Reality Testing: Working With Parental Alienation in the UK

There is much being said about parental alienation in the UK at the moment and  professed practice is erupting everywhere.  Yesterday’s taboo is today’s big thing it seems, which results in us seeing thoughts about parental alienation being promulgated which are unrecognisable in terms of internationally recognised standards of practice.

Whilst I have no problem at all with the growth of interest in the issue,  I do have a problem with the way it is constantly linked to the belief that a change in the law to presumption of shared care will eradicate the risk. I also have a problem with the way in which parental alienation as an issue is at risk of being seen only as a parental rights issue or reformulated as being something which only happens in high conflict family separation.  Both of these themes are being seen in discussion about the issue in the UK currently and both are in danger of reducing the reality of parental alienation as a serious mental health issue to simply that of a  contact dispute.  It is not.

One of the biggest problems about treating parental alienation or raising awareness of the reality of what it does to children, is that it is too often treated by the reductivist approach. This consists of severing contact with the rejected parent on the basis that it is conflict which is harming children and to get rid of the problem one simply gets rid of the potential for conflict.  This completely misses the reality of what parental alienation is and conflates it with  every difficult separation and every highly conflicted family. This does great harm to the alienated child because it misrepresents the issue. Research based on self referred cases of parental alienation adds to this problem, leading  to a situation where everyone and anyone who is not seeing a child for whatever reason, to believe that they are the victim of parental alienation. Which in turn forces some children who are not alienated into a position where their parent considers that they are, to their detriment.  In reality it is far more complex a problem than that of conflict or difficult separation and it deserves proper and full consideration and debate from the perspective of expertise in both theoretical knowledge and practical experience in working with families affected by it, rather than it constantly being claimed or portrayed from the perspective of parental rights.

Parental alienation is not a dispute about contact, it is not about high conflict either although high conflict can result from it. Put simply, it is not even about a child not seeing a parent at all although this is the sad outcome of the dilemma facing the child. Parental alienation is the use by the child of a coping mechanism which allows them to deal with the most impossible situation that any human can find themselves in and a child who has entered into this state of mind, in which they divide their feelings into wholly good for one parent and wholly bad for the other, is suffering badly.

Many people claim that parental alienation is about children not seeing a parent after family separation but fail to understand that in reality, many children living in separated family situations will go through periods of time in which they are more strongly aligned to one or the other parent and will, at times, struggle to maintain a relationship with both of their parents at the same time. Despite the claims by parental rights groups that a change to the law to a presumption of shared care would resolve the problem of parental alienation, the truth is that such a change would simply escalate the numbers of families where children become resistant to a relationship with a parent. And contrary to the belief that shared care will eradicate parental alienation, in families where children are at risk of an alienation reaction, it will simply speed up the route into alienation for the child in too many cases.  This is because the triggers which cause parents to adopt alienating strategies lie within the mental health landscape of the parent at risk of manipulating the child.  Thus, whilst many children’s relationships with their mother or father in an ordinary setting, may be protected by a change in the law, the relationships that a child who is vulnerable to alienation has with a mother or father after separation, depends not upon the law but upon their ability to resist the dynamics caused by one parent and the responses to these by the other.

Parental alienation, as Johnstone and Kelly told us,  is a combination of the alienating strategies of one parent, the responses from the other and the vulnerability of the child to the use of psychological splitting as a coping mechanism.  This triangle, which is the starting point for analysis of a case of parental alienation, demonstrates the way in which an alienation reaction can occur even in a child who lives in two homes in a fifty/fifty arrangement.  If the child is vulnerable and one parent decides to manipulate the child, the other parent is going to be either a) helpless to do anything or b) forced into a conflicted position in which they are portrayed as the cause of the problem if they do not do as the manipulating parent demands.  The key is the vulnerability of the child not the status of their parents in law.  Add into this a mental health problem or a generationally learned set of behaviours in one parent and a few adverse responses from the other and you have yourself a case of severe parental alienation regardless of what the law says.  This is because parental alienation is a mental health issue not one which is located in the legal landscape, although to resolve the problem the legal and mental health interlock has to be relied upon to force dynamic change.

As the increased interest in parental alienation pushes the issue to the fore in the UK, more informed debate is needed which focuses upon the issue as it really is, not what it is claimed to be by those who represent the needs of one parent or the other.  Focus and understanding of the vulnerability of children to the dynamics around them is required and reality based responses to treating the problem are required.  Until and unless the issue is recognised as being a serious mental health issue and until or unless the impact on children is fully recognised, there will be a continuation of the belief that parental alienation is all about contact with a parent after separation rather than the pernicious and deeply concerning issue that it really is.  Without the knowledge and expertise of practitioners who properly understand that not all children’s resistance is down to parental alienation, the issue will be used as a political football by the parental rights campaigners on both sides and will be diminished in its importance in terms of recognition of the serious harm it does to children.

Now is the time to put parental alienation where it properly belongs, in the realm of mental health and into the hands of people who are capable of delivering successful outcomes for children suffering from it.  Working with the legal and mental health interlock in which cases of parental alienation are properly identified, differentiated, treated and managed, is the right way forward.

The Family Separation Clinic will be offering a one day practitioner training on 29th June 2017 at 50 Liverpool Street, London, EC2M 7PY.    Only ten places are available for this entry level training in theory and practice with alienated children and their families which will be delivered by Karen Woodall and Nick Woodall.  Cost £295 plus VAT.  For details please email office@familyseparationclinic.co.uk 

Please note that this training is for practitioners such as social workers, therapists and counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists working with separated families. The training is focused upon the translation of international standards of practice into a UK setting and the mental health and legal interlock in case management. Practitioners will learn how to assess, analyse and prepare and deliver successful interventions in cases of parental alienation.  Case studies from successful practice will be used to demonstrate practical delivery and opportunities to consider development of individual practice will be made available throughout the day.

Practitioners who attend this training will be invited to join the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners which convenes on July 11th in Prague and which will provide support to individual practitioners as well as collective commitment to delivery of recognised standards in practice with alienated children and their families across Europe.

49 comments

  1. William - · 25 Days Ago

    What strategies and suggestions do you have for identifying the onset of parental alienation in it’s early stages. i.e. before the alienation becomes chronic/ entrenched? In Family Law settings, how can Judges/Cafcass/Nalgaro be effectively trained to spot early warning signs/ indicators?

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    • karenwoodall · 25 Days Ago

      Hi William – There are a number of strategies which can be used, I will write about these next. The key issue however is that if a child begins to refuse to see a parent or if a child begins to show transitional difficulties in moving to one or the other parent then intervention should be made immediately and that is where a strong order with court management comes in very handy. And so I am not saying that there should be no legislation and no legal intervention, on the contrary I am saying that the legal intervention and the legislation needs to interlock with the mental health intervention, but I am saying that a change in the law in and of itself will not and does not make the magical change too many think it will. Learning how to cope and understand and change one’s responses to the alienating strategies is a core need for a parent being attacked in this way so that the child does not sink into the response of withdrawal. Much more to come. K

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      • Frankie · 24 Days Ago

        That’s exactly it Karen!!
        The Court Welfare Officer involved in my case contacted me in August after my son had gone to his daddy in June. She then advised we go to Parenting classes, to which their daddy refused, and the next involvement I had with her was when the residency order was being changed from me to my ex-husband in October! I had contacted my solicitor as soon as my son had left the house in June!

        All this time my son had been in contact with me although never allowed to see me! They were loving, funny texts and conversations but as son as his daddy got the residency order I never had contact again!

        5 months had passed since my son had left my home, over boundary issues, at the tender age of 13, and his father and paternal grandmother did quite a job on him!

        Please Karen, keep doing what you’re doing, I would not wish this on my worst enemy!!

        Just as a comment, can I just say that I’ve never been involved in something that the parties involved got so many holidays and/or sick leave at the most inappropriate times! Court cases and social services meetings were postponed on a regular basis which really does prolong the situation! I had almost 3 years in and out of court and social services intervention until it was decided that at nearly 16 my son could make up his own mind!! His “alienated” mind!!

        My GP was furious and was the only one who had the courage of his convictions! Towing the party line is a big problem with social workers today and not always their fault!

        Frankie

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      • karenwoodall · 24 Days Ago

        In my experience Frankie, social workers have little training and little experience of the problem plus they have boxes to tick and timescales to keep and so they go with the easiest outcome which is what the child says. If one always follows what the child says then inevitably one puts them in danger because the use of psychological splitting into all good and all bad is harmful to start with and leaves them with a legacy of psychological distorted thinking and belief to deal with. The unfortunate thing for social workers is that they do not have to live with the consequences of their actions and soon move on to other cases leaving children in pretty desperate situations in my view. Controlling parents are absolutely alive to the way in which social workers can be manipulated and fathers who want to use parental alienation to remove the child from the mother are skilled at doing so. Put that amidst the parental rights fight and what you have is a recipe for all dads to believe they are alienated and clever and manipulative dads to shout parental alienation as a strategy. Social workers have no way of differentiating what is happening and so go with the child’s voice and in social work land, if a child doesn’t want to see a mother then that mother must have done something really really wrong.

        Add into this the father’s rights groups such as FNF discussing PA as if it were a contact issue and researchers using self referred FNF members who say they are alienated in their research study and then FNF using that research to ‘prove’ that fathers are alienated from their children and very soon what you have got is a myth that all fathers are alienated which means that when a father is not alienated or has caused it himself or is using it against the mother or other such strategies, he is able to shout parental alienation and everyone feels compelled to listen.

        Social workers desperately need education but not by the father’s rights movement or anyone associated with them in my view because what has been created is a monster which has no relation to the reality of what parental alienation actually is. It is not a contact dispute and it is not about the amount of time a child spends in each home, it is a serious mental health issue which comes to light during separation but which is never resolved by simple division of time.

        As a label it is also a tool which is used to great effect by some controlling parents.

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      • William · 18 Days Ago

        Hi Karen – I would really appreciate any advice you have on this, will you be doing a separate thread?Thank you. W

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  2. Susang · 25 Days Ago

    Thank you, Karen for this. The more practitioners who understand what PA really is the fewere children will be harmed.

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  3. Sully · 25 Days Ago

    We are in a position where the child is clearly aligned to the Alienator (mother) and is rejecting the target parent (father) because he supposedly upset the child (didn’t happen) but Alienator has taken child to a counsellor and has convinced Counsellor to write a report focussing on this upset which is pure fabrication. The Alienator is now trying to use the report in court to convince judge child should have no contact with Father. There are no or never have been safeguarding issues and child once had loving relationship with father but sadly Alienator has done everything in her power to stop contact.

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    • Fergalcat · 25 Days Ago

      Sadly seen this before and hopefully so will your Judge who’ll no doubt be requesting CAFCASS or a GAL investigate. I’ve also seen children as young as 7 write letters “Dear Judge, please don’t make me see my mummy/daddy this weekend as I want to stay with mummy/daddy” followed by a frivolous reason.

      As Karen says these problems require mental health intervention and robust court orders. The sooner that’s accepted, the better.

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  4. sadsam · 25 Days Ago

    “. an alienation reaction can occur even in a child who lives in two homes in a fifty/fifty arrangement. If the child is vulnerable and one parent decides to manipulate the child, the other parent is going to be either a) helpless to do anything or b) forced into a conflicted position in which they are portrayed as the cause of the problem if they do not do as the manipulating parent demands.”

    Karen, I appreciate why you refer to the 50/50 shared experience but do you also consider that this scenario can /does happen in situations which are more unequally split for direct contact ( though indirect communication is happening regularly thanks to modern technology) and that the non alienating parent can similarly be “helpless” or “forced into a conflicted position”?

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  5. karenwoodall · 25 Days Ago

    An alienation reaction can be engineered in the child in any situation if the child is vulnerable to it SS. There are some circumstances for example where children will be persuaded away from a parent by a parent who has very little contact direct or otherwise, the key is the alienating strategies being used, the responses to that by the target parent and the vulnerability of the child. The issue I think you are raising is, is pa as an accusation used to persuade the court that the child should be moved – ie: allegation of pa as an alienating strategy – the answer is yes it is used, often by controlling parents and often triangulating the child into the dynamic extremely quickly meaning the targeted parent (often a mother) is left without anywhere to go.

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    • sadsam · 24 Days Ago

      The idea of a parent using “alienating strategies” implies a conscious and deliberate set of actions. Karen, you mention that one such strategy is in fact an “allegation of PA” itself…… in your work with alienating parents have you come across other strategies which these people commonly use? Perhaps such knowledge might help targeted parents ‘get wise’ to their schemes?

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      • karenwoodall · 24 Days Ago

        There are conscious and deliberate strategies and unconscious strategies which are not deliberate and unconscious strategies which start out that way but become conscious over time. I will write about strategies next. K

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  6. btgdad · 25 Days Ago

    I agree with all points made in the article. As a mental health nurse and an alienated parent i believe in resilience building for the effected children, to allow them time with both parents but to minimise the effect of and increase their resilience to alienating behaviours.

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  7. HowieDennison · 25 Days Ago

    There are many good points in this article. Yes, PA can and does happen when one parent has very little contact. Yes, PA can and does happen in “intact” families. Agreed, using “high conflict” is not very accurate. I do kind of like the way DSM-5 puts it … child affected by parental relationship distress ….. though it is not nearly deep enough, to describe the child being affected by the splitting and projection and triangulation that get magnified by that distress.

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    • karenwoodall · 25 Days Ago

      I agree Howie, the reality of the way in which the corrosive behaviours of the alienating parent oppress and force the child into withdrawal are not illuminated by the words child affected by parental relationship distress though it is a start. I just want to see the issue in the UK removed from the parental rights arena because having it there has done nothing to highlight the reality for decades now and I think it does children a real disservice to have it portrayed to the outside world as being about contact disputes. It is nothing of the sort, whilst it might come to light in a legal arena because of the spotlight being shone on the behaviours of a parent it is just not about contact or rights it is about children in severe distress and suffering psychological harm.

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    • CT-G · 25 Days Ago

      “High conflict” is yet another all encompassing phrase which doesn’t always apply but is used with abandon. High conflict suggest that both parents are in conflict with each other, when in some cases the ‘conflict’ is in reality very one sided, with one parent displaying high drama and alleging much, but the other parent responding with behaviours and language that seek to find a middle ground. It’s so easy for Cafcass, judges etc to label it as a ‘he said, she said’ situation, but closer inspection would see that it is a he said, she shouted/argued/screamed/cried/alleged, in response.

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  8. daveyone1 · 25 Days Ago

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

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  9. Sebastian Graff-Baker · 25 Days Ago

    As a father who has not seen his daughter for six months and who has withdrawn his court application because of conflict I am relieved to read this since it explains the futility of pursuing ordered contact whilst the mental health issues for one or both parents remain unresolved – where do I go from here?

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  10. Michael · 25 Days Ago

    The 50/50 care model is very resistant to PA. My children survived the on/off PA campaigns by the Alienator for 10 years. Where the Alienator won out was that due to all her aggression I was cut off from her family regime. This allowed her to fabricate many untruths about me as a father without any dissent that were reinforced by the Regime into our young children’s brains. The Regime had no idea they were used as pawns to Alienate our children. A second devastating strategy used by the Alienator was to encourage our children to create hate sheets about me. Combined these two factors were enough to erase a dad who had survived as a parent for 10 years after separation.

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    • sadsam · 24 Days Ago

      The idea of your kids creating “hate sheets” about you is horrifying… may I ask how you found out that such things existed? And how you attempted to counteract them? I can’t imagine any court condoning such blatant manipulation of kids…..awful…

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    • karenwoodall · 24 Days Ago

      I suspect that what happened Michael was that during the ten years of 50/50 shared care your children were young enough to remain resilient to the machinations of their mother but as soon as they reached the age when they become vulnerable (8-14) to manipulation their mother went to town on them. The issue about 50/50 care being that it was not the arrangement which was resistant to PA but your children. The other issue in your comment is that if alienating parents wish to create hate sheets or any other strategy they will because they are not concerned with the impact on the children, only the impact on you and therefore, 50/50 or other arrangements, when they want to do it they absolutely will. All alienating parents I have ever known who have been conscious and deliberate alienators are unwell and unable to see that what they are doing is harmful or are unwell and don’t care that what they are doing is harmful. Horrible to be witness to and terrible for the children. I send you my support you have been through the worst possible scenario. K

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  11. wavytracy · 24 Days Ago

    It might be a mental health problem, but camhs don’t recognize it either. Please open up your training to a larger audience. There are thousands of people who need to understand more about this, from psychologists to social workers to counselors to teachers.

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    • karenwoodall · 24 Days Ago

      if only it were that easy Tracey, our training is open to all but CAHMS don’t show any interest in it. The training we are advertising in this post is for independent practitioners because the institutionalised services are largely uninterested in what we do and how we do it. K

      Liked by 1 person

      • sadsam · 24 Days Ago

        “CAHMS don’t show any interest in it”

        Karen, have CAMHS ever explained ‘why’ they choose not to be interested? Similarly
        “the institutionalised services are largely uninterested in what we do and how we do it”

        Is it because they are part of the NHS and the NHS only recognises certain approaches / certain validated research etc for inclusion in its services? Not to mention of course that mental health provision in the NHS has long been underfunded and little seems to be changing for the better. Iny own case CAMHS exacerbated the distress of child(ren) and myself in my situation and then became positively damaging as they believed everything social workers told them, repeating second/third hand tales and confusing opinions with facts. In the UK parents unable to afford psychological help outside of the NHS are left, along with their children, woefully unsupported. Perhaps we should all be lobbying our MPs to sit up and take notice?

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  12. wavytracy · 24 Days Ago

    We had 5050 shared care and lost it due to PA. We just didn’t understand what was happening, in the beginning the eldest started saying she was scared of us. This was just three weeks after she said she wanted to live with us! We had said to her that she had to talk through her problems with her mother (who had been very clearly using her as a scapegoat and favoring her brother in particular, but also her sister, over her). We didn’t know about Golden child/scapegoat dynamics and probably advised the wrong thing, because then she started saying horrible things about us and now we don’t see her at all.

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    • karenwoodall · 24 Days Ago

      I know so many families where 50/50 arrangements very quickly descended into 100/0 arrangements because the children are vulnerable to alienation. If the child is vulnerable and the adults don’t know how to deal with it the trigger to the child using the coping mechanism is usually found very quickly by the child. It is not about the living arrangements but the vulnerability of the child. K

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Ally · 24 Days Ago

    Thank you for your continuing work Karen.
    We have a quandary because 1 of the children has a birthday coming up and hasn’t been to contact at all now for 6 weeks, and her mother is saying she doesn’t want to attend (court process about to be underway yet again because we do not believe those are her true wishes). However more immediately, to protect the child’s mental health, should we make contact on her birthday and/or get a present delivered, or not? It’s so hard to know what to do for the best. We don’t want to cause her mind to be more conflicted, but neither do we want her to think her daddy has forgotten her. She’s only 7. If we messaged her, I doubt it would get to her on social media as I’m sure her dad’s been blocked.

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    • Cara · 23 Days Ago

      Yes, make an effort to contact her, get her a present and send it if you can. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but better to err on the side of trying to show her you still love her and are not upset with her.

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  14. Willow · 24 Days Ago

    Quote from Karen :It is not about the living arrangements but the vulnerability of the child.

    Which is why my husband managed to alienate my daughter (from age 15 – she’s now 36) within an intact 46 year marriage. He just encouraged her to talk to me any way she wanted to and it escalated from there. There was NOTHING I could do because he elevated her above me. And he did it because he was controlling and wanted to keep me in my place. He constantly found ways to do that and she copied him. By copying him, she reinforced his stand against me. If I’d left him at the beginning I would have had 19 years less seeing my daughter.

    Early on he had said that if I left him he would fight for custody and HE WOULD WIN. My daughter was three years old at the time and it was only six months after we lost our five year old. The child he never spoke of again.

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    • sadsam · 24 Days Ago

      Willow, being on the receiving end of verbal threats and fear creating tactics is a horrific experience and so misunderstood by the wider public……and to be so, so shortly after the death of your other child says volumes about the kind of person he was/is…….I wish I knew how a person can protect themselves from people like this but without ‘visible’ evidence it seems to descend into the dreaded he said/she said scenario and if the wrong person is believed, this creates a layer of additional pain and destruction on top of the original personal experiences. How I wish there was a fool proof way to really see ones prospective partner/coparent for what they really are in order to avoid such truly painful life experiences. May you find strength…

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  15. Willow · 24 Days Ago

    sadsam thank you for your thoughts:-)

    It was very painful and it did speak volumes about the kind of person he is but I didn’t recognise it then. I didn’t recognise it until almost the day I finally left him – and her – two years ago. Karen has written so much about generational family dynamics and as a result I’ve had so many light bulb moments it’s unbelievable. This is a truly mind blowing epidemic. So very sad.

    Two years on I have finally let my daughter go. She is not the child I once knew and has become almost a clone of her dad but in many, many ways much, much, stronger than him. They still present a wall I cannot break through but by letting her go and trying to live my life I am going forwards not living in the past.

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    • sadsam · 24 Days Ago

      Willow, your strength is admirable. As a society we think educating children about sex is the key issue……. Perhaps it’s time we thought more about educating children about what is acceptable behaviour in a true loving relationship so that they have a greater chance of avoiding these kind of distressing life experiences and breaking destructive intergenerational role plays…

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  16. Willow · 24 Days Ago

    Sadsam: Perhaps it’s time we thought more about educating children about what is acceptable behaviour in a true loving relationship so that they have a greater chance of avoiding these kind of distressing life experiences and breaking destructive intergenerational role plays…

    The trouble is what is acceptable behaviour to one is not acceptable behaviour to another. My husband saw absolutely nothing wrong with what he was doing and my daughter sees absolutely nothing wrong with the pattern she has followed. I know I didn’t deserve what I ended up with but both of them are convinced that I did!

    What goes on in the home will always have a stronger bearing on a child than what is taught at school (think littering and swearing).

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    • sadsam · 23 Days Ago

      Hi Willow, interesting to hear your viewpoint……personally I don’t like to underestimate the role of ‘external influences’ on children, especially as they get older, in tandem with home influences. Presumably neither your ex, nor your daughter, received the kind of relationship education I think schools could provide in preparing them to form healthy relationships, and as you say, that didn’t turn out too well, very sadly for you (and your daughter). For kids in healthy home environments it’s ok……they unconsciously absorb how healthy parental relationships work. For kids not in that kind of environment, they absorb different ideas and what might seem ‘normal’ to them is in fact far from….. but nevertheless it becomes their ‘norm’ and they can’t necessarily appreciate what it could or should be replaced by. In these cases, at least with some appropriate external input, it might just sow enough seeds of doubt in their minds that what they are experiencing at home is maybe not the role model to follow and better still give them pointers to a better way. Anyway…..just a thought I’m not a Psychologist!!

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  17. Linda Turner · 23 Days Ago

    Reblogged this on Parental Alienation.

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  18. Carl James Garnham · 23 Days Ago

    When the light of your life is extinguished, your children, everything pales into insignificance, reason, purpose, hope, joy….gone. When they were born, your life became theirs. You learn to live with the abyss of emptiness, the living death, or you dont live, you die yourself, your life, heart, mind and soul given to them.

    Tumbleweed and two fucks not given by humanity flying by….the internal landscapes of chronically alienated parents, like one of Dali’s or De Koonings most disturbing when the alienated, despised and hated testify.

    What is remarkable is i still have the ability to love, a reason, a hope, something to cheer, something fair, something beautiful, something true, something the diseased can not distort.

    Come on Sheffield United!!!!!!! x

    There was once a great ch4 drama, called psycho’s, there was a doctor, there was an old old celtic fan and his lovely scarf, there was a lot of newly qualified twats on this acute ward, the enlightened doctor prescribed that the twats leave the old mans scarf alone who he believed shouldnt really be there. He got “better” and lived a long and happy life, considering there was nothing wrong with him to begin with, just an over qualified bumbling twat wanted to make a name for themselves and had no idea what football was or means to people and the anchors it leaves in the time they have lived for recollection of times, places and faces past. Celtic won the next game, he never felt he belonged somewhere more. The old guy had a pint and a pie, said his hail marys, went to bed, got up, had a lovely sunday dinner bless him.

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  19. Carl James Garnham · 23 Days Ago

    If the blades had had one more season under the last regime…i may not be here now! It was so very depressing when the one thing that cant be touched by the rest of the crap going on ends up making you feel depressed too because nobody turns up. Chris Wilders in charge now, and heez one of our own…im going to be around to piss people off for the forseeable at least x

    Things may be different this time next year though….if we go up again, i wont need legs to walk, i’ll float.

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    • karenwoodall · 23 Days Ago

      Football as the balm to the pain, it is part of my motto – whatever works and much much much more of it x

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  20. Ako · 23 Days Ago

    I somehow feel that shared custody and extensive time with each of the parents is beneficial for children in many ways, certainly more beneficial than sole custody where one parent has all the power over the child. Why not have both – shared custody and full understanding and proper treatment of PA, when PA is an issue?

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    • karenwoodall · 23 Days Ago

      Yes I can agree with that but the point is that shared custody, in a child who has little resistance and a parent who is going to use alienating strategies, is about as useful as a chocolate teapot in terms of preventing it. So long as people are aware of that and those with shared custody understand the signs and the risks to the child and can act when necessary and quickly, I don’t have an issue with it. What I have an issue with is it being promoted as the resolution to PA, it is not, in far too many cases it becomes an underlying trigger for the reaction in the child. I know, I monitor these families and see it happening daily. K

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      • sadsam · 23 Days Ago

        “understand the signs and the risks to the child and can act when necessary and quickly”

        And therein lies part of the problem…. how many separated parents (or those still ‘intact’ but conflicted) have a clue what “the signs and risks” look like, or what to do about it when they do? It would seem that ‘Knowledge is power’, and the sooner the better…….too late for many of us here, but how I would like to be able to prewarn those parents stepping into the world of conflicted parenting….early awareness could give them and their children at least a fighting chance….

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  21. William - · 23 Days Ago

    There is no support mechanism to actively protect Children or support parents during the early stages of PA. Only the 1-2% of cases which reach the higher (London) courts have the slightest chance of benefitting from experts in the field and intervention only comes late on, once the real damage has been done. Only once serious harm has been inflicted upon children does any help becomes possible. Cafcass, Nalgaro and regional (lower) Family Courts are, in many cases ill-equipped and oblivious to the early warning signs, so children will continue to suffer needlessly.

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  22. sadsam · 23 Days Ago

    Picking up on Karen’s view that PA is not a ‘parental rights issue’, I wonder how better things would be if instead of the focus on ‘rights’, there was a greater emphasis in ‘responsibilities’? If all marriage vows legally included ‘never to denigrate, undermine each other to any offspring, either during marriage or during any future separation which might occur, never to seek to set such offspring against the other parent, to wholly respect and honour the rights of the children to love each of their parents, in the absence of any real safeguarding issues’. Might this be a wake up call to parents to be? Marriage vows are typically all about the adults honouring each other, with not a thought given to any children they may go on to bring into the world. Eutopia?? Maybe, but how different this argument might look if viewed solely from the realm of parents’ emotional and psychological responsibilities to their offspring, rather than treating kids as possessions, weapons etc in familial conflict.

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    • William - · 22 Days Ago

      Any concept of Parental Rights went out with The Children Act in 1989 – This should be all about Children’s Rights in any case. Referring to parents always leads to classic stereotyping and so an easy excuse for avoidance of the really important issue – The Rights of the Child. Sadly a Child’s Rights are almost impossible to uphold or enforce in the UK since the Judiciary, often making decisions ‘in secret’ can readily ignore UN Convention Rights with impunity. The UK never fully signed up to European Rights despite being part of the EU, although that detail becomes even less relevant since the triggering of Article 50. If Children’s Rights are ever to be upheld, Children need access to proper Independent Advocates, (currently there is no such thing) not Court appointed local Guardians/ Cafcass who can be conflicted by feeling the need to pander to the local Judges who have appointed them. The kind of people who alienate their own children wouldn’t think twice before dishonouring any marriage vows no matter how thought provoking they might appear to be.

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      • sadsam · 22 Days Ago

        Hi William…re your comment ….that’s why I specifically suggested “If all marriage vows legally included….” . The legal emphasis needed to make parents ” think twice” before glibly “dishonouring any marriage vows”.

        Re ‘independent children’s advocates’ they do exist in UK through some children’s charities, but getting the children to engage with ‘yet another’ professional can be an just another uphill struggle I found in my own experience. Whether/ how well, they are/would be, accepted in the court process I’m not sure…no knowledge on that one.

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      • William - · 22 Days Ago

        Hi Sam, I accept there isn’t a one size solution to PA. Every case has it’s own differences. There do however seem to be some patterns. Family Justice, or the lack thereof, is often a huge stumbling block and a system of parental parity would surely put a end to the battles over some children which would then help a proportion of cases. Where PA exists within families who are still living under one roof, I agree other solutions will be needed. My cynicism about marriage stems from my own experiences. Marriage is less and less attractive to many because of the Laws currently in place which penalise one party already. Make vows legal and I think that will just put more people off. The kind of people who are happy to harm their own children by alienating them against their other parent will happily manipulate anybody and anything – how would you punish parents who disrespected marriage vows? Courts almost never punish implacably hostile parents or serial breachers of court orders or liars (contempt of court) usually because of the distress argument (punishing the parent will cause distress to the child). By Advocates, I mean Independent Children’s Legal Advocates – i.e. solicitors/ barristers specialising in Children’s Rights and Family Law who will represent a Child and hold Judges to account, (not court/cafcass appointed) – if you know of any, I’d be very interested to hear from you… my research shows that most Children’s advocates are just referral agencies who are court appointed or via social services, so not independent. Truly Independent Children’s Legal Advocates seem illusive, CRAE and FRG included…

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      • sadsam · 21 Days Ago

        Hi William… Re”Children’s advocates are just referral agencies who are court appointed or via social services, so not independent. “….my only knowledge is of NYAS, who you can approach yourself on behalf of the child or the child can approach themselves……how or if they help in court situations I don’t know but might be worth your while approaching them if you haven’t already.

        “My cynicism about marriage stems from my own experiences.”…. understood…..hard not to be considering some of our experiences if it, sadly.

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  23. Willow · 22 Days Ago

    William, I agree with your statement: “The kind of people who alienate their own children wouldn’t think twice before dishonouring any marriage vows no matter how thought provoking they might appear to be.”

    And I would add that even with a “legal emphasis needed to make parents ” think twice” before glibly “dishonouring any marriage vows”, as suggested by sadsam, I would still agree with William. Personally I doubt how much weight any wedding vows carry these days with a large proportion of the population. I know what I hoped for within marriage but my wedding vows (and those of my husband) were just part of the process of getting married even in the 1970s when most people seemed to get married.

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