When a child looks at their parent in the same way that their ex-spouse may look at them, it can be devastating. The raw emotions without the knowledge of what may have actually occurred between the two parents and why the targeted parent may not be around as often as the child would like, can shatter a parent, making them feel like all is lost in their relationship with their child.
With all of the studies related to parental alienation furthering the need for awareness, it is important to keep in mind the needs of the individual parent. They are the ones who have to go through this, and they are the ones that have to piece themselves together and attempt to forge a healthier relationship with their children moving forward.
The trauma of parental alienation
One of the more difficult aspects for you, as a targeted parent, to acknowledge is that you have suffered through a trauma. The reason this is such a challenging concept is because it was delivered through the words and actions of your child.
While it may have been your ex-spouse or co-parent’s feelings, it still was delivered through your child, and for some parents, that can be difficult for them to wrestle. Some parents find it difficult to separate what your child said with the fact that they still are your child.
The problem is if you do not fight for custodial rights or for parenting time, due to how alienated you may feel.
Fight for your rights
While you may be hurt now, you have to be able to set aside those feelings, in order to legally establish yourself as a parent. You need to consult with your family law attorney and explain your unique situation. You need to heed their advice and listen to their recommendations regarding professional help.
As difficult as it may be to set aside those hurt feelings, it is in the best interests of your child to do so. You cannot allow your ex-spouse’s words that came through your alienated child’s mouth prevent you from a future with your child.
Mental health help
In terms of helping yourself through the mental and emotional struggles that being an alienated parent entails, you may need to recruit the help of a mental health professional. As difficult as it may be to admit that you have issues in need of discussing, going through some form of therapy or counseling is a healthy and constructive way of confronting some of the more difficult issues you may face, as an alienated parent.
Instead of directing your emotions toward your child, creating a self-fulfilling circle of alienating behavior, you can process them with the aid of a certified mental health professional, who knows how to handle these types of situations.
It also prevents you from lashing out at your co-parent. As much as they may be alienating your child from you, it will not do you any good to try and imitate that type of behavior. If your child already has expressed any type love or loyalty for the alienating parent, fighting back by employing the same tactics will only put your child in the middle of a tug-of-war between their parents. That position is unhealthy for a child to be in and breeds a level of distrust among parents and children.
In order to heal, you need to be an adult in this situation. You need to understand that no matter what your child or the alienating parent may dish out, you are not giving up on your child. You are not allowing them to dictate your place in your child’s life.
Many courts who have identified cases of parental alienation have ordered the use of reintegration therapy for reuniting parents and children. Utilizing the aid of a mental health professional as a reunification therapist, reintegration therapy erodes the negative image of the targeted parent by providing incongruent information, consider ways to pacify the hurt and anguish of the alienated parent, refrain from actions that put the child in the middle of the conflict, look for ways to dismantle the coalition and convert enemies to allies, and never give up contact.
This process has been verified through a phenomenological study from the University of Toronto that found that reintegration therapy is generally viewed as a therapeutic process that helps improve family relationships as a whole.
It is important to remember that even after you and your child have been reunited and are no longer on alienated terms, they still may have love and affected for the alienating parent. They still may want to spend time with them and listen to some of the things they have to say.
Fighting parental alienation is not about bringing the alienating parent down to the targeted parent’s level. It is about restoring relationships for the benefit of the family as a whole. You, as a targeted parent, can only recover from the effects of parental alienation when you realize that imposing the same type of unhealthy behavior on your co-parent only further perpetuates this cycle of hurt for your child.
In order to remain whole, you need to maintain your role as their parent and create a life for yourself. Show your child that no matter what type of life you build for yourself, they will always have a spot in it. They need to know that despite all of the difficulties of the past, your bond as parent and child will never be broken, and as a formerly alienated parent, you need that sentiment too.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.