Characteristics and experiences of targeted parents of parental alienation from their own perspective: A systematic literature review — Parental Alienation

Abstract Objective The aims of this systematic literature review were to identify and synthesise all relevant information about targeted parents’ characteristics and experiences from their own perspective. Method The academic databases Web of Science, PsycINFO, PubMed, EMBASE‐ELSEVIER, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and conference abstracts were systematically searched from their inception until May […]

via Characteristics and experiences of targeted parents of parental alienation from their own perspective: A systematic literature review — Parental Alienation

How child abuse affects adult survivors

Dr. Paul McLaren, Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director of the Priory Hospital Hayes Grove, discusses how child abuse can affect people as adults.

Recent coverage of events in Rotherham focuses on the events over the last 16 years. Many of the children abused then are now adults. How does child abuse impact life and relationships as an adult?

The experiences of child abuse can stay with survivors for a long time. Adults who have buried their history of child abuse can continue to suffer in ways that can include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)eating disorderssubstance misusedepressionanxiety, low self-esteem, anger, guilt, learning difficulties, physical illness, disturbing memories and dissociation. One particular issue is the challenge of forming and keeping adult relationships. Recent research has suggested that the lifetime onset of psychiatric disorders is attributable to adverse childhood experiences in nearly a third of cases.

Child abuse can adversely affect the development of the personality of the survivor and their ability to regulate their emotions, which can lead to self-destructive and impulsive behaviour, such as repeated self-harm or recurrent suicide attempts. Those who have been repeatedly abused over time can suffer dissociation and go into trance states, often triggered by reminders of the abuse, in which they relive abusive experiences.

What help is available?

Shame is a major barrier to survivors seeking help. This is often exacerbated if their appeals for help or disclosure about their abuse as children were ignored or dismissed by family or professionals. Knowing that effective treatment is available is important.

Counselling is a useful starting point and can help survivors by providing a safe environment to develop a trusting therapeutic relationship. It is often the first experience survivors have of being truly understood in a way that others who haven’t been abused are unable to manage. They are heard and believed and experience empathy rather than judgment.

Therapy options

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a fast growing and widely recognised treatment used to help people deal with a variety of psychological difficulties. The evaluation of CBT has shown a 50% success rate in treating anxiety and depression – significantly higher than other talking therapies – and studies have also shown that it can be more effective than medication alone when treating such disorders.

CBT is a structured, action-oriented and problem solving approach which helps people to manage their thoughts, behaviour and mood more effectively. In general patients will meet with their therapist on a weekly basis for a period of roughly 6-20 sessions which will follow a structured process including the completion of homework and behavioural experiments. CBT has been modified to offer specific help to those suffering from PTSD. It can help survivors process their traumatic experiences in ways that reduce their impact in the present.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a psychological treatment developed for those who experience problems with emotional control after traumatic experiences. It is very focussed on teaching skills to improve self-regulation.

Childhood trauma often leads to re-experiencing of painful memories which are difficult to ignore. Eye-Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychological intervention which has been developed to process painful memories. Sessions are sometimes longer than CBT for PTSD, but treatment can be completed in fewer sessions for some cases. Those more severely affected by PTSD may benefit from psychiatric treatment with medication, usually antidepressants.

Children Need Both Parents

I have been spending time scanning our old family photos and, looking through those photos, one thing became painfully clear.  The small amount of time my husband was able to spend with the daughters from his first marriage was minimal and sporadic.  We have hundreds of photos of my husband, myself and our two sons — and occasionally his daughters would appear in the photos.

It’s painful to think of all those girls missed out on.  Spending time with their father.  Being part of his life.  Getting to know him and what an incredible man — and parent — he was.

Dr. Richard Warshak has written:  “As a young psychology intern in the late 1970s, my first patients were boys from divorced homes, suffering from what was then called “father hunger.” In those days, when parents split up, dads fell by the wayside. Fathers saw their children at the mothers’ discretion. This customary fallout from divorce reflected the belief that mothers are supremely important while fathers are expendable. We’ve come a long way since then.

Observing the problems that were being attributed to divorce, my colleagues and I began conducting studies in the late 1970s to learn how to help children cope better when their parents parted ways. The results of our research in Texas, supported by the National Institute for Mental Health, converged with studies in California, Virginia, and Arizona. The message from this work was clear: children and their fathers usually (though not always) wanted and needed more time together than they were getting. All signs pointed to the benefits for most families of having two parents involved in children’s lives who jointly maintained responsibility for their care. This is what is now called shared parenting.

Toward the end of the 20th century, divorce decrees offered children visits with their father every other weekend. The term “visits” captured the transformation of dad into something like an uncle, where the children are guests in his home. Dad became an entertainment director: The contacts were fun, but the texture and depth paled in comparison to a realistic parent-child relationship. At that time, only a handful of studies had peered into families in which divorced parents shared custody.

We now have more than 50 studies of joint physical custody. Using different methods, and examining families in the United States and abroad, the results are encouraging: children who spend at least 35 percent time with each parent, rather than live with one and visit the other, have better relationships with their fathers and mothers and do better academically, socially, and psychologically.”

Remember to put the children first when it is time to separate or divorce.  Spending quality time with both parents is what is in their best interests.

Dealing with an Ex who has a Golden Uterus

Having lived with a man for 35 years who was divorced from a woman who was the ultimate example of someone suffering from Golden Uterus Syndrome, I am well aware of how difficult — if not impossible — it is to co-parent with a Golden Uterus.  Ours was an extreme case, which went on for four decades — up until the day my husband died.  And, being a Golden Uterus, she felt totally justified in her behavior.  No matter at what cost.  The price her children paid for not having a relationship with their father was the direct result of their mother’s conduct.

And little did my husband know when he divorced this woman back in the 1970s, that there was never going to be an end to her presence in his life.  Even as he lay dying, she was the one who decided how he should spend his final days.

Given our situation, I was not surprised when someone sent me a link to this:

“Do you have an ex-wife who acts like her position as “Mother of the Children” places her in some sort of exalted position, ever above reproach or questioning because she happened to succeed at breeding with someone?
Is she officious, demanding, always claiming that she has a lock on what is in the best interest of the children (even when partying on child support money)?
Does she get outraged when you fail to follow her edicts as though she were some sort of deity?
If you are starting to rack up some yeses to these questions, then we have two things to say. One, congrats on your getting a divorce.

Two, our condolences.
You were married to a Golden Uterus.
And that is the problem. Normal divorces are kind of like movies. They start, the story plays out, the ending credits roll, and then it is OVER.
When you divorce a Golden Uterus, the end credits can take decades to actually end. To her, her position as the all holy Mother of the Children immunizes her against criticism for anything she does as a mother, even if she is giving Mommy Dearest a run for the money. If her immanence does it, it MUST be the right thing to do.”  [Source:]

10 Real Life Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

By Lorraine C. Ladish

The only reason I feel like I can actually give tips for successful coparenting is because I practice them myself! My two daughters´ father and I separated seven years ago as a couple. But we did not stop being parents to our kids just because we couldn´t make our marriage work (and believe me, we tried to make it work!). Our girls were 4 and 7 back then and are about to turn 12 and 15. A psychologist we consulted in case the kids had been deeply affected by our divorce, gave us, the parents, kudos for having such well-adjusted daughters. So in case it helps, this is what we did and continue to do for the benefit of our children. I wrote the post mainly for women, because I´m a woman, but of course it could help men too!

1. Practice empathy
Co-parenting your kids with your ex is no easy feat. Practicing empathy, trying to put yourself in both your kids’ and their dad’s shoes will help you successfully navigate this situation. When your kids miss dad, allow them to voice their feelings. When dealing with dad, take into account that he loves the little ones too, and act accordingly. Treat him the way you would like him to treat you.

2. Be open and flexible with schedules
Kids suffer when their parents argue about visitation schedules in front of them. Even if you have a court-ordered parenting calendar, if dad wants to take the kids to a ball game or watch a soccer match on TV on one of your days, put the kids first. Will they enjoy it? Then, let them go! One day, when they grow up, they will thank you for allowing them this freedom.

3. Pick your battles
It’s important to have common ground rules and values for the kids in both households. But it also stands to reason that each parent will deal with certain situations differently. Don’t expect dad to do everything exactly the same way you do it. Even if you were still married you’d have different parenting styles. And that’s ok. Kids thrive on those differences.

4. Communicate directly with dad
You’ve probably heard this one before, but do your best not to use the kids as go-betweens. Not only may they get the message wrong, they will also witness any negative feelings either parent expresses when delivering or receiving it. If your kids give you a message from their other parent, don’t blow up in front of them. Wait until you’re alone to give him a call and address the issue as calmly but firmly as possible.

5. Remember he is your ex but also your co-parent
You’re divorced for a reason. If he didn’t change his ways when you were a couple, he’s most likely not going to do it now. Do what you can with what you’ve got, and make the best of your relationship as co-parents. Allow him to rebuild his life however he sees fit, as long as it’s not harmful for the kids. Counseling is a good investment to improve communication between you. The kids will be the winners.

6. Make exchanges short and sweet
No matter where or when you exchange the kids, keep these moments short and sweet. Do your best not to cry or hang on to the little ones when they go off with dad. Especially don’t drag it on giving your ex endless instructions. Say your goodbyes with a smile, so the children won’t feel guilty about leaving you by yourself.

7. Respect their time with dad
If your kids only see dad during the weekends, don’t put a damper on their time together by calling them too often. Especially, don’t call when you know they may be having dinner or if it’s past their bedtime. If you miss them, call a friend to commiserate. Think of how you would feel if your ex insisted on calling your home at odd hours and made the kids feel bad about him.

8. Share photos, grades, accomplishments
When your kids get their grades or are having a special moment their dad is missing, take a picture and email it or text it to him. Tell them that you are doing it, so they know you are including their father in the parts of daily life that he may not be privy to. Ask him to do the same for you, but don’t nag him if he doesn’t. Remember, it’s all about the kids in the end.

9. Encourage your kids to communicate with dad
Make sure they call, email or write to him on a regular basis. Remind them of his birthday and other special occasions such as Father’s day. Help them make or choose a gift and mail it or give it to him in person. Kids are happiest when they feel free to express their feelings of love towards both parents even when they are no longer a family unit living under the same roof.

10. Enjoy your time off
One of the perks of being a single mom is that you will inevitably have time just for you. Take advantage of the days your kids are with dad to socialize, sign up to a drawing class, get a massage, or simply to watch movies, read books in bed or sleep in. Recharge your batteries so that when the kids come back they will find you at your best!

Court Holds Parent in Contempt for Shared Custody Bad Behavior

By James M. Lynch

Attorney James M. Lynch reviews recent Appeals Court contempt case addressing bad parental behavior in shared custody arrangements.

In the aftermath of a divorce, the animosity that the spouses feel for each other can trickle into their parenting choices and abilities. Unfortunately, this can have a negative impact on their children, which is something that courts strive to great lengths to avoid.

This tension is especially prevalent after a divorce court grants the parents shared physical custody over their children. The more that divorced parents have to transfer their children to each other, the more opportunity there is for conflict to arise. Parties occasionally agree to use parenting coordinators (PC) to limit conflict, but such professionals can be expensive and are limited to the powers the parties agree to grant the PC. Moreover, it can be difficult for courts and third parties to identify and address a parent who creates conflict through a bad attitude and poor communications rather than clear violations of parenting orders.

Recently, an appellate court in Massachusetts recognized the problem and stepped in to help.

Conflict in Shared Physical Custody Arrangements

In the last ten years, family law attorneys across the United States have seen a surge in shared physical custody arrangements, particularly as more states (not including Massachusetts) have adopted laws making shared (50/50) custody presumptive. This shift in the law moves things away from courts reflexively assuming that a child’s mother should be granted primary physical custody. More women are in the workforce, and the nature of the roles of that adults play in a family, has been evolving for decades. Additionally, social science research has found that a child benefits in numerous ways when both parents are involved in their life after a divorce.

However, there are instances where shared physical custody is not appropriate, such as when the parents involved are still emotional from the divorce. Poor communication between the parents involved in a shared custody relationship is all too common, and many attorneys agreed that high-conflict behavior is on the rise, as the barriers to shared physical custody become lower, and 50/50 parenting plans more prevalent. Courts frequently see text messages or emails that are inappropriate in volume (numerous times per day), content (profanity, name calling, etc.), and tone (conflict oriented, lack of boundaries), or inappropriate subject matter (arguments about new significant others or matters unrelated to the children).

Ironically, the concept of parental alienation has grown more widely accepted as shared physical custody has increased. However, for many judges, parental alienation seems to be a problem that only afflicts parents with primary physical custody of children. Once shared physical custody has been granted, the mindset seems to be: except in extreme circumstances, parents must simply deal with the bad behavior of a former spouse. The feeling among attorneys is that some probate and family courts have stopped examining whether a parent is willing or able to co-parent before entering a custody order. Positive co-parenting behavior, once considered an asset in custody cases, is now taken as a given, while bad co-parenting is frequently viewed as an inevitable and incurable feature of post-divorce life.

Unfortunately, the attitude among attorneys and judges sometimes seems to be that a parent must simply live with negative, conflict-driven behavior from the other parent. Few judges seem to enforce the type of conduct encouraged by the mandatory Parent Education Program. As we have discussed before, most of the benefits associated with two-parent involvement in a child’s life are offset or eliminated if the child is exposed to significant parental conflict in the process:

[T]here is persuasive science demonstrating that children who have positive and active relationships – including substantial parenting time – with both of their parents develop into healthier adolescents, teenagers and adults. …. On the other hand, there is an equally deep and persuasive body of science demonstrating that children who are exposed to parental conflict – in the form of bickering, disputes over parenting time, and verbal and physical confrontations between parents – suffer greatly from the feelings of instability, guilt and fear they experience.

A recent Massachusetts case, though, took a more active approach.

Appeals Court Addresses Negative Co-Parenting Behavior

In Leon v. Cormier, the Appeals Court was called on to review the Probate and Family Court’s contempt of court finding. The Probate Court held the mother in contempt after it found that she had failed to follow the recommendations of the Parent Coordinator, whom the parties had agreed would have binding, decision-making authority in their parenting agreement. Under the parties’ agreement, the Parent Coordinator had made two rules for the divorcing couple to follow. The first was that “emails between [the parties] should still occur during the designated Tuesday email time. The ONLY exceptions are in case of significant emergency or a necessary change in logistics that must be established for something that is to occur prior to the next Tuesday email time.” The second required the children to be dropped off by the mother at the Chelmsford Police Station, where the father could pick them up.

Reviewing the lower court’s finding of contempt, the Appeals Court held:

Regarding the e-mail communications, the judge concluded that “on seventy . . . separate occasions between December 23, 2013, and February 25, 2013,” the mother had violated the order. With regard to the custody exchanges, the mother likewise committed violations “on fifteen . . . separate occasions between September 3, 2014, and December 30, 2014,” by “consistently delivering the children to the Pepperell Police [s]tation instead” of the Chelmsford Police station as ordered.

In addition, the Court “noted that many of the e-mail messages sent by the mother were ‘written in all capital letters and reference[d] ‘MY CHILDREN’ demonstrat[ing] the [mother]’s ongoing urge to struggle with the [father]. The hostile and dictatorial tone of the emails is counter-productive to effective co-parenting of the minor children.’”

As a result of the violations, the lower court had held:

[I]f the mother continued to violate the parent coordinator’s order relating to e-mail communications, her parenting time might be suspended until she addressed her behavior with a family therapist. The father was allowed to make up twelve days of parenting time, and the mother was to reimburse him a total of eighty-eight dollars for the costs associated with the service of process.

In the end, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts decided that holding the mother in contempt of court was a proper response to the issue. This decision is a big step in how the legal system deals with contentious parents in shared custody situations, because it shows an increased judicial awareness that negative parenting is a problem that needs to be controlled if the best interests of the child are to be pursued.

Knowing when to let go …..

Our targeted parent made the painful decision to end his relationship with his alienated daughter many years before his death.  He understood:  no matter how many genes he shared with this person, there were too many differences between them.  It was a difficult decision, and one which he did not take lightly.  There were a lot of extenuating circumstances:  her incarceration, her promiscuous behavior, her repeated lies about others, to mention just a few.  But when she decided to punish him by keeping him from his first grandchild, that was more than he could bear.

We can’t pick our family and just because our “blood runs through their veins” does not make them a good person, a nice person, or someone who we would choose to spend time with were we not related.

What happens when the time comes that maintaining a relationship with a toxic family member becomes detrimental to a person’s well being?  Perhaps it’s time to cut these people from our lives?

I sincerely hope that many, many, many targeted parents go on to reconcile with their alienated children.  But if you simply can’t, it’s okay.  Go on and enjoy your life with those who sincerely love and cherish you.

Family isn’t always forever.   There may come a time when it’s apparent you must say goodbye.  When a child uses manipulation and deceit, you have to let go for your own good.  As difficult as it was for our targeted parent, the freedom and relief he felt after making his decision was apparent.  He changed his definition of family.  It was no longer those who were related to him by blood, but those who were related to him by love.  And we can all cherish the final years that we gave him, surrounded by wonderful memories and incredible amounts of love.


Dealing with a Narcissist

In speaking with a mental health professional recently, I shared some of the bizarre behavior I had seen exhibited by our alienating parent over so many years.  I was quite taken aback when the person I was talking to put it quite simply:  “She honestly does not think her behavior is unusual or abnormal.”

How can that be?  If you’ve been following this blog you’ll remember the insults; the mood swings; how she has copied so many of our actions, while at the same time complaining about them; tormenting a dying man by relentlessly urging her child to go against his final wishes and then turning around and sharing her respects, saying that she hopes he rests in peace once he was gone ……. the list goes on and on.

I find it so difficult to wrap my head around this type of conduct, but professionals see it all the time when treating people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Our alienating parent’s ongoing need for admiration:  putting others down as a way to build herself up.  And she doesn’t even realize she is doing it?  Of course, being the superior being that she is, she has to insult others, make derogatory comments about them, right?

Lack of empathy for other people:  a man, laying in a hospice facility, after having made the decision he did not want to see one of his daughters before his impending death, debilitated to the point where he could not give consent, and then the narcissist urging that daughter to visit under cloak of darkness.  Because that was her decision — not the decision of the man who lay dying.  She was in control.  And she considers that attitude normal?

How does she justify her behavior to herself?  She doesn’t!  Any problems that she might actually admit to are always someone else’s fault.  The majority of people that I know are guided by their conscience. Their actions based on their feelings.  They are able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. But what happens when you have no moral compass? When you lack empathy? When you remove those abilities – what’s left?

Our alienating parent made a point of becoming interested in two of our favorite hobbies:  photography and genealogy.  Now, according to her, she is the best Photographer and the best Genealogist ever to be seen!  Strangers who have dealt with her in those venues are continually dumbfounded by some of the things she has shared, but our alienating parent …… well, of course, she is the most intelligent, the most perfect, the most superior person in these fields, so all of her comments are well founded and everyone should recognize her for the exceptional human being that she is.

For those attempting to co-parent with a narcissist, I’m sure this post doesn’t bring much comfort.  I am hoping that it will, at least, make understanding the narcissist just a little bit easier.



Don’t let Parental Alienation rule your life

Our targeted parent was a “victim” of Parental Alienation for 40 years.  I use the term “victim” in lieu of a better description, because he never felt like he was a victim.  And he never let the parental alienation take over his life.

Yes, he was incredibly unhappy / angry / frustrated when he could not have a close, loving relationship with his children.  And then when the grandchildren started coming along, and his own daughter — an alienated child herself — followed in her mother’s footsteps and kept his grandchild from him , even though that caused him incredible pain, he never considered himself a victim.

He missed his children.  He missed the grandchild he was not permitted to see.  He wanted a voice and wanted people to know what he had been through, which is why we started this blog.

But, even in the face of all of that adversity, he lived his life to the fullest.  He enjoyed his family and friends.  He thrived, even after fighting so many battles to see his children over so many decades.  He was the strongest man I have ever know, and that strength came shining through during the difficult times.

As much pain as he was in from dealing with parental alienation, he never let that affect his life, and his love of those around him.

When he was diagnosed with a life-ending disease, he handled it in the same manner:  dying was not so much an issue to him as living with a fear of dying.  Not fearing death allowed him to live what time he had left, better.

So, I think I will follow his lead.  As much as our alienating parent continues to attempt to engage me in her ongoing antics, and as much pain as I am in from our loss of this incredible man, I think I will focus instead on the wonderful memories I created with him over our thirty-five years together.  Our targeted parent’s family and friends have chosen to to live our lives as he lived his:  to the fullest.  Taking strength from each other — those who honestly loved the man we lost too soon, and who are grieving right along with us.

We all recognize what he went through.  We all heard his voice and will continue to carry on his story of his parental alienation.  But, we will NOT engage our alienated parent in any way, shape or form.  We will follow the example of our dearly departed, and instead, choose to celebrate his life and his legacy.

Parental Alienation; Ethics and the Family Court — Peace Not Pas

The word ethical derives from the Greek work ethos; meaning ‘moral character.’ Within the world that we live in most people, most members of society would agree that a moral character describes the characteristics of an individual whose overall behaviour is right in a moral sense; honest, fair and truthful. In it’s simplest definition ethics […]

via Parental Alienation; Ethics and the Family Court — Peace Not Pas

R.I.P. Senator McCain

Watching the moving words spoken about Senator John McCain yesterday, I am drawn to reflect on the many similarities between our targeted parent and the Senator.

Senator McCain was, undoubtedly, an incredible man.  He handled himself with dignity, oftentimes putting others before himself.  He served his country well.  He was tireless in his goals.  He was known for his integrity.  He was a wonderful family man.  He was truly a Maverick.

While our targeted parent certainly never made the sacrifices made by Senator McCain, he too, was an incredible man, handling himself with dignity, putting others before himself, being a tireless worker, known for his integrity and being a wonderful family man.  After 35 years with this man, I can definitely call him My Maverick.

Our targeted parent also died from the same disease which claimed the life of Senator McCain:  glioblastoma.

And just like Senator McCain, our targeted parent also made decisions after he was diagnosed with brain cancer and was given a certain period of time left to live.  One of those decisions was that he did not wish to see his youngest daughter before his death.  He had not seen her for over ten years.  She is not a nice person and he did not want all the drama that goes along with being part of her life.

Senator McCain, likewise, made the decision that he did not want our President — who is of the same political party as Senator McCain — at his funeral.  Instead, he asked that President Bush and President Obama speak at his funeral.  In death, as in life, he did not want our country divided by political parties.  He obviously respected both of these former Presidents enough to ask them to speak at his funeral.

After our President called Senator McCain “very weak,” “foul-mouthed,” “a dummy,” “a loser,” and “not a war hero,” it’s obvious why Senator McCain requested that the President not be invited to his funeral.

The decisions made by our targeted parent and Senator McCain were certainly understandable.

One can’t help but wonder if our alienating parent is blogging about Senator McCain’s decision that Donald Trump not be invited to his funeral.  Wonder if she is blogging that Senator McCain cannot enter heaven with a resentful and vengeful heart?  And that Senator McCain’s family should have taken the reins and directed his heart toward compassion and forgiveness?  Or did she just save those comments and observations for the man she had been divorced from for so many years?

When people are faced with the prospect of dying, it is not uncommon for them to make decisions about their final days, and what will happen after they are gone.

If you’ve read our prior posts, you will know that our targeted parent’s last wishes were not respected by his daughter.  She waited until she knew he would be unable to speak and, consequently, be unable to ask her to leave his hospice room.  She waited until “cloak of darkness” to visit, when she knew no other family members would be present, who would also ask her to leave.  That was when she visited him — against his express wishes.

After Senator McCain’s death, our President tweeted out a short message:  “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” After years of battling with the Senator and making numerous disparaging remarks, the President now offers his condolences?

And likewise, after our targeted parent passed away, our alienating parent posted on the internet:  “For those who have gone before us; Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.”  After four decades of battling with our targeted parent and doing everything in her power to keep his children and grandchildren from him, our alienating parent is hoping he rests in peace?

I’m glad that Senator McCain’s last wishes were respected more than our targeted parent’s were.  This is not a political post.   This is a post about respecting a dying person’s last wishes.

R.I.P. Senator John McCain.  Thank you for your years of service to our country.