Should Targeted Parents Send Alienated Children Books

Posted on May 28, 2014. Filed under: Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , |

The case for not sending materials about alienation to alienated children
Psychology Today

Frequently I will get an e-mail or call from a targeted parent asking me which of my books and writings do I think they should share with their alienated child, as a means of enlightening that child about the cause of the breach in their relationship. My simple answer is one word: none. I know of no situation in which a currently alienated child positively received such an item. The wish is that the alienated child (regardless of the age of the “child”) would read the item and have an epiphany and say something like, “Wow. I have a whole new understanding of what has happened in my childhood. I only thought you were the bad guy. Now I realize that you really loved me and I was tricked into believing that wasn’t true.” It is completely understandable why a targeted parent would harbor such a wish. It is almost like having a magic wand. However, as far as I know, there is no magic wand for undoing the spell of alienation. When I coach targeted parents I try to help them see what has happened from their child’s point of view. No alienated child believes that they were brainwashed. If they had that insight they wouldn’t be alienated any more. Currently alienated children (again, I am referring to the person as a child because of their role as the child of the targeted parent not because of their age) have an understanding of why they have no relationship with the targeted parent and that understanding is based on their felt experience with that parent. They are not aware that they have been manipulated. Usually, there is a grain of truth to their complaints about the targeted parent. Because all parents are imperfect there is always something to point to as “the reason” for the breach. In my experience, the only way to reconnect with an alienated child is to see the relationship from their point of view. That means, trying to understand what is upsetting them, even if from the targeted parent’s point of view most of their upset is based on exaggerations and mis-information. There are ways of doing this that do not involve (A) apologizing for things that didn’t happen or (B) arguing with the child about their false beliefs. This is a delicate dance but one that can be done and, based on my coaching, one well worth doing. Once there is a reconnection, usually the targeted parent lets go of the idea of having the formerly alienated child fully understand what happened. Ironically, what often helps targeted parents come to this understanding is reading one of my books. I often encourage targeted parents to go back and read “Adult children of parental alienation syndrome: Breaking the ties that bind” as a way of helping the targeted parent experience the alienated child as a victim. When that empathy for the child is rekindled, the targeted parent is usually ready to try to engage the alienated child in a more delicate fashion, one that does not involve sending them materials about how they have been manipulated.

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Dr. Amy Baker critiquing Caplan’s article on Parental Alienation in Psychology Today

Posted on May 25, 2014. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation | Tags: , , |

Psychology Today has finally wised up. Not long ago the magazine ran a truly scurrilous article by Paula Caplan that was supposedly about Parental Alienation Syndrome, but simply recycled a few old and utterly meritless claims. Those claims are routinely made by anti-father advocates who fear that PAS may deprive mothers of custody. Of course that’s correct; any parent – mother or father who engages in parental alienation deserves to lose custody. Put simply, parental alienation is child abuse. The Caplan article in Psychology Today frankly described PAS as a theory that fathers use to take children from mothers. The fact that that is simply untrue (PAS supporters have said for years that alienators can be male or female) detered Caplan not in the least. Nor did the fact that the science she cited is long outdated and at least one of the authors has since disavowed the work Caplan relied on. Now comes Dr. Amy Baker here to give readers facts on parental alienation and give Psychology Today at least a figleaf of respectability on the subject of PAS (Psychology Today, 6/28/11).
Parental alienation is a set of strategies that parents use to undermine and interfere with a child’s relationship with his or her other parent. This often but not always happens when parents are engaged in a contested custody battle. There is no one definitive set of behaviors that constitute parental alienation but research with both parents and children has revealed a core set of alienation strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent.
Notice that Baker nowhere uses a masculine or feminine pronoun. For Caplan’s information, that’s because both sexes engage in the behavior Baker describes. Baker describes parental alienation of children as child abuse.
Parents who try to alienate their child from his or her other parent convey a three-part message to the child: (1) I am the only parent who loves you and you need me to feel good about yourself, (2) the other parent is dangerous and unavailable, and (3) pursuing a relationship with that parent jeopardizes your relationship with me. In essence the child receives the message that s/he is worthless and unloved and only of value for meeting the needs of others. This is the core experience of psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse) as defined by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC).
Most importantly, children who succumb to alienation by a parent are often scarred for life because of it. When a parent exerts pressure on a child to reject the other parent, sometimes the child may do so in order to maintain a relationship with the alienating parent. In effect, the child turns away from the target parent to please the alienator. The results often extend far into adulthood.
Research with “adult children” of parental alienation syndrome (that is, adults who believe that when they were children one parent turned them against the other parent) confirms that being exposed to parental alienation represents a form of emotional abuse. Furthermore, these adults reported that when they succumbed to the pressure and rejected one parent to please the other, the experience was associated with several negative long-term effects including depression, drug abuse, divorce, low self-esteem, problems with trusting, and alienation from their own children when they became parents themselves. In this way the cycle of parental alienation was carried forward through the generations. Thus, parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse that damages the child’s self esteem in the short run and is associated with life-long damage.
Finally, Baker makes clear that in court, parental alienation can look like nothing more than the child’s passionate preference for one parent. That of course is the whole point of the exercise. When child custody is involved, what better strategy could there be than to convince the child that his/her well-being depends on remaining with the alienator and rejecting the target parent? That drama plays well in court and custody evaluators need to be trained and aware of the distinction between a child’s rejection of a bad parent and his/her rejection of an alienated one.
As is often true with other forms of abuse, the child victims of parental alienation are not aware that they are being mistreated and often cling vehemently to the favored parent, even when that parent’s behavior is harmful to them. This is why, mental health and legal professionals involved in cases of parental alienation need to look closely at the family dynamics and determine what the cause of the child’s preferences for one parent and rejection of the other parent are. If the favored parent is found to be instigating the alignment and the rejected parent is found to be a potential positive and non abusive influence, then the child’s preferences should not be strictly heeded. The truth is, despite strongly held positions of alignment, inside many alienated children want nothing more than to be given permission and freedom to love and be loved by both parents.
Child custody law is riddled with falsities and misconceptions. Parental alienation and PAS are prime examples of those very things. It is beyond astonishing that publications and social scientists would, for the sole sake of attacking fathers and their relationships with their children, engage in the type of blatant intellectual dishonesty that we see routinely regarding parental alienation. As Dr. Baker says, it’s child abuse. Why are they defending abusers? Whatever the answer to that question is, Amy Baker has been and will continue to be a staunch advocate of sound science. When it comes to PAS (I couldn’t resist the pun) that means we’ll continue to learn more and more about alienation and its effects on kids. And courts will continue to listen over the din of the anti-dad crowd that more and more reveals itself to be anti-science as well.

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