Let’s Get Back to the Basics …..

So much has been written, both agreeing and disagreeing, with the concept of Parental Alienation.  I may be naive and oversimplifying, but if a person was a good parent while married to the other parent of their child(ren), why does divorce (or a breakup) change that?

You have two people who have chosen to bring another life into this world.  Most times, a conscious decision was made:  I want this person to be the parent of my child.

After the child is born, you have two people who are both loving parents to their child(ren).

Why does that change when these two people can no longer maintain a relationship with each other?  That doesn’t change the people they are.  That doesn’t make them any different from the person they were when the decision was made to bring a child into this world.

Why does a divorce or breakup mean one person is no longer fit to be a parent, and have a relationship with the child(ren) who were so lovingly brought into this world?

Reasons a Person Decides to Alienate Their Child(ren) from the other Parent

Our recent posts dealt with feeling sympathy for an alienating parent, as well as recognizing many alienating parents’ inability to let go after a divorce, and the reasons therefor.

There are undoubtedly many explanations as to why a parent would put their feelings of anger, pain, insecurity, etc. before the best interests of their child or children, and purposely setting out to harm their children by denying them a relationship with the other parent.

Unfortunately, our alienating parent suffered terribly at the hands of her own father.  So it is not difficult to understand why she, in turn, feels the need to alienate her own daughters from their father.  In this instance, sympathy is definitely warranted.  It doesn’t make it any easier for the targeted parent to deal with the loss of his children, but it does make understanding why this happened a little easier.

Over the years, our alienating parent has sought help, both through medications as well as counseling, but gave up on those treatments many years ago.  Would things be different is she had followed through and seen those treatments to “completion?”

She is in her 60s and there is nothing we can say or do to encourage her to get the help she needs.  That would have to come from her family and friends.  We would, however, like to offer these suggestions to anyone who is aware of an adult survivor of child abuse who is still struggling:

Why Do I Have To Deal With It Now, If It Happened Back Then?

There are many reasons why children do not deal with the abuse at the time of the incident: unconscious feelings of shame, disbelief, self blame. Abusers may also threaten or bribe children into not speaking up, convincing the child that it is indeed their fault, and that they will never be believed otherwise. These tactics are used to silence the child. Under no circumstances, is the child to blame for the abuse. Although, if the abuse is not dealt with in a therapeutic and healing setting, the effects of past abuse will remain and undermine the victim for years to come.

Does It Get Better?

The worst part, the abuse, is over. Now your next step is to surround yourself with supportive loving people, and focus on the desire you have to heal yourself. This is your process. You must be gentle and patient with yourself as your healing process gently unfolds. You are giving yourself the gift of coming to life, again.

Now What?

You are not alone, and in fact, in recognizing what has happened to you and speaking about your experience is one of the most vital components in the healing process. You have already taken a giant step. If you think that you have been a victim of sexual abuse, you need to take action immediately so your life will not be undermined by the past one day more. Get help.

[Source:  www.psychotherapist.net ]

How to Let Go of an Ex-Partner

We just received a disturbing e-mail from someone close to our alienating parent, about our alienating parent’s ongoing behavior.  There is great concern among her inner circle about her inability to let go of her relationship with the targeted parent.  They were married for less than five years, and divorced over thirty-seven years ago.

No, that’s not a typographical error:  our alienated parent has been divorced from the targeted parent for over thirty-seven years.

It seems she continues to dwell on the past, instead of enjoying the present and looking forward to the future.  She posts photos and stories from the time when she was married to the targeted parent, while photos and stories from her current marriage are non-existent.

Why this obsession over a marriage that ended so many years ago?  Why does she have such a difficult time letting go?   The following are some insights into this aspect of parental alienation:

How to Let Go of An Ex-Partner:

The main reason we struggle to let go in a romantic situation is because we are still emotionally attached to our ex. We become attached because our partners have been meeting our needs. When they are no longer there we can feel empty and lost. In essence, we fail to let go when there is unfinished emotional business in a relationship.

We can feel the loss in two key ways. We may miss all the lovely things about our ex and long to have them back (conveniently forgetting all the things we hated or that drove us mad). Alternatively we may continue to resent them or fight with them, long after the relationship has ended. In my relationship counselling work I am often amazed that ex-partners can still be fighting decades after a divorce. One couple I knew were still arguing about who should keep a cutlery set which had been a wedding present, fourteen years after their Decree Nisi had come through! This resentment and anger is also an inability to let somebody go from our life. Needless to say, holding on to anybody in a positive or a negative way is not healthy because unless we have let somebody go we are not fully available for a new partner. Our life energy is being wasted by dwelling on the past, rather than living in the present.

Once you have identified the need you are trying to meet with an ex, or even with a new partner, try to see that gift in yourself. You may have to work on your self-esteem and any heartbreaks and traumas from your past that have lead to you having any negative self-beliefs. As you recognise these gifts in yourself you will not feel so dependent on your ex. Typically you will need to work at letting-go over a period of time as our needs and hurt can come in many layers, which need healing one at a time.

If you are still feeling angry or resentful about an ex, the way to move on is the same as I have just described, but you will also need to forgive them for having let you down. Any bad behaviour would have been coming from their own emotional and spiritual pain. Realise that they were almost certainly looking for the same gifts in you that you were looking for in them. In truth both of you had them, but had lost sight of this. If you have a spiritual or religious belief, then you can ask for strength and guidance in your letting-go and for the truth to be revealed for you all.

[Source:  www.iloveyoulove.com ]

Feel sorry for and pity the Alienator

This touched so many aspects of our particular case of parental alienation, we had to share it.

Parental Alienation

Have pity and feel sorry for the alienating parent.

I speak from experience, you do not have to be a psychologist or social worker to work it out. The alienator – (be them a parent, sibling or grandparent) obviously has severe insecurity issues and much emotional baggage.

By alienating a child from people or relatives around them, they feel they are securing their own love from that child – by process of elimination!! If they are the only remaining person in that childs/adult childs life the only option for that child (adult child) is to love that remaining person in their life – it’s not rocket science!!! By putting themselves first and depriving the child (children) of loving relatives they are instilling a behavioural habit into that child/adult child for later years. That child, or those children in multiple cases, will grow up thinking it is perfectly normal behaviour…

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Helping Adult Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation

“When parents use children as pawns in their divorce, the psychological consequences can be devastating. Parental alienation (PA) is the act of deliberately alienating a child from a targeted parent (TP) by an alienating parent (AP) and can cause a psychological condition referred to as parental alienation syndrome (PAS). Although this term is relatively new, the damage this type of behavior inflicts is not. When one parent denies a child access to the TP, the child struggles with feelings of hatred and fear towards the TP. These children often live in an environment riddled with malicious and derogatory remarks about the TP, and as they age, maintain guilt over harboring these feelings toward their parent.

Source: Helping Adult Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome

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Strategies for Overcoming Parental Narcissism:

Strategies for Overcoming Parental Narcissism:

1. Minimize contact. High-conflict people love to engage in psychological battle. The hidden agenda is to keep you entrenched in the relationship, even years after the ink has dried on the divorce decree. I have seen few dynamics more toxic than exposing a child to constant below-the-belt blows and mental warfare.

2. Establish firm boundaries around home, school and community rules. Structure in all settings can provide children with a safe, predictable and secure buffer from the insidious psychological damage. The emotional roller coaster perpetrated by a narcissistic parent can be even more detrimental to a child’s healthy ego-development than overt abuse.

3. Avoid feeling sorry for your child. Nobody deserves to grow up with a selfish, self-absorbed adult, but there are worse plights. Showing pity for others only perpetuates their victim mentality, and prohibits them from moving forward and seeking healthy relationships of their own.

4. Vow to be calm, pleasant, and non-emotional. A Herculean task, if ever there was one, but if your ex is gaining emotional intensity and threatening to take you along for the ride, someone’s got to consider the impact on the kids. Deep-breathing, meditation,mindfulness and support groups can do wonders for your physical and mental well-being.

5. Limit the amount of telephone or texting your child has with your ex while in your custody, and vice versa. Barring emergencies, the best case scenario is no contact at all. Unless you suspect that your ex is not adequately caring for your child, it’s best to stay out of their house. Conversely, allowing your child to contact you in order to speak on his behalf is setting him up for triangulation. The upside of asserting himself in the presence of an unwieldy parent is he could learn valuable coping skills for dealing with difficult personalities down the road.

6. Teach and model social/emotional intelligence. Point out positive examples of single-family households, where appropriate. At some point, a child grows up and is capable of more abstract observation. Better she learns about proper emotional regulation and healthy coping skills from you. I’m a fan of age-appropriate, straight-shooting communication, especially when the narcissism runs extreme.

7. Nurture your child’s unique qualities and independence. Somewhere between infancy and adolescence, the narcissistic parent loses focus (if they ever had it) and stops seeing the child as a distinct individual with feelings and needs to be validated and met. The child becomes, instead, an extension of the parent. Normal emotional growth is seen as selfish or deficient, and this is what the parent mirrors to the child. For the child to get approval she must meet a spoken or unspoken need of the parent; approval is contingent on the child meeting the parent system’s needs (Donaldson-Pressman, & Pressman, 1994, p. 30).

8. Do not criticize your ex in front of your child. Narcissistic behavior is abominable, no doubt, but children are not equipped to deal with the psychological weight, no matter “how mature” they may be. Complicating matters is that many narcissists stay off the radar, and are model citizens to the rest of society: They pay their bills on time, garden every Saturday, attend church on Sundays, and are actively involved in the PTA.

9. Banish the term ‘co-parenting’ from your vernacular. Period.

[Source:  www.psychologytoday.com ]

Grief and Ongoing Pain in Parents Dealing with Alienation

by:  Dr. Barbara Steinberg

Q: A parent who has been alienated from his or her child’s life experiences extreme loss. Often we are asked by a targeted parent, “How do I deal with his on-going pain?”

Defining the problem

A: First, know that you are not alone. There are others, both mothers and fathers, who have similar experiences, and who are in deep agony over the loss of contact and meaningful relationship with their children.

Second, know that you are not crazy. In our culture we are not encouraged to experience our grief. We are taught to be strong, to rise above it, to tough it out, to get over it and get on with life. Sometimes that is wise counsel if we linger in our pain, and our outrage becomes the complete focus of our life affecting our work, our social life and our spirit. However, the loss of a child whether by death or by exclusion from that child’s life is beyond the realm of most parents’ ability to cope.

In the beginning of an alienation process, we believe, as parents, this is not really happening. We deny that the other parent of our child is capable of these vengeful acts, and we choose not to believe our child, whom we love deeply, would ever treat us in such a hurtful ways. Denial is the strongest emotional defense mechanism we have at our disposal, and it is the one on which we rely the most. For most parents, because they truly want contact and relationship with their child, their denial does not hold up under time or with the reality of the disconnection they experience.

Third, many parents feel confusion, which suggests they are not able to identify and process the bunch of emotions; they are experiencing in their gut. Usually, these can be separated into feelings of deep sadness, intense anger, extreme outrage, and desperate blame. To keep from being overwhelmed by this internal “bucket of worms,” many parents detach from the situation that they believe is an act of self-preservation. Some bargain with them using the following logic, “My child will get what’s happened when he/she turns eighteen so I’ll just wait.” Both strategies are akin to whistling in the dark.

Fourth, targeted parents want to know how to deal with these strong emotions in healthy ways because if allowed to remain unreleased, they often gain a life of their own and emerge at inappropriate and inopportune times toward others who do not understand or deserve the depth and intensity of the feeling. Sometimes, these emotions are held internally. In an attempt to self-medicate the resulting pain, the targeted parent turns to addictive behaviors or substances. Eventually, if strong emotions are held internally for a long period of time, they can convert into physical problems, which plague the individual for the remainder of his/her life.

So the dilemma remains, what do I do with my pain? Keeping a journal or diary is helpful, but strong emotions require active self-interventions. Many parents report feeling relief from their deep sadness by allowing themselves to cry and scream. If you believe this might assist you in your process, to avoid embarrassment, it is wise to isolate yourself perhaps in a quiet, natural place so you can grieve in an unrestrained and unobserved way. It is also helpful to take a sequence of your child’s pictures so you can activate your feelings of loss.

Intense anger is a physical activator so you will need to participate in a focused activity such as bowling, driving golf balls at a range or hitting balls in a batting cage. A less expensive approach is throwing ice cubes at a sturdy wall, an activity, that parents report, gives a sense of relief and release from ever tightening bands of anger.

Outrage describes a parent who feels misunderstood so there needs to be some attention paid to “telling your story.” The problem is finding a receptive listener who has the patience and energy to hear the saga of hurt, frustration and humiliation more than once. Targeted parents can tell their story into a small tape recorder; they can write their story by hand into a journal, a loose-leaf notebook or a diary. They can use a word processor and store it on computer disc, or if they are creatively inclined, they can write poems to their children. Some parents have already published their story in books and poetry.

Of importance here is the intention to alleviate the outrage of misunderstanding that, as a parent, you are unimportant, even nonessential in your child’s life. Also, it is important that you be heard, and that you remind yourself that you are still a parent by keeping your child’s pictures around you. Another approach is to involve yourself in the parenting role with other children as a Godparent, as an involved uncle or aunt, as a Big Brother or Big Sister. Validating yourself as a parent can go a long way to heal feelings of outrage.

Finally, desperate blame is probably the most difficult bereavement issue to process. Some blame is justifiable: the other parent, the other parent’s family, the legal and social services system, your child, yourself.

Solving the problem

However, the only one under your jurisdiction of control is yourself so this is the part that you work with in three separate ways.

First, it is critical, regardless of the attitude and reception from the other parent, from the other parent’s family and from your child that you stay in positive contact with them. Civility and cordiality in face-to-face contact is essential regardless of what is said in your presence or behind your back. In addition, sending your child cards, letters and little packages on unimportant days is appropriate. Also, communicating with your child by telephone, by e-mail and by facsimile can be effective. If you have completely lost contact with your child, then set your priority to find him/her and restore contact at least by distance. If this is impossible, then collect items and memorabilia in a special box or trunk reserved for your child and the possibility of future contact.

Second, become active as a citizen for positive change, and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the system you blame for preventing you from having parenting opportunities with your child. This action may not change the disposition of your situation, but you may make the system a better place for other targeted parents and their children.

Third, for your sake and for the sake of your relationship with your child, it is imperative that you forgive the other parent. Notice there was no mention of forgetting what has happened, or how you have been treated, but again, for restoring your emotional balance and your ability to cope with life challenges in healthy ways, you will need to forgive the alienator. For some, this is a spiritual journey, and for others the path is a secular one. What is important is that you go about this process in a unique way that you believe will work for you so the specter of losing your child is diminished, and your health and well being are in restoration.

Forging a Relationship with your Child’s New Stepparent

So you’ve already endured the perils of divorce. If you have a child with your ex-spouse you have likely gone through challenges of getting your kid used to this new routine, which is so different from what it used to be. But when wedding bells are once again on the horizon for your ex, you are faced with yet another obstacle – getting along with their new fiancee or spouse for the sake of your child.

Catching wind of the news of your ex’s engagement can stimulate mixed emotions – usually feelings of anger, sadness, pain and an array of insecurities. While no one will expect you and the man or woman who has replaced you as your former spouse’s new flame to be best buds, creating a blended family free of animosity can be the healthiest thing you can do for yourself and your family.

1. Be Courteous and Appreciative

It’s like some wide-eyed, inexperienced kid is applying for the role of executive vice president of your family. It’s natural for biological parents to feel threatened, afraid and unwilling to accept that the ex’s new spouse will play an integral role in your child’s upbringing. Imagining a stepfather playing catch with your little boy, or a new stepmother braiding your daughter’s hair can make you sick to your stomach, but let’s face it – it is going to happen whether you like it or not. Sooner acceptance will only ease the process. It will be difficult at first, but do your best to see the good in your child’s new stepparent. You aren’t the only one who is going through a challenging transition – their new role as a stepparent will be arduous, and earning your trust and the respect of your child can prove to be almost impossible.

2. Remain Communicative

A good man or woman in your child’s other home can be your best ally, not your arch enemy. You all (hopefully) have your child’s best interests at heart, and this transition won’t be easy for anyone – the new stepparent included. Expressing appreciation for their new role can mark the beginning to a healthy and positive relationship. Heck, it’s even likely that the new stepparent will be able to see eye-to-eye with you more than your ex-spouse and will be more interested in including you in family decisions. There was no messy breakup between the two of you, so why not take this as an opportunity to use your relationship to your advantage.

3. Stay Out of Their Marriage

Oh, how tempting it can be to give in to gossip after your child comes home from school to tell you about your ex’s ridiculous argument with their new spouse. Doing this will have zero positive impact on anyone. Bad mouthing your child’s stepparent will likely make your kid feel as though he or she can do the same, or to take sides and stunt any relationship they could have had. Later on, when your kid grows up, your child will grow to resent you for everything you said to negatively impact their relationships. You are the parent, and are therefore responsible for encouraging support and happiness in your child’s life regardless of how challenging it may be for you to put your emotions on the back burner.

If you think that some aspect of your ex’s marriage is destructive to your child’s life, and you are purely concerned with the well-being of your child, speak with your spouse and/or the stepparent privately instead of judging them based on what you have heard from another party and talking behind their backs.

[Source:  divorcehelp360.com ]

Narcissistic Parents????

Parental Alienation

It’s not until the adult children of a narcissist get (a lot of) psychotherapy or have a life-changing experience that pulls them away them from the disturbed parent that these adult children can truly begin to heal – and then create better, more normal relationships that offer the give-and-take reciprocation most of us have and value in our relationships.

What’s interesting to note is the narcissistic parent’s reaction to witnessing healthy psychological change in their child. Once the child or adult child of the narcissist starts to get psychologically healthier and begins to distance himself a bit from the parent, the narcissistic parent experiences a sort of existential panic. Often, it’s a psychotherapist, colleague or friend who plants the seeds of change, declaring to the child that the parent is toxic and emotionally abusive. Thrust into fight mode, the narcissistic parent feels furious and works to ostracize the individual suspected…

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