Oct 22, 2020
Parental Alienation Part 3: Coping Strategies
As noted in Part 2 of this series, parental alienation can be life-changing for the targeted parent. It is painful, it is unfair, and it is very difficult to overcome. There are ways, however, to get the children to move from alienation to realization and ultimately to reunify with the alienated parent.
If children can realize what is happening, there is a chance that true healing can begin and the relationship can be restored. If you are the victim of parental alienation, here are ways you can cope with this challenge. As a practicing attorney, I tell my clients, that each divorce is unique and I believe this to be especially true of cases involving parental alienation. Listed below are some coping strategies that might help you. My hope is that some of these tips will bring you some comfort during this difficult time.
Be prepared. Lawyers tell their clients to “Expect the worst, but hope for the best”. With parental alienation, however, the alienated parent has to expect and be prepared for the worst. Some alienated parents see this as a ‘battle’. The length of the battle depends on the ages of the children. Do not be fooled, though, adult children are almost as vulnerable as young children.
Accept the facts and be real. Sharie Stines, a PsyD, says to begin by figuring out how to make peace with your reality. (2018, Stines) If you are dealing with a narcissist, this is especially difficult. It is almost impossible to comprehend that this person who was once your spouse, is now someone whom you hardly recognize. They have a relentless, vengeful, and hateful attitude towards you and that will never change. You will want to hope for the best and even think things might improve over time. It will not. So just accept this as your new normal.
Seek the guidance of a therapist. There are many counselors out there that specialize in parental alienation. It might be helpful for you to start alone to learn how to manage the abusive behavior and then maybe after a few sessions, try to engage the children. If you can get your children into therapy, there is a chance at reversing the damage. Unfortunately, by the time you realize this is occurring, the children might refuse therapy so be prepared. In this case, you are left to time and taking the higher road. If the child is a minor a parent can make them go to counseling, but from my anecdotal observations, this does not end well for the child or the parent.
Also, realize that you cannot save the children from the alienating parent. The children must learn this on their own and most therapists agree that it is healthy for the children to have to work through this on their own for their own emotional growth. The fact is that they will always be that other parent and they have rights. Of course, if the abuse becomes unbearable, using the legal system may be your only option.
Investigate support groups for alienated parents. For some this is great, but again for others it might not be as effective. You might have to try one or more groups to find the one that offers you the greatest benefit. If you do not have time to sit with a group and discuss parental alienation, arm yourself with knowledge. Read up on the topic, as there are many great articles and blogs out there to help you. Every little bit helps.
Be kind to yourself. If the parental alienation is caused by a narcissist, you will additional issues and it will take time. A lot of time. One client of mine told me she does a ten-minute meditation before she gets out of bed each morning. Another client focuses on exercise and goes for a walk daily. Another client journals. All of these simple activities not only help you feel better physically, but they do a great service to your mental health and some can assist with weight management (a bonus!).
Have a support system. Most of us don’t want to impose on others but divorce is different. Adding parental alienation makes it very different and very difficult. Surround yourself with a group of people who are like-minded and share your values. Take time to spend with friends. Talk to them and let them listen. There are many people who are happy to lend you an ear to vent your frustrations. You will need this for yourself so you don’t vent in front of your kids when they are with you.
Finally, remember this is a marathon and not a sprint. Many wise people, therapists and others who have lived through this have told me that the kids will eventually grow up. So, start to live your life, and learn to live with them as they grow into adulthood. It takes time. Enjoy their moments with them – genuinely. Hopefully, they will be with you in the years to come.
Christine Lombardo-Zaun is an attorney-mediator with the Alpha Center. Visit her profile for more information or to contact her.
©2020 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation