Parental Alienation Syndrome

This article appeared as a blog post on AVFM and by one of our old forum members Deidre. It is edited and republished here with her permission. –Ed

Have you ever felt like an outcast? Perhaps, looking back during your childhood, you were at times, the odd person out. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling and most of the time, people who have been alienated from family members, friends, coworkers, etc. are left confused as to what they have done to have been banished from the fold. There is a type of alienation however, that is insanely dangerous and damaging, and that is parental alienation. And, it leads to what is commonly referred to as ‘’parental alienation syndrome.’’

The root cause of the syndrome is when a custodial parent indirectly or deliberately thwarts the relationship between the non-custodial parent and his/her child, causing the child to wish no longer to spend much or any time with the non-custodial parent. This is done through a number of manipulative tactics by the custodial parent, usually as a form of revenge, to turn the child(ren) away from the non-custodial parent. The majority of alienated parents are fathers, which comes as no surprise since mothers are usually given greater legal custodial rights over their children, than fathers.

I know of a few men, online and offline, who are victims of being estranged from their children, due to the reprehensible behavior of the parent who has sole custody. When did the court system start viewing children as property? It seems that in divorces these days, kids are treated as bargaining chips in a vindictive battle, suffering alongside the alienated parent. I’ve been researching a bit about this epidemic and found some very insightful advice that is worth posting here, for those parents (namely fathers) who find themselves in despair, and have all but lost hope in ever having a close, consistent relationship with their children.

Parental alienation is categorized into three separate tiers of severity. Before a boxer gets into the ring to fight his opponent, he tends to know beforehand what he’s up against. Likewise, these tiers of severity can help an alienated parent figure out what he is up against, as well.

The first type of severity falls under the phrase ‘’naïve alienator.’’ This type of alienator has a rather nonchalant view of parenting in general, and might say something to the effect of ‘’I’m not made of money, when you see your father next, ask him to buy you a new cell phone.’’ If said often enough, the child gets the sense that dad is a utility, and mom is fed up with having to take care of him/her. Eventually, the child will see his/her dad as little more than a money provider and errand boy – an image that evolved over time by the consistent drip of derogatory comments from the mother about the father.

The second type of severity is something counselors call the ‘’active alienator.’’ This type of alienation is harsher than the naïve alienator and usually comes out like this to a child ‘’Don’t tell your father I’m dating someone, he’s a cheap jerk and will withhold money from you. You don’t want that to happen do you?’’ Active alienators are typically angry, vengeful and could be categorized as narcissistic. Children who are victims of these types of tactics, quickly start seeing their dads as their mothers do – a possible enemy who is only looking out for himself.

The most dangerous and severe of the alienation types is what is known as the ‘’obsessed alienator.’’ This type of parent will stop at nothing to destroy the relationship between the non-custodial parent, and the child(ren). Obsessed alienators are dubbed this because they are ruthless in their behaviors against their exes and usually try to bankrupt them through incessant court battles. Most likely these types have narcissistic personality disorder, because they are unafraid of the court system, and will do virtually anything to keep the non-custodial parent away from their kids. The children of an obsessed alienator usually end up having great disdain for the alienated parent, because children simply can’t process things as adults do, and are left feeling abandoned by the alienated parent. From what I’ve read, this type is the one that has the greatest capacity to do the most harm to a child, for once the child accepts what the custodial parent is saying about the other parent, it will be a long road to repairing that relationship, if possible at all.

So, what should a father do if he suspects that his ex is purposely turning his kids against him? What avenues of recourse can he find to help support him in helping his children to offset the damage that the alienating parent is doing? This is quite simply put, emotional child abuse at the hands of the custodial parent. Because emotional abuse, in general, is a harder thing to prove than physical abuse, and also because parental alienating syndrome is challenging to pin down with an actual diagnosis by a trained counselor/doctor – the custodial parent continues to get away with distancing the non-custodial parent, and increasing the harm being done to the child. Upon discussing this with an online friend who is going through a difficult custody battle with his ex, he shared that he is trying to get his attorney to insist that his children seek counseling, mandated by the courts. One would hope that in doing so, the children will open up in an honest way in a counseling situation, but it depends on how badly the children’s opinion of their father, has been damaged. That said, it stands to reason that it is worth pushing forward in the court system, to see if judges finally start opening their eyes as to parent alienation being a form of child abuse. If it were me going through such a difficult situation, I’d look for an attorney who specializes in parental alienation syndrome cases, and see what their track record has been. Also, finding men’s support groups to assist with support and encouragement on an emotional level, as dads go through their ordeals, will be very helpful, as well. It is incredibly disconcerting to be painted in a light that is not true, especially to one’s children. Most fathers feel powerless in such dilemmas because the custodial parent has what can be deemed as control over their children, directing them on how to think of their fathers, and poisoning their minds as to why their fathers aren’t going to be in their lives.

I’ve come to the conclusion in life, that there are no words at times to convey how inhumane some people can be to others. To use one’s child to strike back or seek revenge on an ex-spouse is deplorable. Times may seem bleak, but there has to be a way to rise above these injustices, to give children a better life. Children need both of their parents, present and active in their lives, to foster a healthy upbringing. No child should have to endure parental alienation syndrome…not ever.

‘’Children seldom misquote their parents. In fact, they usually repeat word for word, what their parents shouldn’t have said.’’ – Unknown

A helpful link:

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