Perhaps the worst thing that could happen to a parent is the loss of a child. The death of a child brings grieving that has no words, tears that never end, and a hole in a parent’s heart that will never mend.

Death is not the only way a parent can lose a child. A child may become so alienated from a parent that he or she refuses to see or hear from a parent. And as the months pass, and the court papers, motions, and emergency hearings pile up, the child continues his or her campaign of denigration and hatred toward the parent.

We have examined the ways in which a child is alienated from his or her parent. Parental Alienation occurs when a parent systematically engages in subtle manipulations or direct attacks on the other parent. In many aspects, parental alienation is a form of brain washing a child and is a form of emotional child abuse.

Children caught in the middle of an acrimonious divorce are hostages in a domestic war. They run for cover under the cross fires of accusations, threats, and vicious arguments. And it is often easier for them to take a side rather than be left in the dark,, highly conflict-ridden and dangerous middle.

Healthy children need the love and respect for both parents in order to thrive and succeed. Alienated children grow up with low self-esteem. They have a higher risk of substance abuse and other forms of addition. Self-hatred is present among alienated children. Children internalize the hatred targeted toward the alienated parent and, when they get older, they experience guilt for betraying the alienated parent and turn the anger onto themselves.

In cases of parental alienation, children lose the alienated parent and are denied the opportunity to mourn the loss of the parent, or even talk about the parent. And since they are led to believe that the alienated parent abused or abandoned them and did not love them, they grow up with significant feelings of loss and feeling unlovable.

The risks are high to children, and devastating to the alienated parent. So what can be done in addition to hiring the best attorneys,CFI’s, parental evaluators, and psychologists? Because as anyone knows who is in the midst of this terrible ordeal, the turtle slowness of the judicial system takes no heed of the immediate psychological needs of children and the pain of the alienated parent. And as the days, weeks, and months mount, the alienation of the child takes root and often becomes a reality.

Often the most conservative and seemingly safe move for the courts and mental health professionals is to remove the child from the alienated parent until the case is resolved. Professionals believe that there may be more of a risk of placing a child who is making allegations against a parent and thus let the child remain with the alienating parent.

However, we are beginning to learn that the conservative approach is not doing justice to the child and the alienated parent. When a child is alienated from a parent, the time spent away from that parent is dangerous. As noted previously, the alienation is thus allowed to dig deeper and develop fixed roots.

If a parent is alienated from his or her child, It is imperative that contact between the child and the alienated parent continues. Supervised visitation in a natural setting is recommended over therapuetic or supervised visits at a mental health or social service facility. By having the children come to these facilities to visit with the alienated parent, it gives the children the idea that it is dangerous to see that parent outside of a controlled situation.

Supervised visits outside of a facility that can occur in a natural environment such as the alienated parent’s home, a restaurant, the park, etc. are better for the child and alienated parent. Along with continued visitation, it is critical that reconciliation therapy occurs. A professional who is knowledgeable about parental alienation should conduct the reconciliation therapy.

Along with continued supervised visits and reconciliation therapy, the alienating parent and the child need their own therapists. It is my experience, however, that it is very difficult for an alienating parent to change his or her position. The alienating parent is convinced that their child is in emotional or physical danger when the child is with the alienated parent and this delusion is often fixed and immovable. However, because the alienating parent is constantly fishing for any evidence that the child is being abused, supervised visitation is important. The supervisor does not have to be a professional, just a neutral eye to prevent false reporting.

If you are an alienated parent and it is impossible because of legal restrictions to see your child, you should not give up. Continue to send cards, letters, birthday and holiday gifts, Let your child know that you have not given up on him or her and that your love persists. Understand that as ironic as it appears, even though your child is alienated from you, if you are silent, your child will see you as abandoning and unloving. Many of the correspondences and gifts you send may be discarded but eventually, as your child grows, he or she will know that you have never given up and are always ready for a reunion. As painful as this may be, until our court and mental health systems come up with a more constructive approach to the devastating problem of alienation, you must remain committed to letting your child know that your bond to him or her has never been broken.

Some cases of parental alienation result from bona fide harmful behaviors that the alienated parent has done. Perhaps the alienated parent contributed to “bad-mouthing” the other parent, or has been too strict or too lax with rules. Perhaps the alienated parent has moved on to another relationship and the children are angry, believing their other parent has been replaced.

It is important if you are an alienated parent, you take inventory of your relationship with your child and assess those behaviors that may have influenced your child’s negative feelings toward you. Engage in therapy and get a second opinion. Process your relationship with a neutral party who is well informed about parenting and child development. Take an honest look at yourself to see what part you may have played in this difficult scenario. This period of introspection will help you become more attuned to your child’s needs as well as giving you a place to process your own grief and anger.

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