In this current series, we’re exploring parental alienation, also referred to as parental alienation syndrome. So what is this?
David Levy, founder and chief executive of the Children’s Rights Council, a global child advocacy organization, says:
A controversial theory that proposes a syndrome of behaviors where one parent is implacably hostile to the other by engaging in a deliberate and systematic effort to cause a breakdown of the relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent ultimately causing the child(ren) to join in the denigration of the “hated” parent. The purpose of the alienation is often intended to gain or retain custody by creating various conflicts and allegations to manipulate attitudes, feelings and behavior.
There’s plenty of disagreement about whether this is real and while I’m not that familiar with it, I do know that it is recognized to varying degrees by the legal system. But who can argue with the pain of being alienated from your child? At the end of her post yesterday, guest writer Jacqui asked, who can bear the burden of being estranged from your child. This is where she continues today. Here’s Jacqui:
Many parents do bear such burdens. I think of Mia Farrow and the loss of her daughter Soon Yi to her ex-spouse Woody Allen. In a 2006 London Observer interview
“…she’s not coming back.” Farrow said of Soon-Yi. “She was on the streets in Korea when she was captured and brought to the state orphanage. And, in a way I can see from her perspective — a very limited perspective — that she’s improved her situation. For a little orphan kid from Korea … Perhaps she’s not to be blamed.”
Alec Baldwin does not enjoy an easy relationship with his daughter, Ireland. He’s a frequent speaker on parental alienation.
What I have learned from my experience of parental alienation is this: you never know what really goes on in these most tragic of cases. I am rather lucky in that most of my community and friends saw immediately that my former spouse was engaged in a crafty but clear campaign to cull our child from the shelter of the fold. That some believe me and, consequently, reach out with comfort and the occasional pan of lasagna is balm. But, not all parents have this support. Alienating parents are often charming and utterly conniving in their actions.
Many times, I have wondered if what is happening is real, if it’s not all my imagination. Denial is powerful and helps me get through the days. But when my ex brought my daughter to testify against me in our divorce hearing, that was the moment I was clear, totally clear about what was happening.
He has told her that I never thought she was beautiful or talented and that I resented spending time driving her to activities. It is true that the genetic disorder she has is from my family but to describe it as being my ‘fault’? How ironic! His hostile, vicious acts and intentional harm to the children and me versus my genetic family troubles ?
In my darkest moments, I comfort myself with this: my child is alive. Perhaps over time, an approach will become clear and we will rebuilt.
The Divorce Coach Says
Psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Gardner found that most cases of parental alienation have been instigated by women against the child’s father, as in Alec Baldwin’s case. This is mainly because women have historically been the primary custodial parent and in order for a campaign of alienation to occur, the alienating parent needs considerable time with the child. With 50/50 custody becoming more common, the incident of alienated women, such as Jacqui, has increased.
Jacqui’s alienated child is an adult so Jacqui doesn’t have to deal with the anguish of school, medical or social decisions. However, that does mean she is very isolated from her. She says there is no reasonable communication about her, only terse and intermittent email.
So does anything help to bring comfort? Yes – therapy, exercise, silence and spirituality and Jacqui will be sharing what these mean to her, in the last post in this series.