3 Types of Parental Alienators
The Naive Alienator
"Tell your father that he has more money than I do, so let him buy your soccer shoes."
Most divorced parents have moments when they are Naive alienators. These parents mean well and recognize the importance of the children having a healthy relationship with the other parent. They rarely have to return to court because of problems with visits or other issues relating to the children. They encourage the relationship between the children and the other parent and their family. Communication between both parents is usually good, though they will have their disagreements, much like they did before the divorce. For the most part, they can work out their differences without bringing the children into it.
Children, whether or not their parents are divorced, know there are times when their parents will argue or disagree about something. They don’t like seeing their parents argue and may feel hurt or frightened by what they hear. Somehow, the children manage to cope, either by talking out their feelings to a receptive parent, ignoring the argument or trusting that the skirmish will pass and all will heal. What they see and hear between their parents does not typically damage the children of the naive alienator. They trust their parent’s love and protection. The child and the parent have distinct personalities, beliefs and feelings. Neither is threatened by how the other feels towards the targeted parent.
The characteristics of Naive Alienators are:
Naive alienators usually don’t need therapy but will benefit from learning about parental alienation because of the insight they will gain about how to keep alienation from escalating into something more severe and damaging for all. These parents know they make mistakes but care enough about their children to make things right. They focus on what is good for the children without regret, blame or martyrdom.
The Active Alienator
"I don’t want you to tell your father that I earned this extra money. The miser will take it from his child support check that will keep us from going to Disneyworld. You remember he’s done this before when we wanted to go to Grandma’s for Christmas."
Most parents returning to court over problems with visitation are active alienators. These parents mean well and believe that the children should have a healthy relationship with the other parent. The problem they have is with controlling their frustration, bitterness or hurt. When something happens to trigger their painful feelings, active alienators lash out in a way to cause or reinforce alienation against the targeted parent. After regaining control, the parent will usually feel guilty or bad about what they did and back off from their alienating tactics. Vacillating between impulsively alienating and then repairing the damage with the children is the trademark of the active alienator. They mean well, but will lose control because the intensity of their feelings overwhelms them.
The characteristics of active alienators are:
They have the ability to respect the court’s authority and, for the most part, comply with court orders. However, they can be very rigid and uncooperative with the other parent. This is usually a passive attempt to strike back at the other parent for some injustice. Active alienators are usually willing to accept professional help when they or the children have a problem that does not go away. They are sincerely concerned about their children’s adjustment to the divorce. Harboring old feelings continues to be a struggle, but active alienators continue to hope for a speedy recovery from their pain.
The Obsessed Alienator
"I love my children. If the court can’t protect them from their abusive father, I will. Even though he’s never abused the children, I know it’s a matter of time. The children are frightened of their father. If they don’t want to see him, I’m not going to force them. They are old enough to make up their own minds."
The obsessed alienator is a parent, or sometimes a grandparent, with a cause: to align the children to his or her side and together, with the children, campaign to destroy their relationship with the targeted parent. For the campaign to work, the obsessed alienator enmeshes the children’s personalities and beliefs into their own. This is a process that takes time but one that the children, especially the young, are completely helpless to see and combat. It usually begins well before the divorce is final. The obsessed parent is angry, bitter or feels betrayed by the other parent. The initial reasons for the bitterness may actually be justified. They could have been verbally and physical abused, raped, betrayed by an affair, or financially cheated. The problem occurs when the feelings won’t heal but instead become more intense because of being forced to continue the relationship with a person they despise because of their common parenthood. Just having to see or talk to the other parent is a reminder of the past and triggers the hate. They are trapped with nowhere to go and heal.
The characteristics of obsessed alienators are:
There are no effective treatments for either the obsessed alienator or the children. The courts and mental health professionals are helpless. The only hope for these children is early identification of the symptoms and prevention. After the alienation is entrenched and the children become "true believers" in the parent’s cause, the children are lost to the other parent for years to come. We realize this is a sad statement, but we have yet to find an effective intervention, by anyone, including the courts that can rehabilitate the alienating parent and child.
Resources & Tools
EMOTIONAL DISTURBANCE -- Parental alienation (PA) is an emotional disturbance in which a child sees one parent as good and the other as evil. PA happens in children whose parents are going through a divorce or custody battle. When the primary parent brainwashes the child, the case becomes known as parental alienation syndrome (PAS).
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