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.
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.