24 Ways to Combat Parental Alienation: These signs are taken from an article titled “Signs of Parental Alienation Syndrome And How to Counteract Its Effects” and written by Ludwig F. Lowenstein, Ph.D. Published by Southern England Psychologocal Services in 2005. This excerpt is the second half of the article. Please click here for part 1: 28 Signs of Parental Alienation. Many of the suggestions given below apply to therapeutic professionals such as mediators and therapists. Check in your area for reputable legal and mental health professionals to help in your situation.
Ways to Combat Parental Alienation During Mediation and Treatment
There is no easy way to combat alienation especially if it has taken place for a long period of time and the alienated parent has had little contact with the child. One might say the alienator has won and has the complete control of the child in this scenario. The two (the alienator and the child) then are a ‘team’ who work totally against the alienated parent for the purpose of humiliating and rejecting that parent from having contact with the victimised child.
Some of the methods that are recommended for dealing with the process of alienation may seem extreme but it is an extreme situation that one is facing when dealing with the overwhelming power of the alienator. Typical therapeutic methods are ineffective when dealing with such problems. Very firm approaches are required and these must be backed unequivocally by the court in order for them to have an effect in debriefing the victim of the alienation (the child). This sometimes places the therapist in a dangerous situation for he or she may be accused of being to firm in seeking to reverse the alienation effects. A combination of both reason and emotion but most of all firmness must be shown to the child to make them aware of the damage that has and is being done by continuing to live with such a negative attitude towards one parent. This is of course assuming that the alienated parent is innocent of all physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
Again there will be overlap in the suggestions made to reduce the effects of alienation:
- Destroy the effects of denigration by one parent towards the other by making the child aware of the happy history before the acrimony and separation between the parents occurred.
- Get the child to see the good points about the denigrated parent.
- Be firm and proactive in changing attitudes and behaviour that have caused the parental alienation.
- Try to get the alienating parent to cooperate in stopping the alienation. This is easier said than done, and many alienators will refuse to cooperate in this although claiming otherwise. This is even the case when it is highlighted that such actions are actually harmful to the child’s development.
- Appeal to the child’s conscience that he or she is rejecting, hurting, and humiliating an innocent party who cares for that child.
- Have the child together with the alienated parent in due course while seeking to change both attitudes and behaviour via rational emotive therapy. There is a need in this process for very firm communications.
- Make the child aware of what a blood relative might sacrifice for that child which is not the case for strangers.
- Warn the parent who alienates the child of the harm that they are doing to the child not just in the present time but in the future also.
- Appeal to the child’s critical thinking (intelligence and emotions) and make the child aware of the unfairness and cruelty in rejecting a loving parent.
- Make the child aware that they need both parents without endangering the relationship with the alienating parent.
- Make the child aware that they may lose a good parent if the process of alienation continues.
- The child should be made aware that the extended family of the alienated parent is also being unfairly rejected.
- Encourage the child not only to engage with the alienated parent but with the alienated parent’s extended family, i.e. grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, etc. This will serve to reverse the alienation process.
- Curtail or eliminate telephone calls and other communications from the programming parent while the child is with the non-custodial parent.
- It is important for children who have been alienated to spend as much time as is possible with the alienated parent alone so that a relationship can re-develop between them. The longer this individual contact occurs, the greater the likelihood that the alienation process will be depleted.
- Curtail the child being used as a spy against the alienated parent.
- In the extreme case the child should be removed from the influences of the alienating parent and be given in custody to the alienated parent or another body including a family member. This is to protect the child from further alienation.
- Passivity and tolerance are ineffective when dealing with parental alienation. What is required is confrontation of a very powerful type in order to counteract the effects of the alienation and to reverse it.
- The power of the court must back the mediator who is seeking to remove the alienation effects
- The child may often need to be removed to a neutral setting such as a hospital to prevent further alienation. This is only in very extreme cases where severe psychological damage has been done to such a degree that the child suffers from delusions about the alienated parent.
- In the case of severe alienation it is best for the alienated parents never to approach the home of the alienator but rather to use an intermediary for the transfer of contact with the child.
- It should be remembered that the child who has been the victim of brain washing needs to know that it is safe to be with the alienated parent without this reducing their loyalty and commitment to the other parent. Hence the alienated parent should do as much as possible to reassure the child that there is no desire to separate the child from their other parent.
- Alienated parents once they have contacted their children should concentrate on talking about the past and the happy times together supplemented with pictures or videos. Initially a child could be very offhand and even fail to have eye contact but this can be reduced through reminders of happier times in the past and how this can continue in the future.
- Alienated parents should not give up easily but should persevere in their efforts to make and maintain contact with their child. Constant rejection from the child is likely to be humiliating and demoralising, but persistence sometimes leads to success with the help of an expert and the support of the courts.
Both aspects involved in dealing with parental alienation are important but the details are certainly incomplete as there are many other ways of dealing with alienated children as well as their parents. It is important to realise that there is a great difference between therapeutic approaches in the normal sense and those that are required with parents who are alienating a child against another parent. It can not be emphasised too strongly that without the backing of the courts the efforts of the expert involved are unlikely to be effective.