Parental Alienation; the programming of a child by a parent to turn the child against the other parent has three levels of alienation mild, moderate, and severe. As the alienation increases the negative behavior of the children towards the targeted parent also increases. The percentage of children having access and parenting time (visitation) with the alienated parent decreases.
In a case study of thirty highly conflicted divorce and custody cases, submitted by the courts involving fifty nine children was evaluated to determine the existence of Parental Alienation Syndrome. This is when the child aligns with the alienating parent, adopts their views, joins in the defaming of the target parent and rejects that parent citing frivolous and irrational reasoning. Countering Parental Alienation Syndrome will take the knowledge of Parental Alienation and finesse.
This must be confronted to increase the chances for the target parent in reuniting and maintaining a meaningful relationship with their children. Janelle Burrill compiled, analyzed and evaluated the data for one year (2000-2001) from the cases that were submitted from a two year period (1998-2000). In the study twenty two children were listed under the mild alienation category, seventeen in the moderate category, and twenty in the severe.
The children listed under the mild alienation category show that eighty two percent of them expressed affection for the targeted parent. None of them had any anger towards or denigrated (disrespect and reject) the parent. Ninety five percent had parenting-time with the target. With mild alienation there is some cynicism of the target parent. This generally arises from a persons lack of restraint in making negative remarks about the target. They tend to react in this manner when they are hurt, angry, and feel personally attacked. For example, when parents first separate mom is feeling anxious and will implicitly convey to the children that their father is a bad person suggesting that it is not safe to be with him. She may say something to the effect of, “If you get scared or are not having fun call me right away and I will come and get you and bring you home.”
Dad may say something like, “Remember to tell your mother that you want to spend more time with me,” Suggesting that their mom is trying to separate them from each other. Generally, this behavior from the parents is done so they can look like they are the better parent to be with and that something is wrong with the other one.
In the scenario with mom the children start to question if they are safe to be with their father. With dad they can start to believe their mother is trying to estrange them from their dad. Usually when you point out the alienation to the alienating parent they feel ashamed that their behavior is negatively affecting the children and that they did not have enough self-control to refrain from distributing alienation.
Parents and children in this category normally have a good relationship. The parents who hands out the alienation usually are unaware they are doing it. It is a behavior that has not been addressed so it can be corrected. These parents are usually willing to modify their behavior to benefit the children. The recognizable denigration traits in mild alienation are sighing in disapproval, rolling the eyes in contempt, ignoring, disrespect, snide or sarcastic remarks, and defaming the target parent. To defuse the alienation explain to the children why people will make those kinds of gestures and bad-mouth another person. Let them know it comes from when they feel disrespected, rejected, hurt by a person, and that they lack self-control and respond in undesirable ways to validate themselves.
In the moderate alienation category the percentage of children who had parenting-time with the target parent drops significantly from ninety five percent down to sixty five percent. The same percentage of children also expressed affection for the target parent with fifty nine percent of them expressing anger towards the target and joining in the denigration of that parent.
With moderate alienation the alienating parents have difficulty keeping their composer when thing do not go their way or feel threatened. Like the belief their counterpart is trying to take the children away from them. They will increase the alienation when their anxiety escalates in an effort to keep what they perceive is rightfully theirs. When they lose control they go ballistic disregarding appropriate boundaries, including the fear their behavior produces in the children.
When, they calm down the alienating parent has a hard time taking responsibility for their actions. But, there is hope. Some of these parents in this category can be persuaded to develop their self-control with anger management, therapy, and parenting classes. These parents love their children and want to be a good parent and be viewed as one. But rarely will they volunteer to get help. They blame the other parent for their problems and believe the other parent is the problem.
If they do not modify their behavior then the only remedy is to get a court order for therapy and treatment. With moderately alienated children are hesitant to spend time with the target parent. They have some fear of the target parent due to the alienating parents repeatedly defaming the target in an effort to get the children to get to accept their views about the target parent and to align with them.
To remedy this level of alienation with the children there needs to be an environment where they feel safe and comfortable with the target parent. A therapist can arrange to provide for this. The parent then need to listen to the children without being judgmental, empathize with their feeling, acknowledge their concerns, and let them know the conflict is between the parents and they do not have to choose either parents side. They should not have to reject one parent to please the other parent. They should be able to love both without having a loyalty conflict.
Bring to the attention of the alienating parent the harmful effects the alienation is having on the children because they are conflicted on how to please both parents without displeasing either one of them. Moderate alienation ascends from emotional charged events. The parent feels they have been wronged and react destructively. Afterwards they are embarrassed of their behavior and might be willing to work on not involving the children to even the score for the wrong they believe was done to them. If there is unsatisfactory improvement and willingness on the part of the alienating parent in correcting their behavior, which is often the case, the target will need to get a court order for family counseling and treatment.
In the severe alienation category forty five percent of the children expressed affection for the target parent, ninety percent had anger towards the target, and sixty percent join in the denigration of the parent. Only fifteen percent of the children had any parenting-time with the target parent. With severe alienation there are no-holds-barred attacks on the targets character and the alienator is obsessed with destroying the relationship the children has with the target parent to inflict emotional pain on the target. Because they have deep-rooted distorted beliefs about the target parent and operate from a delusional system of thinking they are hindered from listening to reason.
There is no effective way for treating severe alienation. To minimize the influence of the alienating parent and harm the alienation causes the children is to reduce or remove them from the care of the alienating parent which will take legal intervention. At this level of alienation the children aligns with the alienating parent, adopt their distorted views about the target, and join in the campaign to severe the relationship they have with the target parent. This is where Parental Alienation is transformed into Parental Alienation Syndrome.
A couple of signs of severe alienation are the childrens refusal to participate in parenting-time with the target parent even if it is court order, an automatic alliance with the alienating parent when conflict arises between the parents, and they join in rejecting and defaming the target parent. They back up their claims with weak, frivolous and illogical explanations, and insist that their views are their own and are not influenced by the alienating parent.
The way to counter severe alienation is to obtain a court order for a parenting plan, therapy, and participation in treatment. It is necessary to get the order so the therapist can work with the family to resolve, reduce, or at the very least stymie the alienation. At this level of alienation the alienating parent objective is to hurt the target parent by any means including using the children.
The children need to be shown that they have been exposed to the alienation, participated in the denigration, and how it negatively affects the relationship they have with the target parent. Once the cause of the children’s alienation from a parent is identified then an expert mental health professional can provide an appropriate treatment plan to reunite the parent and children.