Though almost half of marriages in the US end in divorce, most people who divorce successfully transition to their new life within two years. However, about 15% of divorces experience continued litigation. These cases exhibit a high degree of hostility and distrust between the spouses, making it difficult for them to communicate about the care of their children without involving the court. Often in high conflict divorce, it only takes one high conflict person to keep the dispute from resolving. If one spouse is noncompliant with the parenting plan and unwarrantedly denies the other parent access to the children, it compels the blocked parent to fight to not only see their children, but often to defend themselves against false allegations of abuse. The accused parent has two choices: either engage in conflict, or be separated from their precious children.
If you are experiencing denied visitations and an unwarranted campaign of denigration, you are most likely going through parental alienation. Those who have experienced it say it is one of the hardest things they have ever gone through. It requires developing advanced skills in order to cope. Parents who have been successful in dealing with parental alienation have developed the following skills:
- They sought knowledge. They read about parental alienation in order to understand why it happens, and what they could do to make it less difficult for their children. “Intellectually understanding parental alienation provides an emotional anchor to help make good decisions for yourself and your children.”1
- Reframe the meaning of your child’s behavior. For example, based on your current situation you may constantly tell yourself, “My child doesn’t love me anymore and never wants to see me again.” Try altering that statement to, “My child still loves me and wants to see me, but he is painted into a corner and is doing what he thinks he has to do in order to survive an experience that is as painful for him as it is for me.”2
- Stay even-tempered and never retaliate. “A person who reacts in anger is proving the alienator’s point that he or she is unstable.”3 Avoid falling into this trap.
- Don’t live a victim’s life. Although you are experiencing victimization, don’t live asif you have no power or worth.Deliberately take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, stay socially connected, do something spiritual daily, exercise and get out in nature. Do things that you enjoy and that rejuvenate you.
- Be proactive. Always show up to pick up your kids even if you know they won’t be there. Keep a journal, and document what happens.
- Take a parenting class. Learn how to understand your children developmentally and respond empathetically.Develop superior parenting skills.
- Reduce your children’s anxiety. Find ways to reduce their anxiety when they are with you by picking your battles and not engaging in conflict.
- Never talk bad about your ex to your children.This forces them to align with the other parent against you, and paints you in a bad light.
- Try to make what little time you have with them positive and fun. It is through having fun that you gain connection and preserve your attachment.
- Find an alienation-aware therapist, and get the appropriate support and treatment you need.
Each time you board a plane you are reminded that if the oxygen masks drop, you need to put the mask on yourself first, before helping others. The same is true of parental alienation. You must deliberately take good care of yourself first if you are going to survive emotionally.