Mistakes Alienated Parents Make: 1. Losing Your Temper

Alienated children can be rude, obnoxious, and hateful. They express and provoke great hostility. It is understandable that the target of gross mistreatment feels like responding in kind. But losing your temper with your children will just make things worse.

If your children are succumbing to divorce poison, they will be unfazed by your criticisms of their attitudes and behavior. They know that their other parent encourages and is gratified by their rejection of you. And they no longer respect you enough to care about gaining your approval.

Also, you cannot expect to win your children’s affection by fighting with them, frightening them, or telling them off. Any aggression that you show, either verbal or physical, will merely play into the hands of your ex. Your behavior will be taken out of context, blown out of proportion, and then used to justify the children’s rejection.

To learn about the seven common errors that rejected parents make, and strategies to effectively copy when your relationship with your children is being challenged, and to overcome children’s alienation, see Divorce Poison: How To Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing.

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“It really seems pretty obvious.” – BBC radio presenter on parental alienation as child abuse

BBC’s award-winning radio commentator, Jane Garvey, talked to Sarah Parsons, Principal Social Worker at Cafcass, and to Joanna Abrahams, a solicitor who specializes in cases of parental alienation. Regarding the recent Cafcass statement that parental alienation is child abuse, Garvey says, “It really seems pretty obvious.” Continue reading

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UK Agency Denounces Parental Alienation As Child Abuse

Behavior by one divorced parent that attempts to undermine a child’s relationship with the other parent—what I call “divorce poison”—has been denounced as child abuse by the chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) in the United Kingdom. Continue reading

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Mistakes Alienated Parents Make: 2. Counter-rejection

In the early stages of alienation some rejected parents counter-reject their children. They rebuke the children for their negative attitudes, and tell them, in effect, “Shape up or ship out.” They expect, of course, the children to shape up. This might have worked prior to the onset of the alienation. But it no longer works when the children have lost respect for the parent or lost sight of their need for the parent.

Parents use this ploy before they appreciate the nature and seriousness of the problem. They never consider the possibility that the children will choose to sever contact permanently. By the time they realize their mistake, it is often too late.

Counter-rejecting your children is the wrong move for several reasons. Continue reading

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Reuniting with Formerly Alienated Adult Children

Work with adult children who want to reconnect with a parent from whom they were alienated has several facets. I hear often from parents whose adult children have read Divorce Poison or viewed Welcome Back, Pluto and found answers to their questions about how they became alienated. Relatives who look at these resources will find tips for helping formerly alienated children come to terms with their past.

The Divorce Poison Control Center on my website provides some key tips to help formerly rejected parents manage reunions with their adult children. Here is the link: http://www.warshak.com/alienation/d…
Scroll to the sections titled: Moratorium on Discussing the Past Helped Mother and Daughter Reunite, and Managing a Child’s Return. Continue reading

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Hearing Children’s Voices

Children’s perspectives can enlighten decisions regarding custody and parenting plans, but different opinions exist about how best to involve children in the decision-making process. Payoffs and Pitfalls of Listening to Children discusses why most procedures for soliciting children’s preferences do not reliably elicit information on their best interests and do not give children a meaningful voice in decision-making. Instead, these procedures provide children with forums in which to takes sides in their parents’ disputes. In addition to hearing an individual child’s voice, decision makers can use the collective voice of children, as revealed in research on such topics as joint custody, overnight stays, and relocation to help understand what children might say about these issues with the hindsight of maturity and in the absence of parental pressure, loyalty conflicts, inhibitions, and limitations in perspective and articulation.

Following is an excerpt from the Conclusion of Payoffs and Pitfalls of Listening to Children.

Unpacking the phrase ‘‘hearing a child’s voice’’ is complicated. It makes a difference whether our objective is to use the child’s perspective to enlighten and contribute to decisions, or whether we want to empower children to make the decisions themselves. One problem with radical empowerment is that adults can—and do—delude themselves into thinking that they are hearing a child’s voice when, in fact, they may be receiving a distorted broadcast laced with the static of a charged emotional atmosphere; or the voice may be delivering a script written by another; or it may reflect the desire to placate, take care of, or pledge loyalty to a parent. When we have good reason to suspect that a child is speaking in a voice that is not his or her own or that does not advance his or her best interests, well-designed empirical research can assist parents, attorneys, mediators, custody consultants, and courts to hear what the child might say as an adult looking back on childhood and judging the decisions made on his or her behalf.

The voices of children, as expressed in the studies reviewed in this article, should inform public policy regarding children’s contact with divorced and never-married parents. Rather than regarding the maintenance of relationships with parents in two homes as an unrealistic burden, legislatures, courts, parents, and their advisers should recognize that children can and want to maintain high-quality relationships with both parents and generally should be afforded the opportunity to do so.

#parentalalienation #childcustody


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Waiting for a Child’s Return: False Hope or Realistic Possibility?

A comment to one of my Facebook posts expressed pessimism regarding reconciliation with estranged children: “How to deal with it? Say goodbye and move on with your life! You will never get your children back…They are gone both physically and mentally!” Another person replied to the comment, “Totally agree, a waste of time and resources!”

These comments may seem harsh—they do to me—but undoubtedly they were born out of disappointment, heartache, and perhaps courage to face a harsh reality.

Readers of my books know that I believe that alienating processes, if handled poorly, can lead to permanent ruptures of parent-child relationships. I hear too many stories of mental health and legal professionals who mistakenly advised rejected parents to wait patiently for their children to reach out, expecting that the children’s negative behavior would be a short-lived reaction to the stress of divorce rather than a long-standing, ever-deepening chasm between child and parent.

As I described in Divorce Poison, “Children’s love can evaporate so rapidly while a parent sits by helplessly, often encouraged by well-meaning therapists who advise rejected parents to wait it out. Too many parents have learned that time does not heal all wounds, especially when a vulnerable child feels compelled to disown a parent.”

Nevertheless, while not wanting to raise false hopes I do want alienated parents to know that I hear often from parents whose formerly alienated children unexpectedly reconnected after years of rejection. Reuniting with estranged children can occur even when it seemed that the relationship was completely and forever severed.

The difficult emotional task for rejected parents is to find ways to live a meaningful life without the children, while knowing that, as long as the children are alive, there is always a possibility of reconciliation. Even the most stubborn child, convinced that she wants no relationship with a parent, can change. New relationships, new insights into an alienating parent’s character and behavior, crises, unexpected challenges, becoming a parent herself—all can stir an estranged child into wanting to reconnect with a parent who has been vilified. It is important not to make the hope of reconciliation the centerpiece of one’s life, and not to allow the alienation to dominate one’s life. But this does not mean giving up every ounce of hope, a choice that most parents find unthinkable.

One of the additions I made to the second edition of Divorce Poison (the one published in 2010) was a discussion of ambiguous loss, “a grief that defies closure.” I wrote, “Parents in this situation must learn to live with the loss even as they hold on to hope. They must hover between unrealistic hope and despairing hopelessness.” The book goes on to describe strategies to channel grief and bitterness into productive outlets. I have seen some situations where the chance of reconciliation is so slim that it would be cruel to encourage a parent to cling to hope. Accepting such a harsh reality may help rejected parents face their ordeal with strength.

The “Coping with Loss” section of Divorce Poison offers this counsel, “Do not let the trauma of your loss keep you from achieving gratification in other areas of life. Do not let your awareness of the fragility of relationships create barriers to close emotional investment in others. If you have a spouse, other children, or stepchildren, bask in their love as you allow them to reap the benefits of yours.”

#parentalalienation #divorcepoison

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Underground Love

♪ Baby, baby/Where did our love go? ♪

One of the most disheartening and confounding aspects of parental alienation is the evaporation of your child’s lifelong love for you, sometimes in the blink of an eye.

In most cases the child’s love has not truly evaporated. It has gone underground, waiting for something or someone to light a path for its reemergence.

This helps to explain why a child can one day spit vitriol at a judge who enforces the child’s contact with a parent whom the child claims to hate or fear, and a few days later relate to the parent as if the dark days of alienation never existed.

As rapidly as alienation descends on a parent-child relationship, it can recede under the right conditions. On the surface it appears that the alienated child has lost touch with the love and connection shared for years with the parent who is now the target of hatred and vilification. But beneath the surface, the child’s mind holds scores of memories of being nurtured and loved.

The task for alienated parents and those who help them is to create the conditions under which the children can recapture their identities as children who love, and are loved by, two parents. Your child’s underground memories are your allies in fostering the rejuvenation of your relationship.

Alienated children long to restore normal relationships with the rejected parent and extended family. Sometimes all it takes is a potent catalyst. It could be a crisis that summons the support of the rejected parent. It could be an extended vacation during which the child relaxes and experiences all that would have been missed if she had allowed her alienation to block her participation.

And it could be a video program that we affectionately call “Pluto.”

When we created Welcome Back, Pluto we designed it to break through the alienated child’s fixed and stubborn negativity, to ignite the child’s motivation to shed the heavy cloak of anger, and to feel permission to let love reemerge.

Welcome Back, Pluto has helped alienated children in 28 countries and is being screened at two foreign film festivals. I could not be more pleased with the results.

Naturally, for some severely alienated children merely watching the video is not enough to overcome their plight. But an alienated mother recently reminded me about just how powerful a single viewing of Pluto can be, and how in some cases it works like . . . well . . . like magic.

Here is her note:

A HUGE THANK YOU for your wonderful Welcome Back, Pluto DVD. I don’t know why I delayed in ordering it but it was like a shroud was lifted off my son and he’s now a happier boy. The video was spot on and I couldn’t be happier to share the awesome results. My son is back to being his sweet self and is now spending time with me. I followed your recommendation in your book to continue contact and then months later watched the video and thank God I got my son back. Thank you so much for dedicating your life to helping us parents and our children remove the blindfold of PA and stop the pain and emotional devastation it brings.

And thank you. This type of feedback lets me know that I am on the right track. I am grateful to all those who take the time to write to me and to those who post reviews of Divorce Poison and Welcome Back, Pluto on Amazon.

Alienated parents often are embarrassed about their children’s rejection because they know that others may not understand how children can be manipulated to devalue a good and loving parent. The more alienated parents speak out about their plight, the more they will know that they are not alone and the more society will recognize the need to protect children from the harm of losing a loving connection to a parent and extended family.

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Muhammad Ali – Rest in peace

"Don't count the days, make the days count."

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Stemming the Tide of Misinformation: International Consensus on Shared Parenting and Overnighting

White Paper

This white paper describes the purpose and background of a two-year project to stem the tide of misinformation that was generating confusion about where the scientific community stood on shared parenting for preschool children. Four decades of research were reviewed, analyzed, and vetted by incorporating feedback from an international group of experts in the fields of attachment, early child development, parent-child relations, and divorce. Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report was published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, with the endorsement of 110 highly accomplished researchers and practitioners, several who contributed seminal studies cited in the report.

STEMMING THE TIDE OF MISINFORMATION summarizes the Warshak consensus report and its conclusions and recommendations. This white paper describes gaps between the scientific evidence and opinions derived from two studies that are often cited to support recommendations of blanket restrictions that limit or discourage shared parenting and young children’s overnights with one parent when their parents live apart. The paper refutes assertions that children cannot benefit from shared parenting and overnighting arrangements if their parents disagree about custody.

The paper provides the conclusions and recommendations of the consensus report and describes how the report has helped decision makers. After the Warshak consensus report was published, two new studies lent additional weight to the report’s conclusions. The white paper discusses the new studies and describes reactions to the consensus report. The paper concludes by explaining the advantages of having the consensus report reviewed and endorsed by prominent international authorities.


Warshak, with the review and endorsement of 110 researchers and practitioners, analyzed more than four decades of research and issued a peer-reviewed consensus report on parenting plans for young children. As intended, the report stemmed a tide of misinformation that was threatening to resurrect myths about child development and enshrine them in professional practice and family law. The list of endorsers and their professional accomplishments reflect the widespread acceptance of the consensus report’s findings that favor shared parenting and overnighting for young children under normal circumstances. Two years after its publication, the conclusions and recommendations of the Warshak consensus report remain supported by science.

Read Stemming the Tide (revised 08/2017)

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