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Parental Alienation At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Parental Alienation During The Holidays

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Dec 17, 2009

During the holidays, millions of children from divorced families will be spending time with their parents separately. But what happens when a parent engages in parental alienation--a systematic campaign to discredit the other parent and alienate the child?

Parental alienation is becoming a major problem for American children.

Systematic Campaign of Alienation: Parental alienation is a systematic campaign of character assassination. It is not gender related or age related. One parent is determined to alienate the child’s affections toward the other parent or toward a grandparent. It is most prevalent in child custody cases and it is worse at the holidays as parents have increased access to their children.

Spans the Range: Parental Alienation spans the range from outright malicious intent, legal battles and reckless accusations to careless, self serving comments that undermine the child’s view of their parent.

Emotional Abuse of Children: Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse of the child. As one expert said “Bad mouth your ex and you simultaneously bad mouth your child.” (Richard Warshak, Ph.D.)

Legitimized by Self Absorbed Culture: Most divorces involve pain and suffering and parental alienation flourishes in a family culture of dissent and conflict. However, the epidemic of narcissism that has defined our country in recent years legitimizes winning at any cost. Savage and unethical behavior is justified even if it involves waging war against an innocent party.

Parents engage in parental alienation because of the following reasons:

Revenge: There are complex reasons to explain this behavior but all explanations boil down to one principle reason. People receive secondary gain from inflicting pain on people they believe have wronged them. The mind of the child becomes the battlefield for revenge.

Child is Perceived as a Possession: For some parents, adequate boundaries with their children are absent. They child is perceived as an extension of themselves. They inflict parental alienation on the other parent to banish him or her so they can have the child to themselves.

Compensating for Inadequacy and Guilt: Parents may try to resolve their low self-esteem and sense of failure by reinforcing their belief that they are the best parent. Posturing as the superior parent makes them feel better even if it is at the expense of their child. They have no conscience about the suffering of the child and the other parent.

Children suffer from parental alienation in the following ways:

Brainwashed by Lies: These kids are basically brainwashed and now regard their targeted parent as the enemy or as a worthless afterthought. This kind of betrayal can occur even in the most tender and loving relationships. Tragically, such division can last for years.

Contempt, Rejection and Disrespect: They show contempt, rejection, and disrespect for the targeted parent. These comments are often irrational, insulting and traumatizing to the targeted parent.

Rehearsed Answers: They have been taught to orient to the controlling needs of the alienating parent at all costs. They are often unable to specify why they dislike the targeted parent or they exaggerate faults of their parent to justify their rejection. Their comments parrot the alienator’s words and feelings.

Long Term Damage: There is minimal data on the long-term effects of such alienation on kids. However, we do know that the earlier the separation from a parent, the more traumatic it is for the child. The basic tenants of loving relationships—trust, loyalty, and forgiveness are never learned and the child may struggle for a lifetime because of these experiences.

Parents can protect themselves and their children by taking the following steps:

Educate Yourself: Parental alienation can be an elusive phenomenon to prove especially in a highly intense forum such as child custody. There are several books with great resources that are “must reads” for parents (see below).

Remain Calm: Understand that you have been systematically undermined and that you are taking every step to remediate the situation. Focus on what you can control and don’t stress about other factors. Do not lose your temper, reject your child or insult your ex in front of your child.

Work with Great Experts: Hire a psychologist and a lawyer who are proven experts in parental alienation. The therapist must acknowledge the massive psychological impact such alienation has on the child and targeted parent. Your attorney needs to possess a solid understanding of this type of emotional abuse and the substantial legal skills to protect your child and your interests.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia please go to


"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution," by Dr. Richard Warshak

"Divorce Casualties: Understanding Parental Alienation," Dr. Douglas Darnall

Parental Alienation At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 17, 2010

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