Tips and support

Co-parent with your ex

If at all possible parents should try to co-parent and stay out of court. Co-parenting gives the best outcome for children because it is centred on their need to be loved and cared for by both parents. Children have an attachment bond with both parents and it needs to be sustained for their emotional wellbeing all through life, as long as those parents are safe/normal range.

Cafcass has produced advice for parents who are divorcing or separating. Before taking the step to go to court, I recommend you read this advice and try to set up a parenting plan.

Keep all communication with your ex business like. Do not get drawn in to hostility, especially in front of the children. Hostility will only increase anxiety and anger for all involved. It will not help you to think clearly and after being goaded by your ex’s unreasonable behaviours to react, those reactions can be used against you in a court as evidence. Keep every communication factual and as short as possible.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you will not make reasonable progress with a someone who is controlling and coercive. This type of parent finds it hard, if not impossible to co-parent with an ex who poses no safeguarding risk to the child. They try to drive a wedge between the child and the other parent any way they can.

Where it is not possible to co-parent and reasonable contact cannot be agreed within a reasonable time through the use of mediation services, there may be no option but to go to court to ask for help to ensure the parent/child relationship is maintained. How long you try mediation for will depend on what if any contact your ex agrees to. It is widely recognised that even a few short months of no contact with a child who is unjustly rejecting a normal range parent, requires significant more support.

Family courts the world over are not sufficiently knowledgeable about this issue and they are certainly not geared up to support families with this type of psychological problem.

“The court process is not one that either adds value to the welfare of the child or is in any way beneficial for the parents” Sir Andrew McFarlane President of the Family Division in his Resolution Keynote speech on 05/04/19 regarding cases that go through courts where no safeguarding issues exist.

Many parents have no clue they have no right to see their child when a relationship ends. When they get to court they may find a number of false allegations are made against them by their ex. Their child, who is under intense pressure from the controlling parent, turns against them too and may make false allegations of their own. Without an effective support service in place the rejected parent will quickly become shocked and disappointed at how little courts help families in this position. Cases can go on for years, family court judges do not enforce their own orders, further emotional and psychological damage will be done to both parents and children. They are given very little real help to resolve the issue. It also costs a small fortune. This is why, if at all possible, parents need to do everything they can to work with the other parent and to support their children as best they can.

Be the best parent you can – have empathy for your child

A child seeking to reject a normal range parent is a victim of psychological abuse. They are using coping mechanisms to defend themselves against that abuse. These children can demonstrate hurtful behaviours towards the rejected parent and extended family members. There are things you can do to help but it requires a shift in mind set to combat the 17 strategies coercive and controlling parents use to increase conflict between parent and child. Dr Amy Baker provides a list of tips to maintaining a positive relationship with the child. The key being to ensure they have an independent and positive relationship with the child to show the negative view that the alienating parent wants the child to believe about the other parent is not true i.e. be the best parent you can be.

  • Be an Involved Parent. Take interest in your child, do fun things with them. Show up and show up on time, comfort your child if they need emotional help.
  • Be “in the moment”. Children remember how it feels to spend time with a parent. Enjoy your time with the child and don’t fester on the past.
  • Don’t talk the child out of his or her feelings. When a child says something that is not true about you don’t respond with anger or frustration or try to get them to change their mind. Like adults, children don’t like someone trying to change their thinking. Even if it’s obvious to you/others that they are being manipulated/brainwashed it will not be to the child. You don’t have to agree with what they say but Baker suggests saying “I see this situation differently from you but I do not want to spend our time together arguing about it.”
  • Hold on to love for the child. The child holds the views of the alienating parent inside of them. This causes the target parent frustration and it is hard to see the child as separate to the alienating parent’s views. The targeted parent should seek to maintain their love and commitment to their child – it’s not the child’s fault, they are a victim.
  • Revive positive memories. Reliving positive memories helps to reinforce the relationship with the child and undo the negative messages the alienating parent gives them e.g. showing pictures of past holiday’s where they had fun with the targeted parent or reminiscing about particular activities.
  • Manage your feelings of shame of being alienated from your child. No parent is perfect, other than the cases of justified alienation as a result of extreme abuse, normal parents are not to blame for the alienation – the alienating parent’s behaviours are responsible. Anyone feeling shame should get some support e.g. join online support groups, seek therapy etc.
  • Maintain hope. At some point the child may start to question the alienating parent’s behaviour and then seek out the targeted parent. It is clear from the suggestions made by adults who later realised that they had been manipulated to reject a parent that they did not actually want a rejected parent to stop having a relationship with them.
  • Have a meaningful life. You have the right to have a happy life. Do things that make you happy. That doesn’t mean giving up on your child. Grief can drag you down and alter your behaviour and your outlook. Doing things you enjoy and taking exercise can help to reduce cortisol levels which reduce stress and depression.

Further tips for parents can be found here:

Support for parents and extended family members

Parental Alienation Support Groups

Expert services

General support