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Protecting Children from Alienation

How Does PAS Affect Children?

Parental Alienation syndrome is still a controversial topic and there is still debate whether this should be classified as an official mental health disorder in the DSM IV. It is described as a form of psychological child abuse, when a child is systematically convinced about negative aspects about one parent by the other. The child may eventually believe this and live in hate and terror of that parent. They may feel coerced into championing the “good” parent and fear that they themselves may carry all the negative attributes of the maligned parent. The child also loses all chance to form a relationship with that parent.

There are causes for caution when establishing a case for Parental Alienations Syndrome. The syndrome should not be a cover up for or defense against instances where a parent actually is abusive or unfit. However, there are certainly instances when a parent’s anger and hatred against the other is inappropriately thrust upon the children, creating an intolerable conflict. Children have few choices in the situation and may simply lapse into believing lies against the accused parent. They simply refuse to have any contact with the person they believe is a villain.

Know the Signs

Parental Alienation syndrome has certain features that are evident in the children affected:

  • A child becomes an ally of the alienating parent.

  • The reasons for denigrating the target parents may be weak, frivolous, absurd or patently false.

  • There is an abnormal or pathological degree of hatred by the alienating parent to the other.

  • The child claims the decision to reject the other parent is made independently.

  • The child automatically supports the ally-parent.

  • The child has no guilt about rejecting the parent.

  • The child seems to parrot situations described by the alienating parent.

  • The child starts to hate and fear any extended family or friends of the target parent.

Protect the Child Some professionals believe that Parental Alienation Syndrome must be successfully managed, to avoid long term effects of the future of the child. Children need to benefit from relationships with both parents. They need to be able to keep the fears and conflict that they learn from the alienation from affecting their future family lives and relationships. If the alienation is not addressed they may grow up to be irrational, suspicious and unhappy and pass these patterns on to their own families. If a case of alienation is suspected, the situation needs to be investigated to ensure that all accusations are unfounded. Professional counseling, mediation and treatment may be needed to deal with the family as individuals and as a family unit. The alienating parent may need support or treatment to deal with irrational or abnormal behaviours. The child may need counseling to reorient the belief system and to reconcile with the target parent. Recognition of Parental Alienation Syndrome Parental Alienation Syndrome is gaining more recognition throughout the world. There have been cases where parental alienation has been grounds to revoke custody and provide the offending parent with only supervised access. There is no doubt that it is very destructive to have parents inflicting their own anger and conflict upon children. The question whether parental alienation syndrome should be a psychiatric diagnosis remains. Prevent Parental Alienation Syndrome In order to share parenting, divorced couples need to remain in good communication and discuss common issues with argument. They need to compromise and accept differences in parenting beliefs and styles and put the needs of the children first. They must look forward to their new relationship without obsessing about the old one. Parenting alienation destroys any possibility of this happening. Therefore, more drastic intervention may be needed to resolve this situation that creates havoc and distress for all involved. The recognition of Parental Alienation Syndrome may provide the starting point for this work.
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