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.
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.