> No More Secrets And Lies: Living on a Fault Line: The Warning Signs of Parental Alienation Part II

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Living on a Fault Line: The Warning Signs of Parental Alienation Part II

The city of Eugene, Oregon sits near a major fault line, which can be thought of as an extension of California's San Andreas Fault. Which, in turn, can be thought of as a sliding boundary between the Pacific plate and the North American plate that slices California in two – at least according to Wikipedia. 

All of which sounds fairly dangerous and a little bit unfathomable. And is. 

But the slicing-in-two part I get. Not only because this "fault line" will probably dump half of California into the Pacific Ocean someday (some say), but also because I'm trying to make clever literary comparisons between shifting earth plates and parents who slice families apart when they force children to choose sides in parental alienation dramas. 

I get the slicing-in-two part because my family has lived through something like this, and in our experience, it's at least as dangerous as the real thing. Maybe more so. 

Yet, living on an actual, earthly fissure large enough to split a continent in two can be both exciting from a geological perspective and downright scary from a life-affirming one. The San Andreas Fault is part of a much larger, volatile string of lands called the Ring of Fire which surround the Pacific Ocean starting from down along the coast of South America, over to New Zealand and Australia, up along China, Japan, and Russia, across to the Aleutians and Alaska, and then down again along the coasts of British Columbia and Washington before finally settling back in Oregon. Where I live. 

I live along the Ring of Fire. I live on a fault line. A real one.

Which doesn't scare me half as much as the figurative one I'm writing about – the fault line my daughters and I lived on for many years after my divorce – a fault line which, much like a real one, also rumbled and quaked before erupting and tearing our family apart as if we had been swept off to sea and left to drift alone by ourselves on the big, bottomless, blue ocean.

A parental alienation tsunami of sorts, or what have you. 

Which killed off any semblance of family we had at that point as well – meaning, there is no "us" anymore.  What happened to us was no different from the way an actual earthquake might tear a chunk of land in two because it sliced our family into more parts than could be imagined – one child here, another there, a third ending up somewhere else entirely. And it wasn't because we were going through a divorce or even a contentious divorce. It was because of the effects of parental alienation itself  – a phenomenon of it's own, separate from divorce, with it's own separate dynamics.

Which we were just beginning to learn about.

*         *         *

Parental alienation is a world of it's own – a netherworld where mental illness and the destructive tendencies of an emotionally immature adult rise to the surface to take on criminal proportions with the aim of destroying the bond between a parent and a child.  

That's really it in a nutshell.

It's a world where family members hate and exclude and where figurative effigies of mom or dad are burned in children's minds until that sort of thing becomes accepted, commonplace, even necessary. 

Where hate replaces every other emotion as the primary driving force and the children learn to accept instability and loss and emotional peaks and valleys that we can hardly fathom. 

Where the child victims are forced to deny half of their lineage because their lineage has been sliced in two like so many apple pieces and the family tree is stopped – comes to a standstill – the history of both parents brought from generations past, halted, taking separate branches from that point on – one child taking mom's branch and the other taking dad's.

And never the twain shall meet.

So radical and deathly is this fault line called "parental alienation" that there aren't words in the family services professions to adequately describe the scale of upheaval, and so comparisons to oceans and earth plates and arid lava fields where nothing grows are needed. Which is why I needed something like the San Andreas Fault to describe this disaster. And which is why, like having the ability to to detect unstable earth plates, parents need the ability to detect early warning signs of parental alienation so they can get their loved ones to safety, before it's too late.

Because in both cases, putting the pieces back together after the disaster strikes is nearly impossible.

As long as you know what to look for.

The Warning Signs of Parental Alienation 
They say the past is the best indicator of future behavior. And what I think this means for parents who want to avoid being blindsided by parental alienation (PA) is that it's important to look closely at the past behavior of the person you share custody of your children with if you want to avoid becoming a victim of this tragedy yourself. It's important because the people most likely to become victims of PA are divorced parents who share custody of their children with an ex-partner. And while most divorce/custody cases don't result in parental alienation, most parental alienation cases do stem from difficult divorces. And even though I wouldn't go as far as saying divorce causes parental alienation, it does provide the seedbed for it to flourish by creating the conditions necessary for poisoning children's minds and for the cult-like atmosphere where these children can, almost overnight, turn into little people we hardly recognize, who can then, with an irrational and scalding hatred, reject a loving parent forever shattering the bond the two of you shared. That's also it in a nutshell, including important warning signs that no parent should miss.
But I did miss them. I failed to see these warning signs after my separation from my ex-wife, and this turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life, because I no longer see my two youngest daughters anymore. 

When I should have been paying attention to patterns of my ex-wife's behavior that were forshadowings of things to come, I was denying that these even existed. And while I was convincing myself that her decade-long campaign of denigration toward me was inconsequential because it was decade long, I should have been more alarmed than ever precisely for this reason.

But it's too late now, and looking back I can see all the warning signs clearly: her nonstop obsession with separating my children from me; her constant need to put her desires to harm me ahead of our children's need for safety and security; but most importantly, her chronic preoccupation with bad-mouthing me in front of our children, their teachers, our friends, and nearly anyone who had contact with our girls.

These were all huge warning signs that I failed to see, because I knew nothing about parental alienation back then. Few people did.

*         *         *

The following parental alienation warning signs are indicators that there's a good chance your children could become alienated from you. These warning signs, however, shouldn't be confused with symptoms of parent alienation or with strategies alienators use. Warning signs are what we look for before disaster strikes – before we see any symptoms. And even though symptoms of moderate parental alienation can be warning signs severe parental alienation, the goal is to prevent seeing any symptoms at all. 

Besides having been through a contentious divorce and prolonged custody battle, the next major warning sign is sharing custody of your children with an ex who is full of rage, has a blood thirst for revenge, and is someone who...

·        has a history of trying to take your children away from you
·        has a history of alienating children in a previous relationship
·        has a history of making false accusations against you
·        has a history of bad mouthing you in front of your children, friends, family members, teachers, therapists, etc.
·        has a history of using your children to hurt you and is capable of overlooking her own child's safety, general well-being, and feelings to use them to hurt you. This is someone who lacks empathy, and is considered by some to have narcissistic tendencies
·        knows you are a good parent and that your children are your life and that the best way to hurt you is to harm your children and separate you from them
·        has a sense of entitlement and believes that he deserves whatever he wants, including the right to determine your relationship with your children
·        is so wrapped up in her child's life that she has no separate identity and views her child's relationship with you as a threat
·        has difficulty with criticism about his own parenting skills and can easily fly into a rage when criticized
·        has unresolved issues from her own childhood and may have come from a dysfunctional family, or is someone who may have been raised without a father or a mother
·        has unresolved anger toward you for perceived wrongs during your relationship.
·        engages in hate-talk
·        attempts to deny you access to your child or your child's information such as school records, medical documents, activity schedules, etc.
·        attempts to hide your children from you and makes up excuses when you want to get together with your child
·        enlists his new spouse, grandparents, close friends, or anyone into denigrating you. People who hardly know you can suddenly be filled with hatred and anger toward you.
·        doesn't allow your children to confront her, and they are afraid to stand up to her and are intimidated around her
·        makes no concessions or attempts to make peace, no matter how often you propose this, and has a history of rage, possibility to the point of mental illness

What Can You Do?

Not only should these warning signs make it possible for you to identify parental alienation in your family, but they should make it possible to identify other families who might be at risk for PA. And that is the goal of PA Prevention – to identify all families that are at risk and then intervene however you can before the children are poisoned beyond the point of return.

But the most important thing you can do, however, if you see warning signs of PA is stay as closely connected to your children as possible, even if they are beginning to show signs of unexplained rejection toward you. As long as you can communicate with them, even if it's only through phone calls, you still have a fighting chance to save them from severe alienation, which is what you want to avoid. Many of us parents are no longer able see our children at all because the alienation has become so severe that our children refuse to have any contact with us. 

Your presence in your child's life is always going to be the best antidote to preventing alienation.

Talk to the person poisoning your children. Most likely this will be an ex-spouse, but it could be a relative or anyone. I discovered that social workers, along with the girls' mother, were poisoning my daughter.

Address the bad-mouthing and other alienation tactics these people are using to destroy your reputation in the eyes of your children. Make sure they know how devastating this is to your children, how it puts them in a terrible position, how it is child abuse, and most importantly, how you will not tolerate it and will report to authorities if it doesn't stop.

Get into therapy with you child if you suspect alienation of even if you feel you are at risk, because once the poisoning starts, things happen very quickly, and you can lose your children before you know it. It really does happen that fast. 

Before you see any signs of alienation, however, talk to your children about the dangers of PA just like you would talk to them about other abuse and other dangers in their lives, because once the poisoning starts, any mention of this topic will only make things worse.

Tell them what bad-mouthing is and how it can quickly destroy the relationship between a parent and a child. Give them examples of children who have been separated from their parents due to the effects of parental alienation. Examine how bad-mouthing can destroy reputations in other settings, like school or the workplace, emphasizing that in the family the consequences are much, much worse and often permanent. 

Explain to children how divorce is difficult for all parents and how some parents may not know how to get what they need and can mistakenly think that bad-mouthing a ex-partner will solve their problems. Emphasize how these people might need professional help to work through the divorce without causing harm to others in the process.

This is a delicate topic to explain to children without denigrating and blaming the other parent in the process, but I believe it is neglectful to not talk to our children about parental alienation. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, find someone who can.It could be the most important conversation you ever have with your child.

Parental alienation really is like a natural disaster in many ways. And the warning signs leading up to this disaster are as obvious as those of living on a fault line. If you hear the rumbles and roars of denigration and bad-mouthing and the signs and symptoms of seething and spite, don't deny that these exist and don't ignore them. Do something. Because just like the calamity of a natural catastrophe, parental alienation can happen almost overnight, and putting the pieces back together after this disaster is truly next to impossible.

As long as you know what to look for. 


Post a Comment