Core Principles to Bear in Mind for Handling Parental Alienation

Scholars and practitioners recommend the following principles for resolving alienation:

• Document what happens, and pay attention to people’s actions.

Writing down comments, behaviors and reactions from family members – as well as strategies tried to stop or unwind the damage – can be quite useful. An objective record of what has happened can help those caught up in destructive patterns to identify and change them. As Marilyn Vos Savant once said, “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”

• Be patient.

Especially as a victim of alienating behavior, you may yearn to reverse the damage done and “get your child back” as soon as possible. However, trying to rush the process could make the situation worse. Your child was not brainwashed overnight; even if he or she wants to repair your relationship, unwinding the damage and rebuilding trust will take time.

• Set expectations that will inspire motivation.

Setting “reasonable” expectations doesn’t mean giving up your faith and conviction that you will succeed. If your 15-year-old daughter just yelled at you over the phone, saying that she hates you and never wants to see you again, you shouldn’t give up on the relationship. However, it’s essential that you remain aware and accepting of what’s actually happening in the relationship, as opposed to what you wish was happening. Appreciate that the path ahead will likely be rocky, beset by setbacks and confusion, but never surrender faith in a positive outcome.

• Care for yourself and manage yourself.

Even with court intervention and therapeutic help, you can never force a child to love you or compel the instigating parent to behave in a civil or even reasonable manner. However, what you can do is monitor your own thoughts, behaviors, habits and attitudes. You can strive to be as resourceful as possible, given the realities of your situation. Recognize your needs that have gone unmet as a result of the alienation, and strive to meet them in spite of the circumstances.

For instance, let’s say that you lost custody of your 8-year-old and 4-year-old. You’re feeling lonely, because the house is empty and because your 8-year-old yells at your every time you get on the phone together. Recognize that you have needs for love and companionship that are going unmet. Then work to meet those needs by, for instance, conscientiously reaching out to friends. No relationship can replace the parent-child relationship, but active disengagement from others due to the sadness of losing that relationship will only contribute to feelings of depression.

• Be prepared for “two steps forward, one step back” progress.

Different people react to “un-brainwashing” in different ways. You may find that you’re getting along great with your daughter one day, only to have her snap at you and start acting bizarrely for no discernable reason. Expect the unexpected, and strive to maintain equilibrium.

• Accept that life must go on.

Pay your bills. Don’t surrender your hobbies. Travel. Pursue your career and spiritual goals. By staying active and involved in your life – and not giving into obsessive and unproductive thinking about the alienation situation – you will not only be mentally and physically healthier, but you will also be able to see the situation from a more neutral and strategic perspective and be in a better position to solve your problems.

• Adopt elements from Dr. Gardner’s “case management” approach.

Dr. Richard Gardener’s concept of “case management” consists of a multi-pronged approach, involving both therapists and a mediator. The family’s situation and willingness to participate in this process will dictate the precise nature and frequency of these interventions.

Parents can have individual sessions with therapists. In some cases, the parent goes with the child to meet the therapist. Depending on what happened as well as the alienator’s personality and disposition, a therapist might meet with the child and alienating parent together. Therapists for both parents can also meet with one another to come up with ways to help the family. Of course, this process must be done without violating confidentiality. Finally, a professional mediator could be brought into help parents communicate better with one another and develop and refine strategies to make communication successful.

For skillful, experienced assistance handling your Parental Alienation case, call the Williams Law Group, LLC immediately at (908) 810-1083.

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