You’ve been divorced for a few years and something is happening that you can’t quite explain. Your children are afraid to come over and are saying things that are untrue. Soon they begin to say cruel things about you that are clearly coming from someone else and it is tremendously hurtful. It’s more than likely that you and your children are victims of Parental Alienation Syndrome.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome? Certified Divorce Coach and Parental Alienation Specialist Susan Shofer says that P.A.S was defined in 1985 by Dr. Richard Gardner. “Dr. Gardner concluded that there are 8 clear symptoms that one can use to diagnose this very painful syndrome.
First let’s take a look as Susan Shofer defines P.A.S. using Dr. Gardner’s 8 symptoms, then she’ll discuss what can be done about it.
8 Symptoms of Parental Alienation
Denigration – “This refers to a child who complains in a very consistent way about a parent. Don’t get me wrong, all children complain about their parents at one time or another, but when you can see the pattern and it becomes extreme, then something else is at work.”
Frivolous Rationalization – “When a child is giving a complaint like, I don’t want to go to dad’s, for example, we must ask the question why. If the answer is not grounded in something real, then we can deduce that this might be a symptom of P.A.S.”
Lack of Ambivalence – “This one is so interesting because it can be a very clear indicator that something is wrong. Normally, people don’t look at those close to them in black & white terms. When I hear that a child says one parent is amazing and the other is horrible, my training and experience kicks in and tells me that things are not as they seem.”
Independent Thinker Phenomenon – “When a child comes out by themselves without being asked and says that the complaint is all them and they weren’t influenced at all, guess what? These are not his or her words. It’s so complicated, because the child truly believes that these thoughts are his or her own alone. This is why I say that the child is a victim of P.A.S. too.”
Automatic Support/Reflexive Support – “If a child sides with one parent every time he or she is in an argument with the other no matter the topic, this is a symptom of P.A.S. It will stand out particularly when the child’s judgement comes quickly and harshly.”
Absence of Guilt – “When a child is consistently cruel or disrespectful with no regard for a parent’s feelings and no apology after things calm down, then it’s clear P.A.S. is at work.”
Borrowed Scenarios – “To detect this symptom you must dig a little deeper into a child’s story about his or her parent. If they tell a story and then later tell the exact same story using not similar, butthe exact same language, this could be a symptom of P.A.S.”
Spread of Animosity – “When a child’s hurtful feelings about and actions towards a parent spread to aunts, uncles and grandparents there is clearly a problem. Very often they have done nothing wrong other than perhaps defending the accused parent.”
Now that we understand what Parental Alienation Syndrome is, what can we do about it? Here’s where Divorce Coach and P.A.S. Specialist Susan Shofer says you can begin:
“First of all, it’s important to understand that no two situations are the same and therefore, unfortunately, there is no perfect plan that works for everyone. Now, having said that, there are some things that everyone can do if they suspect they are being alienated. Mindset is everything so get real about what you’re going through. You are a victim, but you don’t need to act like one. Here are a few ways you can be proactive.
- Keep records of every interaction with your ex as well as your child. This means every email and every text. This also means write down every conversation that you believe is relevant to the problem. You may need these for court.
- Never bad mouth the other parent. This is crucial, both for court and for your child’s well-being. Remember your child is a victim too.
- Reassure your child you love him/her regardless of the differences you have with your spouse. Be hyper vigilant about this.
- Always bring up good memories of the past to remind them of the good times.
- Make sure you use to the court to enforce your visitation rights.
- Always keep your word and be consistent when dealing with your children.
Finally, if you are being alienated from your child, I highly recommend that you seek out a trained professional. P.A.S. is complicated and very specific to the situation. Children and ex-spouses can be unpredictable, and the courts can be very difficult to navigate. I know, because I’ve been through it all myself.”