by Corinne Fronterro
I debated writing about this controversial issue. Yet, as a former Divorce Support Group Facilitator I felt it an important enough reality to shed some light upon: What is Parental alienation a/k/a divorce poison? Parental alienation is defined as: “any behavior by a parent, . . . whether conscious or unconscious, that could create alienation in the relationship between a child and the other parent.”
See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_alienation. Another website article clarifies that “This occurs often but not always in the context of post divorce custody disputes and litigation.” See the Childrens’ Rights Council, www.crckids.org/.
We are further enlightened that such behavior is a “form of relational aggression by one parent against the other parent using their common children.” Bottom line, however, the person that suffers mostly, is the child.
Concrete evidence exists in Wikipedia’s webpage quote: “. . . ongoing parental alienation can cause terrible psychological damage to children extending well into adulthood.”
Richard A. Warshak, author and Psychologist, is a well noted authority on the matter of Divorce Poison. He states that “Unfortunately, divorce poison is common. Every parent has said or done something he/she later regrets . . . ” He quotes the pending statistics for us “. . . in half of divorces, this goes beyond bad-mouthing, and in one of four divorces, the negativity is very severe.” He has written a very resourceful tool, entitled Divorce Poison, on how to refute being a victim not only as a parent, but as a litigant through the legal system.
I am familiar with this book and am quite confident that it also appears on the shelves of most counselors within the judicial system. That’s how popular the book is, frankly. For further reviews on the book and a direct link to CBS’s interview of Dr. Warshak , please see the For more info: section provided below.
Regarding the signs of divorce poison, Warshak tells us how to tell when your child is being exposed to divorce poison: He indicates you should watch for the following behaviors from a child:
- Shy to show affection. The child does not want to hug or kiss you in front of your ex and/or doesn’t tell you about the good times he had with your ex.
- Refers to you by first name.
- Shows less respect.
- Mimics adult complaints.
As clarified in my last article Do you have an emotional divorce?, it takes an adult 2 to 2 1/2 years to fully process a divorce. Warshak recognizes the time perameters of this grieving process, as well, and states it is important to note, “. . . children may display any one of these behaviors immediately following a divorce” and he cautions ” so don’t overact”. Yet, he sets the following criteria as a standard, though, when he states “However, parents should worry when the behaviors become extreme or don’t subside.”
While teenagers are typically very egocentric and tend to be somewhat disengaged more so from parental conflict, there are news stories, nonetheless, telling of situations where long term victims having reached young adulthood have, in the end, removed themselves from parents and “focused their cares and concerns on the care and welfare of younger siblings.” See, www.thestar.com/article/599359. Fortunately, programs, such as Child in the Middle, have been developed to address problematic issues when they first arise. Having facilitated this program, I would highly recommend its’ purchase and implementation to both local counseling agencies and those nationwide.
Some feel this is a growing problem within our society. More distressing, however, is the notion that “Children caught in the middle of such conflicts suffer severe losses of love, respect and peace during their formative years.” [Emphasis added]. With a duo specialty in both psychology and the legal profession and having acted as a Liaison to our local Circuit Court’s Family Law Division and the C.A.R.E. Agency of Macomb County, I would have to say that truly both professions are attempting to work closely to remedy this rising concern and help families overcome this divorce obstacle.
“A wise man sees his own faults, a courageous one corrects them.”, THE ESSENCE OF TAO.
For more info: http://www.momjunction.com/Members/JournalActions.aspx?g=247162&m=3933956, for books reviews on Divorce Poison; & http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/02/01/earlyshow/saturday/main327911.shtml.