Parental Alienation Articles

Parental Alienation Syndrome – An Ugly Reality

“If you don’t encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent, you’re a bad parent or a bad grandparent.  You can either encourage it or discourage it.”  Judge Judy 

Does “Judge Judy’s” statement sound harsh? Alienating a child from a biological parent, caring relative, or ANYONE the child loves and respects IS harsh.  It is called Parental Alienation.  Alienating a child from a loving family member can lead to PAS, Parental Alienation Syndrome.  Some members of our legal system consider PAS to be a form of child abuse.   

What exactly is Parental Alienation Syndrome? PAS is defined by USLEGAL.COM as “a term used in child custody cases to describe one parent’s manipulation of a child to harm the other parent.  It may involve:  

  • Rejecting (spurning), terrorizing, corrupting, denying essential stimulation, denying emotional responsiveness or availability
  • Unreliable and inconsistent parenting
  • Mental health, medical, or educational neglect
  • Degrading/devaluating the other parent
  • Isolating and exploiting the child.  The alienator parent seeks to alienate the victims from other family members and social supports.  There is a conscious or concerted effort to disrupt the child’s affectionate relationship with the other parent and/or stepparent and co-opt all of the child’s affection on to oneself.  In PAS, the children are used to destroy the targeted parent as a mean of revenge.”

According to liveabout.com, some classic Warning Signs that Parental Alienation Syndrome is taking place are: 

  • Anger is promoted towards the targeted parent.  A co-parenter will speak negatively about the targeted parent to the child. For example, the co-parenter might say, “I can’t afford to buy you nice things because I am broke and it’s your Dad’s fault.”  Another hurtful and direct comment might be, “Your Mom left us, and she doesn’t care what happens to us.
  • Covert attempts to promote anger take place. Sometimes a co-parenter will deny saying anything bad about the targeted parent directly to the children.  A malicious co-parenter might tout himself or herself to be “moral” and “good” while at the same time badmouthing the targeted parent (and/or the new stepparent) when the kids are within earshot.  THIS IS STILL JUST AS BAD.  It is a passive-aggressive way to promote anger, and it’s still just as hurtful to the child.  If the child can hear your negative comments, it’s still wrong.  This also applies to social media.  If you don’t badmouth the targeted parent directly but you post on Father’s Day that their Dad is a “jackass”, well that’s pretty bad. (True story.) 
  • The child is witness to grown up details.  A manipulating co-parenter will tell the child intimate details about the divorce and ongoing struggles between the co-parenters and the households.  They also might call his/her child their “best friend”.  That is SUCH an inappropriate title for a child!  It creates lots of confusion about the parent/child relationship within young minds.  Don’t do this.
  • Negatives messages not necessarily in the form of words are expressed to the child about the targeted parent.  This can include the co-parenter shaking his/her head or rolling his/her eyes at something the targeted parent said or did.  This behavior by the co-parenter can be just as damaging as negative words spoken. Children are quite perceptive and they know eye rolls and head shakes are meant to be dismissive.  The co-parenter is clearly sending a message that he/she thinks the targeted parent is wrong or foolish in some way.  Such behavior can affect a child’s self-esteem.  When negative words or actions are expressed about a targeted parent, it hurts the child.  Remember, they are half of the other parent as well.  

  • The co-parenter refuses to co-parent reasonably.  This one is personal.  Steve was not allowed to pick up his elementary/middle school-aged son from his exe’s house.  She would drop off Keegan at a nearby park to avoid seeing Steve.  Sometimes, this was at night.  Keegan would be sitting there, in the dark, clutching a tiny suitcase.  This infuriated us.  His ex was more concerned with her own feelings than the safety of her son.  Steve would have to do the same routine at drop-off, but he would wait to make sure it was indeed the ex who picked up Keegan.  This went on for a couple years until finally we had enough of this ridiculous request.  Steve decided to start picking up/dropping off Keegan at the exe’s house.  We did this until he was old enough to drive and meet us.  His ex didn’t care for this too much, but this wasn’t about her.  The safety of Keegan was our number one priority.  
  • The co-parenter might make false accusations of abuse.  I’m sure there are many parents who are unable to see their children because of such wicked claims.  Granted abuse is real and it can and does happen, but when used as a false claim it is the lowest of the low.  Lying about physical, sexual, or emotional abuse makes permanent, deep scars within the child’s mind.  

I know this was a very heavy subject for today.  I don’t like talking about this either, and I wish PAS didn’t exist. On the other hand, PAS has existed since families became intertwined, and its affects are finally being recognized.  Tomorrow I will discuss the seemingly “innocent” things we do or say to our stepchildren that take on various forms and levels of PAS.  Go ahead and do some research on the topic as time permits today.  The recent articles and extensive studies about PAS are very enlightening. 

Pray With Me: 

“Lord, as I respect my own parents here on this earth, I must teach my stepchildren to respect all of their parents as well (including respecting me).  I might not always agree with the other co-parenters, but your commandment to honor our earthly mothers and fathers cannot be ignored.  I know this applies to me as well.  My stepchildren are to respect me and I them.  Allowing any other behavior is wrong.  Though things may be difficult at times, when I encourage love and peace it comesback tenfold to our hearts and families.”

Unity

“Does Santa Go to Dad’s House too, Mommy?”

The holiday season is chaotic enough.  Add in the drama of co-parenting (or in our case, NON co-parenting) and you have a ripe atmosphere for conflict.  

Then there’s the custody agreement.  The custody agreement should make holidays with your kids and stepkids a little easier, right?  The tension can be just as bad as if there weren’t time parameters at all.  Having to drop off your child by midnight on Christmas Eve, by noon on Christmas Day, or ANY time during the festivities can make the time together feel truncated and more like an appointment than quality time together.  

Who struggles the most during this time?  Our children.   Imagine you are a six-year-old with divorced parents and essentially two homes.   You love both of your parents and your stepparents.  You want to be able to actually SAY how you love everyone in the stepfamily.  That brings up some important Do’s and Don’ts for the holiday season.

DO for the sake of the kids:

  • Help your kids pick out a present for other members of the stepfamily.  Young children who can’t drive or make their own money cannot buy presents on their own for mom, dad, stepmom, or stepdad.  Use common sense and help them buy a present for other family members.  Put your ego and any negative feelings aside.  This isn’t about YOU.  The big plus?  The kids will remember you being the bigger person at Christmas, and they will be very grateful adults.
  • Show appreciation and gratitude when your child comes home with extra gifts.  Don’t unleash drama in front of the children when the stepmom, stepdad, mom, dad, cat, dog, etc. buys your child a gift.  Again, this isn’t about you.  Be an adult.  Be happy that someone loves your child and took the time to buy them a present.  Children can’t have too much love.
  • Be flexible (if possible) with drop-off and pick-up times.  Yes, the times stated in the divorce/custody decree should be adhered to.  However, life happens.  If your co-parenter is running a bit behind and makes the effort to tell you that, be kind.  YOU might need the extra time in the future as well.  
  • Speak to the co-parenter with civility.  Your kids are observing how conflict is handled.  Be a good example.  

DON’T for the sake of the kids:

  • Please don’t ever, under circumstances, EVER bad mouth the co-parenter in front of the children.  When you bad mouth the other parent you also are badmouthing one half of your child.  At one time you thought enough of your ex to have offspring with them.  Don’t throw shade in front of the kids.  It’s just plain hateful.
  • Don’t make your kids open presents from the other co-parenters alone, in a different room, outside, etc.  Be mature and be happy for the love expressed.  Again, be grateful that your child is loved!
  • Don’t buy gifts for your child that are passive-aggressively sending a message of spite to the other household.  Kids are smart, and they see right thru it.
  • Please allow your child uninterrupted time with the co-parenter.  There’s no need to call and/or text unnecessarily.  Your child will remain happy and balanced when they don’t feel like they have to “report” back to you while they are spending time at the other household.  

Thankfully, Santa understands that many children in the world do not live in “traditional” families and households.  He loves all the kids regardless of where (or who) they live with.

And most importantly, Jesus loves all of us while knowing the shortcomings of our minds and hearts.  He also knows we are capable of incredible love, forgiveness and acceptance.   Let’s show that love, forgiveness, and acceptance to EVERYONE.  Do it for the kids.  🙂