How to Tell when Your Child’s Hostility is More Than Divorce Blues
It’s been said there are two sides to every story and somewhere in between lies the truth. Nowhere is this more personified than within the walls of family court. Divorce is rarely amicable. There are instances, however, when routine divorce squabbles spill over into something far more sinister. When one party finds divorce to be synonymous with destruction, no one pays a higher price than the children caught in the crossfire. Regardless of how parents feel about each other, it’s imperative they be adult enough to realize the damage they could inflict upon their children. The fallout of divorce rains heavily upon children of all ages including adults. Divorce is hardly a surprise, but what some parents are doing to their children is alarming.
Mind games and propaganda have long been a staple during war. It’s used to extract information or convince the other side to join ours. Dictators use it to prevent those in their country from learning the truth and making informed decisions. It’s a manipulative and controlling way to make certain the one in charge stays in charge. Weapons of mass destruction or no, it’s the reason we invaded Iraq. And it’s what divorce parents often subject their children to on a regular basis.
In the ’80’s Dr. Richard A. Gardner uncovered a disturbing phenomena among children of divorce. Over an extended period of time, a child subjected to continual, groundless negativity regarding a parent will eventually succumb to the exposure and adapt the distorted view presented to them. In other words, a mother with custody of her children can systematically set about destroying the child’s father so completely that the father-child bond is shredded beyond repair. What the mother doesn’t understand is that it is the child who pays the heftiest price.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a mental health condition that has been fingered as the root cause of false abuse allegations and in it’s most extreme condition, murder. To some degree PAS takes place in the early stages of divorce when emotions are still raw, but fades away as emotional wounds heal. There are cases in which parents aren’t aware of what they’re doing and once it’s made clear to them they cease. The greater majority involves malicious intent. Twenty-two states have ruled in PAS cases. What began as an anger fueled attempt on the mother’s part to sever the father-child bond, ends with the mother losing complete custody.
In most cases it is the mother that begins the hate campaign against the father. For the sake of clarity the following list of symptoms assumes the mother to be in that role:
1.Under the guise of trust, care and honesty, the mother chronicles divorce details from a slanted point of view that paints dad as mean and mom as a victim.
2.Refuses to help the child transition to time with the dad by not allowing the child to take toys or other favored items with them and by repeatedly telling the child daddy’s house is not their home but merely a place to visit.
3.Unwilling to be flexible with the visitation schedule.
4.Overbooking the child in activities in order to reduce visitation time. When the dad wants the child to spend time with him rather than be in constant motion, the mother will label the dad as selfish and her as the good parent because she doesn’t restrict the activity time.
5.Denying the father access to medical and/or school records and other important documents.
6.Listening in on the child’s phone conversation and/or coaching them on what to say.
7.Draws the child into a co-dependant relationship by making him/her feel guilty for having fun with dad. She uses minor illnesses as an escape toprevent visitation, proclaiming herself to be the only one capable of caring for the child.
8.Telling the child how sad she is during visitation times, making the child feel guilty for having fun with dad.
Divorce may bring out the PAS behavior but it is not the root cause. PAS is a psychological disturbance that requires the intervention of a mental health professional. Understanding the psychosis of the behavior is paramount in helping you and your child. Don’t labor under the misconception that the alienating parent can stop the destructive behavior at any point. It’s a behavior the perpetrator is oblivious to and unable to stop even if realization dawns.
The PAS parent not only wants but must have control over their child. They are incapable of forming normal healthy relationships with people in their lives. They are severely self-centered, unable to give, only take and lack compassion for others. They’ve lost the ability to sort truth from fiction. They are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to have their way even if it means destroying an essential relationship for their child.
If you believe you are the victim of PAS you need to seek help immediately. The only salvation for a child under the rule of PAS is counseling by a therapist familiar with the mental dysfunction of PAS. Children need a trained third-party individual to help them cope with the continual strife and anxiety present in their daily lives.
The single most important thing you can do for your child is refuse to give up, love them even when they’re unlovable and don’t be party to your own alienation by applying the turn-about-is-fair-play nonsense. For the sake of your child you must rise above the psychotic behavior of your ex-spouse. Many times that means coping with hurtful words and actions from the child you’re trying to protect. Don’t miss appointed visitation dates. Refuse to allow yourself to be coerced by well-meaning friends and relatives into a situation that is not beneficial for your child. In order to keep your sanity you must keep your eye on the future. What you’re doing right now may appear to have no impact but it could be a pivotal moment ten years from now. The hardest part is letting go of the right now in belief that in years to come you’ll reap higher dividends