The Alienation of Parents and Grandparents - An Introduction

                                                      An Introduction

Wikipedia defines Parental Alienation, in part, as follows:  

"Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.[1][2] It is a distinctive and widespread form of psychological abuse and family violence — towards both the child and the rejected family members—that occurs almost exclusively in association with family separation or divorce (particularly where legal action is involved)[3] and that undermines core principles of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Most commonly, the primary cause is a parent wishing to exclude another parent from the life of their child, but other family members or friends, as well as professionals involved with the family (including psychologists, lawyers and judges), may contribute significantly to the process.[1][4] It often leads to the long-term, or even permanent, estrangement of a child from one parent and other family members[5] and, as a particularly adverse childhood experience, results in significantly increased risks of both mental and physical illness for children.”  Quoted taken from:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_alienation.


If you enter the term “Parental Alienation” into your search engine, you will be brought to countless pages of articles and reports on the various ways in which Parental Alienation and Grandparental Alienation are carried out.  You will also find articles and web sites that contend this is either a fiction or an unproven phenomenon.  (I have seen examples in my own law practice that say it is an actual phenomenon.)   The majority of authors who recognize Parental Alienation and Grandparental Alienation as actual phenomena, agree that they are forms of child abuse that can have permanent consequences, including the lifetime severing of relationships that would otherwise have been a natural, nurturing, and necessary relationship for the child and the alienated relative alike.  I will tell you of a case I encountered in the early years of my former litigation practice that has stayed with me for decades.

I once had a client whose daughter had come to Connecticut from her home in California for her eight weeks of summer vacation with her Dad, my client’s ex-husband.  Mom had been awarded custody and Dad had been awarded, among other things, a long summer visitation time with his daughter.  The child had traveled from the home she shared with mom, step-dad and half-brother in California to visit her father and step-mother in Connecticut.  All it took was about three weeks of living with a parent who had an agenda other than to enjoy the summer with his daughter, before this child never wanted to see her mother again.  She was 11 years old at the time.  And in less than one month’s time, she had painted in her mind an indelible picture of her mother that was unrecognizable to anyone who knew her mother well. She had gone from mommy to monster in less than a month.

When I last spoke with that client in 2011, her daughter still had not spoken to her and had rejected every attempt her mother had made to communicate with her.  That 11 year old child grew up to be an educational psychologist.  There is an irony and a tragedy there that should not require explaining. I think about both of them often.  I wonder if the now-grown-up-adult-psychologist will ever find the tools in the repertoire she learned at school to build a road back to her wonderful mother who loves her so much.  Or will both of them go to their graves with holes in their hearts that can never be filled with any substitute for what they both lost?

To any parent entertaining the idea of terminating contact between a child and any other relative: re-think; re-think; re-think; and then DON’T.  Seek help from professionals who can offer you solutions that assuage your fears (whether they are based on anything real, fantasized or fabricated) about the harm that you believe might come from your child’s relationship with the relative you have targeted.  Plucking a relative from your child’s life is almost NEVER the solution. It is almost always a disturbed and destructive way to wage a war with a hidden agenda having nothing at all to do with the welfare of the child.   

There will be much more on this subject in the blogs, articles, and chapters to come. Keep reading.  Click the links at the end of each chapter. 


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