custody expert
custody expert
custody expertcustody expert custody expert
custody expert

by Dr. Reena Sommer

Anyone one who has experienced or witnessed a child's outright rejection of a parent with whom they once shared a reciprocally warm, loving, nurturing relationship will understand how devastating the effects of parental alienation syndrome can be. Perhaps more painful than experiencing a son or daughter's rejection is watching that child's own sense of confusion, bewilderment and grief mount through a denial of a parent's love and a bond that developed from birth.

The devastating effects of parental alienation syndrome are multi-dimensional and the consequences for PAS affected children reach far beyond their immature and short sighted understanding of their relationships and existence. Sadly, these children have been unwittingly betrayed and victimized by a parent whom they love and upon whom they depend. When parental alienation syndrome takes hold, children affected by parental alienation syndrome come to understand that their own self worth and needs are meaningless. This message becomes implicitely and subconsiously imprinted when the one person responsible for nurturing them (their alienating parent) is the one who is also responsible for robbing them of their sense of self, their heritage and the love of the other parent. An important subtheme to this message is that PAS affected children also come to understand that the love and obedience they have for one parent is dependent upon their rejection and vilification of the other parent.

It must be understood that parental alienation is a form of child abuse. While at this time, most cases of parental alienation syndrome are not associated with many accounts of physical abuse, emotional abuse is prevalent and most predominant. Because the alienating parent is usually very adept at displaying what appears to be loving and nurturing conduct, parental alienation syndrome can be characterized as well as "BOND ABUSE". By that I mean, the alienating parent uses qualities of nurturing to feed and sustain the relationship between the alienating parent and child but also to destroy the relationship between the child and the other parent (targeted parent).

Developing a Strategy for Coping With Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

Because parental alienation syndrome poses such a difficult challenge to parents, attorneys and the courts, developing effective intervention strategies are essential but not easy. One of the difficulties is there is that no "one" approach that will work on any given case. To have the greatest chance of being effective, approaches to counteracting parental alienation syndrome must be tailored not only to the distinct dynamics of a family situation but also to the climate and attitude of the court. Since parental alienation syndrome is still a relatively new concept and considered by many as being controversial, it is absolutely imperative that the attitude of the court be taken into account. For example, it makes no sense to introduce the term, "parental alienation syndrome" when a particular judge or jurisdiction holds a negative view toward it. Instead, a better approach may be to leave the terminology aside and simply focus on the alienating behavior.

In order to develop an effective approach to parental alienation syndrome, a similar mindset to combatting cancer must be applied. As is the case with treating cancer, the most effective approaches are generally those that is properly targeted, aggressive and very timely. The same treatment principle should be applied to the problem of parental alienation syndrome. Similarly, waiting for parental alienation syndrome to spontaneously remit generally does occur and instead, usually results in very negative outcomes.

Unfortunately, there is no standard treatment protocol or template that can used in the treatment of parental alienation syndrome. There are however, things that people do that are generally ineffective and other things that people do that are more effective. Let's start with the ones that generally do not work.

Things That DO NOT WORK
When Treating Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

  • As indicated before - WAITING - That means waiting for things to get better, waiting for the alienating parent to get over his or her upset or to become more reasonable, or waiting for the children to come around on their own.
  • NEGOTIATING - Alienating parents are not interested in negotiating because they will not consider anything that deviates from their own agenda.
  • MEDIATION - The process of mediation can only work if the parties involved enter into the process in good faith and with the purpose of finding a mutually agreeable solution based on compromise. The alienating parent is not interested in compromise anymore than he or she is interested in negotiations.
  • ATTEMPTS TO REASON WITH THE ALIENATING PARENT - Many targeted parents invest tremendous energy and time in attempts to convince the alienating parent that what they are doing is harmful and unfair to the children and themselves. This is a complete waste and in most cases, it actually makes things worse because it provides more opportunities to create conflict.
  • ATTEMPTS TO APPEASE THE ALIENATING PARENT - This can never happen since the alienating parent is driven by a desire to destroy the targeted parent.

Things That May HELP ALLEVIATE The Effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

  • MAINTAIN CLEAR EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES - This will help protect against the influences of the alienating parent.
  • FOCUS ON ALTERING ONE'S OWN BEHAVIOR AND NOT THAT OF THE ALIENATING PARENT - When the targeted parent makes small changes such as not accepting phone calls from the alienating parent, that in itself may help mediate some of their negatives influences.
  • STOP FEELING INTIMIDATED BY THE ALIENATING PARENT - The alienating parent gets their power from frightening, threatening and intimidating the targeted parent.
  • BECOME PROACTIVE RATHER THAN REACTIVE TO THE ALIENATING PARENT'S BEHAVIOR - Many targeted parents invest tremendous energy and time in attempts to convince the alienating parent that what they are doing is harmful and unfair to the children and themselves. This is a complete waste and in most cases, it actually makes things worse because it provides more opportunities to create conflict.
  • KEEP ON BEING A PARENT - Do not succomb to pressures to overlook children's poor or inappropriate behavior. Be loving, consistent and firm in your expectations of your children.
  • FOCUS ON YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR AND NOT THAT OF THE ALIENATING PARENT - By making changes in how you respond or react to the alienating parent, this in turn will have a direct impact on the alienating parent. For example, if you limit contact with the alienating parent and reframe from responding to threats and criticisms, this will limit the power the alienating parent will have.

Coping with parental alienation syndrome is a challenge and there is no guarantees that your efforts will be successful. However, to completely walk out of your children's lives not only makes the alienating parent's efforst a success but more importantly, it leaves your children completely devoid of the love they deserve (even if they are not in a position to receive it).

Need More Information?

Everyone's concerns are unique. For that reason, Dr. Reena Sommer offers a brief "no obligation" telephone consultation. Please call her with your questions and concerns at 281.534.3923

custody expert
custody expert
Dr. Reena Sommer & Associates PLLC 蟀
Houston, Texas
PHONE: 281.534.3923