Thread: Parental alienation and what should be done about it Board: Oblivion / Ship of Fools.


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Posted by no prophet (# 15560) on :
 
This issue arises when the parents are separated or divorced and one parent seems to transfer their negativity to the child(ren) such that the child decided they will have nothing to do with that parent.

The outcome seems to be either the writing of the alienated parent totally out of the life of the child, or, that a family court ordered forced visitation and even removal of the child from the parent who is thought to have caused the problem and placement with the 'hated' parent.

One of my thoughts is that the parents are probably more jointly to blame in many situations. I have no personal experience with this, with recent knowledge of a couple of situations. What do you know about this, and what do you think about it?
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
I'm having trouble visualising what you want to focus on, but I'm the child of a bad divorce and have an alienated stepson as well, so if I can be of any help...
 
Posted by no prophet (# 15560) on :
 
I'm trying to understand what to think about it, what the Christian response is, what about parental conduct that results in it, and without being prying, to understand what it brings later.

I should note that my in-laws and parents were both married for more than 50 years and not longer only because they died. All of our brothers and sisters are all married and stably so, most of them for more than 25 years and some of us rather more. My children appear headed in the same direction, though who knows? Thus I have nothing to draw on personally about it.
 
Posted by Emily Windsor-Cragg (# 17687) on :
 
What you speak of is my experience several times over.

My children all prefer their father's secular materialist orientation to my devotions or my insistence we at times need to stand on principle.

Daddy is pragmatic, so he compromises with the System everywhich way ... which undercuts the very strength of any argument.

But the kids are all grown, the eldest, age 50. Three have their own kids, ages 26 down to 6 mos.

And this is what it comes down to for me after all the strains and stresses of divorce: What a child brings IN to a lifetime is much significant in his or her life than anything either parent says or does ... barring massive abuse, the sort of trauma-based mind control that some Satanists inflict on their children.

The children simply have their own personal soul-agenda; and what seems to work best is for the parents (both) to sense what the child is about and work from that.

If we the parents overlay our own top-down agenda, what happens next is deep and permanent resentment in the child. So I learned to walk lightly, speak tactfully and carry no stick.

Let the child's experience discipline and teach the child; let's not inflict horror into any of our children's lives.

Just sayin'. Tomorrow, when I have more time and this discussion fills out, I'll bring up my experience with State versus Private education and home-schooling. We tried them all. [Smile]

Emily

[ 24. May 2013, 23:32: Message edited by: Emily Windsor-Cragg ]
 
Posted by cliffdweller (# 13338) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by no prophet:

One of my thoughts is that the parents are probably more jointly to blame in many situations.

I think this sounds good because it sounds fair and even-handed, but that doesn't make it true. More likely it's just messy and complicated, which doesn't mean that both parents are equally at fault, just that figuring out who is more at fault is so messy that we fall back on easy truism to avoid having to wade thru the muck. But life, and particularly divorce, isn't like that. It's never "even", but it is often very messy. But figuring out who's more at fault in a game of relative causality may be beside the point.
 
Posted by Leorning Cniht (# 17564) on :
 
In a couple of cases with which I am familiar, the marriage broke down because of one party's adultery. In those cases, the opinion of the (ages roughly 8-13) children was very much against the adulterer, and in favour of the innocent parent.

In one case, the innocent parent was awarded custody, and there were compulsory days out with the other parent on Saturdays, which were endured by unwilling children.

In the other case, the adulterer was awarded custody, and soon moved the new partner into the home. There were a few very uncomfortable years until the new relationship broke down, at which point the children's relationship with the sinning parent began to improve slowly.

In neither case do I think we have negativity transferred from the parents. The children were perfectly aware that their parents were arguing and divorcing, knew who they were going to blame (because there was an obvious sinner) and proceeded to do so.
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
IMHO there's no easy or one-size-fits-all answer. There are cases where one parent is wholly innocent. There are mixed cases. Sometimes the parent(s) are to blame, sometimes the children, sometimes both.

I've known cases where the "obvious sinner" got judgement from the children. Unfortunately I've also known cases where one parent pushed the other into filing for divorce through semi-invisible abuse (at least invisible to the children) and consequently blamed the filer for "starting it." Sometimes the children were taken in, sometimes they weren't. Sometimes it came down to who was the biggest liar, or the most unscrupulous. Mr. Lamb is a gentleman, and would never say anything (however true) to his elder son about his mother--with the unintended result that the son believes every poisonous thing she's ever told him, and thinks there's nothing to be said on the other side. [Disappointed]

I've known cases where the children were split, with some of them siding with one parent, some with the other. And a lot of times the alienation had nothing to do with the divorce itself--or if it did, it was in a backward and roundabout way. Take my case. My Dad was alienated from me and did what he could to provoke the same reaction in me, through words and behavior. Why? I've puzzled over it for years, and came to the conclusion that I'm the one child who most resembles my mother. But for the age difference, we could be twins--same face, same voice, same handwriting even. And with his feelings toward her, well...
 
Posted by Josephine (# 3899) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
quote:
Originally posted by no prophet:

One of my thoughts is that the parents are probably more jointly to blame in many situations.

I think this sounds good because it sounds fair and even-handed, but that doesn't make it true. More likely it's just messy and complicated, <snip> figuring out who's more at fault in a game of relative causality may be beside the point.
I think cliffdweller is spot on here.

What the children need is what matters, not who's to blame. That is also a messy and complicated question, every bit as messy and complicated as the question about fault. But it is, I think, the right question to be asking. If you can take blame out of the picture, it might be a teensy bit easier to figure out what the children need in the situation they find themselves in.
 
Posted by LucyP (# 10476) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by no prophet:
This issue arises when the parents are separated or divorced and one parent seems to transfer their negativity to the child(ren) such that the child decided they will have nothing to do with that parent.

[.....]

One of my thoughts is that the parents are probably more jointly to blame in many situations. I have no personal experience with this, with recent knowledge of a couple of situations. What do you know about this, and what do you think about it?

Maybe you're not trying to say that all cases of parental alienation (when there has been no overt abuse) are due to one parent's negativity, but in case you are, I would strongly disagree. Sometimes it's the only way a child at a certain age or with a given personality can process their situation (at least, without outside help).

I'm reminded of a lovely Christian lady I met a few years ago. Her conversion was a direct result of her divorce. She told me that her marriage broke down while her daughter was in primary school, "at a very black and white age". The daughter had always been "daddy's girl", so her only way of explaining the divorce to herself was "it must all be mummy's fault". (I don't know how much of this the mother understood at the time, and how much only became clear over the years.)

Her sons were happy to stay with her and visit her, but the daughter wanted nothing to do with her.

Time went by, eventually the daughter grew up and realised that life is more complex than "daddy is perfect, mummy spoils everything" - and, gradually, a full and lasting reconciliation took place.
 
Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on :
 
What children don't need is to hear either parent vilified. Their parents are part of who they are, part of their own identity, so to tell a young boy, "Your father is a lying cheat," is to tell him that he himself is a lying cheat. He can't fully separate himself from his father at that age.

It's sad to hear divorces simplified to "the adulterer," or "the sinner." There are all sorts of sin and hundreds of ways to make our partners miserable. Maybe the person who committed adultery was the one who had been denied marital sex for years. Maybe the one who demanded the divorce was the one who felt he/she deserved to be married to a bigger earner. Maybe one person was mentally or pysically abusive to the other. There is rarely one totally innocent party, but even if that is the case it is cruel to the child to detail the other parent's wrong doings.

The children can be told that the parents simply can't be happy together and have decided to live apart. It will still hurt, it will still shake their world, but they don't need the added pain of finding out Daddy or Mommy isn't the wonderful person they always knew them to be. They can figure that out for themselves when they're old enough to handle it.
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
Trouble is that the parent in pain will often use a child as a confidante--it happened to me. And that causes all kinds of mixed relationship lines and "I didn't really need to hear that."
 
Posted by Leorning Cniht (# 17564) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:

It's sad to hear divorces simplified to "the adulterer," or "the sinner." There are all sorts of sin and hundreds of ways to make our partners miserable.
[..]
There is rarely one totally innocent party, but even if that is the case it is cruel to the child to detail the other parent's wrong doings.

My language was deliberately black and white, because in my experience, so are children. Managing shades of grey is something that comes with experience and maturity.

I agree that parents should not detail the other's fault to the child, but children are not blind, and they are not stupid. If the parents are arguing, the children know. If the parents get divorced, and one parent immediately moves in with a new partner, the children know, and are going to draw some conclusions. Add to that the fact that converting one household to two almost certainly involves a reduction in the standard of living, and it is easy for children to blame the parent they view as at fault for ruining their lives.

Again, I say that in the two cases I mentioned, the children's poor opinion of the "at fault" parent does not result from bad-mouthing by the other parent, but derives from direct observations made by the children. And yes, their opinions were more black and white than those that a mature, dispassionate observer would hold.
 
Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on :
 
Oh yes, sorry, you're right, Leorning Cniht. Teens probably would be able to figure out "fault," and would be quick to place blame.

I was thinking of the one clear example of alienation I had witnessed and it was of a five year-old boy constantly being told what a jerk his father was to the point where he still doesn't speak to his father, though the boy is now almost forty. The father had committed adultery but the mother would have been such a self-righteous, self-centered prig to live with my sympathy was always with him.

In the case of my own divorce, when child was about ten, we tried very hard never to trash talk the other parent and, harder, to keep our parents from doing it in front of their grandchild.

At that time the conventional wisdom was that staying together for the sake of the children was never a good thing and that children couldn't be happy unless their parents were happy. In the late seventies the books and magazines were almost pro-divorce, particularly if the woman was not satisfied in some way.

In my case this advice all proved to be completely wrong with the divorce absolutely devastating my child in spite of us handling everything "right." Of course some people have no choice but to leave. I'm sure physical abuse, severe alcoholism, etc. are worse on a child than divorce. I'm just saying, if it's not too off-topic, that there are all sorts of misery and sometimes you might as well stay with the one you know if helps your child reach adulthood intact.
 
Posted by L'organist (# 17338) on :
 
Talking about 'innocence' and 'fault' is unhelpful.

As a child of a spectacularly unpleasant divorce, having been divorced myself, having been a stepchild and having stepchildren, I'd say there are certain ground rules - but, yes, there is no 'ons-size fits all'.

First: most people are lazy and will settle for a 'good enough' relationship in the hopes that (a) it won't get worse and (b) may improve. Adultery - physical or emotional - takes a lot of organising: if a party strays it is likely to be because they're not finding what they want or need at home.

Second: particularly when children are small it is unnecessary and self-indulgent to allow them to witness rowing and unpleasantness between parents. If you really have to shout, go out into the garden or go for a walk. Similarly, a pair of adults should be able to make the effort to keep the atmosphere reasonable at home for the children.

Third: NO child wants to know anything about their parents' sex lives or emotional hang-ups. If you need to talk these issues through go to a therapist, not your children.

Fourth: Trying to buy the affections of your children - particularly in a spirit of one-upmanship over the other parent - will achieve two things: you'll both be poorer and the children will gain a pretty warped outlook on personal worth.

Fifth: Before embarking on a new relationship try to see it from the child's point of view. Teenage boys, in particular, will be grossed-out at seeing their mother necking with anyone, never mind a chap not their father.

NEVER EVER ask your child to spy on your ex and don't make disparaging remarks about any new partner they may have.

Above all, don't delude yourself with the popular mantra 'its better for the children that I achieve happiness because they'll be happy': this is a figleaf to excuse you putting your needs ahead of theirs.
 
Posted by Anselmina (# 3032) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
Trouble is that the parent in pain will often use a child as a confidante--it happened to me. And that causes all kinds of mixed relationship lines and "I didn't really need to hear that."

A kind of variation on the 'I want to be friends with my kids' theme? When a parent tries to be besties with their teenage daughter or son?

Must take a lot of unselfishness and wisdom for a parent not to unload onto a child. Horrific for the child.
 
Posted by Emily Windsor-Cragg (# 17687) on :
 
This is a set of Do's and Don't worthy of sharing. I'll just make myself a copy for the archives since I'm too old for this stuff anymore.

But L'organist, I admire your wisdom and I would coddle you with a big HUG for what you had to endure to attain to it.

Emily


quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
Talking about 'innocence' and 'fault' is unhelpful.

As a child of a spectacularly unpleasant divorce, having been divorced myself, having been a stepchild and having stepchildren, I'd say there are certain ground rules - but, yes, there is no 'ons-size fits all'.

First: most people are lazy and will settle for a 'good enough' relationship in the hopes that (a) it won't get worse and (b) may improve. Adultery - physical or emotional - takes a lot of organising: if a party strays it is likely to be because they're not finding what they want or need at home.

Second: particularly when children are small it is unnecessary and self-indulgent to allow them to witness rowing and unpleasantness between parents. If you really have to shout, go out into the garden or go for a walk. Similarly, a pair of adults should be able to make the effort to keep the atmosphere reasonable at home for the children.

Third: NO child wants to know anything about their parents' sex lives or emotional hang-ups. If you need to talk these issues through go to a therapist, not your children.

Fourth: Trying to buy the affections of your children - particularly in a spirit of one-upmanship over the other parent - will achieve two things: you'll both be poorer and the children will gain a pretty warped outlook on personal worth.

Fifth: Before embarking on a new relationship try to see it from the child's point of view. Teenage boys, in particular, will be grossed-out at seeing their mother necking with anyone, never mind a chap not their father.

NEVER EVER ask your child to spy on your ex and don't make disparaging remarks about any new partner they may have.

Above all, don't delude yourself with the popular mantra 'its better for the children that I achieve happiness because they'll be happy': this is a figleaf to excuse you putting your needs ahead of theirs.


 
Posted by JoannaP (# 4493) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
Third: NO child wants to know anything about their parents' sex lives or emotional hang-ups. If you need to talk these issues through go to a therapist, not your children.

I wish to second this one most fervently. My parents divorced recently, when I was in my 40's, and by far the worst part was having each of them criticising the other's performance in the bedroom to me.
 


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