Karen Woodall, a specialist working with families affected by Parental Alienation, shares insights on how alienation affects a child, and what they may be experiencing from a deeply personal level.

Through her experience, and skill, Woodall gives voice to the traumatize and wounded children who can not speak for themselves.
“The mind of the captured child would, if we could look inside it, appear not as we expect it to be, but would appear to be almost empty. This is because the doors to the unpleasantness that these children direct towards the parent they are rejecting, remain firmly closed when that parent is not around. Put simply, when they are not busy rejecting, these children do not want to think about the parent they do not see because it brings up too many painful feelings for them.”

Woodall also advocates establishing a multi-model support system to help children recover, and heal from alienation. Woodall says, “The mind of the captured child can only be freed when the power dynamic around them changes and someone is willing to intervene.”

To Learn More, Please Read: Rescuing the mind of the captured child

Karen Woodall

Those of us working in the field of parental alienation spend a lot of our time thinking about and working with, children whose minds have been captured by a parent’s emotional or psychological reactions to significant change.  As someone working regularly with children who reject or resist a relationship with a parent after separation, I spend more time than most in the company of such children.  I find them to be both fascinating as well as terrifying and somewhere in between, deeply troubled.  For these children, the task of coping with the schism in the sub and unconscious mind of the families they are torn between, can be impossible. Helping them to escape from the pressures that this brings to bear in their lives is what our work is all about.  Helping to restructure the power dynamics around the family is part of that process.

My fascination with alienated children…

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Title: “Helping Your Child Survive a Difficult Divorce” by Lynne Namka, Ed. D. (Tucson, Arizona: © 2000)
Description: “A Psychologist Who has Dealt with the Pain of Many Children Whose Parents Act Irrationally During Divorce Tells It Like It Is!”
Link: http://www.angriesout.com/kids4.htm

In the article “Helping Your Child Survive a Difficult Divorce”, psychologist and author, Lynne Namka shares insights on how the behavior of parents during or after a divorce impacts the children who are caught in the middle. Children are hurt when parents war against each other, or when one parent displays “negative behavior” towards the other during or after divorce. This article offers positive solutions to identify problematic behavior, tips on healing from divorce, and tips on how to identify your motives and behaviors so you can co-parent more effectively.

Lynne advises, “Do not let your child be a witness to your anger at his or her other parent. Belittling your child’s mother or father is a form of child abuse that can affect your child’s self esteem permanently. Your child is half of the other parent. If you criticize your ex, your child will feel ashamed of half of him or herself. You WILL hurt your child if you habitually yell at your ex, trash talk about them, if you are self righteous in explaining how wrong their point of view is or if you try to evade the legal custody arrangement.

“Helping Your Child” also explains how one parent’s efforts to exert power and control over the other parent can escalate to emotional and psychological abuse.

Seeking power and control over the parent is commonly motivated by:
· A parent’s need to control the person they are divorcing
· Anger towards the other parent
· An abuser may try to avoid their own feelings of powerlessness by exerting power and control over another person
· The need to be right, at any cost
· Avoiding responsibility for their actions in the marriage, in combination with a sense of guilt, may also cause a parent to cast blame on another parent
· Inability to let go of the past or living in the past
· Avoiding your own feelings of anger, hurt and resentment by dumping or venting them onto the ex partner

Lynn says that the maturity level of a parent affects how they deal with the divorce, and with their own emotions. A parent who is able to control their emotions is better able to co-parent, and in turn the child experiences more stability.

If you are dealing with anger towards another parent, Lynne advises seeking therapy, finding a support group or taking a divorce recovery or anger management class. She says, Make your goal to get a working relationship with the other parent of your child. If you are willing to see how your angry actions affect your child and do something about it, your child has the best chance for a happy future. The pain of the divorce can start to heal for everyone.

If your ex partner is engaging in abusive or harmful behavior, and you feel that your safety or that of your child is at risk, seek help from an experienced professional or domestic violence organization. In relationships where domestic violence is present, the most dangerous time for the victim is when leaving the perpetrator, as that is when the abuse escalates. Abusers may also use the child as a pawn to control, dominate or seek revenge against the other parent (domestic violence by proxy) or engage in alienation tactics.

“Helping Your Child” also offers a list of do’s and don’t’s for parents co-parenting after divorce, and some helpful resources, for parents to identify problematic behavior and find positive ways to change.

The article ends with a statement called “The Rights of a Child in Divorce”, which I will share here. When you talk about the “best interest” or “doing what is best” for a child the message and intent can get confused, or enmeshed with what the adult is seeking. “The Rights of a Child in a Divorce” offers both a perspective from a child while also offering a guide for parents.

The Rights of a Child in a Divorce
· To be told that my mother and father still love me and will never divorce me.
· To be told that the divorce is not my fault and not to be told about the adult problems that caused it.
· To be treated as a human being—not as another piece of property to be fought over, bargained over or threatened.
· To have decisions about me based on my best interest, rather than past wrongs, hurt feelings, or parent’s needs.
· To love both my parents without being forced to choose or feel guilty.
· To know both my parents through regular, frequent involvement in my life.
· To have the financial support of both my father and mother.
· To be spared hearing bad hurtful comments about either of my parents which have no useful purpose.
· Not to be asked to tell a lie or act as a spy or messenger.
· To be allowed to care about others without having to choose or feel guilty.

Tips for Practitioners Working with Families Experiencing Parental Alienation.

Insights on what an Alienated Child is experiencing, and how their perception of reality, and themselves, has been damaged by alienation.

When the mirrors reflect not your own self but that of the alienating parent and when the words which are spoken jar horribly with the language that the body of the alienating parent is speaking, the brain and the mind becomes used to responding to the ‘truth’ and not the lie which is heard. Of course the ‘truth’ is the lie and the lie is the truth in this world and keeping that firmly in the foreground of the mind as a practitioner is a critical element of successful practice.

Article by Karen Woodall

Karen Woodall

This week I have been working on several projects concerned with increasing parental awareness of what is happening to their children when alienation strikes.  All this alongside working with parents whose children are alienated and children who think that the parent they have rejected is quite simply horrible. I have also been working with parents who are so indignantly determined that their version of why a child no longer sees a parent is correct, that they will go to any lengths to ‘prove’ it.  The world of children’s rejection of a parent is indeed a world in which everyone is concerned about what they know. And of course,  everyone believes that what they know is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Working in the midst of this can feel a little bit like being down the rabbit hole with Alice, I half expect the mad hatter…

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“In the 1970’s when the Khmer Rouge came through Cambodia, they wiped out the entire educated class.

They wanted to destroy the family structure. Mother and women were slaughtered. That’s a whole generation that was taken out.

And now you have women raising children who’ve never had grandmothers teaching them, mothers to teach them how to raise children, how to be a mom. And these women have felt the effect for years.” — Sissy Samaritan’s Purse

I was really struck by this quote because it reminds me of how –injustice in family court destroys the family structure, and destroys the bond between parents and children. A whole generation is being taken out due to the failures in family court.

Fit, loving parents are being forcibly separated from their children. This causes real trauma, and often leaves life long scars. I wonder what the effect will be on the future generation of children… who have been forced to live in an abusive, dysfunctional home and deprived of a healthy, nurturing relationship with a parent.

How will these child survivors parent their own children? How will they function in the real world? What will the effect be?

– EJ, 2015

“Crossing the River: Motherhood in Cambodia” is a short film created by Samaritan’s Purse who is doing missionary work in Cambodia, providing maternal and child health programs and offering support.

The video explores the challenges and experiences of mothers in Cambodia, a country with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. Samaritan’s Purse is working to reverse that trend by building health clinics, teaching mother’s needed skills, and offering support to build their confidence in raising their children.

A heartbreaking yet courageous story of a mother fighting to protect her children…and the family court system that failed this family.

This story is reblogged from: http://amississippimom.wordpress.com/

The Guardian ad Litem recommended sole custody to an allegedly abusive, criminal and drug abusing father who was later to found so unfit and abusive towards the children that they were later removed from his home. This mother was then prevented from being reunited from her children because she was now being sanctioned by the court for failing to pay exorbitant GAL fees!
“Even though my children are fully cognizant, aware, of their own memories, of me, their mother, of my behavior, of my affection, my deep, abiding, maternal love for them, and of our lives together, I have yet to offer any reasonable explanation why their father, an indisputable criminal, abuser, drug-user, was able to obtain, and keep, custody of them for so long, and, how this was done with the complicity of those court appointed to see to the children’s safety and well-being … how all these things were done for so long, how I was given very limited, stringent visitation, as their mother, and for so long. Is it acceptable to try to explain to children? How does one do so in any rational way?”

amississippimom

Starting Over When You Can’t Go Back?  – To All Protective Parents:  Rebuilding when you can’t go home again:
To all of my friends:  I have slowly begun to rebuild my work and my career, my freelance paralegal research.  I had been self-employed in the same field for over 20 years when my life came to a screeching halt in 2010 when my young children (ages 9 and 12) were kidnapped by their father and taken over 200 miles away … this was parental kidnapping, against custody, against the law.  So many others are familiar with this horror but this type of kidnapping garners little sympathy and certainly less action.  This atrocity, and the long-haul of horror it places a protective parent in is in no way different than having your children kidnapped by a stranger.  Although with parental abductions there may some knowledge, confirmation, and awareness, however vague, that…

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Talking to a “Protective Mother” Who Lost Custody of Children
Due to an Unjust Court Ruling: 10 Comments to Avoid & Why

PART TWO COMMENTS #5-1

These tips are for family, friends, community supports, professionals and others who are in a position to help or support a “Protective Mother”. It is devastating for a Mother to lose custody of her children—especially in a family court proceeding where she may feel victimized, violated and abused (and there no recourse for justice). Those closest to the Mother often struggle with what to say or how to help. Sometimes comments made to help actually hurt the Mother. Other times, those making comments struggle with their own emotions and/or grief and their actions and behavior causes hurt or harm because they are also struggling or don’t know what to say. Some just don’t believe that a court of law would make a mistake, and believe the Mother must have done something wrong to lose custody. These 10 Comments are commonly reported among Protective Mothers to be hurtful, and traumatic. I am sharing these comments to raise awareness, and offer tips on how to better offer emotional support to Protective Mothers.

grief

5. Don’t tell a Mother how you want to hurt or get revenge on the ex. And don’t vent or dump anger, hatred or plotting revenge onto the Mother. This happens when a Mother tells her story and there is a strong reaction that involves harming the ex or fantasies of getting back at him.
The Reality: Holding in hurt, anger, hopelessness and other feelings intensifies those feels, and will ultimately cause more hurt and pain in your life—or that of someone else if you lash out. Words and actions to hurt or get revenge on an ex will negatively impact the custody case of the Protective Mother, and may cause her to be punished by the Court—even if she did not commit any crime or wrongdoing.
I heard a lot of anger towards my ex after I lost custody of my children; it made me afraid of talking about my situation because I felt I had to take care of and protect my friends and family members from the bad news. As a result I felt alone. Or hearing intense anger about the abuser intensified my own feelings or triggered memories of abuse.
If you are a friend or family member of a Protective Mother, and witnessed her being abused or losing custody, it is normal to feel empathy—to feel hurt, anger or frustration but don’t dump or project those feelings onto the Mother of the ex. Recognize that in your role as a support, at times, you will need support or rest—the loss of the child and trauma of family court will affect you as well.
Another tip: Take time for hobbies, recreation, social activities and other activities that are important to you, don’t withdraw or isolate. It is important to have an outlet, and to keep a connection to the things that bare a positive for you. When you can use your energy in activities or ways that make you feel good about yourself, or offer a way to vent frustrations in a safe, healthy way—that will help you work through the pain and hurt, and lead to healing. It may also be something you can enjoy together with the Protective Mom, and be another way of offering support.

4. Don’t completely Ignore the Situation and Act Like Everything is Fine.
The Reality: Acting like everything is fine, and ignoring the most traumatic loss a Mother can experience—her children—IS NOT HELPFUL! This will make a Mother feel alone, isolated and that she has no one to turn to for comfort or support. It is better to be honest and up front about your own feelings and limitations, so the Mother knows what to expect.
Then again, if the family or friends are acting like the loss of your children is no big deal, and seem unable to empathize with you, this may indicate an unhealthy relationship. You may have to reconsider this relationship and what your role in it.

3. Should’s… Don’t tell a Mother what they “should” have done differently in Court or in their marriage/divorce. Or criticize the mom’s lifestyle, appearance, employment, religion, etc. to excuse/blame/justify what happened.
The Reality: See #6. Similarly, don’t give a Mom “shoulds” if her appearance, demeanor, habits etc change after losing her children. Be understanding the loss of a child is incredibly painful and traumatic
—it feels like a death even though your children are alive, especially when you cannot have contact with those children. So be sensitive and understanding to the needs of the Mother, and allow her time to grieve and process. If you see the Mother is struggling, gently ask to help or offer support but also respect her answer, don’t force yourself onto her. I remember that after I lost my kids, my church sent me a postcard that said “We prayed for you” and the prayer team signed their names to it—that meant so much to me. Simple gestures go a long way, and one of the most profound gestures is loving acceptance. Give the Mother your love and acceptance—not your “should’s”,

2. Comments that you must have done something to make the Court take your kids/Good moms don’t lose custody of their children. Comments that Insist a Mother must “prove” her case. Examples: I don’t believe you//Judges would never award custody an abuser/Courts are always fair etc …

The Reality: Fit, loving Mothers who are primary caregivers lose custody at alarming rates—this is happen across the US, and all over the world. Your initial reaction may be disbelief, and for good reason, but don’t project that disbelief onto the Mother—take some time to process your own feelings before approaching the Mother or take time to educate yourself on the issues. The Mother will be hurting, and will need your support. The questions you have are probably are ones running through the Mother’s mind over and over. And are questions family court reformers are struggling with now. Even if you don’t have the answers for what happened in court or in her custody situation, focus on what you do have control of and ways you can offer support or help—make a cup of hot chocolate, suggest a support group or day at the spa, lead a prayer, bring her a meal, offer to help with housework.. etc When the Mother is ready, she may open up and talk more about her situation, for her to do that she must have trust in you, and feel safe. That process begins with offering support, and being present with her in her pain—not questioning, just being available.

1. Don’t say or do things that jeopardize the current custody case, custody situation or the Mother’s relationship to her child(ren).
This may include: Social media posts that threaten, criticize or harass the ex. Contacting the ex or making deals in order to see the children (or for other reasons). Publicly criticizing the Mother or showing a lack or support. Not respecting the Mother’s wishes or requests regarding her children or need for privacy. Breaking court orders. Talking negatively about either parent in front of the children. Putting the child in the middle of the custody dispute. Attending court hearings and showing emotional displays or outbursts in court, threatening either party, being disruptive or dressing provocatively in court. Publicly criticizing, harassing or naming the judge, attorneys, or other involved parties. Publicly naming the children, and revealing sensitive information about abuse allegations or information that should be private (legal name, address, date of birth, where they live, etc). Getting revenge on either party.

The Reality: DO NOT take the law into your own hands! Even though the Court situation can seem hopeless or that there is no justice, do not make it worse with aggressive, hostile or crazy behavior and actions that may cause the Court to further punish the Mother or restrict her parenting time—this is NOT helpful.

Consider seeking support and finding a safe outlet instead. Support may come from friends, family, community. Church, Professional help (lawyers, support group, counseling, religious support, classes, grief group etc).

Lisa Copen Quote

http://www.loverofsadness.net

Thinking today…
Mothers who speak out about abuse, who go to therapy or community services to get help, who live in shelters, who become the target for their childrens’ hurt & rage, who lose everything to start a new life, who living in hiding..and then go to family court & bravely tell their stories only to be falsely labelled as a liar, an alienator, crazy, speaking negative, a malicious mom...

 

Yet their story does not change, even as they are battered in court. Even as their children are taken away. Even as they are forced to go to therapy (a form of judicial brainwashing!). Even as they are told they will be given time with their children if they recant. Even as they are thrown in jail. As gag orders are issued. As they fear for their lives.
Their stories do not change. And when the children speak out about abuse, too often their stories match the mother’s–this happens even when they are separated, and have no contact! If anything this shows these Protective Moms are telling the truth..no one would lie to this extent, lose everything, and face such harsh punishment & hold onto a lie.
These Moms are telling the truth. And if the Court will not protect the vulnerable..then any one of us can become it’s next victim.

EJ, © 2013.