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Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)



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Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
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This is the ONLY photo I have of my kids. It was taken quite a few years ago when they were younger & given to me by a family member.

"The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent."

(Excerpted from: Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.)

Basically, this means that through verbal and non verbal thoughts, actions and mannerisms, a child is emotionally abused (brainwashed) into thinking the other parent is the enemy. This ranges from bad mouthing the other parent in front of the children, to withholding visits, to pre-arranging the activities for the children while visiting with the other parent.

What Are The Three Stages Of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?

Children who are victims of PAS often go through different stages as they experience the depth of the alienation.

Sometimes a parent can see the symptoms of alienation, and possibly take measures to reduce the alienation. Understanding the risk factors of alienation may also help a parent ward off or prevent alienation.

Stage 1 - Mild
With the mild PAS parent, they may on the surface encourage involvement with the other parent, but their behavior typically tries to give them a perceived advantage to the child as in Iím better then him or her. 

Stage 2 - Moderate
In the moderate PAS situation, the alienating parent will clearly interfere with the visitation of the other parent but on the surface support the other parentís involvement. There are cases where the childís time is completely filled by socially accepted activities, even enriching ones, but these of course prevent the child from being the other parent. When the other parent objects, well, he or she must not really care about the child because they want to interfere with the childís activities! 


Stage 3 - Severe
Finally, the severe PAS the children are brainwashed, programmed and redirected away from a parent they typically had a relationship with before. These children will frequently be vocal in telling anyone and everyone that do not want to be with, see or even talk to that parent.


The Three Types Of Alienators

Strategies For Self-Help

The first option is to combat alienation by working to help oneself. This response must be tailored to the kind of alienation at issue.

1. The Naive Alienator

Remember that naive alienators are usually ignorant about what they are doing and have no malicious intent. A parent dealing with a naive alienator should not panic and should instead trust his or her relationship with their children. Children learn early that their parents will say things they don't mean. They are very adept at letting things go in one ear and out the other. If parents believe there is a problem trusting children's reaction to alienation, they need to focus on strengthening the relationship rather than retaliating against the other parent. They should monitor their own reactions and behaviors so they don't start their own alienating campaign. They should try talking to the other parent without making accusations or attacking. The other parent may appreciate their comments if the targeted parent says them with some sensitivity. 

  1. Be sure that the majority of time with children is positive, and avoid yelling and screaming which will drive children away;

  2. Praise children for what they do well; if all they hear is criticism, they will learn to avoid the source of the criticism;

  3. Play with them at their developmental level and do what they, rather than what parents, want to do;

  4. After discipline or punishment, make a point to make up;

  5. Listen to what the child has to say;

  6. Give hugs and kisses if they are receptive;

  7. Brag about the children to others;

  8. Attend school sport and social functions;

  9. Have their pictures around the house.

Strengthening the relationship with children takes time. Parents need to be patient and resist any desire to retaliate. Retaliation only makes matters worse and hurts the children.

2. The Active Alienator

How a parent deals with the active alienator is similar to the naive alienator. Parents must stay calm, trust their relationship with their children, and resist retaliating. The difficulty a parent has with the active alienator is the parent's inability to control the rage and hurt built up inside. The feelings can interfere with the targeted parent's relationship and time spent with the children. Together, both parents need education and counseling to focus on the issues causing the problems. Sometimes, the active alienator requires individual therapy to help with their loss and grief. A parent should support these efforts without being punitive. Taking this tactic, the children will be better off in the long run.

  1. Don't panic;
  2. Become a supportive listener;
  3. Guard against becoming an alienator, beginning by knowing the symptoms;
  4. Resist the temptation to argue or get defensive if the problem continues, and try to talk openly about what one is seeing and feeling. Work on keeping the relationship with the child strong;
  5. Don't violate court orders;
  6. Begin a log of activities if problems with parenting time develop;
  7. Don't be intimated into stopping parenting time, and remember that attorneys can be crucial in advising parents of their rights.

3. The Obsessed Alienator

Dealing with an obsessed alienator is more complex and difficult than dealing with the other two types of alienators, because the alienating parent has already had considerable success in alienating the children from the targeted parent. The children may refuse to have anything to do with the targeted parent, making it next to impossible for the parent to talk with them and try to repair the damage. No matter how frustrated and angry a targeted parent feels, however, he or she should not give up on the children. The targeted parent should find some support, either from family, his or her attorney, a counselor, or other parents. Parents need to be sure to do whatever they and their attorney believe is necessary to keep visits going. Even if the other parent refuses visits, the targeted parent should keep trying and should maintain a log of his or her activities. Also, it is very important that the parent does not violate any court orders or do anything that forces his or her attorney to defend the parent's behavior. A common tactic used by some attorneys is to deflect the issues by attacking the targeted parent and forcing his or her attorney to defend the parent's behavior. Parents should behave themselves so this does not happen.

The most difficult part of dealing with the obsessed alienator is keeping one's anger in control and not retaliating. Though it is understandable, retaliation usually does nothing more than cause the targeted parent more problems. In fact, the obsessed alienator will frequently use the targeted parent's retaliation, pointing out to the children how the parent behaved and reinforcing the argument that the parent isn't worthy to see the children. Again, the targeted parent is put on the defensive without having any access to the children to blunt the other parent's blows. Whatever the parent does, he or she must stay focused on keeping the relationship with the children strong and not entangle them in the fight with the alienating parent.

When a targeted parent begins to sense that the children are becoming alienated, he or she should immediately tell an attorney or mediator about what is happening. Parents should then look into getting a court order to get the children in therapy as soon as possible, with the understanding that the therapist will be reporting to the court. The therapist should monitor and report to the court the compliance to the court order. The therapist should also understand parental alienation syndrome. The following suggestions are other methods of attacking the problem of obsessed alienators: 

  1. Don't give up on the children;

  2. Keep anger and hurt under control;

  3. Don't retaliate;

  4. Be sure the court supports continued visits;

  5. Don't stop going to visits; if the other parent refuses, keep showing up unless the court order says otherwise;

  6. Keep a log of activities, especially relating to visitation;

  7. Focus on keeping the relationship with the children positive, and don't pump them for information or begin counter alienation;

  8. Don't wait to intervene; if there is a problem, contact an attorney or get back into mediation;

  9. Seek a court order requiring both parents to get into family therapy;

  10. Monitor one's own behavior to prevent counter-alienation;

  11. If the problem continues, try to understand to what the other parent is reacting; if necessary, try to talk openly about what is occurring;

  12. Don't violate court orders;

  13. Use legal mechanisms like a guardian ad litem to monitor the parent's compliance to the court order.

These suggestions should help, but they do not guarantee that the problems will be solved to everyone's satisfaction. There is no magic bullet. That is why early detection and prevention before the alienation gets out of hand is imperative. Courts, mental health professionals, and legislators continue to look for effective treatment protocols for parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome.


This website is created for Dave Lightner & maintained by Creative Sites 2005.
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Revised: 0803hrs EST 21 Aug. 2005 -4:00GMT .