviours; however, because the engaging parent knows it is wrong, it causes feelings of guilt, and they soon stop. Some grieving spouses convince themselves that their alienating behaviour is in the best interest of their children and with professional intervention, will also cease.
Unfortunately, there is a small percentage of parents who refuse to remediate and lack insight into their harmful behaviour. They can become obsessed with the alienation, and go to great lengths to destroy the children’s relationship with the other parent. Researchers suggest that there is a link between personality disorders and obsessed alienators. These parents can be motivated for many reasons; namely, anger, entitlement, need to control, revenge, paranoia, jealousy, and child support issues. Whatever the parental motivation, alienation is a severe form of psychological abuse and clearly a type of family violence. If this is happening in your life, it is critical to seek professional and legal help promptly, because time is of the essence to repair the relationship between you and your child.
Connie Lupichuk, BSW, MSW, RSW, and works at Incentive Counselling as the Senior Consultant.
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:
If your child is spending time with you over the holidays, here are a few ideas:
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.
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.
Parental alienation occurs in custody disputes when a child is manipulated by one of their parents to engage in denigration against their other parent. This hatred can spread throughout the extended family of the targeted parent in high conflict divorce cases. Parental alienation typically occurs during the course of high conflict divorce cases and is considered a severe form of psychological abuse to the children involved.
Research suggests that both moms and dads may engage in this behaviour either intentionally or unintentionally, by encouraging the alienation to reject the other parent thorough transmitted messages or subtle forms of brainwashing that can have long term negative consequences on the mental health of the children involved.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is serious mental health condition where a child loses the capacity to love a rejected parent based on the belief that the rejected parent is untrustworthy or a threat to the stability of the relationship with the denigrating parent. Children exposed to these unfair circumstances, if left untreated, can have long term issues into their teen and adult years that may never properly heal.
In high conflict divorce cases, parents’ inability to focus on the needs of the child amidst ongoing litigation can, and does, influence the rejection of a parent, unfairly damaging the relationship with a targeted parent. This behaviour is a form of child abuse.
Most courts and lawyers are not equipped to handle the emotional and psychological damage that happens to children in these cases. The majority of mental health practitioners equally are not suitably trained to remedy these unfortunate circumstances.
The Impact of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) on the Behaviour of the Child
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that comes to fruition commonly in child custody disputes. Children are manipulated and encouraged to alienate a parent. Healthy parental relationships do not segregate a parent or influence the behaviour of the child to withdrawal from a parent.
PAS can be identified when the child engages in behaviour that breads animosity and favoritism in favour of protecting an alienating parent. Children can be seen participating in the campaign of denigration, at times may make false allegations and be adamant that it is their choice to engage in this behaviour in the courts, and typically are indignant when their favored parent is said to have manipulated them.
How the Courts and Lawyers Can Help Alleviate the Negative Impact of PAS on Families in High Conflict Divorce Cases
Children inherently want to maintain positive relationships with both of their parents and it is their right to do so. When working with parents in high conflict divorce cases requiring ongoing litigation, professionals in law are not trained to deal with the psychological impact these types of cases can have on their clients. Ethically, it is unfair to witness children go through this unfair process for a situation that is out of their control.
What can lawyers and the courts do for children caught up in this unhealthy dynamic that can have long term psychological consequences?
Minimize the extent of the damage but taking proactive measures to protect the children from this form of maltreatment by incorporating the Family Bridges program into their resolution strategies.
Reuniting and Strengthening Families through Family Bridges™
The Family Bridges ™ workshop is firmly grounded in well-accepted, peer-reviewed, and scientific research in cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, sociology and social neurosciences. With 23 years of history, the intervention of the program has shown remarkable results at restoring the damaged relationship between the rejected parent and their children.
In four days, the Family Bridges™ program accomplishes what therapists and the legal system have been unable to do over the lengthy course of litigation. The goal of Family Bridges is to assist children in having a positive healthy relationship with both of their parents, a relationship that is critical to their psychological well being and is intrinsically their right.
I am designated and trained to offer the Family Bridges™ program for Western Canada.
To learn more about a training seminar regarding Parental Alienation and or the availability for the Family Bridges™ program consultations for children at risk of Parental Alienation Syndrome contact me at [email protected].