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Parent Alienation – Be careful what you wish for

Have you read the parent alienation case in Michigan which made national news? A father’s children refused to have lunch with him. In court the judge first took the children from the alienating mother and placed them in foster care. Later, the judge altered her decision, placing them with their targeted father for 90 days, warning the mother that “You need help!” Not yet over.

Of course this appears to be an extreme case, but parent alienation comes in many forms. Not all alienation results in this way nor even in child custody disputes. There are other cases, within the family which are damaging to children now and in their future relationships as maturing adults.

First described in 1976 as “pathological alignment”, the dynamic refers to a situation in which a child unreasonably rejects a non-custodial parent. Richard A. Gardner proposed parental alienation syndrome in the 1980s based on his clinical experience with the children of divorcing parents.

“Parental alienation varies in the degree and severity. It can be of such little consequence as a parent occasionally calling the other parent a derogatory name; or it could be as overwhelming as the parent’s campaign of consciously destroying the children’s relationship with the other parent. Most children are able to brush off a parent’s offhand comment about the other parent that is made in frustration. On the other hand, children may not be able to resist a parent’s persistent campaign of hatred and alienation”.

Let’s look at three types of alienation:
“Naïve alienators are parents who are passive about the children’s relationship with the other parent but will occasionally do or say something that can alienate.  Active alienators also know better than to alienate, but their intense hurt or anger cause them to impulsively lose control over their behavior or what they say.  Frequently a parent can be a blend between these two types, usually a combination between naïve and active alienation.  Obsessed alienators have a fervent cause to destroy the targeted parent. Rarely does the obsessed alienator have enough self-control or insight to blend the other types. They are likely to recruit unsuspecting family and friends to help”. (Excerpted from Douglas Darnall, Ph.D. in PsyCare Inc)

We at Counseling on Demand have seen recruited family initiate their own form of alienation out of a sense of sympathy for the obsessed alienating parent; thus multiplying the damage exponentially! Obsessed alienators frequently harbor the nonsensical notion that they are actually “protecting” the children.

What can be done? In the Michigan case, a judge was needed to rectify the situation. In other cases, the judge may assign a Parent Coordinator in concert with a psychologist who specializes in parent reunification to rectify this. They are empowered by the court and so cannot be denied.

In less extreme cases, before court involvement, this is where Counseling on Demand comes in. You need not go through this alone, alienating parent or targeted parent. With our support, you can get through these times- even prevent further damage. We have experienced alienation and know its symptoms and treatment.

We can help. You needn’t leave your favorite/private place. Nor must you wait for an appointment. We are there 24/7. You can begin in 24 hours or less.

You may contact us now. Your first consultation is free.
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I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!