Sunday, November 28, 2010

Should I Just Let Go?

In this holiday season, here are some thoughts on one of the most important issues for parents coping with an alienated child. Many alienated parents ask whether they should just let go. The child may ask you to just get out of his or her life, or you can see the tremendous stress your child is experiencing by having to please one parent by rejecting the other. It is a painful decision and many “rejected” parents do decide to stop all contact with their child, to relieve the child’s pain, especially after talking with their lawyer or the child’s counselor. It is often seen as a regretful, but necessary decision, as a way to end the conflict in the family.

As a social worker and family law attorney, I strongly encourage parents not to just let go. While it may make sense to back off some, I don’t believe it is in a child’s long-term interest to have a parent say goodbye. Children need two parents (as well as grandparents and other adults) to learn skills for life and an attitude that important conflicts should not be resolved with all-or-nothing decisions.

For many years it was common for professionals to advise their clients to just let go and simply wait until the child was 18 and could act (and supposedly think) for him or herself. Then the alienated child would reconcile with the alienated parent and they would get along just fine. But from my professional experience and recent research, many children remain alienated well into adulthood.

For example, in her recent book, Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome, Amy Baker reports that it was 20 years before many of the adult children reconciled with their rejected parents. However, once reconciled, many of these adult children said that they wished that their alienated parents had not let go. They desperately wanted to know that the rejected parent still loved them and had tried to maintain some contact, even if it was an occasional card or gift.

After 30 years of working with children and families, it is clear to me that children maintain a relationship with each of their parents in their minds. Children need their parents’ love – both parents’ love. Even if a parent has restricted contact with a child, because of court orders or requests from a child, all children want to know that they are loved – even by a “bad” parent. Many years ago I drove children to see their parents in prison – and the children loved their parents and learned from their parents, despite all of their extremely bad behavior. It’s not healthy or normal for a child to reject a parent.

So what’s an alienated parent to do? I think it’s best to say or write to your child something like this:

“I love you and I will never stop loving you, even if you try not to listen (or you tear up this letter). You need both of your parents, to learn from and to know there is more than one way to solve problems as you grow up. I can see the pain and frustration you are going through by having your parents in so much conflict these days. But losing contact with one of your parents is not a healthy solution. I wouldn’t want you to lose the important relationship you have with your mother/father, either. You need both of us in ways you can’t know or understand at this time. Therefore, I am going to back off a little bit, but I am going to send you occasional notes, cards and small gifts, to remind you of my love and to give you suggestions for how to solve life’s problems as you grow up. You can reject all of these, if you want to at the time. But I won’t abandon you in my efforts to help you as you grow up.”

Then you can send occasional notes, cards and small gifts, and include examples of successes in your life. Children love a winner, even if they can’t admit it. Share lessons you are learning in life that your child can also learn – especially life lessons that teach flexible thinking, managed emotions and moderate behaviors (rather than all-or-nothing thinking, unmanaged emotions and extreme behaviors). Include support for the other parent in regard to some of his/her positive contributions. Don’t make it a parenting contest, even if the other parent does.

Whether or not your child has shut you out, it’s your child’s needs that are most important, and your child should know that you don’t think abandoning him or her is a healthy alternative. If the other parent hides these from your child, at least you will have them to show when your child is an adult and open to hearing from you.

Of course, it is best if you have the other parent’s support or court orders for an active relationship with your child. However, if you have tried your best to assert your parental role for your child’s benefit, and you are seriously considering letting go of your relationship with your child, then “backing off without letting go” seems to be a healthy compromise for some parents facing this dilemma. Send him or her a card or a small gift with a positive note. In the long run, you’re likely to be appreciated regardless of what they say now.Find more in my book "Don't Alienate The Kids!"

What do you think? Please comment. I value your opinion.


Deborah Khora said...

This is a well-written article. Some parents (as myself) "let go" for this one main reason: so the child can have some peace in their life. Sometimes a divorced parent is trying to find peace of their own, and believe that if they can only have some peace, their child will have some peace. But a system that entangles a divorced parent in years, maybe a lifetime of litigation "creates" high conflict. It is not the parent who is seeking peace that is creating high conflict, it is the corrupt family court.

Some of the judges sitting on the bench are not simply judges as we perceive them, but businessmen/women "on the side". Sometimes they own the local drug testing facility, or sit on an adoption board. These are hidden agendas, and conflicts of interest. THIS is the cause of "high conflict". Judgements are issued by the judges which will further their secondary business interest, such as giving custody to a drug addict parent so long as he/she attends the rehab center that the judge has a financial stake in, and leaving the non-addicted parent with nothing. The judges wourk double time at this type of injustice, and the ordinary folk have to work doubly hard to achieve justice. It is exhausting the economy and everyone involved. It is totally counter productive to abuse a parent in the courts this way and expect to profit from abuse.

I also strongly disagree with all these psychiatric diagnosis and pharmaceuticals. I don't believe in forced "services" or forced medication. But again, some of the players have investments in big pharmaceutical companies.

I appreciate your efforts here but I do believe you are operating within a "doomed" logic so to speak. The trend is moving toward exposing these conflicts of interest and the overdosing of foster children, violations of parental and constitutional rights, etc.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I will be anonymous due to the high conflict in the demise of my marriage. Fortunately, though it has taken more than five years in family court, I have gone from alternate weekend dad to equal time dad and probably this year sole custody dad. I have corresponded with many in similar situations and also those grown children of a disordered parent where the other parent was driven away. (

I want to highlight a real risk to those who have been totally or partially blocked from parenting. Writing letters or cards or sending gifts may not be enough. What if they are intercepted? What if, as all too often happens, the children are told their other parent didn't love or want them and walked away abandoning them? In the face of that continual rewriting of history to mess with the kids' minds, you should find a way to verify the children are receiving the messages and gifts.

Also, try to maintain contact with their schools, go to parent-teacher conferences, events and graduations, talk with the principals and counselors there about the children's situation and your informed concerns.

As a last resort, if the other parent's family nor family court will help and you suspect your messages and gifts are intercepted, then make copies of your letters and notes, make scrap books for the kids that you can deliver directly to them at a later time, even if it's after they're adults and the custody orders have expired. Even in the worst of circumstances, there is always something you can do.

Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. said...

Dear Deborah,

I appreciate your concern that the family court system is counter-productive and harmful to families. I personally have never known of a judge to have such a clear conflict of interest, such as owning a drug-testing clinic or rehab facility. My concern is that the adversarial structure of court makes sincere judges' decisions much more difficult and that the culture of blame in today's family courts distorts truly understanding what is going on in a family. I agree that things need to change to make this process more supportive of children and parents.

Best wishes,

Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. said...

Dear Anonymous,

I like your suggestions of trying to ensure that notes and gifts are received, and keeping copies just to be safe. In alienation cases, I assume that the children are receiving distorted information and that it may be years later before they find out the truth. For these reasons its worth it to try to persuade the court to build in accountability as much as possible, and to keep communicating yourself as much as possible, even if it is from a distance or with infrequent contact.

Your positive attitude of "finding something you can do" will help you as well as your child. I hope many people benefit from your suggestions.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Just to follow up, I checked out the financial interests of the judges in my case. The first judge has an interest in cattle ranching, or the beef industry. Beef is forever, a true "security" unlike the lack of security those of us who have to work for a living face.

The second judge has an interest in the pharmaceutical industry. I mean the psychotropic drugs they administer to foster kids. How else can you make miserable people happy without drugs?

These judges do not work for a living and they have no right to judge people who do.

Third, there certainly are judges who sit on adoption boards, and just recently in Pennsylvania, a judge is going to trial for sending youths to a private juvenile retention facility that was owned by his friend, and from whom he was receiving kickbacks.

As for judges having interests in drug testing facilities, actually, that is a RICO case from Georgia where a child protective service worker had a mother who owned a drug testing facility, and every time the judge ruled in favor of the CPS worker, the CPS worker's mother benefitted. They are all "friends" after all. Corrupt, and incompetent.

THAT is "high conflict", not ordinary imperfect parents but judges in high places with high financial interests, who profit from punishment.

This judicial system is perverse and irredeemable. It's not the parent's fault. The judges no longer defend the constitution, they defend big corporations.

Deborah Khora said...

For some reason the above post posted annonymously, but it is from me, Deborah Khora. I didn't fill in my name.

Robert said...

I was a stay at home Dad during the period that my children were infants. This came about as the ex-wife is BP, BPD, ADHD, OCD, ODD. Lots of diagnosed issues rampant in the maternal family. The wife & her high conflict behavior echos her own childhhood.

This behavior has gotten worse since separation, the children are becoming numb towards me. I have already reconciled the personal truth that 1/2 of my life (26 years) was wasted interacting with a simulation of a human. A fraud.

I will simply get on with it because there is no possibility of a favorable outcome. The ex-wife has had the equally affected psycho mother-in-law move in with her. The alienation is generational, the monstrous behavior is genetic.

Time to put away memories of a family & children because they have been destroyed. Time to grow up & try to forget the nightmare.

Anonymous said...

I think you're wrong. It's not just about the kids. Hanging on in some small way is just a constant reminder of the hurt and pain, not just to the kids but to the affected adjult. The alienated adults deserve to be happy and move on. It is frustrating that there are people who don't get it. The children are broken. You didn't break them. It's not your fault. It's okay to let go . . . You can look yourself in the mirror. You know you put up a good fight, but, all the while, the alienating parent is fighting harder and sneaker to plant things in the children's minds to make them beleive they are not safe with you, you are not their real parent, going to visit them is more of an inconvenience than it's worth, etc. It's okay to be done. It's okay to move on. It's okay to let go.

Anonymous said...

You are correct in your observations regarding the personality profile of the alienator and the entrapment/empowerment/enabling of this behavior by the family court system. I have been "trying" to endure horrific situation now 10 years in a Florida two sons are adults, and have been alienated from me by their very disturbed father who has all of my marital money, assets and complete financial leverage in the divorce case.....lies in court, fraudulent financial documents, unethical attorneys representing him, lies to the judge, is unbelievable what has gone on and what has happened to me. I have serious illness issues, on permanent disability, am alone, now live out of state as I had to get away from his awful domestic abuse/violence....and the attorneys I have had seem indifferent and/or not able to recognize abuse and all its forms, how the court system has empowered the abuser and makes things continually worse - allowing their orders to be ignored, not enforcing contempt, etc. I am just devastated at this point and so many agencies that are set up to deal with domestic violence, etc. really don't help or know how to help in my case. I really wish I could find an attorney and other resources to help many closed doors, I have spent years at this. This is a very sad situation as many people don't know or think this could be the case - legal, domestic violence counselors, etc. just dead ends for me, spending lots of money to just keep getting nowhere.

Anonymous said...

I am the step-mother to an adult child that was subjected to PAS. My husband tried and tried, but all that comes back from my now 36 year old step daughter is anger, hatred and her dad never has done anything for her or anything right. When she got married things kind of normalized and she started to have a more adult relationship with her dad but everything got stirred up again as soon as the grandchildren came...Her mom clearly saw us as competition for the grandchildrens affection (just like it was for the kids) and since she is there EVERY day to babysit she once again is influencing and manipulating her daughter. All of a sudden my husband is nothing but a liar, thief and adulterer and nothing he does is right. If he defends himself, she doesn't listen, if he calls she doesn't pick up the phone - if we go over to the house the door doesn't get opened. It is so hard breaking.

Anonymous said...

I've watched my best friend suffer through his ex-wife's alienation campaign for the last ten years. She's finally succeeded in alienating both of his children with her constant bombardment of slanderous lies, her creatively punishing the children when they said anything good about their dad or tried to defend their dad. The punishments have consisted of everything from physical beatings (he has pictures) to their being grounded and even denied food, to (as they got older) having their money "confiscated", losing their cell phones, to being threatened with having to quit school activities such as swimming and soccer, to having cars taken away. By the same token when they've "gone along" with their mother's lies they've been lavishly rewarded by being given brand new i-phones, nice cars, new clothes, spring break trips, etc.... To her "credit" she has very skillfully used the "carrot and stick" to literally brainwash the two children. His ex has even convinced the kids that their dad never served in the armed forces (he is a retired naval officer), never went to college (I met him while we were in college in ROTC and we became best friends), and that he's never paid child support of any kind, when in fact he still pays over $800.00 a month. They are now to the point where during a phone call last year they actually called their dad a dispicable liar and thief, and even made the claim that he beat them while they were visiting him in 2006, during a family court hearing that occured in 2014. The claim fell apart when it came out that when he was supposedly beating them he was actually thousands of miles away in combat in Iraq on his second deployment during which he was awarded the purple heart and during which he personally saved my life. Upon seeing the facts, the judge was furious and was so disgusted by their slanderous allegations that he held them and their mother in contempt of court and cut my best friend's child support substantially. I think it's an absolute joke that those kids and their mother actually still expect my friend to pick up the tab for those kids's college education. You talk about gall to the nth degree.

While it's certainly easy to tell someone to "hang in there" and keep the faith, the truth of the matter is that no person let alone a parent who has loved, cared for and provided for his or her children should ever be spoken to or about in such a slanderous and viciously disrepectful manner. Rather, those two kids need to learn that if you treat someone that way that you have no right whatsoever to expect anything of that person. Why?? Because you don't reward bad behavior. If those kids want a relationship with their aliented parent, then they need to get off their collective rear ends, go see the parents they've so vicously hurt and alienated, apologize for the hurt they've inflicted and the pain they've caused, and then beg.....yes beg for forgiveness.

My advice to all those who have suffered the pain of parental alienation is to love your kids, pray for your kids, and remember that one of the most important lessons you can teach your kids is to respect both their elders and especially their parents.

Heartbroken said...

It would be nice to think that this will all have a fairy tale ending of the child who is now an adult to just see the light one day and realize they were lied to, brain-washed, manipulated, and abused by the alienating parent. My husband has been alienated from his non biological daughter whom he raised and adopted from the age of 13 months. He has visitation with his biological daughter but somewhere in his ex wife's mind she thought it best to tell the oldest that her father wasn't her father and that he didn't love her or want to see her anymore. She was 10 years old at the time and turns 18 in less than a month. We have watched her grow up on social media. Any attempt of contact was intercepted and the child has NEVER been allowed to receive any type of correspondence telling her that she is LOVED AND MISSED EVERYDAY OF OUR LIFE. She makes comments on social media about what an amazing and strong woman her mom is (the alienating parent) and how lucky she is to have such a wonderful mother. So how does a child who thinks the alienating parent hung the moon, ever just realize it was all a LIE. I watch my husband cry himself to sleep and mourn for a child who DIED, but is very much among the living. He is still hopeful that when she turns 18 she will come searching for answers but that won't ever happen I am sad to say because the child thinks, feels, and acts and is totally emeshed with her mother. So how does a child who has been coddled and lied to and treated like royalty from the alienating parent ever see them for what they truly are? We love her, we mourn her, and we pray. We let go because the pain of hopelessness, powerless, and agony of continuing to fight against a heart so cold and calculating (the mother) was exhaustive. I would love to hear that there IS HOPE. My husband would give his life just to have one minute with his daughter to say I love you Ashley, I never stopped, but sadly I don't see that ever happening.

Anonymous said...

I hope that most who read this are able to stay moderately connected to their children from whom they are alienated.

However, I think this is an overly ambitious prescription that does not realistically recognize the geometric effect that attempts at sustained contact have on the intensity of alienating activity and degradation of relationship between the alienated parent and their children. Similarly, this article assumes that the alienated parents' attempted contact and communication will get through.

Absent an activist court acting swiftly and forcefully to support the alienated parent's ongoing presence, the only realistic choice for the alienated is to withdraw and cease contact until the child has separated from the alienator and developed new perspective.

Don't get to vested in this happening and don't pour your emotional, menatal, and financial treasure into making it so. It's out of your hands and in the hands of mentally ill people, who won't change until they want to. You don't matter.