Teaching Children to Hate

Two common divorce scenarios: You thought your marriage was on solid ground, until you discovered your spouse’s affair. You file for divorce, and blame the end of your marriage on your spouse’s infidelity.

Or, you knew your relationship was fraught with tension, conflict, and unhappiness. But you were unprepared for your spouse to finally call it quits. For any number of reasons your spouse decides to divorce you. You are stunned. You do not want a divorce. And you think your spouse is wrong to break up the family.

In both cases, you lead your children to believe that the divorce is their other parent’s entire fault. You may be a mother who files for divorce (which is the case in more than two out of three divorces) who tells her children all the bad things that Daddy did to hurt you. You may be a father who did not want the divorce who encourages the children to feel sympathy with your hurt while blaming Mommy for uprooting the family. In many cases one parent tells the children that the other parent is leaving “us.” The children quickly get the idea that divorce means choosing sides. Continue reading

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Reaching Out to Young Adults After Years of Estrangement

A therapist’s advice column instructed alienated parents to take the type of proactive stance that I advocate in Divorce Poison to prevent and overcome parental alienation, and concluded by urging rejecting parents to persist in efforts to resolve the problem and “don’t give up.” In a heart-felt response, a father who has lost contact with his two children (now young adults) reminds us that parents can reach a point where they must accept the reality of the estrangement and embrace what is good in their lives. I adapted the following from the comment I posted in my reply.

For some parents it makes sense to accept their children’s estrangement as something they cannot change. The book, Divorce Poison: How To Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, includes a chapter that helps parents decide whether to let go and how best to do so.

Parents need to know, though, that after years of estrangement, it may help to reevaluate the decision. A child’s rejection of one parent, when under the influence of the other parent, can make the rejected parent feel hopeless and helpless about being able to repair the ruptured relationship. But when children mature and move outside the orbit of the parent who manipulated their affections, this may present an opportunity to reestablish contact.

Some young adults are relatively unaware of why they have no contact with one parent and that parent’s extended family. The rejected parent may have stopped reaching out to the child and is unaware that the child, as a young adult, may be more receptive to an overture from the absent parent. Click here for a discussion about reunification with college students.

I have heard from two college professors who show their undergraduates a video that teaches how children come to reject a parent and why it is so important that they reconnect with the parent and claim their birthright to give and receive love from both parents. After seeing Welcome Back, Pluto: Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Parental Alienation, many of these college students have an awakening. One professor said: “After watching Pluto, almost a dozen students have contacted their fathers, asking to renew and rebuild their relationships.” The drawback to reaching out to an estranged child is that it reopens old wounds for a parent who may have come to terms with the loss of the child. For many parents, this is a risk worth taking.

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Alienated Trekkies: Star Trek Fans Who Hate (Or Are On Their Way To Hating) Their Parents

Resources for parents whose children are Star Trek fans and are alienated or at risk for becoming alienated from a parent.

Stories, fairy tales, and fables are the age-old ways of communicating life’s important lessons to children. Movies and television shows are two modern ways. Fortunately, both the big screen and the little screen have produced shows that relate directly to many of the ideas that alienated children need to learn. Watching such shows with your children is an entertaining, low-anxiety strategy for introducing important themes. Certain shows will allow you to introduce the topics of mind control, hypnosis, brainwashing, parent-child relationships, even difficult divorces, in a relaxed atmosphere. The same children who would immediately shut down if you attempted to discuss their alienation will actively take part in a conversation about a hypnotized child or a brainwashed assassin.

If your child is a fan of Star Trek, you are in luck because several Star Trek episodes illustrate ideas such as children being influenced by outside forces to turn against a parent, mind-control, and implanting false memories. Continue reading

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Managing Severe Cases of Parental Alienation

I am pleased to announce my new article: Managing Severe Cases of Parental Alienation. Published by the State Bar of Texas, it includes never-before-published material previously available only through my trial testimony and consultation.

Some of the highlights:
• 3 key lessons for attorneys who represent clients whose children are at risk for becoming alienated.
• 10 drawbacks of the conventional default decision in which the court surrenders attempts to remedy severe alienation and leaves the children in the custody of the favored parent without scheduled contacts with the rejected parent. Continue reading

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State of Plutoverse – 2012

2012 was both an interesting and personally difficult year for me. A serious illness in my family placed severe limitations on the time I could devote to my writing and research. As a result, Plutoverse saw few new posts, and I cut back on my contributions to the Huffington Post.

Nevertheless, the year saw significant developments both for the Building Family Bridges community and for greater awareness and understanding of parental alienation throughout the world. I was also privileged to provide professional services in two high profile celebrity cases, one behind the scenes and one as an expert testifying about factors relevant to children’s best interests when one parent wants to relocate with the child to another country. Continue reading

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Judith Wallerstein


Judith Wallerstein passed away this week. As is true for most people in my profession, I first encountered Judy’s work in 1976 through her pathbreaking series of articles, co-authored with Joan Kelly, on children of divorce.

I discovered these articles during an internship in a Child Guidance Clinic and relied on them as an oasis of clinical insight in working with children whose parents had divorced. Together with the work of Mavis Hetherington, another doyenne of divorce research, these research projects served as a foundation for my own studies in the field. In addition to expanding the inquiry to include father-custody families, my goal was to explore some of the hypotheses raised by Wallerstein & Kelly’s clinical studies by combining clinical research methods with the more rigorous scientific methodology that Hetherington introduced.

The publication of my studies, co-authored with John Santrock, led to the exciting opportunity to meet Judith Wallerstein in person. In 1983 I was honored to lecture with Judy at a two-day seminar, and then share a panel with her and other luminaries of the profession. Judy was very gracious in treating this young researcher/clinician as a peer and I remember feeling surprised and grateful that she had taken the time to carefully read and digest my articles.

When it was her turn to lecture, Judy was charismatic — just riveting. Her accounts of children’s responses to their parents’ breakups were compassionate and compelling. Along with others who appreciated her contributions, including some of her research associates, I had professional disagreements with aspects of some of her later publications. But I never lost my fondness for her personally and respect for her work. Her dedication to children’s welfare was inspiring.

Judy will be missed, but her legacy will continue to inspire young professionals to challenge accepted wisdom with new data. My condolences to her family.

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State of Plutoverse – 2011

In case you wondered, other projects have pushed my annual review of the year to the side for a couple of months. File this column under: better late than never.

Pluto Transforms Lives Across Six Continents

2011 saw the spread of Welcome Back, Pluto to six continents and twenty-one countries. The DVD continues to receive praise and gratitude from parents, counselors, attorneys, and judges. I hoped that the program would help children and teens overcome their alienation. What I did not anticipate was the impact Pluto has on college students who are estranged from a parent. Continue reading

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Parenting by the Clock: Is It Time to Replace the Best-Interest-of-the-Child Standard? With What?

At the end of a child custody trial, courts base decisions on the best interest of the child. Critics of this standard regard it as too subjective and have proposed various alternatives such as the primary parent presumption and a shared custody presumption. One proposal that may exert enormous influence is known as the “approximation rule.” The rule divides the child’s time with each parent according to the proportion of time that each parent participated in caretaking prior to the separation. Continue reading

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Six Tips to Give Children Better Holidays

Holidays can be times of great joy when families build shared positive memories. Holidays can also be times of great stress, blues, and depression. When parents live apart from each other, they need to make a special effort to work together to ensure that their children enjoy good holiday memories. These tips should help you avoid the pitfalls that detract from the pleasures of the holiday season. I know some of you face the unfortunate situation of dealing with a former spouse who will not cooperate. This makes it more difficult and maybe impossible to implement these tips. If this is true for you, consider using the Share/Save link at the end of the column to bring this material to the attention of your ex to help educate him or her about how to help the children. Continue reading

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Shaking the Holiday Blues Away

The winter holidays are fast approaching. Everyone seems happy and excited except you. Intense sadness or loneliness cloud any hope of enjoyment. To make matters worse, you reproach yourself for being unable to share the holiday spirit. If you see yourself in this description, you may be suffering from the holiday blues.

Holiday blues unsettle us more than other times of sadness because they contrast with the spirit of benevolence and joy that we associate with the holidays. These blues last from a few days to a few weeks around the holidays, but usually diminish when the season is over and we resume normal routines. When we understand where the blues come from and what they look like, we are in a stronger position to manage these difficult feelings rather than let them overwhelm us. Read the entire article on Huffpost including causes, warning signs, and top tips for managing the holiday blues.

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