parental alienation

In the HuffPost, International Conference in Shared Parenting 2017
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In the HuffPost, International Conference in Shared Parenting 2017

International Conference Shared Parenting 2017

This week I took the train to Boston to attend the International Conference in Shared Parenting. This conference gathered together specialists in post-divorce child development from all over the world. I sat down with a very lovely Dr. Holstein to discuss the Conference, and I wrote about my experience in the HuffPost.

From my article:

…Despite advances in recognizing fathers’ fundamental rights to be equally involved in their children’s lives, the problem of not implementing that right continues within the legal system. At the same time, there’s a growing awareness that relegating one parent, whether father or mother, to second-class citizen parent status is not in the best interests of the child, when neither parent is actually abusive. There is a growing understanding that, post-separation, children need both parents to be fully present in their lives for optimal wholeness.

I sat down with Dr. Ned Holstein, the founder and chairman of the board of the National Parents Organization, at the International Conference on Shared Parenting in Boston. The National Parents Organization has a mission to preserve the bond between parents and children. To that end, at this conference, the world’s most renowned child development experts in the area of post-divorce parenting have gathered to share their research results. How do children fare with and without shared parenting post-divorce?…

“Court practices haven’t kept up with the growing research evidence on the benefits of shared parenting, so our intention was to gather all the world experts in one place at one time to compile the evidence that needs to be recognized as a basis for changing what our current practices are in the courts,” Dr. Holstein told me. “Based on the work of world experts at our conference today, ‘Best Interests of the Child’ means shared parenting for most children.”

Read the whole post here.

International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017

International Conference Shared Parenting

 

Chris Strickland’s Story: My Article in Parent Survival Magazine
anarchy | errors | interview | love | parental alienation | vulnerability

Chris Strickland’s Story: My Article in Parent Survival Magazine

Chris Strickland’s Story

Chris Strickland is a lesbian mom in Mississippi who was a target parent for parental alienation. Her story was complicated by the fact that she wasn’t listed on the adoption papers for her older son nor on the birth certificate for her younger son. She and her partner married in Massachusetts, and their marriage wasn’t legal in Mississippi.

Chris got caught in the lag between marriage in one state and her marriage’s recognition in her home state, where she and her wife were raising their kids. Then her wife left her for a man.

In a few months, her wife moved with the kids and the new man, and Chris didn’t see her sons for almost fourteen months. The former wife told the kids to stop calling Chris “mom.”

Parental alienation is the severing of a child’s bonds with a parent by the other parent, and it is unutterably cruel. Dr. Amy Baker has done a lot of work in the subject and she says, “It’s when one parent gives the child permission to break the other parent’s heart.”

What results is a child who refuses, without good reason, to see a parent, called the target parent. If the child grudgingly sees the target parent, the target parent is, in the child’s mind, the lesser parent. The target parent’s feelings do not matter: the child has been trained to believe that. The child often is coldly cruel to the target parent.

Often the alienating parent is personality disordered: a narcissist, a borderline. Anyone who has worked with or studied these disorders knows how difficult they are to deal with.

Parental alienation isn’t an accident. The alienating parent uses a number of strategies to accomplish the divide between a parent and her beloved child. Amy Baker identifies 17 of them. It’s not just about badmouthing the target parent, and often an alienating parent can claim that they don’t do so. There are other, subtler forces at work, such as when the target parent is from a different ethnic, educational, or socio-economic group. To whit: “You dad isn’t Catholic like us,” or “Your mother didn’t go to college and isn’t French like us.” Alienating parents use identity against the target parents.

Alienating parents do whatever they can to destroy the target parent’s moral authority with their children. “Your mother’s rules don’t apply at my house,” is a classic line that an alienating father uses.

Parental alienation devastates the target parent. It does the same to the child, though the child probably won’t recognize it until he or she is much older–maybe not until his or her 30’s. Children who have been alienated this way often suffer from self esteem issues and terrible anxiety. The parentectomy she pursues to please the alienating parent leaves her scourged with anxiety, and the child doesn’t know that coming back into rightful relationship with the target parent is a crucial step in healing the anxiety.

I also wonder about a child’s relationships when they have been taught by the alienating parent that the target parent’s feelings don’t matter. This is a setup to create broader heartlessness and even narcissism in the child: other people exist only to serve the child, and other people’s needs don’t matter; when someone asks for their needs to be honored, the child sees them as a bad person.

I wrote about Chris Strickland because she was a target parent, and her complicated case took her all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Chris Strickland's story

Announcing THE YEAR OF LOVING
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Announcing THE YEAR OF LOVING

Announcing THE YEAR OF LOVING

I am delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of THE YEAR OF LOVING.

The Year of Loving by Traci l. Slatton

Art gallerist Sarah Paige’s world is crumbling. One daughter barely speaks to her and the other is off the rails. Sarah is struggling to keep her gallery afloat in a tough market when she learns that her most beloved friend has cancer. In the midst of her second divorce, two men come into her life: an older man who offers companionship and stability and an exciting younger man whose life is as chaotic as hers.

Sarah’s courage, humor, and spirit strengthen her, but how much can she bear, and what sustains her when all else falls away?

THE YEAR OF LOVING is available on Amazon.com for pre-order. Publication date is October 10, 2016.

Look for a blog tour in November from Bewitching Book Tours!

 

Lost Parents: When High Conflict Divorce Leads to Parental Alienation
criminal behavior | errors | healing | Huffington Post | parental alienation | redemption | vulnerability

Lost Parents: When High Conflict Divorce Leads to Parental Alienation

This is my latest article on the Huffington Post. It’s about Parental Alienation. I interviewed Dr. Bill Bernet on Independent Artists & Thinkers a few weeks ago.

The space of time sandwiched between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can bring unique anguish for people whose children have become alienated from them through a high conflict divorce.

Parental alienation happens when a child becomes enmeshed with one parent, strongly allying himself or herself with that parent, and rejects the other parent without legitimate justification. These children are encouraged by one parent, the favored parent or alienating parent, to unjustly reject the other parent, the targeted parent. The children can fall prey to the alienating parent’s tactics as a means of escaping the conflict.

According to psychiatrist Dr. William Bernet, professor emeritus of Vanderbilt University and a researcher into the phenomenon, “Almost every mental health professional who works with children of divorced parents acknowledges that PA—as we define it—affects thousands of families and causes enormous pain and hardship.” (Parental Alienation, AACAP News, Sept 2013, pp. 255-256.)

Bernet and other researchers refer to eight criteria for diagnosing parental alienation, including a campaign of denigration against the targeted parent, the child’s lack of ambivalence, frivolous rationalizations for the child’s criticisms against the target parent, reflexive support of the alienating parent against the target parent, the child’s lack of guilt over exploitation and mistreatment of the target parent, borrowed scenarios, and the spread of the child’s animosity toward the target parent’s extended family or friends.

These criteria sound academic but their effect is exquisitely awful in the most human and primal way. The child basically constructs an alternate reality where the parent is some kind of monster. There’s no longer any sense of the parent as a human being with the ordinary nuances of the gray scale, or as a good-enough parent; the parent’s actions and statements are twisted, distorted, and massaged to “prove” that the parent is unworthy of contact.

Children will adamantly maintain that they themselves have compiled their list of rationalizations for the parentectomy in progress. This is called the independent thinker phenomenon.

For a parent who would willingly give his or her heart or liver to a beloved child who needs it, it’s a nightmarish turn of events. The pain is surreal, and it’s frequently heightened both by outright viciousness on the child’s part and by the child’s complete lack of remorse about the way he or she has treated the targeted parent. The child feels entitled to demonize the targeted parent and justified in doing so, and therefore entitled to behave with extreme nastiness toward the parent.

Amy J. L. Baker, PhD, one of Bernet’s research colleagues, writes about seventeen primary strategies used by the alienating parent to foster conflict and psychological distance between the child and the targeted parent.

Parental Alienation

These include poisonous messages to the child about the targeted parent in which he or she is portrayed as unloving, unsafe, and unavailable, such as, “your mother is a rage monster who shames you”; erasing and replacing the targeted parent in the heart and mind of the child, “you can trust mommy, she doesn’t judge and malign you like daddy does”; encouraging the child to betray the targeted parent’s trust, “how bad was daddy this weekend?”; and undermining the authority of the targeted parent, “your mom’s rules don’t apply, you don’t have to listen to your mother, do whatever you want.”

See the whole article here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/traci-l-slatton/lost-parents-when-high-co_b_7400462.html

huffington-post