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Family Wars: The Alienation of Children
(provided by Dr. Peggie Ward)

1. Prevention
A. Education
In the ideal cooperative divorce, there is little or no alienation occurring. Parents recognize the difference between their own needs and the needs of their children. They fully, believe that their children have needed both parents throughout the marriage and will continue to need them after the divorce. Each parent values the role that the other parent can play in the lives of the children and the different interests and talents the other has to offer the children, There is no motivation for alienation because of the value attributed to the other parent.

This ideal is infrequently realized in real life because divorce is such an intense change of role, life stage and life style for almost all who go through it. Participants need as much education, support and information as possible to help mitigate the harms that result from high conflict divorce.

Certain counties, court systems and other governmental entities' are requiring all parents of children involved in a divorce to attend an educational program designed to help them understand the impact of the divorce process on themselves and their children and to recognize the value to children of having both parents involved. The parents are educated as to the typical stages in divorce and child development and the impact they can anticipate their divorce having on their children. The studies of the long term effects of divorce and the usual problems that occur are discussed. These programs are designed to be preventative of the kinds of problems that commonly arise when parents do not understand the psychological and emotional consequences their divorce has upon themselves and their children.

Other states require mandatory mediation prior to a court trial as a way of avoiding litigation. Mediation advocates believe that mediation is more successful than the courts at avoiding future litigation.

While there have been no studies as to the effectiveness of these programs in preventing or ameliorating alienation, in one such program the participants themselves have reported great satisfaction with the program and have recommended that it be expanded.

We strongly believe that such an educational program would have significant preventative and some ameliorating effect on alienation, depending on the stage of the alienation. Much of the early intervention we recommend involves education. A required program for all divorcing, parents and all litigants involved in custody litigation is a cost effective method of getting basic information to parents who may still be cognizant of their children's separate needs and who are still motivated by a true regard for the child's well being.

Information provided by:
Dr. Peggie Ward

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