Coping with Parent Alienation: Consider these Tips:

by Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC

What exactly is parental alienation? “Parental alienation when one parent alienate the affections of the children so the child does not want to be with or spend time with the other parent.” (Darnell, D. 2007).

Parental Alienation is not for those parents who have been estranged from their non-favored parent due to domestic violence, abuse, un-treated mental health issues, substance abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, etc. Parent Alienation occurs when parents who were once involved in their children’s day to day lives, has an emotional connection with their child(ren), does not present any of the above issues and were close to their child at one time in their life; especially during the first seven years of their lives (Bowlby, 1998).

High conflict parents (HCP) already struggle with co-parenting and/or parallel parenting. When parenting alienation occurs, either overt or covert, this shuts down the communication further between the HCP. Unfortunately, children and teens are left in the trenches of this psychological trauma. Children love both parents and should feel free to express their feelings and emotions towards either parent, unfortunately this is not the case when parent alienation is present.

Some signs parental alienation is present:

1. Children (includes teenagers) state they are ‘scared’ of their non-favored parent, however unable to articulate the reason(s) of this fear. They outwardly show disdain and hatred toward this non-favored parent, not fear to speak to them. For example, I had a 10 year old and her mother in my office working through their relationship when the 10 year old stated she was scared of her mom and then five minutes later this same girl who said she ‘feared’ her mom began screaming and hitting her mom stating how much she ‘hated her mom.’ When children are truly afraid of their parent, they do not act like this.

2. Children erase the good memories and distort or remember only the bad memories. When children are shown pictures of their non-favored parent enjoying their time with their children, children make statements such as “he/she must have cut and paste this picture,” “this event never happened,” “see how crazy they are to create made up photos,” etc.

3. Children parrot (repeat) their favored parents wording and explanations as to why they do not ‘like’ their non-favored parent. For example, a 7 year-old may say “My mom has schizophrenia and is not taking her Haldol as prescribed so she is not safe.” Or “My dad killed our cat so he is a psychopath and scary.” What 7 year-old explains their reasoning this way? Few, if any. However, when professionals interview the favored parent, the same comments above are made during the meeting. These are big adult wording, not from a 7 year-old. Additionally, when children are asked to explain more about the situation, they usually say “I just know” or repeat themselves. There is very little substance to the child’s allegations.

4. The residential parent provides a non-working phone number, a message only phone, does not allow any communication between the non-favored parent and child. This also includes throwing away snail mail, deleting messages, blocking the other parent from any communication. However, it may look like the favored parent is supportive of communication and just doesn’t understand why the non-favored parent doesn’t contact their children.

5. The child/teen asks to change their last name because they don’t want to be associated with the non-favored parent.

6. The child/teen has no interest in staying in touch with your side of the family; i.e. grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This is especially true when the child/teen was once close to your side of the family and now they don’t talk or want to see them.

Ways To Cope With Possible Alienation:

1. Seek Legal consult with an attorney well-informed of parental alienation immediately.

2. Continue to see you child/children if you are ‘allowed’ to. Don’t give up. Continue to write to them, call them, and/or begin a blog on the web so they may see it and help you feel part of their lives.

3. Seek professionals to help yourself and children. Make sure the professionals are educated in high conflict child custody. Ask questions about their professional background and methodologies working with PA (parental alienation).

4. Try not to let this go on too long. The longer the child/teen goes without contact the less likely the child/teen will want a relationship with their non-favored parent. Unfortunately, family court may take awhile so do your best to have assertive patience (be patient, however ensure the process is moving forward).

5. Self-Care. Take care of yourself, seek out self help groups, counseling for you, exercise, sleep, taking a walk, journaling, drawing, seeing friends/family, whatever soothes you. Stay healthy mentally and physically. This is not an easy time, some say one of the hardest. Self care is essential!

Remember if your family is suffering from PA, the children are the ones in the middle. These children are not the ones to blame or get mad at, these children are in pure survival mode. These children have learned to appease their favored parent and not ‘rock the boat’ with them or there will be conditions/consequences they will need to deal with if they go against the favored parents wishes.

Written By:

Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC


Published by longcounseling

Rochelle Long is a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, Divorce Coach, and Child Specialist specializing in individual, couples, children and adolescent, and family therapy, and maintains a private practice in Everett, Washington. Rochelle Long also works with youth, young adult, and adult athletes and provides mental fitness training to help the athlete find their inner strength and help build (or re-build) their self-esteem, goals, etc. Rochelle Long also works with families in conjunction with the athlete due to the high stress and demands placed on athletes today. With over fourteen years experience as a Licensed therapist and child specialist, and as a graduate of Sage University, Albany, NY specializing in Clinical Psychology, I am currently serving as a private practitioner working with a broad spectrum of clients. Among my areas of expertise are mental fitness training with athletes at all levels, depression and anxiety, eating issues/body image, divorce/separation/high conflict cases, parenting issues, co-parent counseling, children and adolescents, couples and family counseling. In addition to being a prominent family systems therapist, I also work with many high conflict cases and help many divorcing/separating couples resolve their differences without going to court. I believe we have the ability to work out differences when we can surpass our emotions and truly feel heard. I assist divorcing/separating couples deal with their emotional pain and help them work together collaboratively for what is best for their family. I help them get from "couple mode to parent mode." I also work as a Child Specialist and assist the children to have a "voice" about their parents divorce/separation. Additionally, I help families reconnect through "reunification" and "supervised visits" with the goal of reuniting children and families back together. I am also an interactive, solution-focused therapist, and cognitive behavioral therapist. This therapeutic approach is to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address personal life challenges. I integrate complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client. With compassion and understanding, I work with each individual to help them build on their strengths and attain the personal growth they are committed to accomplishing. Additionally, I work with athletes at all levels, from beginners to competing levels. Rochelle Long has extensive experience working with athletes and mental fitness training to help the athlete find their inner strengths, goals, and experiences to produce better performance and outcome both in the sport, and personally. She works with parents and families as well to help them understand the pressures placed on athletes today, and ways to encourage them from the 'sidelines' and not be the 'other coach.' Rochelle Long works with coaches to help them find ways to understand the mental component in sports, and techniques that will better help their athletes. I am a member with American Mental Health Association (AMHA), International Academy Collaborative Law (IACP), AFCC (Association of family and conciliation courts). King County Collaborative Law (KCCL), North Sound Collaborative Law, Mediation Services, Supervised Network (SN), ACSM, USAH, and Peak Performance.

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