WHAT ARE THE IMPACTS ON CHILDREN OF PARENTAL ALIENATION?
Children who are exposed to PA suffer in a variety of general as well as specific ways from parental alienation. It will often have both temporary and lasting effects on their lives. This is obviously not the intention of the alienator, but it is the result of such alienation procedures and programming which causes the child to show a negative attitude and behaviour towards one of the parents.
Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child; it has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child.
In my experience with my estranged children, and from what I have observed, my children have bought into and firmly believe the distortions, deletions and generalisations they have been fed throughout their childhood. I had the opportunity at one point via email to reality check with my second eldest daughter her beliefs and memory of the past and it was clear from the responses received that she was confused and quite content in her own little world, a world sadly without my involvement. Whilst engaging in the to-ing and fro-ing of emails between us, it struck me that I needed to be the adult, even though she was an adult herself having children of her own.
It takes a big person to say sorry, even when or if there is perhaps nothing to be sorry for, the thing is that from my children’s perspective, in their minds and hearts they needed an adult and to hear their father apologise.
Over the years I have had to reflect on many things to try to make sense of what I had experienced and suffered. In so doing, I had to put myself, not in my shoes but into my children’s and try and see things from their perspective. I tried to imagine what it was like for them. You may be thinking that any conclusions reached would be speculative and a construct of my mind, based upon the way I process information and make sense of things, and you would be 100% correct.
However, in my reflective state, I drew upon my experiences as an adopted child. What’s that got to do with alienation? you may ask. Allow me to explain. Adopted children often feel that something is missing and deny the feeling in service of the parents who adopted them and this was true for me, you see, it took me till my adopted mother was in a vegetative state in a nursing home before I commenced looking for my biological parents. The reason why I waited so long was that I did not want to upset my dear mother. On reflection; I concluded that it must be the same for my own children, that they themselves fear the consequences of upsetting their mother (the alienator or gatekeeper). I can’t say that it’s been easy; frankly, it has been damn hard, I have missed out on seeing my darling children grow into adults, get married and have families of their own. I have no memories of their childhood beyond 1996, that I can reflect on with fondness, I wonder at times if the mother really understands the mental anguish she has caused not only for me but the children, who may themselves be denying the feeling of having missed something in their lives, and not knowing or being able to pinpoint what that was.
For my part, it has taken many years for me to now be able to live a life with relative happiness, at one point the only way that I was able to deal with my children being ripped away from me was to believe that I had none, to wipe them from my memory or to at least put their memory to the very back of my mind.
In my work, I see parents who engage in behaviours that are tantamount to parental alienation. Some parents seem oblivious or psychologically blinded to the effects and consequences of their behaviour even when pointing it out and educating them on the research. Sadly, quite a number of parents are hell-bent on hurting the other parent and they use the children as a means to that end.
I can only encourage all parents to please, please, consider first and foremost your children, do your utmost as a responsible parent, put their interests above yours and the conflict between you and your former partner. It is not the children’s fight! Just because you do not get along with your former partner does not mean your children should not get along with the other parent.
A series of symptoms are manifested in children, when they are presented over a period of time, with brainwashing or psychological conditioning against the other parent.
The effects are both short and long term. It must be stated from the beginning that not all the symptoms about to be mentioned occur in all children who are exposed and/or subjected to parental alienation techniques. It also goes without saying that differing impacts will occur between the very young child and the older child who are or have been subjected to parental alienation. As each child will be at differing developmental stages.
Undoubtedly the symptoms will occur and affect the child unless some form of treatment is carried out which eliminates the impact of the alienating process:
Anger is a common reaction of many children exposed to alienation. The anger however will be expressed towards the alienated parent as one sides with one of the parents in the relationship against the other. The fact the children are forced into this kind of situation causes considerable distress, frustration and confusion, the response often is to show aggressive behaviour towards the targeted parent in order to accommodate the programmer.
- LOSS OR A LACK OF IMPULSE CONTROL
It is a well-researched fact the children will act out and show their distress in bad behaviours. Children who suffer from PA are not merely suffering from aggression but also often turn to delinquent behaviour. There is considerable evidence that fathers and their presence and influence can do much to prevent and alleviate the possibility of delinquency most especially in boys.
- LOSS OF SELF CONFIDENCE AND SELF ESTEEM.
Losing one of the parents through the programming of parental alienation can produce a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. In the case of boy’s identification with gender could be curtailed, especially if the alienated parent is the father.
Children especially very young children who have been programmed to hate or disdain one of the parents may tend to cling to that parent who has carried out the programming. There is considerable anxiety induced by the programming parent against the target parent including threats that such a parent would carry out a great number of different negative actions against the child as well as the programming parent, thereby creating fear in the child.
- DEVELOPING FEARS AND PHOBIAS
Many children fear being abandoned or rejected now that they have been induced to feel that one of their parents, usually the father is to be feared. Sometimes this results in school phobia that is fear of attending school mainly due to fear of leaving the alienator parent. Some children suffer from hypochondriacal disorders and tend to develop psychological symptoms and physical illnesses. Such children also fear what will happen in the future and most especially fear that the programming parent or only parent who is allegedly the “good parent” may die and leave the child without any support.
- DEPRESSION AND SUICIDAL IDEATION
Some children who are so unhappy at the tragic break-up of the relationship are further faced with animosity between the programming parent and the targeted parent. This leads to ambivalence and uncertainty and sometimes suicidal attempts occur due to the unhappiness which the child feels brought about by the two main adults in his or her life.
- SLEEP DISORDERS IS ANOTHER SYMPTOM THAT FOLLOWS THE PARENTAL ALIENATION SITUATION
Children frequently dream and often find it difficult to sleep due to their worries about the danger of the alienated parent and the guilt (conscious and subconscious) they may feel as a result of participating in the process of alienation.
A variety of eating disorders have been noted in children who are surrounded by parental alienation. This includes anorexia nervosa, obesity and bulimia.
- EDUCATIONAL PROBLEMS
Children who are subjected to and under the pressure of the alienating parents of having to reject one parent suffer from school dysfunctions. They may become disruptive as well as aggressive at school.
A number of very young children due to the pressure and frustrations around them suffer from bed wetting and soiling. This is a response to the psychological disturbance of losing one parent and being subjected to the other parent’s hostility to the rejected parent.
- DRUG ABUSE AND SELF DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOUR
Drug abuse and self-destructive behaviours are frequently observed in children who have suffered from parental alienation. This tendency is due to a need to escape one’s feelings of the projected abuse they have suffered through the experience and the desire to escape from it. In the extreme such self-destructive behaviour can lead to suicidal tendencies.
- OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOUR
This psychological reaction is frequently present in PA children. Such children will seek to find security in their environment by adopting a variety of obsessive-compulsive behaviour patterns.
- ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS
Are also frequently observed in children who have been subjected to the PA mind games. This may be reflected through psycho-somatic disorders such as nightmares.
- DAMAGED SEXUAL IDENTITY PROBLEMS.
As a result of the PA syndrome children often develop identity problems especially as they may have failed to identify with one member of the originally secure relationship.
- POOR PEER RELATIONSHIPS
May follow as a result of the PA induction, due to the fact that such children often are either very withdrawn in their behaviour or are aggressive.
- EXCESSIVE FEELINGS OF GUILT
This may be due to the subconscious knowledge that has been pushed deep down that the ostracised parent who has been denigrated has done nothing wrong to deserve the kind of treatment received by the child or children. When this view occurs, the child especially when older begins to suffer from guilt feelings and doesn’t know how to undo what has been done.
Part 3, is Parental Alienation, What you can do
More information Links on Parental Alienation
- Professor Richard A. Gardner. The Parental Alienation;
- Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D Southern England Psychological Services. Justice of the Peace, Vol. 166 No.24, 2002, P 464 – 466
- Kruk, E. (2011).Divorced Fathers: Children’s Needs and Parental Responsibilities