By Sam Vigil
Mental health experts agree the attempt to sever a child’s bond with a parent is emotionally abusive. If you are being denied visitation and access to your children without cause you may be dealing with a form of child abuse coined as Parental Alienation by Dr. Richard A. Gardner. This is when a parent manipulates the child to turn against the other parent. So if severing the bond is emotionally abusive then Parental Alienation is child abuse and must be recognized to effectively counter it.
At a minimum the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver which results in death, serious physical injury or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
In the context of the relationship between the child and an alienating parent we will use a further definition of the act defining abuse as a repetitive patter of the parent’s behavior or extreme incidences that convey to the children that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value in meeting the needs of others.
There are many behaviors in Parental Alienation that are emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually abusive towards children who are exposed to a parent who wants to turn them against the other parent.
Amy J.L. Baker who has over eighteen years experience in researching parent-child relationships and children’s wellbeing list seven observable tactics used in Parental Alienation that are forms of abuse. They are verbal assault, isolation, corruption, rejection, terrorizing, ignoring, and over pressurizing. These tactics are used for persuading the children to complying with the alienating parent’s wishes.
The parent’s dominating desires are to hurt the target by getting the children to reject him, and for them to demonstrate their absolute loyalty to her by rejecting the target parent. When there is no compliance with their wishes the alienating parent feels disrespected and will often increases the intensity of the alienation.
In the process of denying the target parent’s involvement with their children the alienating parent disregards the needs of the children to have the target in their lives and the emotional pain it causes them not to receive their love. The giving and receiving of love between a parent and child is a vital component in developing and maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship and the development of the child’s self-esteem.
For example when Vincent separated from his wife, Lynn because of her constant accusation of him having an affair and their inability to resolve the dispute; he decides it is best to move out leaving their daughters, Elisabeth and Kate with their mother to minimize disruption in their lives and the anxiety the fighting is causing them.
Lynn’s suspicions arose from a comment she overheard by a coworker of his, Andrea made on how attractive he is. Though there is no evidence to support her claim she equates the comment as proof that they are having an affair. As she thinks on the distorted view she accepts it as true. This causes her pain and she vows that he will pay for hurting her.
After moving out Vincent dropped by on a daily bases to spend time with his daughters and made a habit of calling them at bedtime to tell them that he loves them and wish them a good night.
Lynn became jealous of Elisabeth, Kate, and their father relationship as she watched the affection they have for each other. Cultivating resentment she rationalized her feelings that his involvement in their lives is a ploy to win them over, and turn them against her to make it will be easier for him to gain custody. Under the surface she fears loosing her identity as a parent if she looses custody.
Because of her insecurities, Lynn continually bad-mouthed their father in front of Elisabeth and Kate, repeatedly telling them their father moved out because he does not want to be with you or love you. He only cares about himself and only comes around so he can look good in front of his family and friends. She would follow-up with, “If he really cared and loved you he would not have left you.”
Believing that Vincent deserves to be punished for his infidelity Lynn also denied him access to the children as a consequence for cheating on her.
This angered Vincent causing him to be argumentative, demanding of Lynn that she respect his parental rights and not to deny him the right to be involved with the children and their right to be a part of his. With each progressive argument Lynn’s resolve strengthened to keep the girls away from him.
Because of Vincent’s insistence on having access to his daughters Lynn obtained a restraining order of protection from court, legally forcing him to stay away or face jail time for contempt of court. This strategy effectively isolated Elisabeth and Kate from their father. The lack of access to his children prevented Vincent from correcting any misconceptions they may have about the separation, how he feels about them, and why he moved.
Successfully isolating the girls from their father, Lynn also influenced them to emotionally distance themselves from him by repetitiously telling them that he abandoned them because he does not care or love you, conveniently leaves out the restraining order for the reason of his absents. The underline message is he is not worthy of their love because of his rejection of them. In addition to hurting Vincent, Lynn emotionally abused her children to cover up her jealousy of the attention they receive from him and the fear of loosing custody of them and never seeing them again.
The tactics of Parental Alienation are psychologically and emotionally painful for children to deal with. Seeing themselves as not loved, valued, wanted and cared for. This effects their self-esteem because they often feel that the parent’s absents is their fault.
They can be tormented by the thought that the alienating parent hates the parts of them which resemble the target parent. They feel in order to receive love and be of value to the alienating parent they must bury any affection they have for the target parent and reject that parent. They fear if they do not satisfy the alienating parent’s emotional needs they will be treated like a traitor and be mistreated like the target parent.
Accepting these views can also cause them the destructive beliefs that something is wrong with them to be denied the affection of love from a parent. Feeling rejected by a parent hurts them and diminishes their perception on how they are valued by others causing emotional havoc as they mature.
Under the ploy of needing protection from their father, Lynn causes unnecessary anxiety for Elisabeth and Kate while dissolving the bond they have with their father so she could hurt him for his cheating on her.
Parental Alienation is child abuse because it breaks down healthy parent-child boundaries which give children the framework to discover who they are and are not. The boundaries are vital for children to develop a solid self-esteem. They are the foundation to protect self-worth, experience empowerment, freedom to choose, and encourage them to take responsibility and ownership of their lives as they grow up.
Final note: Helping children to cope with Parental Alienation and resist the tactics should be done with the assistance of a qualified mental health professional this will help them make sense of why the alienating parent wants to sever the bond they have with the other parent.
It is important to obtain a therapist who is familiar with Parental Alienation, high conflict custody disputes, and court procedures. This will significantly expedite court hearings and treatment and a component of therapy should be to have a discussion of the different types of abuse there is to determine which ones apply. Once a determination is made then a treatment plan can be implicated so the healing can begin.
Article Source: EzineArticles.com