Broken narratives and sacred spaces: working with parental alienation in the UK

Work in the arena of parental alienation in the UK has, until recent years, been primarily undertaken by psychiatrists and psychologists, many of whom are now retired.  In comparison to countries like the US and Canada, work in this arena is in its early days of delivery, with few academics working in the field and even fewer practitioners.  As a practitioner who has worked in the field for many years, alongside one of the most eminent and well known psychiatrists for a time and now at the Family Separation Clinic, I consider myself to be something of an experienced hand.  As I move into the work of research therefore, I feel that I have reached a place where my experience, in wading around, neck deep  with parents in the cess pit of their lives, qualifies me to set down some markers for the parental alienation debate in the UK.   What follows is, I hope, a clear and unequivocal call for the movement to raise awareness of parental alienation in the UK and the work that goes on around it, to stay on track and up there with the best of the work being undertaken internationally.  My fear being that within some camps, the drift is towards something of far less quality which could actually prove to be dangerous to the families who come into contact with it.

Working in the field of parental alienation does not allow one to become complacent, neither does it allow one to sit on the fence. Fence sitting, which in my experience is caused by wooly thinking and lack of courage, causes, in the alienation process, entrenchment of the problem and pressures the child further to mainain the stance.  Practitioners working in this field should have the courage of their convictions and be prepared to act and take the consequences.  Anything less is to fail the child and add to the problem.

People who work in this field should be involved with families at every level, they should, to follow my earlier analogy, get into the cess pit and get dirty with the families that they are working with.  To do anything less is to intellectualise the approach and intellectualising the approach causes more problems not less.  It is quite simply, in my view, not possible to sit on the edge and observe.  All of the key figures in parental alienation work, from Gardener to Baker, to Bala to Warshak to Gottleib to Lowenstein and Weir here in the UK, got in the shit and walked with families.  If your therapist is not walking in your shit with you, as well as the other parent’s shit and your children’s shit too, you are not working with an alienation specialist, you are working with a therapist who knows a bit about parental alienation.  Do not be fooled,  because the two are very different things.

The reason that I write these things is this.  In order to be able to fully and comprehensively treat a family where alienation strikes you have to be able to do what Alajandro Jodorosky called acts of ‘psychomagic’.  Bear with me, its not as bonkers as it sounds.  As Karen Lebow, in Amy Baker’s recent book, working with alienation children and their families, states

The shaman understands that to be human is to be interdependent and that interdependence evolved for survival of the early rigours of daily struggles in prehistoric times. Sunning kills the human spirit and destroys the ability to function as an individual. Being interconnected means survival. Support group leaders who facilitate healing among targeted parents use many of the same techniques and carry out similar roles to a shaman. The shaman contains the memory, history of the community and like the group leader, facilitates healing comfort and education..’

Whilst Jodorosky has his own brand of shamansim, all practitioners who work with alienation must also develop theirs.  To fail to do so, is to leave the families that we work with wandering around in the dark not knowing what to do.  Anyone working in the field of parental alienation must know everything about the families they work with, everything about the world that they live in and everything about the tensions and terrors that intersect their lives.  To do anything less is to refuse the responsibility that comes with doing this work, which is the responsibility to carry, for as short a time as possible, the burdens of the family and to absorb, as much as possible, the toxicity which is washing around each and every member.  Being prepared to walk with those families, carrying and absorbing until the system is cleansed, is an absolute necessity.  This work is not for the one session a week therapist and it is not for the person who sits in their office expecting people to come to them.  This work is about living, breathing, people and the terrors that face them and just like in the US and Canada, my deepest hope is that the UK will develop a tribe of these people, each capable in their own way of taking on the challenges.

The core of what we do as alienation specialists is give of ourselves, in all of our strengths and weaknesses.  This is not the work of the lofty expert and the distanced, intellectual mind.  This is the work of people who bleed, of people who can get things wrong as well as right and who can know the difference and keep on keeping on.  In relationship with people who face being shunned and shut out from their children’s lives, one has to know the kinds of terrors that they face, the walls that they have to climb and the seemingly insurmountable barriers that are set in their way.  All of the key practitioners across the world, are involved in the (small p) political aspects of working with alienation and are, in their own way, working to raise awareness of the ways in which issues like feminism, domestic violence and false allegations are part of the landscape where alienated families walk.  Debates around shared parenting, the need for two parents, the role of fathers and more are part of the narrative which surround parental alienation work and there is a clear recognition that the polarised debate is something which does not need to be changed by the practitioner, but understood.

In a recent workshop in London attended by a number of Family Therapists, CAFCASS officers and Social Workers, I asked the question which for me defines the difference between someone who is cut out to do this work and someone who is not.  The question is do children need two parents?  The dividing line was so stark that it was shocking.  All of the Family Therapists said no and that to ask the question was to be offensive to single parents, everyone else said yes, of course they do.  Within that one session I saw the way that the political correctness of the family therapy community stymies its ability to think beyond borders.  Whilst I am sure that there are many family therapists who can cross them, it is clear that there is a group of family therapists working on parental alienation who are staying firmly within them.

One of those family therapists is a regular contributor to the comments on this blog and I have thought long and hard about how I deal with something that he sent to me and others recently about attending a Women’s Aid conference. Nick Child has a website called For all That, on which he discusses the issue of parental alienation and refers to me at one point in the following manner –

“Collective homeostatic forces keep them and their views in place. Few are going to venture over to the other side to find out what makes them tick. To modify their arguments or terminology – eg to see diversity or commonality in the beloved or hated banner of ‘feminism’ – is not acceptable to their tribe or flock. In personal asides, such leaders will say that, when it comes down to it, they cannot let down those desperately needy followers who look to them to support and speak for them. This is then the position of a shepherd of a flock, or indeed of a patriarch (or matriarch) of a tribe. Thus for example – and here this is a positive compliment not a criticism – Evan Stark serves as a patriarch of the women’s movement against domestic abuse, while Karen Woodall presents as the matriarch of the men’s movement against their exclusion from families. However genuinely knowledgeable a shepherd or patriarch is in serving their flock or tribe, when it comes down to it, things that may be more ritual or tokenistic than rational may also be highly valued – like howling at the moon or burning banners.”

This piece of rhetoric, appears to have me down as someone who has not seen both sides of the story and effectively dismisses all of the years that I spent in the feminist movement, seeing the world through the eyes of women first and everyone else second.  To have me down then as the matriarch of the men’s movement and someone who speaks only for one side of the polarised debate is actually offensive, though I have not said so publicly until now.  Given that Nick feels free to write of me in this manner, I feel that I also have the right to share the following and the concern that it raises for me, about the work he is undertaking in Scotland around parental alienation.

Nick recently wrote to me and other professionals recently about his attendance at a Scottish Women’s Aid conference, a venture he described as seeing things from the other side of the polarised debate.  This is how he summed things up.

‘So my shocking recommendation is that men should warmly and respectfully join or at least join in on Women’s Aid as an organisation and their events. And perhaps other women’s organisations too. Especially men who have been victims of domestic abuse. They should join with a blind eye to the parts of WA that would normally rile them. They should join genuinely with compassion for any victims including women victims. And of course for children in the middle or victims. They should join genuinely as men who want male abuse to stop. Those men who have been victims should also join genuinely as natural allies of other victims who happen to be female. They should do so uncompetitively, being open to how different experiences may be different, and some may be worse – eg women’s experiences may be worse in several ways. What, if anything for example, is the equivalent for men victims of abusive women, of male abuser’s stalking and coercive control after separation? Surely men and women victims would do well to respectfully compare notes and experiences?’

To say that I was speechless to receive this was an understatement, having recovered myself however, this is an excerpt from my reply.

Women’s Aid, whether it be a moderate or extreme version of the franchise is concerned only with women’s rights – not children’s welfare and certainly not men’s welfare.  You state that there is not so much a call these days for female officers and that male officers are welcomed in work with abused women and you see this as evidence that not all men are seen as perpetrators but you miss, in its entirety, the reason for that, which is that male officers are now trained to think and work in a feminist oriented manner, underpinned by the abuse cycle theory and the theory of culturally endowed power over women that is held by men.  In short, the police now speak the feminist language and see abuse as being a gender based crime in which men are perpetrators and women are victims.
 
To ask that an abused man gets alongside these groups is akin, in my view, to asking a black man to get alongside the Ku Klux Klan and see the good in what they are doing in making sure that black men are not harming white women.  Why would you ask a man who has had bleach thrown in his face, or a man who has had the nerves in his shoulders severed by a knife blade or a man who has lived in his garage in fear of his life for more than a year to go and put aside the bits about women’s aid that rile him?  Those men, who are real, who are men that I have worked with, are traumatised, brutalised and silenced.  They do not have the luxury of intellectual thought, they are too busy surviving in silence.  I think your suggestion is shocking and I think it says much about how you may be over focused on trying to smooth things over and not look at the real shit that people live in (on both sides of the polarised debate).

Let me make this absolutely clear.  I am not and never have been and never will be part of the men’s movement.  Neither will I ever again be part of the feminist movement.  It is within that space however, which is created by a gendered war between men and women that families where alienation strikes are struggling and so it is into that space that I put myself, over and over and over again, in order to bring about change and healing.  Writing as I do, about the inequalities and the gendered discrimination which is written into the legislation that surrounds these families is part of my work to raise awareness of what is happening their world.  I do not attempt to brush over the reality, nor do I dismiss either side’s lived experience, I know there are women who are beaten, savaged and raped in the world and I also know that there are men who suffer in the same way.  But I know that one side gets help and the other gets not very much at all, which is why I speak out and speak up, because unless I do so, I contribute to the problem rather than helping to resolve it.

And contribute to the problem is what I am afraid Nick Child is doing in his exhortations to abused men to get alongside women’s rights organisations and see them as their natural allies.  With all of the privilege of never having suffered at the hands of a woman and never having experienced alienation directly, it is ever so easy to reduce the bloody, nasty, vicious mess that is lived experience of mothers and fathers in this arena to platitudes and broken narratives.  The truth of the matter is that men AND women can be violent people and men AND women are harmed, sometimes very severely by the nature of that violence.  Situating oneself however, in the safe space which is governed by feminist narratives of patriarchal power and control, fails those men AND women who do not fit this paradigm and failing to see Women’s Aid, for the political entity that they are, with all of their industrial strength funding and ability to dominate the landscape of family violence, is to spectacularly fail families.  In the real world, where power and control are behaviours which are utilised on both sides and where both sides can and do kill and both sides can and do inflict serious and significant harm, the issue must not be reduced to the simplistic words tweeted by another attendee of the same conference…


Great conference today. Heartening to hear @KennyMacAskill acknowledge ‘domestic abuse happens because of inequality between men and women

Try telling that to the dad with his head cracked open by a cricket bat and the man who died because he didn’t put up his wife’s summer house on the day her period was due.

The truth of the matter is that family violence, like false allegations, like shared parenting debates, like arguments over whether children need two parents or not are critical issues in this field and working with them from the feminist paradigm is not going to do anything other than cause more harm, more hurt and more damage to children.  Its not possible in my mind to do any of this work from naive perspectives, it takes courage, guts and steely determination, to do what is possible even when it goes against the populist approaches.

The space in which we work with alienation is, to my mind a sacred space and one in which the narratives that are shaped and formed by direct experience in the field must reflect reality, not the hopes and dreams of politically correct therapists and their ilk who seek to do good.   In writing this blog I know that I am setting down a marker.  I am also publicly disassociating myself with any of the work being undertaken in the field of parental alienation by the Association of Family Therapists with whom Nick Child works.  I have thought long and hard about doing this publicly, knowing that all voices raising awareness of parental alienation are important but I have decided that on balance, given the nature of what I consider to be an exremely worrying suggestion by Nick Child that it is important that I do so.  My work with parental alienation, in that sacred space, demands of me the courage to stand by my convictions and I am concerned about the damage that well meaning therapists, without any real experience of the field, can do.  All voices speaking about parental alienation are not the same and I accept that others in the field will speak differently to me about aspects of their work.  But this kind of thinking and rhetoric does not belong in the sacred space that alienation specialists work in and for me, broken narratives like this belong elsewhere, not near people whose lives are already massively under pressure.

The difference between an alienation specialist and a therapist?  Ask them the question ‘do children need both parents?’  And perhaps now another ‘do abused men suffer in the same way as abused women?‘ and wait for their answer, it speaks volumes.

22 comments

  1. Anonymous · February 24, 2014

    I sense the pain and anger you feel at Nick’s attempts to have abused fathers empathise with women’s concerns about real and imaginary potentially violent and dominating males.

    I wonder if the men’s movement were as strong as the women’s movement children might fair better. Or would there simply be more gender wars whilst the needs of children suffer. The wars that break out between parents will never be stopped, because some of us place our own interests ahead of those of the family but it sure helps when we begin to unravel the pain and empathise.

    We may want an equal and fair world but this means different things to each and everyone. In a society where man is considered the provider and woman the nurturer, when the adults struggle to maintain dignity and perspective, polarisastion toward these percieved roles is almost inevitable. The consequence being children lose their father, perhaps not straight away but in the fullness of time. It takes an extremely strong and focused couple to see that their children, post-separation, receive the nurturing and caring that Dad gives and that he needs to give.

    The emotional bonds, so important to the well being of our children and our parents need to be acknowledged and protected.

    As a man who was the provider in the family I have found it extremely difficult to maintain the nurturing role which is so essential to my continued relationship with my children. What I want is for my former partner to take on a financial role so that I can have more time with my children. It has been very difficult for her to see that this is the only way I can adequately continue my relationship with my children. Weekend visits and the odd hour here and there are not enough for me and my children. Simply, if I am not there to do my job as a parent that vacancy will disappear and be taken over by another adult male.

    Can we co-exist, can there be lots of Dads happily co-parenting the same children? Not for me but this may be something I will have to adjust to in the future.

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  2. Zenon · February 24, 2014

    Where is this men’s movement anyway? I’ve yet to come across it.

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  3. Vincent McGovern. · February 24, 2014

    A major part of the problem is entrenched professionals with the intellect and education (at tax payers expense) to intellectualise,, distort, disguise, their dismemberment of fathers from children agenda and policy. I would much rather deal with an honest feminist supremacist than the pretend egalitarian “but let’s look at this purely from a female victim perspective.” The poison of gender politics will have to be removed from the debate re children and replaced with ‘gender neutral impartial professionalism.’ Doing so would greatly improve children’s outcomes and save the taxpayer a double fortune as less damaged children and less psuedo professionals being paid to perpetuate damage. A long road ahead.

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  4. daddyhardup · February 25, 2014

    Well, at least the CAFCASS officers and social workers thought that children need both parents. Does that represent progress? If the CAFCASS officer in my daughter’s case had thought that, my daughter might still have a father in her life.

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  5. Anonymous · February 25, 2014

    Likewise Daddyhardup.
    Social workers told me to keep my distance. They also accused me of kidnapping my own daughter when I was protecting her from physical and emotional abuse. They told me if Mummy couldn’t look after the kids then Social Services would make their own arrangements and that didn’t include me.

    Cafcass officer didn’t see my home as somewhere the kids might live, she point blank refused to see how I had turned the place into a home for my kids. She sat on the setee and refused to move. She also said if the kids don’t turn up I could wait until they were grown up.

    I wanted to bury her in the garden (ie the Cafcass officer)alongside the rabbit hutch. Fortunately she plays no further part and I’m left to my own devices. (In case you are concerned I didn’t bury her….as far as I know she is still wreaking havoc in her, “never mind deary” sort of way) Her 96 page report was criminal injustice personified.

    I think you are better off with a good counsellor and a bibliography of self-help and PA books. nothing has convinced me so far that Cafcass have the balls to offer any support to the family. At best they instigate and rubber stamp change. Some of the clients we deal with have former partners who are so called Social Workers. What self-respecting Social Worker can simultaneously hold their head up high saying they support the family whilst denying their former partner the right to see his children? Answers on a postcard.

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    • daddyhardup · February 25, 2014

      I too experienced very violent feelings towards the Cafcass officer, also towards my ex’s sneering, contemptuous advocate (both female as it happens), but kept those feelings under control. So much for the violence and abuse inherent in patriarchy! If anything, the family ‘justice’ system demonstrates the ability of many fathers to remain calm and collected under enormous provocation.

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  6. woodman1959 · February 25, 2014

    An opportunity for us to begin to speak up?

    Jude Kelly (Artistic Director at the SouthBank Centre) who bravely organised the recent “Being A Man” conference, has responded to my request for a joint men’s and women’s forum at the forthcoming WOW (Women of the World) conference on March 8th – by creating this:

    “As part of WOW 2014, we are holding a discussion on Saturday 8 March called Being a Man which will feedback from the (BAM) festival to a WOW audience and consider men and feminism amongst other themes that came up throughout the festival. I have included the copy for this event below, and you can purchase tickets for the day at the following link: http://wow.southbankcentre.co.uk/about/

    I suggest that this link below will be easier for purchasing tickets.

    http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/wow-saturday-pass-2014-79478

    Interestingly, the women’s event is much more subsidized than the men’s was!

    Karen…will you be able to make it?

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    • karenwoodall · February 25, 2014

      Woodman, I could make it but I won’t. I read Glen Poole’s account of being hectored and lectured at the BAM event and the depressing interviews with Billy Bragg about how being a man would be great if only men were women. I couldn’t think of a worse way to spend my time than sitting in a room full of men and women talking about being a man within the feminist paradigm. I am really sorry, I know how keen you are, but I just don’t want to go there. I know I keep trying to explain it to you and I don’t know how else to say it but like it is…I don’t want to have a conversation about being men and women within a feminist discourse…I don’t live in that world, I did live in it but now I don’t. I would gladly and happily spend a day talking with Glen Poole and Nick Woodall and you and anyone else who was interested about men and women and how to help them and help them help each other, now that WOULD be something I would make time for. But this. No, sorry. The very thought makes my heart sink to my boots. K

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      • woodman1959 · February 25, 2014

        Hi Karen,

        I appreciate your difficulty, and that the process will not be straightforward, but I feel that individuals like Jude Kelly need maximum support and encouragement to keep her initiative up. She didn’t have to do any of this. She personally is highly sympathetic to our concerns.

        I was only there for the last day of BAM, and was very concerned about Michael Kaufman’s closing address – so unbalanced in its assessment of the difficulties involved.

        Could you give us any links you have about some of the other assessments of BAM that you mention?

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      • karenwoodall · February 25, 2014

        Hi Woodan hang on I will find them for you.

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      • karenwoodall · February 25, 2014

        Here you go Woodman, written by a man who lives and works outside of the feminist paradigm…a man who doesn’t need a woman to tell him how to be a man or approve of how he is a man.

        http://malestrom1.tumblr.com/post/75472662954/being-a-man-isnt-a-problem-that-needs-fixing#.UwzwaqWgF3k

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      • woodman1959 · February 25, 2014

        Hi Karen,

        The article and further comments are most interesting. I’ve had some very good conversation with Glenn before, and will talk to him about this. I may be wrong, but it would seem incredible to me if Jude Kelly was really a gender feminist. She would certainly be the strangest gender feminist ever! I think it is almost certain that she is an equity feminist which really is very,very different…as far as those women who identify as equity feminists are concerned. But she needs to speak for herself on that one,

        I certainly could not see us even beginning to work on any kind of an equal footing with gender feminists. The whole concept of gender feminism would preclude even the possibility of this.

        However equity feminism is an entirely different animal in this respect. Even in the limited debate I have had so far, I have met feminist identified women who are clearly longing to have an enlightened discourse with some of us. My hope is that actually Jude does represent these, more than anything else, or at least that she can be persuaded too, more and more.

        Let’s see.

        .

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      • daddyhardup · February 26, 2014

        I suspect it’s not just the feminist paradigm we need to move beyond, but the whole 1960s model of liberation – Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Black Power &c. – that shaped post-sixties identity politics, including second wave feminism. Identify as a member of an oppressed group, meet with other members of that group for consciousness-raising, then promote the group agenda through the relentless assertion of rights and through empowerment, constantly wrong-footing and out-manoeuvring the opponent in the power struggle.

        Doubtless as a model it has its uses, but it doesn’t really address the question, how do we become reconciled to our opponents and live in peace with them? Gandhi and Martin Luther King, whom the liberationists tended to regard as namby-pambies, were politically realist in recognising that it’s generally neither practical nor desirable for religious and ethnic groups to live totally separate existences, and that they need to develop ways of resolving conflicts between rival groups justly and peaceably. This applies just as much, if not more, to men and women, at least to those of us who don’t aspire to live in monasteries or single-sex separatist communes. ‘Gender wars’ are phenomenally destructive of family and community life.

        The idea of an oppressive ‘patriarchy’ that needs to be overthrown (BAM apparently featured a Grayson Perry phallic column with an all-seeing eye oppressing women, ‘queers’, people of colour &c. &c. – see here: http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/niki-seth-smith/'blokes-don't-need-help‘ ) doesn’t begin to capture the layers of complexity and complicity that exist in power relations between men and women (the patriarchs aren’t doing very well in the family courts, after all). And if the liberationist model doen’t work well for men and women trying to get on, how much less does it work for children. Encourage them to assert their rights and wield power within the family, and we force them out of childhood into a position of adult responsibility that they neither want nor are mature enough to exercise, choosing between parents as a consumer chooses between rival service-providers.

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      • anonymous · February 26, 2014

        Well said Karen. I know exactly where Woodman is coming from, but can no longer sympathize. I’d like to be able to sit around and sip lattes talking to people whose minds have been bent and badly conditioned, but I’ve seen too much now.

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      • woodman1959 · February 27, 2014

        The above list is fabulous. Definitely to be used as a basis for challenging Family Services professionals.

        As far as the WOW event on Saturday 8th March is concerned, Glen Poole has had sufficient bad experience of the existing limitations that Jude Kelly has been working under – not to want to try again on 8th March. However, (although of course I may be wrong) I do believe that what we have here is a work in progress, and what Jude needs to feel is that there is actually a constituency of women pushing her further in this direction of engagement with men.

        If BAM has been something of an outreach exercise aiming to make feminist converts of men (which would perhaps at least partly be the case) then the women will have to start dealing with the terms on which such men may approach feminism.

        If they cannot – then this starts to question their own feminist credentials…so we are on very strong ground here.

        I will definitely be there…so look forward to meeting anyone from this forum who will also be. You’re welcome to approach me – tall, bearded, balding with pony tail!

        Be there – or be square (perhaps!).

        Take care.

        Harry

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  7. Anonymous · February 25, 2014

    I am sceptical about social workers who believe in the family. I presume you mean the family viewed from a gender neutral perspective.

    It would take more than a show of hands at a workshop to convince me that social workers want to save the family rather than make tentative and skewed comments about a relationship which is already broken and fragmented when it first comes to their attention.
    My Cafcass report certainly didn’t contain any bold and leading statements about how I had been a father for ten years and successfully brought up two wonderful children co parenting with my, by now angry and disillusioned partner.
    If Cafcass are to make this leap of faith into the reality of what it really takes to be a normal co-parenting family then they sure have a funny way of showing it.
    ………………..It would be a good idea to devise a thorough test to establish whether these so called family loving social workers really do want us to co parent post separation.

    To start the ball rolling my questions would be:

    Who looks after the children whilst you are at the workshop?

    a) A third party of your choice
    b) A third party of your partners choice
    c) Your partner.
    d) If you no longer live with your partner has his importance to the children diminished/stayed the same/increased
    e) How many less or more hours does your partner spend with the children now that you are separated
    f) Do you consider yourself to be more important as a nurturer or financial provider to your children
    g) After separation does your partner have more or less time with the children? Please quantify.
    h) Are primary parents more important to their children than the other one
    i) Do you think its best contact parents should stick to the rules you have established.
    j) Are your boundaries for the children more or less important than your former partner’s
    k) Do you interpret your children’s disappointment at not seeing their father as a good reason to stop them seeing him at all?
    l) Would you consider respecting your former partner’s relationship with his children
    m) Would you consider respecting your children’s relationship with their father
    n) What do you tell your children about their father, if anything
    o) Do you find it easier to deny the father a chance to parent his children if they are less than 4 years old?
    p) Have you managed to get rid of the father before your child was born
    q) Have you chosen a new father for your child
    r) Have you told the real father that he is not the real father to the child
    s) Have you chosen a father that you think will be more suited to the job
    t) Are you frightened
    u) Do you take any responsibility for denying the child/father relationship
    v) Do you think violence, real or imaginary, is a good reason for denying father a relationship with his children.
    w) Do you accept any responsibility for your part in a volatile relationship
    x) If somebody helped you do you think it possible you could co parent with your former partner without feeling you have to control everything
    y) Are you fearful of your former partner’s desire to have his own parenting time

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  8. daddyhardup · February 26, 2014
    • daddyhardup · February 26, 2014

      And Karen, many thanks for the link to the Malestrom blog – a very good resource.

      Like

  9. karenwoodall · March 1, 2014

    Frankly exponfunction, the most depressing part of this week has, for me, been the crass and ill thought out comments made by Nick Child, written and circulated without much concern for the impact on the people whose lives those suggestions actually affect.

    I have given much space on this blog to both you and Nick, now is the time for you to do your own thing, follow your own path and carve out your own thoughts, they do not, I am afraid, coincide with mine and I have too much work to do and to much else to consider to waste time thinking about things which to my mind do not belong in debates around parental alienation.

    If people want to look at Nick’s blog they are free to do so. Here I intend to continue doing what I do best, working in gender aware and focused ways with parental alienation, starting from a place which is in tune with international debates around the world.

    It took me fourteen years of hard work to build up my learning and develop my practice with families, that, along with my research is where my interest lies, not in entering into pointless debates about whether or not abused men should get alongside womens aid and see the benefit of that..

    I didn’t ask to be included in such a debate, neither did I ask or invite Nick to write about me on his blog in the manner in which he did. I don’t care for people characterising me when they do not know my work or the depths to which I have considered the very complex issues within the pa debate.

    When I work with families I lay myself bare, when I write I do the same thing. Now its time for me to say enough. This is a space I created, those who wish to start where I start and come with me on that journey are welcome, anyone else can carve out their own path. I don’t particualry care for this idea that in setting out my boundaries I am somehow soing something wrong and so I am not publishing your comments, you know the rules by now, my blog, my rules.

    And that is all I have to say on the matter. I am sorry it leaves you cold but I very much doubt the lawyers you talk about will give this a second glance, I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to claim to be so influential.

    i wish you both the best.

    Karen

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  10. Kat · March 2, 2014

    I struggle to comprehend the thinking that suggests that asking whether children need two parents is offensive to single parents. To take an extreme example a friend of mine passed away recently. No one would suggest that the little boy, who has lost a parent has not suffered a monumental loss. Likewise no one would suggest that saying that he has suffered a loss is offensive the parent left behind. That parent would be the first to acknowledge their son’s loss.

    Of course in the above example there was no element of choice, unlike separation where one or both parents have decided that the relationship between the parents should end. People grow apart, a partner may turn out to be different to what was thought, maybe a partner was chosen for the wrong reason etc. Separation may very well be the least poor choice in a given situation, It may well be the option that is going to inflict the least pain and suffering on the children (and everyone else). However, we should not bury our heads in the sand and suggest that pain and suffering is not inflicted on the children.

    Thus it seems to me that the thinking from the family therapists suggest that they would rather not acknowledge that parents can make choices that inflict pain and loss on their children than accept that these things happen and see how the effect on the children can be minimized. This seems to me to be a fairytale land of wishful thinking where some parents are good and others bad and good ones make no mistakes.

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    • woodman1959 · March 2, 2014

      Brilliantly put. The reality is the the alienating parent will likely be treating the target parent as though they were desd, or as if they wish them to be dead – and this can then get very much transferred to the child – so the comparison is an entirely appropriate one.

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    • karenwoodall · March 2, 2014

      In my experience Kat, the thinking comes from believing without question, the single parent and women’s rights message that all separation is about bad men leaving and good women left behind to cope alone. It comes from underpinning practice not only with this feminist doctrine but also with a political correctness that disables the ability to think flexibly in a reality based way about family, what it is and how it is shaped by the legislation surrounding it. It denotes a particular defensiveness around the idea of family too in my view, which may perhaps come from fear or anxiety that ‘family therapy’ itself may be considered to be unfashionable or out of step with modern times. But for me whether family, humanist, psychodynamic or otherwise, working with pa requires a belief that children need two parents an understanding of the world beynd the confines of what feminism would have us believe and a determination that relationships with parents in childhood are the templates that create our own approach to parenting as we grow older.

      In reality therapy is not the ideal way of treating pa and it is simply not a treatment route if a therapist is only working with one of the parents, in that case the therapist is simply listening to the problem not resolving the dynamics.

      Treatment should always involve the child seeing the rjected parent from the outset alongside other work with parents and this work should be located within the court process which may be necessary to use as one of the tools to ensure compliance. Teams of therapist, social worker and a Guardian, working with a Psychiatrist are the very best way of intervening, the lone therapist, delivering once a week therapy is not.

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