Parental Alienation and Empathy

Lee Serpa Azevado

In the following paragraphs I would like to explore parental alienation and empathy.

The definition of parental alienation is simple. One parent, (in most cases the resident parent) deliberately damages, and in some cases destroys, the previously healthy loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent (the non-resident parent). A key tell-tale sign of parental alienation is when the alienating parent prevents their children from having any relationship with the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on the alienated parents’ side of the family. For a more detailed definition of parental alienation see here.

The English word empathy is derived from the Ancient Greek word empatheia, which means “physical affection or passion”. This, in turn, was derived from enpathos, when broken down is seen as en, meaning “in, at” and pathos meaning “passion” or “suffering”.  The term was adapted by linguistics to create the German word Einfühlung (“feeling into”), which was translated by Edward B…

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The Challenge of Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

By:  Alex Myles

Although I have titled this “co-parenting,” many people who have a child with someone who is diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or who displays many of the traits, will know that co-parenting is an unlikely dynamic.

 A narcissist will not cooperate, show compassion, consideration, offer clear or reasonable communication and they most certainly will not have any care or regard for co-parenting. It will feel more like counter-parenting than co-parenting, as every negative act has to be counteracted to try to maintain balance.

Although there will be many who are struggling to bring up their child when still in a relationship with a narcissist this article is aimed at those who have separated or divorced, but are raising a child with a narcissist. The Narcissist Co-Parent has been abbreviated to NCP.

Once a relationship has broken down co-parenting with a narcissist can not only seem impossible but also as though you are living through a reoccurring and worsening nightmare. It doesn’t help that unfortunately, to date, there has not been a vast amount of research carried out, or professional advice made available, with regards to co-parenting with a narcissist. Neither is there clear evidence or research that explains how narcissistic behavior or co-parenting with a narcissist emotionally affects the kid(s).  

Therefore, I have written this article based on my experience and research to offer some tips and a base understanding for those who are involved in this dynamic, as it is something I have been questioned about frequently since writing various other articles about narcissism.

The most vital piece of information I can give is that you cannot and will not ever change a narcissist’s behavior, nor will you be able to reason, reach any form of compromise or receive a genuine apology for any difficulties they cause either to you or your child. Narcissists have a grandiose opinion of themselves and think they are “special” and above everyone around them, so no matter how hard you might try to get them to see things from your, or your child’s, perspective it will never happen.

The main concern when co-parenting with a narcissist should be ensuring your child is safeguarded, as they are in the middle of circumstances that they do not have the emotional capabilities to deal with. Sadly all too often children who have a narcissist parent suffer incredible emotional abuse. However, unlike physical abuse there is no visible evidence so it can be incredibly difficult to prove to the relevant authorities. It may also go unnoticed as the child might not talk about it either through fear or because they believe it is normal behavior as it is all they have known from that particular parent.

For those who are still in a relationship with a narcissist it is advisable to drop all expectations about how you hope they will parent your child and also keep all of your emotions under control. Do not respond and react erratically, however frustrating or unpleasant the interactions may be, as this only fuels narcissistic behavior further. It is not a game that can be played and even if you try, you will never win.

If you get through one round and things go your way, without any shadow of a doubt the NCP will come back 10 times fiercer or more manipulative in the next round. They will also likely be fuelled with rage and not only that they will see any defeat they may experience as a challenge. They will become sharper, crueler, cleverer and ultimately more callous to ensure that even if you do “win” again, you will pay a very high price for even thinking about beating them, let alone succeeding. The NCP is very unlikely to give up, so do not see it as giving in to them by choosing not to play their game. 

Instead see it as choosing an alternative way to interact, one that does not include dramatic displays of emotion.  

Narcissists demand compliance and will settle for nothing less, so if you fall in line with everything that they want all may go smoothly, although this isn’t recommended. As much as it may be tempting to try to keep aligned with them, if you do it will mainly be through fear of what might happen if you don’t. This will mean sacrificing your morals and values and often a tremendous amount of time and expense solely to keep them satisfied.

If you try to regain and maintain some control of your mind and independence, all hell can seem to break loose and the NCP may try a variety of methods, including charm, seduction, aggression, threats or even seeking your sympathy to place you back into a powerless position. As you may not want conflict, you could fall into the trap of working hard to keep them stable and happy, although this will mean abandoning and neglecting your preferences either for you or your child. 

It can feel as though “you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t” and unfortunately, this is often the case. That is why it is essential to learn to lock down your emotions as much as possible and learn everything you can about this disorder. One reason is to avoid your emotions being in the NCP’s hands and another is so that you can be somewhat prepared for their next move before they make their next move. This alleviates the feelings of deflation and frustration and also helps to prevent you from thinking you are going insane due to the way they naturally seem able to manipulate, oversee and control your every move.

If communication is consistently causing conflict then it is essential to keep it to an absolute minimum. This includes leaving emotional upsets and injured egos out of the equation. It is tempting to be triggered to respond, as narcissists are skilled at scratching at old wounds just to gain an explosive reaction. Rise above any pride surfacing and use your internal strength to resist the temptation to erupt, as this is what they hope and look for. NCPs gain great pleasure from witnessing emotional and psychological overspill. 

It is recommended to erect firm boundaries and keep them in place to protect both yourself and your child while s/he is in your care. Narcissists do not have boundaries, they have no respect for them and they will go to all lengths to tear yours down.

The reason they dislike boundaries is because they revel in drama and boundaries keep all their ridiculousness at bay. Therefore, when you put them in place you have to be firm and ensure that you do not fall prey to their tactics, which may include, seduction, flattery, threats, anger or aggression. They will attempt any technique that may result in you backing down and take away whatever is constraining their behavior.

If you take a barrier away they will then view the removal as a weakness on your part and they will persevere until they have direct access to whatever it is they want to swoop in and take, whether it be your time, emotions, money, possessions and most of all your energy.

Even if it goes against your natural character, be firm and assertive because if you are passive they will walk all over you and think that you are weak. They will try to control you, not just where your child is concerned, but in various other areas of your life too. 

The NCP may regularly ask your child to lie to you to keep up any charade. The lies may be to manipulate you for money, possessions or to make you feel inadequate and insignificant as a parent or for any other gain they see as valuable. They will not think twice about how their child feels about maintaining the corruption. Their main concern is to succeed in benefitting themselves by any means possible.

Although it is distressing to know that you are being lied to by your child, it is essential to remember that this is not the child’s fault. They are serving their other parent and will often be doing it through fear of what might happen if they go against them and tell the truth. The most difficult thing about this is that the child grows very comfortable with lying and they become more natural and skilled at it as time goes on. It may even get to the stage where you never know when your child is speaking truthfully or dishonestly. Making a child lie is damaging in numerous ways, but not least because the child is then effectively learning to become narcissistic themselves.

Your child may also be asked by the NCP to find out certain pieces of information while in your company and they may also be asked to snoop around your home, on your phone, or laptop and spy on you. Another issue surrounding deceit is that your child may be told to keep secrets from you and avoid answering basic questions, which can be puzzling, especially when they are just innocent casual enquiries about how they are getting along at school or with friends. The lies are usually to prevent the child from slipping up and saying anything that might give away something, for example, the illusion of the “perfect” home life with the NCP. 

When your child is in your care the NCP may make false promises to your child to either make them seem the more affectionate or caring parent, or to tempt your child to return to the NCP’s home earlier than arranged. The promises are often broken upon the child’s return leaving your child feeling bewildered, though the NCP will make up many excuses as to why the plans have suddenly altered. It is quite normal for narcissists to change all kinds of arrangements at short notice and with no valid excuse. They see it as their prerogative to make and break plans and have no concern for any anguish this may cause your child.

When your child is in your care the NCP may contact them relentlessly to interrogate them about what they are doing, where they are going and what you have said to them. Often this is purely to cause conflict and another reason is to maintain control over the child’s emotions. They may promise your child the earth while on the telephone, telling them how much they miss them, how much fun they will have when they return and some will even go to the length of making the child feel as though they are missing out on something back home, while they are in your company, in a twisted way of getting the child to want to leave your care. When the child does return home, sadly, all of the things promised are usually non-existent and were born purely for high-drama to prevent your child from relaxing and enjoying your quality time together.

Limiting calls, other than emergencies, usually quells the upset when your child is spending time with you, however, the NCP will not take kindly to this and you taking control with telephone calls could cause you problems in other areas. Still, it is better, if possible, to see if you can keep the calls few, short and succinct.

Hobbies and activities will likely be left to you to take full responsibility of and organize, as the NCP will not want to spend either their time or money on something that they feel they do not get a direct benefit from. However, if your child is excelling at something the NCP will want front-row and exclusive involvement as in their mind they think people will see their child’s success as their own personal success. Even if the hobby was something you originally arranged, the NCP will push you out and exclude you if your child shows signs of natural talent or they are receiving attention and praise due to their high achievement. 

Keep a diary, document everything and ensure any decisions that are agreed with the NCP, concerning your child, are put in writing and if possible agreed by a solicitor or the courts, as unfortunately they will regularly go back on their word, even totally denying that any mention of an agreement took place. Keep in touch with schools, doctors and all other professional centers yourself to ensure you are receiving authentic information. If exchanges at the beginning and end of contact sessions are constantly disrupted, aggressive or threatening try to arrange, either with the NCP or through the courts if necessary, for a trusted friend or family member to accompany you as a witness, or to pick or drop off your child in your place. 

Disregard any communication that does not concern the interests of your child. They may try to reel you into an argument just for a dramatic scene and also so that they can then repeat what has happened to all of their, and possibly your, family and friends. Whichever way you respond will always be “wrong” so it is better to keep any communication simple and void of emotion and only centered around your child’s welfare.

Regardless how hard the NCP may be trying to make you out to be a terrible parent by dramatizing situations and criticizing or name-calling in front of your child, always remember that the only thing that matters is your child that is caught in the middle, so however much of a battering your pride and ego may be taking, ignore the insults and focus on being a positive role model. The last thing the child needs is to see both of their parents caught in a yelling match, so remember, it isn’t personal and try not to let your child know your own thoughts about their mother or father.

The NCP will attack anyone that they consider a threat to them in any way, so if they think you are putting them down and putting their reputation at risk, they will vehemently set out to slander and ruin people’s opinions of you, including your child’s. They are desperate to make themselves look like the “better” parent, and they think that putting you down elevates them. This isn’t true at all so remain calm, rational and focus only on your child’s best interests and they will learn from you an alternative way to respond to conflict. 

They NCP may also use their child as a trophy to showcase “impeccable” parenting abilities. They do not see the child as a unique individual who has their own set of needs and requirements, but instead as an extension of themselves and the children are often treated as though they do not have emotions or they are not affected by any dramatic encounters that go on. If the NCP’s child disappoints them in any way, they then face being alienated, rejected or ostracized.

Sadly, that means your child may grow confused about what love looks and feels like and might view it through warped lenses as though it is something that has many conditions. They might feel that to receive their narcissist parent’s love and attention they must act accordingly and please them at all times. It may even seem as though your child happily and naturally falls into line with the NCP and it can look from the outside as though they are perfectly happy and comfortable within the parent-child relationship. Just because the child is compliant, it does not mean they are content in their care. Narcissistic behavior is extremely damaging and although your child may not let you know anything is wrong, it is essential to provide them with regular assurance, validation, love and affection so that any adverse side-effects of the narcissism does not leave a long lasting imprint that influences your child’s self-esteem, self-confidence and overall self-worth.

Much of narcissism is learned behavioral patterns and when children witness repeats of the same behavior over a period of time, they become accustomed to it and then may act in similar ways themselves. One of the difficult things to watch is when your child subconsciously picks up narcissistic behavior through watching and copying the narcissistic parent.  

People behave this way consciously or unconsciously for many reasons, much of which will remain unknown even to the person displaying the narcissistic traits. As difficult as it may be, we should try not to negatively judge them and instead show compassion.

It helps to be mindful of the struggles the NCP faces currently or ones they may have experienced throughout their life. Although this is no excuse and I don’t think for a moment we should allow or accept this type of behavior to infect and destroy our lives, I do think that we should be open and compassionate to the fact that narcissism is a personality disorder. They don’t see their own emotions and feelings with clarity and neither do they see ours or anyone else’s.

Focus 100 percent on your child and keep the NCP at a safe distance and compensate your child emotionally where possible for any detrimental effects the NCP’s behavior may have on them. Unfortunately, your ex-partner is often the one who knows all your weaknesses and this includes exactly which buttons to press to gain an explosive reaction. When the NCP sees that they no longer affect you emotionally, their tactics and techniques will eventually wane and over time, it is likely they will disappear completely.

The main thing that keeps narcissists acting as they do is because they think all eyes are on them. As soon as you take your eyes away and keep them away they will have no one to watch their performance. It may not be guaranteed, but like anyone who enjoys drama, it is only fully pleasurable while on the stage and while the audience is engaged.

This dynamic is a constant challenge and one that may require professional assistance and advice so that both you and your child are fully supported.


Divorced parents who pit children against former partners ‘guilty of abuse’

By:  Lexi Finnigan

Divorced parents who “brainwash” their children against ex-partners are guilty of “abuse”, the head of the agency that looks after youngsters’ interests in family courts has said.

Anthony Douglas, chief executive of the Children and Family Court Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), warned against the danger of “parental alienation”.

He said the deliberate manipulation of a child by one parent against the other has become so common in family breakdowns that it should be dealt with like any other form of neglect or child abuse.

According to Cafcass, parental alienation is responsible for around 80 per cent of the most difficult cases that come before the family courts.

Alienation can include a parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other adult, limiting contact between the child and the targeted parent, forbidding discussion about them, creating the impression the parent does not love the child and forcing the child to reject the parent.


Mr. Douglas said: “There isn’t a specific criminal law that outlaws parental alienation in the UK. But we do have family law and through assessments and enforcement proceedings, we do have the ability to send parents to prison or give them community sentences.

“But this is hardly ever the case because ultimately the punishment on the parent will rebound on the child.”

However, judges in the UK are starting to recognise parental alienation, which is leading to some children being removed from the offending parent.

“But this is fraught with difficulty,” said Mr Douglas. “It’s a rocky road and a difficult process.”

Joanna Abrahams, head of family law at Setfords Solicitors, is one of the country’s few specialists in parental alienation.

She said: “The amount of enquiries we are getting about this type of behaviour is growing all the time. At the moment we get about three calls a day about this – and that’s a lot.

“It’s always been there but people are now beginning to understand more about it and how harmful it can be. You can run into the tens of thousands on cases like these.

“The frustration when you can’t see your child takes over people’s entire lives. Some kind of legislation needs to be put in place but what that is I can’t say.

“Each case is of course very different and it’s not always that someone is doing this on purpose. It might be subconscious behaviour.”

“It’s undoubtedly a form of neglect or child abuse in terms of the impact it can have,” said Mr. Douglas. “I think the way you treat your children after a relationship has broken up is just as powerful a public health issue as smoking or drinking.”

One mother, who wants to remain unnamed, described how she was cut off from her son two years ago by her ex-husband.

She said her former partner made “false and fabricated allegations” against her in order to gain custody and “manipulate my son so deeply that he now has no memory of his loving childhood with me”.

Now her contact with the 14-year-old is limited to Skype conversations and visits once a month.

“If I had been sent to prison I would have been able to see my son more than I do now,” she said. “My son is brainwashed – he is emotionally dependent on his father and behaves as if he were in a cult. My son has no idea what is going on, only that he feels angry at me.

“The more parents who stand up to this and say it is unacceptable the better. Emotional abuse is just as horrible and controlling as physical abuse. It’s unacceptable and things need to change in the way it is dealt with.”

In some countries, governments have put in place legislation to prevent such behaviour. In Italy parents can be fined, whereas in Mexico, guilty adults can be given a 15-year jail term.

And in America “parenting coordinators” are ordered and supervised by the courts to help restore relationships between parents and children identified as “alienated”.

Ms. Abrahams is looking to draw up a team of experts to see if a committee could be formulated to tackle parental alienation.

“It’s in the embryonic stages at the moment but it would include myself, Cafcass social workers and mental health workers – a cross-range of experts with the hope of developing something.

“I think we need to all work together to have a more joined-up approach to this behaviour which can be so damaging.”


Though either parent may be targeted, parental alienation is a damaging dynamic for all

Local marriage and family therapist Dr. Dahlia Berkovitz says parents who engage in alienating behavior often have attachment issues that are triggered by the divorce. The alienating parent most likely also has a personality disorder such as narcissism and/or borderline personality disorder.

Dr. Dahlia Berkovitz

“The alienating parent connects in an inappropriate way, talking to the children about things that are none of their business,” Berkovitz said. “Children don’t have the same capacity to process things as adults do.”

The scientific name for this behavior pattern is attachment-based parental alienation, a term used by Dr. Craig Childress, a California-based psychologist and leading expert in the treatment of children who are victims of this dynamic. Childress calls it “a form of pathogenic parenting, which is a clinical term for parenting behavior so aberrant and distorted that it creates psychopathology in a child.”

According to Childress, parental alienation indicates a role reversal of a normal, healthy parent-child relationship. Instead of serving as a “regulatory other,” which involves providing stability and meeting the child’s emotional and psychological needs, the alienating parent (pathogen) uses the child (or children) to meet their own needs, violating boundaries and damaging the child’s development to a significant degree.

“It needs to be fixed; too many children are suffering,” Berkovitz said.

Childress and other experts who advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment of these children are optimistic about a new bill before the Florida legislature this month that amends the mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse to include “child psychological abuse,” including parental alienation.

The bill also requires licensed psychologists to partake in continuing education in the area of psychological child abuse “including, but not limited to, abuse through the use of manipulation or parental alienation.”

Here’s a link to the article in it’s entirety:

Though either parent may be targeted, parental alienation is a damaging dynamic for all

Alienated Grandparents Anonymous Incorporated

Alienation is a willful intimidation. It involves such issues as personality disorders including narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, delusional disorder, etc.;unresolved childhood issues, pathological lying, manipulation, brainwashing, mind control, neuro-linguistic programming, and cult-like thinking.  It is about power and control.  It is frequently multi-generational generational.

The unjustified abusive controlling behavior of our adult children is creating a lifetime of emotional problems for our grandchildren.  It is considered by the experts in Alienation to be a severe form of child abuse, and a severe form of elder abuse. Abuse is never acceptable; abuse is never OK.  

AGA’s  qualified professional consulting experts help grandparents/parents come to understand the varied dynamics involved in the complex realities of Grandparent Alienation-GA and Parental Alienation Syndrome-PAS. 

AGA offers strategies for repairing, rebuilding, and healing these relationships with the gatekeeper…our adult children; and, then the grandchilren will follow. AGA offers coping skills to help manage the devastating emotional pain of being disconnected from our grandchildren.

Understanding the complexities of alienation helps grandparents.  Knowledge is power.  When we hear this information  which we can personally identify, a light bulb goes off in our minds; and, a new piece of the puzzle comes together.  If you take away with you even one piece of information from each meeting and our website, process it, and then apply it to your adult children and grandchildren; eventually, you will begin to see a clearer picture of the bewildering phenomena of our own children not wanting us to have a place in their lives and in our grandchildren’s lives.

You will come to realize that if you did not cause this, then you cannot fix this campaign of denigration. Healthy minds want to fix things, unhealthy minds do not.  You will come to understand that you should not be embarrassed by this estrangement, and that you can stop blaming yourselves. You are not suffering alone. This website receives thousands of hits each month. AGA has a presence in  all 50 states of the USA, and 16 countries

AGA recognizes that each situation is unique; however, many commonalities are shared.  Simply knowing that you are not alone on this traumatic journey, helps you cope better with the heartbreak and frustration of being a targeted grandparent.

AGA support group meetings allow grandparents to share their stories and strategize with one another.  Suggestions for communication and reunification will be discussed based on the information provided by our international expert consultants. Grandparents who attend will remain anonymous so that everyone will feel free to openly share their plight. It is a place for those experiencing this excruciating emotional trauma to share circumstances with those who “get it”.

AGA meetings may include guest speakers. An interactive discussion would be included. After each meeting, grandparents may then consult individually with all AGA professionals in attendance.

Here’s a link providing more information about Alienated Grandparents Anonymous Incorporated:

Alienated Grandparents Anonymous Inc.


How Sabotaging Stepmoms Hurts Your Children

You expected mothering to be a solo job. You and your husband raising your kids together, with no one to interfere—okay, except the media and public education. You anticipated tender, private moments with your children.

So much for that. Along came divorce. Worse still, your husband remarried.

You didn’t sign up to share motherhood with another woman. Your dream of privacy and exclusivity with your children is shattered. Your profound sense of loss gives way to anger and frustration. As if that wasn’t bad enough, your kids like or even love her, making it more uncomfortable still.

Sabotage: Finding Your Motivation

Frustration & insecurity provide motivation for sabotaging stepmoms.

That dream’s loss may have been sour, but these special cases can make it that much harder to accept your children’s positive relationship with their step-mom:

  • As your husband’s lover, she was the wedge that split the marriage.
  • She’s younger, aggravatingly attractive, and is easier for your kids to relate to.
  • She’s less worldly, leaving you insecure about the “life experience” and maturity level that backs advice she gives to your children.
  • She comes from a different background, and is exposing your kids to different religious or cultural values.

Either way, it’s unnerving watching your children spend more time with a competing mother figure than you. You feel inadequate, your judgment clouds, and you make knee-jerk reactions in protection of your cubs. You catch yourself making unkind remarks about your children’s stepmother and demanding your children’s unwavering loyalty.

You’re just making life hard for her, right? Wrong.

Surefire Ways to Damage Your Child

Woman Manipulating Her Child

Information Warfare

  1. You treat your child like a mole by grilling him about every detail of what went on in the other house. It’s boring and annoying having to do seemingly insignificant reconnaissance work for a neurotic parent.
  2. You censor your kid’s ability to relay what went on at your house. Being unable to talk freely makes your child uncomfortable and unsafe.

Deny Your Child Permission to Like His Step-mom.

  1. You deny your child permission to be himself. You rob your kid of free will, which can make him feel unimportant and depressed.
  2. You force your child to focus on your needs instead of his own. Your child feels less safe and taken care of. Emotional energy towards fulfilling your demands is divested from your child’s ability to relax and be himself. Your child is left uptight and guarded, which can lead to anxiety problems.
  3. Engaging in the role reversal in which your child has to take care of his mother instead of the other way around can also set the stage for your child to become an enabler for people with other problems, down the line.
  4. You discourage your child from being in touch with his feelings, which can foment resentment, anger, and depression.

Forbid Your Child From Cooperating with His Step-mom.

Woman Forbidding Her Child from Growing Close to His / Her Step Mom
  1. Your child’s stepmother and father will become upset with him. Your child is causing problems on your orders, not of their own volition, and now has to take the heat for it. This leads to anxiety.
  2. This negative attention often comes with punishment, which will additionally leave your child frustrated and isolated.
  3. Your child won’t feel like the part of the family when at your ex’s house. It’ll impact his self-esteem. It’ll also damage his sense of belonging (a fundamental need) which, when missing, leaves a void that people try to fill with things like addictions and cults.

How You Hurt Yourself

Undermining your child’s positive relationship with his or her stepmom* also backfires. He will be angry at and resent you for not trusting his judgment and decision to like his stepmom.

*This assumes absence of any major indicators of abuse.

How You Can Fix Things

Woman Being Positive and Optimistic

Empower yourself with a positive and a proactive attitude by taking these practical steps:

  • Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Write it all down and get in touch with the buried stuff that you’ve yet to examine.
  • Evaluate your concerns about the stepmother as objectively as possible.
  • Grant your children emotional permission to like her if she is indeed nice to them.
  • Give them permission to have their feelings independent of yours.
  • Listen attentively to your children. It’ll deepen your relationship.
  • Give your children your undivided attention when you are with them.
  • Get therapy if you still need help processing your losses or establishing boundaries.
  • Reach out to your support system, like friends and family, or join a support group.

Closing Thoughts

Let go. Your old dream of a private, exclusive family life chains you to the past. Releasing it lets you create a new, happy, and healthy vision for yourself and your children.

Most stepmothers won’t come between you and your kids half as much as your fear will.


Children with Narcissistic Parental Alienation Syndrome

Children with Narcissistic Parental Alienation Syndrome

puppetParental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the unhealthy coalition between a narcissistic parent and his or her children against the targeted, non-narcissistic, non-abusive parent.  The innocent or targeted parent receives hostility and rejection from his or her children in this system.  The psychological health of the children is used as arsenal in the narcissist’s twisted world.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is a family systems pathology involving the triangulation of children into the abusive, narcissistic parental relationship.  In the case of PAS the cross-generational coalition exists between the narcissist and the child or children, and is a covert type of narcissistic abuse.  In typical family systems therapy there would most likely be cooperation with the offending parent to break the coalition with the child and stand united with the other parent. With a narcissist this will not happen.  Narcissists have limited insight so they will be unwilling or unable to see their unhealthy union, believing it to be occurring because he or she happens to be the superior parent, deserving of loyalty, deeming the innocent parent as “bad.”  In addition to this, narcissists are unwilling to collaborate on anything; even in therapy.  Going to therapy with a narcissistic partner will usually backfire on the targeted partner.

The symptoms of PAS are:  (1) The children sit in judgment of the targeted parent’s adequacy and competency as a parent. (2) The narcissistic parent covertly encourages, empowers, and rewards the children for this behavior. (3) The narcissistic parent feigns innocence in this process.  (4) The children believe they are acting independently (that is, they believe they are not being influenced by the alienating parent.)

The system is created as the alienating parent rewards the children when they say hostile or angry things about the targeted parent by encouraging and displaying “understanding” for the children’s negative feelings, when what should really be occurring is the children should be taught to respect the other parent.  In essence, the children are gaining acceptance from the narcissistic parent as they complain about the target parent.

For instance, suppose the targeted parent tells the child to do a chore and the child resists as is so often the case with children being told to do something they don’t want to do.  Now, suppose the child goes to the narcissist and complains about the “mean” other parent.  The narcissist will then sympathize with the child, encouraging him or her to feel victimized by the “outrageous” expectations of the targeted parent, and will excuse the child from having to do the chore.  Thus, the child is getting sucked into the web of PAS.  The targeted parent is outraged, bewildered, hurt, and betrayed.  The child has been covertly empowered to disrespect the one parent who is actually trying to develop a decent human being.  The narcissist sits back, effortlessly creating the destructive coalition with his or her child.

In essence, the children are empowered to disobey, disrespect, and disregard the non-narcissistic parent.  On the surface, the children feel and believe they are benefiting and winning, but in reality they are playing a sordid part in the narcissist’s perverse mind games.  There are some detrimental effects to the children because of this:

  1. Children’s sense of value is diminished because they believe the targeted parent is unworthy of being identified with. If the children have any interests or traits similar to the rejected parent then the children will be forced to reject those aspects of themselves as well.
  2. A child’s character is damaged as he or she is covertly rewarded to be disrespectful, entitled, rude, judgmental, condescending, ungrateful, parentified, and hateful.
  3. The children develop a toxic-bond to the alienating parent, as he or she manipulates them into fearing a lack of acceptance from him or her.

Treatment for this type of dysfunctional family coalition will not occur with a direct approach involving all members of the family.  A different approach is needed.  This will most likely require “out of the box” thinking, and may be very difficult to pull-off.  Here is what is needed to end PAS:

  • A break in the coalition between the narcissistic parent and the children; this requires separation.
  • Restoration of the bond between the non-narcissistic parent and the children.
  • Restructuring of the improper power balance between the children and the non-abusive parent back to wholeness.

The innocent parent may have no idea why his or her children have turned against him/her, and may have no idea what to do about this disheartening problem.  It also may be impossible to remove the children from the narcissist’s life because, after all, the narcissist isn’t doing anything illegal.  Because of these constraints, the non-abuser needs to be creative and figure out how to accomplish the above three objectives.

If you are a victim of PAS, here are some suggestions for you to try to help turn things around:

  • Be proactive; do not believe this problem will just go away on its own. It will most likely get worse.
  • Realize that there is not much you can do about the alienating parent. You can only change yourself.  Take a good look at your own behaviors and modify where necessary.
  • Be a strong parent. Do not roll over easily no matter how angry your children may be with you.
  • Find ways to attach with your children every day. Even if they don’t want you to. Call them, text them, talk to them, touch them; do whatever you can to connect to your children.
  • Be solid. Be direct. Be firm. Be consistent. Be stable. Even if you don’t feel those things, act as if you do.
  • If at all possible, find a good therapist who understands PAS and bring yourself and your children to see him/her.
  • Use strategies akin to those used when people leave a cult; in essence, PAS is a form of brainwashing.
  • Take very good care of yourself. Do things that are good for you and bring you joy.
  • Do not grovel, beg, or allow your children to see that you are threatened by their behavior. Stand strong.
  • If the narcissist encourages your children to disobey you, hold your ground and make sure your children do what you request; starting with “no disrespectful behavior in the home.” Period.
  • Develop some catch phrases to use with your children that you can say in moments when things are particularly difficult for you to handle.
  • Use humor. Be enjoyable to be around.
  • Be smarter than the narcissist.
  • Be determined and refuse to let the abuser destroy the relationship between you and your children.
  • Educate yourself. Never stop reading and arming yourself with knowledge. In addition to this, educate your children.
  • Join a support group so you can get help as you deal with this battle for your children.

Realize that you are dealing with a form of psychological manipulation of your children in which they have been brainwashed to respond toward you in hateful ways because they are being psychologically rewarded by having a pseudo-interpersonal relationship with the other parent, whom the children perceive as more powerful.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of brainwashing.  Think of this – members of cults become brainwashed to the point where they will give up everyone they love, all for allegiance to a charismatic and manipulative leader. Some even give up their lives.  Here is an interesting website on cults to help you educate yourself on the process of brainwashing and recovery:

If you would like interesting abuse-recovery articles sent to your email address every month, please send me your email address and I will add you to my free email list:

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A Child Needs Harmony Between Parents and Grandparents

Grandparents who fight for visitation rights may end up as losers even if they win in the court of law. Parents who try to punish or coerce grandparents by withholding visitation defeat their own child. Whenever there is a conflict between parents and grandparents, the child in middle is likely to lose. Some parents and […]

via A Child Needs Harmony Between Parents and Grandparents — Parental Alienation

The Form of Child Abuse Known as Parental Alienation

By:  Howie Dennison

Slowly, hope is building for children suffering from a form of psychological abuse known as “parental alienation” because of the growing awareness about parental alienation and its harm to children. One example is the relevant authors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) saying that parental alienation is in DSM-5.

From time to time, one may hear someone say, “Parental alienation is pure fantasy because it is not listed in the psychological diagnostic manual, DSM-5.” Then someone else may say, “It is in there, just not the exact words.”

Why does DSM-5 matter? According to Wikipedia, “In the United States, the DSM serves as a universal authority for psychiatric diagnoses.”

Parental Alienation Is Included in DSM-5

Now the microphone has been placed at the horse’s mouth. The people who wrote DSM-5 say that parental alienation is indeed included in DSM-5. And they end all further speculation by saying why they did not use the exact words “parental alienation.”

In a 2016 scientific paper, DSM authors Dr. Narrow and Dr. Wamboldt say that parental alienation may be diagnosed as Child Affected by Parental Alienation Distress (V61.29) if one is talking about the child. Parental alienation may be diagnosed as Child Psychological Abuse (V995.51) if one is talking about a parent alienating their child. This confirms that parental alienation is indeed in DSM-5.

The authors explain why they didn’t use the exact words “parental alienation.” They feared that an under-informed therapist might misdiagnose something as parental alienation when, in reality, there was physical abuse, sexual abuse, or exposure to domestic violence.

This contributes to the opposite problem, where countless children are being psychologically abused by parental alienation because many mental-health professionals are not aware of parental alienation, or they get fooled, because parental alienation is so counter-intuitive.

In their 2016 technical paper, the authors of DSM-5 also explain why parental alienation is so counter-intuitive and why so many people have a hard time understanding it: “It is remarkable that abused children frequently remain attached to their abusive parents, whom they might perceive as charming and charismatic. Through various mental processes, maltreated children persist in fearing, loving, hating, being dependent on, and longing for the love and acceptance of their abusive and neglectful mothers and fathers.”

13.4% of Parents Believe They’ve Been Alienated from at Least One Child

In a survey of 610 parents in North Carolina, Dr. Harman found that 13.4% of parents believe they have been alienated from at least one child, with half believing it is severe. The American Psychological Association issued a press release saying that child psychological abuse is the most prevalent form of abuse and that it is as harmful as sexual abuse, but remarkably, it is not taboo.

What should happen instead, is that alienated children should be declared to be a “special population” so they are diagnosed and treated by therapists having all the requisite backgrounds, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, personality disorders, family systems, and attachment theory. They can also utilize Dr. Childress’ rigorous criteria for severe parental alienation, which he refers to as pathogenic parenting. Otherwise, many therapists will continue to be fooled and become complicit in child abuse. Every child deserves a fully accurate assessment.

Besides DSM-5, there are other positive developments in general awareness about parental alienation:

  1. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a clinical report in 2016 that tells doctors what to do about parental alienation.
  2. The American Psychological Association’s 2015 Handbook of Forensic Psychology provides useful information for custody evaluators on parental alienation.
  3. The American Psychological Association published a technical paper in 2016 by Dr. Richard Warshak that confirms that parental alienation is child abuse, calling it “psychologically abusive” and “emotional abuse.”
  4. The Massachusetts General Hospital published a book that notes that “withholding of interactions with other caregiver” is psychological abuse. This hospital is currently ranked number one for psychiatry.
  5. A 2009 position statement prepared for the Australian Psychological Society notes that “Parental alienation is defined as a child’s unreasonable rejection of one parent due to the influence of the other parent combined with the child’s own contributions (Kelly & Johnston, 2001). Early intervention (and usually this requires specialist intervention) in alienation and estrangement is advocated.”
  6. The US Department of Justice notes on its website that “damaging one’s relationship with his or her children” is “emotional abuse” and that “forcing isolation from family, friends” is “psychological abuse.”
  7. Mexico and Brazil have passed legislation specific to parental alienation.

Slowly, hope is building for children suffering from the psychological abuse known as parental alienation.


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