(Click here  for more coverage on parental alienation.)
The Fourth Annual Parental Alienation and Hostile Aggressive Parenting Awareness Day is coming up on April 25, 2009. Visit the Parental Alienation Awareness Day web site  for more information.
Spreading Awareness of Parental Alienation
We think it’s really important to the well-being of our children and future generations to spread awareness of parental alienation and its destructive effects. Below is a brief explanation of what parental alienation involves, the harm it can cause, and steps that may be taken to help recover from it. We’ve also included links to books that may help you understand and deal with the problems it causes.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is conduct by a parent or parental figure, such as an adult a child trusts like a grandparent or parental friend or church pastor or teacher, that demeans and denigrates the target parent and could disrupt the relationship between the child and the target parent. Sometimes it is called “hostile aggressive parenting”. It’s important to note that it is not limited to just parents, that other adults can commit parental alienation against a target parent and his or her children.
It’s not uncommon for ex-spouses to bash each other. Occasional conduct like this, especially when the children realize it is tied to the person being upset and saying things he or she wouldn’t normally say, generally doesn’t rise to the level of parental alienation. Systematic behaviors are really the problem, whether they are a few months of bad-mouthing or years of spreading lies and false accusations and trying to get the children to spread them, too.
Children are Harmed by Parental Alienation
Alienation of a child against a parent is harmful to the child’s emotional and mental health. It can result in severe psychological damage to children, affecting their abilities to trust other people, build their own relationships, and even to simply feel safe. The alienation may cause a lifetime of mental health problems ranging from depression and anxiety to attachment disorders and even personality disorders. The children also have destructive parenting modeled for them. They are therefore set up to become a future generation of child abusing parents themselves. The more they are exposed to the alienating and harmful environment, the more the damage will become.
Steps to Help Stop Parental Alienation
Parental alienation is a form of emotional child abuse that must stop for the well-being of children. Alienating parents should be subjected to mandatory psychotherapy and have reduced contact with their children until they can demonstrate an ability to stop the alienating behaviors. Other alienating adults should possibly be required to participate in a similar rehabilitation program if they are family members. If not, they should be fined to cover the therapy costs for the family and banned from further contact with the children they harmed.
The target children and target parent should also participate in psychotherapy with either their own therapists who communicate with each other and in conjoint sessions to help them cope as a family. If the children have been so badly affected as to start to believe the alienation, it is going to take help from experts to fix the damage. If not, the children still need to learn about parental alienation from a neutral figure so they can help build their defenses against it rather than feeling that both of their parents are alienators.
It is important that the therapists for the alienators have a complete picture of the situation and do not simply become co-alienators. This will likely require special training and periodic communication with the therapists for the targets.
Termination of Contact in Extreme Cases
It is best if the alienators can learn to overcome their destructive behaviors and establish workable shared parenting. Children gain from contact and relationships with both parents, assuming they are safe and reasonable. However, in extreme circumstances in which years of therapy have not managed to make a significant reduction in alienating behaviors, it may simply not be possible to fix the problems. This is probably most common for alienators who suffer from hostile personality disorders or other severe mental health problems. Only in such cases, after years of effort, should termination of parental contact be considered.