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Tips to help the alienated parent maintain the parent-child relationship

 
 

Tips to help alienated parent

It’s hard to understand all of the issues involved in parental alienation. We’ve learned parental alienation is real. It hurts to the core of parenting. It devastates the parent-child relationship. It is a very difficult concept for church leaders to understand and even harder to encourage the alienated parent.

Alienated parents very much need the church family to walk alongside them during this time. In this post we’ll give you some tips to pass on to alienated parents that will help them parent their children. Understand, though, that normal parenting tips won’t work with the children who have been programmed to hate the other parent.

Dorcy Pruter, an expert on parental alienation and founder of Conscious Co-Parenting Institute, tells parents who are the target of alienation tactics, “When you are dealing with an alienated child, all normal parenting goes right out the window. Trying to convince them they are wrong, that they have been coached and even trying to defend yourself does not work.”

It is also important to remember that many times the alienating parent has succeeded in limiting the amount of time the targeted parent has with the child. Imagine getting to see your child for only a short visit once or twice a month. Becky, an alienated mom, said she got to see her teenage daughter for only one dinner a week. When a child is angry and hostile, is it even possible to parent that child once a week? Becky thinks she can still have an influence on her daughter even under these horrific circumstances.

What you can do to help targeted parents

  • Listen to them. You may not have enough information to draw firm conclusions about what is going on, but you can listen. This is meaningful to the targeted parents. Thank them for sharing what is troubling them and for entrusting you with that information. And  acknowledge you know they are hurting.
  • Pray with them and remind them that God understands. When a parent is being targeted and conflict is ongoing between parent and child, it’s easy for the parent to focus on that conflict instead of on God and His love.
  • Pray with them for the truth to eventually come out and for the alienated children to return to them.
  • Pray with them for their children’s safety.
  • Encourage them to keep attempting to see their children.
  • Tell the parents to document every time they attempt to see their children but are denied access. This gives the targeted parents something to do when it seems like things are hopeless. It may also help if the targeted parents are called into court or if they are accused of not caring enough to see their children. Later, when the children ask, the parents can show every time they attempted to see them but were denied.
  • Encourage them to keep sending cards and birthday gifts, even if they are returned.
  • Remind them not to blame the children. The children are victims of an angry and hurtful adult, and they are being constantly brainwashed.
  • Tell them to NEVER criticize the other parent.
  • Give them the following suggestions on things to do with their children.
  1. Talk to the child about the child’s life. Here are a few examples the parent can use.
    What was your favorite day this week at school?
    Who did you sit with at lunch today?
    What has been the funniest thing that happened to you this week?
    If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be? Why?
    If you had a hundred dollars to give away, who would you give it to, and why?
    What would your perfect day look like?
  2. Keep the conversation upbeat and positive.
  3. Help the child with homework.
  4. Listen to the child and offer solutions only when asked, or give the child Scriptures that apply to his or her specific situation.
  5. Be the best parent you can be in the moment.
  6. Prepare spiritually before the child’s visit by reading passages of hope in the Bible and praying for the Lord’s guidance during the visit. Psalm 62:5: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”

Remind the parent that God has designed children to love their parent. When children lose a parent, they have lost part of themselves. So even if the other parent is destroying the parent-child relationship, a child still has the capacity, if not the desire, to love the parent. However, the child may not be strong enough to admit that love or even see the love that is buried beneath the hostility.

What the alienated parent should not do when confronted by the child

  • Do not respond to the accusations against you.
  • Do not imply that your child or the ex is lying.
  • Do not set yourself up to do battle with your child by trying to explain your side of the story.
  • Do not apologize for something you have been accused of doing.
  • Do not get upset if your child calls you by your first name.

What the alienated parent should do when confronted by the child

  • Always remain calm.
  • Be empathetically attuned to the child. “Whoa! You must have been hurt to think that I would spend the child support money on clothes for myself.”
  • Provide a place that is comfortable and where the child can feel safe in his or her interactions with you. “I understand. I’m glad you told me.”
  • Be available when the child is with you by listening and being intentional in the interactions between the two of you.  
  • Be in love with your child, no matter what is said or implied.

The importance of ministering to the alienated

The tentacles of parental alienation spread out far and wide. It affects many areas of children’s lives including but not limited to trust levels, the ability to forgive those who have hurt them, and even the children’s ability to successfully parent their own children when they become adults.

Parental alienation has the propensity to destroy not only a child’s relationship with a loving parent and the extended family but also hinder a loving relationship with the heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Children may reason that if they can’t trust their own parent who has seemingly lied and deceived them, how they can trust a heavenly Father?

There is no formula or quick therapy for the damage parental alienation causes to the child or the alienated parent. However, as church leaders and those who minister to children, we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom in how to minister to each person on an individual basis. It may take years for the alienated child to come back to the alienated parent, but it can happen. In the meantime, we can be there for the parents—loving on them and encouraging them with the Word of God and including them in our church family.

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the LORD supported me. He led me to a place of safety.” (2 Sam. 22:17–20a NLT)

 

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