By FRED G. DAVIS, LPC
Parental Alienation—Earthquakes and Atomic Bombs
To children divorces are like earthquakes—the world is turned upside down and nothing looks like it once did.
Even in the best of cases, kids get the short end of all the sticks! Mom and dad each get their own place, but kids are faced with years of going back and forth from mom’s house to dad’s house every week or two. The two people they love the most aren’t talking—and when they do its often loud and unpleasant.
As we walk kids through separation and divorce, we assure them the failure of the marriage is not their fault. We have not seen a divorce that was caused by a child, but it is well known in our profession that many children feel they did something to cause it, or at the very least, there was something they feel they could have done to prevent it.
This conversation is important and is addressed and re-addressed often with children. We let them know they have not lost a parent; they still have the love and nurture of mom and dad—just not in the same room.
They are not divorced. Their parents are. We don’t present divorce as a good thing but as a manageable thing—different but doable. Since counselors seeing children of divorce usually have access to both parents, we coach each on their child’s most pressing emotional needs.
So, what can make a divorce like an atomic bomb?
No one expects divorcing adults to like each other; negativity is normal after separation and even months after divorce is granted. Many never embrace the thought of co-parenting—but fortunately, most do it anyway. Why? Because it’s understood that humans benefit from family relationships. They are not all wonderful, but few people would give up family.
Nothing is more disturbing in divorce than the child or children who have one parent completely removed from their life by the other parent. And, nothing is as painful for a parent as having your child withheld from you. To make the situation worse, the child not only loses that parent, but also may lose that whole side of the family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins—that’s the atomic bomb!
In some cases the child is withheld through a series of legal maneuvers, other times they are moved out of state, and some even out of the country. As part of this crime the child or children become alienated from the absent parent as a result of a combination of lies and brainwashing from the resident parent. It’s not unusual for an alienated child to say, “She left me. She didn’t want me,” or, “He is in jail. He’s dangerous.”
Parental alienation is real. It is devastating. And, unfortunately it is one of the most difficult crimes to prove. The catch-twenty-two is this—the witnesses are also the victims. See the problem!
If your child or children have been withheld or hidden from you, don’t give up trying to find them. Don’t give up trying to be part of their life. Children have been reunited with parents from whom they were alienated. It’s not common, but it happens.
Fred G. Davis, LPC, specializes in child, adolescent and parenting issues. He can be contacted at fred@freddavisLPC.com or 601.624.2300.