Editor’s Note: the following story comes to us from a woman we’ll call “Sandy.”
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome? Psychology Today describes it this way: “Parental alienation syndrome, a term coined in the id 1980’s by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner, occurs when one parent attempts to turn the couple’s children against the other parent.”
Sandy shares her story:
I remember it beginning when I was 15. I was sat down by my father and given details of how my mother was not a good spouse. How she would refuse intimacy and why she was to blame for all of their marital problems. It was information that no child should be brought into and it was all one sided.
The manipulation continued, every time we were alone I would be told of more problems within the marriage and always with an accusatory tone. The more my mother (the accused parent) would ask what we were talking about and the more she got defensive, the more convinced I was that it must be true. After all, why would she be so worried if it wasn’t true? My father (the accusing parent) would use this to further his story, “See how paranoid she is? She’s worried you’re learning the truth.”
The true moment when I had been turned against my mother was shown when I said to her “You make it hard to love you.” A statement that would haunt both my mother and myself for the rest of our lives. A statement we continue to work through as we attempt to repair the damage done.
My father had me fooled until long after my parents divorced. He told me he wanted nothing to do with me or my family. I was told that we were done and was asked to stay away, citing my reconciliation with my mother as “the stupidest thing I’ve ever done”. This was when I began understanding my father’s true character. He is self-serving and cannot disconnect his relationship with me from his relationship with his former spouse. I have made my peace with this and now see that this is not someone I want in my life or the lives of my children.
I don’t know if any of the accusations made about my mother are true or not, nor do I care. What I do know is that the information shared with me was information that should have stayed between them and had nothing to do with me. What I know is that it has forever harmed my ability to feel an emotional connection with my mother even when I want to so badly. It will forever affect my ability to trust people in my life.
I am forever changed by this. Our love for our parents is so innocent and beautiful. When someone manipulates a child, no matter their age, to disconnect with a parent, it hurts the child more than anyone. It is wrong.
My advice to parents who feel their spouse is alienating their children from them is to not be defensive. To not fight back by trying to alienate the child from the other spouse. This only confuses the child more and may make the alienation against you worse. If it is part of a custody battle, let the courts know so that measures can be taken to evaluate and protect the child. If it is not, please have your child speak to a qualified psychologist about what is happening, if possible meet with the psychologist as well to explain your concerns.
My hope is that my story can help bring awareness of this syndrome that affects too many children.