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  2. Divorce and Children - includes articles about helping children, parenting after divorce, residence orders and PAS.
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Dealing With An Alienator

Divorces are difficult for most families and even more difficult for some. In some cases, the parent retaining custody of the children of the marriage will attempt to alienate the other parent from the children’s lives; this act is called Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS. In most cases, the alienator is the mum trying to exclude the father from his children’s lives. However, it is known also for the father to try to alienate the mother from the children’s lives. For this purpose, the parent trying to exclude the other parent will be called ‘the alienator’ and the parent being excluded ‘the target’.

The biggest question a target parent asks is why. Beyond that is how does a target parent deal with an alienator?

The first step towards reintroducing yourself to the children is to be there. Be active and involved and try to reincorporate yourself in the lives of your children and the alienating parent. By being involved and staying in regular contact, the alienator, and better yet, the children, will see there is a flaw in the fact that you are the negative influence they believe you to be.

The commonality in children who have an alienated parent is that the children themselves do the alienating, although not consciously. Typically, the children will have only negative things to say about the target parent and only good things to say about the alienating parent. This is a form of emotional child abuse and brain-washing on the behalf of the alienating parent.

Be firm with the alienating parent and insist on regular phone calls and visits with the children. Even when the children do not want to go with you, stay there with them at their home for your allotted time. This will reinforce to them that you aren’t going anywhere and that you care for them and love them, even when they tell you they do not reciprocate these feelings. By staying with them on ‘their turf’ you are telling them that you will do whatever it takes to make them feel safe and secure. This will be especially important if the children state they are afraid to go with you.

For more severe cases of PAS, it may be necessary to seek legal counsel. In some severe cases of PAS, the children outright refuse to see or speak with the target parent and exhibit more exclusive signs of dislike and distrust for the target parent. These feelings and exhibitions of feelings and emotions can range from tantrums to false statements that don’t make much sense. For example, “My dad yells really loud when I make too much noise reading” or “Mom gets mad when I do my homework”.

When the situation with the alienating parent has become severe, you can petition the courts to order visitation with your children. Even through this process of litigation, it is important to keep contact with both the alienating parent and the children. Reinforcing your feelings for the children and not participating in any alienation tactics of your own will help the children realize you are not the bad guy. The children will realize on some level that it is not necessary to bad-mouth the other parent simply because a divorce has occurred.

It is important to ensure that in the earliest stages of the presentation of PAS in your children that you begin to right the wrongs. If your children are accusing you of not calling, then call often. Before the PAS is too deeply embedded in your children, you need to undo what has been done. It may be possible to talk to the alienating parent and discuss what both of you want without the need to involve litigation, however do not fear introducing legal counsel if you aren’t getting anywhere with the alienator.

You need to remain firm with an alienator that you will not just ‘fade out’ of your children’s lives or their lives. Children are the ties that bind people together forever, and with a little help, communication and caring, the ties of marriage may be severed but the bonds of parenting can remain strong.

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