Parental Alienation

by in Holistic Tips, Kitchen Sink, Pediatrics, Preventative Medicine March 26, 2009

PhotobucketBy Dr. Nicole Sundene

I am sure that many of us have witnessed parental alienation first-hand, and it wasn’t until Dr. Phil’s expert labeled it as “child abuse” did I realize it is my obligation to be a “mandated reporter” when I witness an ugly divorce battle between two parents.

Much of what I do as a naturopath is counsel and work to “undo” that which happened during a divorce or other childhood trauma.

Recently, I have been following the story of David Goldman, a man who has been estranged from his son for the past four years, and it got me thinking about the core wound that parental alienation can create in a child.

Children experience the world much differently than adults do, and I would like to invite all parents to consider how important it is to allow both parents be involved in the child’s life, regardless of whether he is a “worthless bum” or she is a “cheating lying witch.” Really, I have heard it all. Divorce is tough enough but the delicate emotions of the children should always be the prime directive.

Nothing makes me more sick to my stomach than parental alienation. This is when one parent uses the court system to push another parent out of that child’s life in an ugly custody situation. Occasionally these acts are necessary and done out of safety, but mostly they are done by one parent, whether consciously or unconsciously, to punish the other parent for cheating, giving up on the marriage, or whatever other reason.

Taking a child away from their parent is the cruelest of punishments of course, but who is suffering the most? The child. The child is suffering, and parental alienation without good cause is emotional child abuse.

If you are doing this, or if you see someone doing this, what you are witnessing is, technically, child abuse. Physicians and teachers are “mandated reporters” which means that it is our duty to report child abuse to CPS when we see it happening.

Of course it is always best to try to talk to the parent that is instigating the alienation first, if possible. But if you don’t feel comfortable doing that then you should make a call to CPS so that your information can be added to the court’s custody decisions. Many states automatically favor the mother and give fathers little to no rights. Being a parent is more than just one Wednesday a week and every other weekend.

The court may set the schedule, but the real decision should be made by your own children. If they need more time with a specific parent then that is what they should get. A child’s mind sees parental alienation as abandonment. “My daddy left me, he doesn’t love me or care about me,” is the typical thought process of the alienated child.

After working with kids and babies for eight years, my advice for new parents when asked is always the same thing, “this baby was born perfect and you are going to mess it up. Every parent messes up. Sometimes trying too hard to be such a perfect parent messes your kid up more than anything, so just relax and enjoy the process.”

But, parental alienation is a preventable mistake. If you are doing it, if you see a friend or family doing it, try to talk some reason in to them. If there are concerns about the parent and they are under investigation, or a restraining order is present, then the visitation can and should still be conducted supervised. The child should be allowed to see the estranged parent at least twice a week, or as often as they need.

If a child is being beaten or sexually molested, they should of course be alienated from the abusive parent; however, a child needs both a mom and a dad if not “a village,” in order to be healthy, and I can guarantee that the worst thing you can ever do to a child is alienate it from either it’s mother or father.

I don’t care how crappy a parent they are. I don’t care if they are a “useless unemployed alcoholic bum,”all parents are perfect in their child’s eyes (well until they become teens.) The interesting psychological aspect of parental alienation is that the child notoriously bonds with the parent they were alienated from and secretly holds a grudge or becomes estranged from the parent that did the alienating. Karmic retribution perhaps.

We need to always be thinking about what is best for our kids, not for ourselves.

Sorry, tough love today, maybe some of you don’t want to hear this from me, but children everywhere are being abused by our court system and all I can do is speak up and encourage parents to open their hearts to what is the absolute best thing for their children.

For more information on parental alienation visit:

~Dr. Nicole

One Comment
  1. […] the divorce rate at 50%, a healthy marriage should always be the priority if you want healthy children. New parents […]

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