Food for Thought: Parental Alienation Syndrome
Last week I described Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and listed some of the signs. PAS is the systematic denigration of one parent by the other parent with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent.
This week I will discuss some of the steps that the alienated parent can take for damage control, but before I do, I need to mention parental alienation is emotional child abuse.
Since there is no clear definition of emotional child abuse it is rarely acted upon by the courts. It is only acted upon by the courts as an extension of neglect, physical or sexual abuse when investigated by Social Services.
What can the alienated parent do? The most important thing you can do is stay involved with your child no matter what. It is imperative you continue to attend your child’s school functions, extracurricular activities, like sporting events, scouting etc., Even if the child does not talk to you s/he knows you are still there. I can not stress strongly enough to always be there for your child.
Other steps you can take are:
- Keep your child out of arguments between you and your ex.
- Remind your child often s/he is smart and can think for himself/herself.
- Admit that you have made mistakes and will make mistakes again but don’t dwell on them. Nobody is perfect.
- Place pictures in a prominent place that bring back fond memories of you and your child.
- Reminisce over good times. Watch home movies and look through photo albums together.
- Educate yourself on Parental Alienation Syndrome. The internet is a rich source of information.
- There are two excellent books on PAS. One is Parental Alienation Syndrome by Richard Gardner. The other book is called Children Held Hostage: Dealing With Programmed And Brainwashed Children by Stanley Clawar and Brynne Rivlin. This book is published by the American Bar Association.
- Make sure your lawyer is familiar with PAS. If not, you may have to educate him or her.
- In your court agreement build in provisions that allow for consequences to the party that breaches the agreement. For example, if one party interferes with custody and it is brought back to court the interfering party pays the court costs.
- Make sure your child’s therapist is familiar with PAS and is willing to better the relationship between the parents in furtherance of benefiting the child. If necessary, s/he needs to get involved with the court system if one parent is alienating the child against the other.
When PAS has been identified, it must be taken seriously and dealt with immediately. If not, it leaves a child at minimum with emotional turmoil and at worst with severe emotional disturbance.
Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827- 0700.