Can you imagine what it’s like to have your children, who you hold so close and dear to your heart, tell you they hate you, that they can’t be near you and that you are a nobody to them and to the world? Can you get what it’s like when your son won’t eat your food or sit at the same table with you? Or when your daughter closes her door and locks herself in her room only to tell you over and over again “get out”, with or without horrible vulgarities.

If you have never experienced Parental Alienation Syndrome it’s hard to understand how a child so loving and so connected can, very quickly, in fact, become mean, hurtful, angry and disengaged. Although “Parental alienation syndrome” is no longer recognized as a diagnostic entity, the behaviors and emotional sequelae remain very much alive in the lives of families.

There are moments in every family when one child may feel a loyalty bond with a parent or one parent says a bad word about another parent. That is not this. There are times that these instances are more frequent and the child becomes so conflicted they get stuck in the middle. Then there are times when  the alienating parent wins out and the child has nothing at all to do with the targeted, often the healthy, parent,

Extreme alienation has as its roots a sick parent, typically character disordered of the narcissistic/borderline type. For these parents, their rage and vindictiveness at the parent who left them far surpass the needs of their own children. For these parents pulling their child into their sick and sometimes psychotic and dangerous world is critical to their livelihood and they will go to any lengths to accomplish their task. In fact, the effort to exhaust the other parent emotionally and financially becomes their primary agenda.

What proof is there that the targeted (alienated) parent is bad? Sometimes there is proof (the targeted parent is a bad immoral person who does actual bad things) but most of the time the targeted parent is the good healthy one.

So how does this happen? The child, out of fear, has a strong need to please the alienating parent and get their approval instead of their anger and rage. As the child’s deep sadness and grief escalates, as they pull away from the parent they loved, and they can no longer handle these feelings, they distance more from the targeted parent and often become the alienating parent, in a further attempt to please the alienating parent. Just like the sick parent believes his/her delusion, the child begins to believe it as well.  Some call it brainwashing and since brainwashing requires isolation, the child must disengage.

So when your child starts to show signs of pushing you away over and above the typical developmental sequences, it is time to intervene. That disgustingly messy room or violent words are often a sign of isolation and removal which in some cases can be linked early warning signs of parental alienation. This can, however, happen, on ocassion, in an intact family as well.

Next up: Parental Alienation #2: When your Child Turns Away-Inside the Mind of the Alienator.

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