Parental Alienation Syndrome – An Ugly Reality
“If you don’t encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent, you’re a bad parent or a bad grandparent. You can either encourage it or discourage it.” Judge Judy
Does “Judge Judy’s” statement sound harsh? Alienating a child from a biological parent, caring relative, or ANYONE the child loves and respects IS harsh. It is called Parental Alienation. Alienating a child from a loving family member can lead to PAS, Parental Alienation Syndrome. Some members of our legal system consider PAS to be a form of child abuse.
What exactly is Parental Alienation Syndrome? PAS is defined by USLEGAL.COM as “a term used in child custody cases to describe one parent’s manipulation of a child to harm the other parent. It may involve:
- Rejecting (spurning), terrorizing, corrupting, denying essential stimulation, denying emotional responsiveness or availability
- Unreliable and inconsistent parenting
- Mental health, medical, or educational neglect
- Degrading/devaluating the other parent
- Isolating and exploiting the child. The alienator parent seeks to alienate the victims from other family members and social supports. There is a conscious or concerted effort to disrupt the child’s affectionate relationship with the other parent and/or stepparent and co-opt all of the child’s affection on to oneself. In PAS, the children are used to destroy the targeted parent as a mean of revenge.”
According to liveabout.com, some classic Warning Signs that Parental Alienation Syndrome is taking place are:
- Anger is promoted towards the targeted parent. A co-parenter will speak negatively about the targeted parent to the child. For example, the co-parenter might say, “I can’t afford to buy you nice things because I am broke and it’s your Dad’s fault.” Another hurtful and direct comment might be, “Your Mom left us, and she doesn’t care what happens to us.
- Covert attempts to promote anger take place. Sometimes a co-parenter will deny saying anything bad about the targeted parent directly to the children. A malicious co-parenter might tout himself or herself to be “moral” and “good” while at the same time badmouthing the targeted parent (and/or the new stepparent) when the kids are within earshot. THIS IS STILL JUST AS BAD. It is a passive-aggressive way to promote anger, and it’s still just as hurtful to the child. If the child can hear your negative comments, it’s still wrong. This also applies to social media. If you don’t badmouth the targeted parent directly but you post on Father’s Day that their Dad is a “jackass”, well that’s pretty bad. (True story.)
- The child is witness to grown up details. A manipulating co-parenter will tell the child intimate details about the divorce and ongoing struggles between the co-parenters and the households. They also might call his/her child their “best friend”. That is SUCH an inappropriate title for a child! It creates lots of confusion about the parent/child relationship within young minds. Don’t do this.
- Negatives messages not necessarily in the form of words are expressed to the child about the targeted parent. This can include the co-parenter shaking his/her head or rolling his/her eyes at something the targeted parent said or did. This behavior by the co-parenter can be just as damaging as negative words spoken. Children are quite perceptive and they know eye rolls and head shakes are meant to be dismissive. The co-parenter is clearly sending a message that he/she thinks the targeted parent is wrong or foolish in some way. Such behavior can affect a child’s self-esteem. When negative words or actions are expressed about a targeted parent, it hurts the child. Remember, they are half of the other parent as well.
- The co-parenter refuses to co-parent reasonably. This one is personal. Steve was not allowed to pick up his elementary/middle school-aged son from his exe’s house. She would drop off Keegan at a nearby park to avoid seeing Steve. Sometimes, this was at night. Keegan would be sitting there, in the dark, clutching a tiny suitcase. This infuriated us. His ex was more concerned with her own feelings than the safety of her son. Steve would have to do the same routine at drop-off, but he would wait to make sure it was indeed the ex who picked up Keegan. This went on for a couple years until finally we had enough of this ridiculous request. Steve decided to start picking up/dropping off Keegan at the exe’s house. We did this until he was old enough to drive and meet us. His ex didn’t care for this too much, but this wasn’t about her. The safety of Keegan was our number one priority.
- The co-parenter might make false accusations of abuse. I’m sure there are many parents who are unable to see their children because of such wicked claims. Granted abuse is real and it can and does happen, but when used as a false claim it is the lowest of the low. Lying about physical, sexual, or emotional abuse makes permanent, deep scars within the child’s mind.
I know this was a very heavy subject for today. I don’t like talking about this either, and I wish PAS didn’t exist. On the other hand, PAS has existed since families became intertwined, and its affects are finally being recognized. Tomorrow I will discuss the seemingly “innocent” things we do or say to our stepchildren that take on various forms and levels of PAS. Go ahead and do some research on the topic as time permits today. The recent articles and extensive studies about PAS are very enlightening. P