0

Parent Alienation and the Reluctant Hero

Last weekend I caught up with a group of old friends, a mixed group including happily married mates, happily divorced ones and the worryingly large percentage trudging through the #PA or parent alienation quagmire.

Our group also included Ian Buckingham, the relatively high-profile consultant and writer, an advocate for shared parenting rights and gender equality at work and at home who recently diversified from writing business books to writing children’s fiction.

As some people will know, he recently launched the first in a fantasy trilogy, a book called Legend of the Lost filled with positive messages about enduring family love and the power of reconciliation. It’s set in a supernatural context and is a great read for all ages.

He was relaying the positive feedback to date, including school visits and book signings, joking about how adults are often the actual main readership group and showed us photos on the related social media accounts of parents and their kids reading the book in remote and interesting places.

All really warm, positive news.

heros-journey_story

However, the only relatively negative response came from an odd source. It was someone connected with the marketing of the book whose daughter gave the book an unfavourable review.

Seemingly at odds with everything else fed-back to date and given their connection to the project, he inquired, politely, wanting to understand more as he’s now finalising the second in the series.

It didn’t take long to piece together a background of alienated child, alienating mother , lots of negativity and aggression and a coven of similar adult friends.

Given his understanding of PA, Ian gently explored the issue with the mother who, amid an outpouring of abuse, claimed the book  “didn’t fit with (her) view of parenting as s single parent with a deadbeat former partner”.

Surprised, he pointed out that the book was a fantasy fiction, out of the key characters, most of the leading figures are female and that only 1 of the 5 central children are boys. He also pointed out that the villains throughout the series are, where they can be identified, both male and female but most importantly, that the key message is about reconciliation and ending a family feud that had lasted centuries.

It was positive.

It soon became clear that she hadn’t bothered to read the book. But it didn’t stop her voicing an opinion, openly and abusively.

Fortunately, later that day, several readers and their parents sent photographs and stories of their children, girls and lads, enjoying the book and the volume of great feedback now grows daily on the social media sites.

But while it is perfectly fine for people to genuinely have differing experiences of  any art form, based on their preferences and tastes, this incident also shows how depressingly negative the behaviours associated with parent alienation can be.

For, just as hundreds of children are enjoying a magical experience, exploring a fresh and creative storytelling journey that they can hopefully relate to in some way, that woman’s daughter is clearly so unhappy at home that even an innocent story about a reconciling family is a source of negativity for her.

And why?

Because her role models, in this case her mother, and their close network of friends, her flying monkeys, have launched a narrative of hate that they are clinging to like a leaky raft of ill will that is slowly drowning them all.

Our personal mythology, our family stories, our fairy tales are powerful. Most children’s books involve an element of jeopardy that removes one or both parents, if you think about it, it’s what gives the kids the room to and license and courage to take risks and explore.

Not many involve cosy nuclear or extended families as adversity is often the pivot.

Let’s hope more and more people realise that they have to become the heroes for their kids and that heroism is judged by what you do for others, not just yourself. That means both parents taking responsibility, despite adversity for filling children’s heads with the right, positive values, not divisive nonsense and negativity.

If the trials of your journey are weighing you down, as they do us all from time to time, pick up a copy of the first in the Legend of the Lost trilogy. Do check out the website for inspiring shots of children and parents enjoying a great read.

If you contact Ian, the author, as several parents have done, he will sign and dedicate copies (while initial stocks last).

It is also available in soft copy/Kindle format now if you need a quick fix of inspiration and positivity!

 

Advertisements
8

Alienation is no myth…but neither is reconciliation

As time passes and awareness increases, we’re slowly seeing a shift away from having to prove the existence of Parent Alienation or PA as a tactic of abuse and enforced parental estrangement enacted largely by resident parents. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that it’s a modern social disease and has been spreading fast.

The CEO of Cafcass has clearly and officially acknowledged its existence, as has Lord Justice Munby and many MPs.

So we now enter the “what to do about it” phase. That’s an even tougher task and one that alienated parents are understandably very impatient about given the extent of the abuse they and their children continue to suffer at the hands of self-centered people who clearly show nothing but contempt for shared parenting or the court.

While the anti-PA community has respect for the pioneering work of the more father-focused groups like F4J and FNF, established with a mandate focused on the woefully neglected area of father’s parental rights, we all recognise that PA, while mostly targeted at fathers, is not entirely gendered.

PA largely stems from the imbalance created when one parent, post separation, is empowered by being granted resident parent status (or simply takes it), dominates the finances and the children’s time and activities and then has both the power and opportunity to erase the other parent from the lives of the children.

Largely by manipulating the narrative, they literally re-program the children’s perceptions of the other parent in order to get them to reject them and to take everything for themselves.

Journey

 

The outcome, while convenient for the alienating parent, is severe psychological trauma for the children, damaging them for life and unimaginable suffering for the targeted parent and their extended family and new partner.

They are forced to face a living bereavement, are dangled on the end of an alienator’s puppet strings, enduring rolling grief with no idea if or when it will end given reunification can be the only antidote and that is the last thing the abuser will tolerate.

People find different ways to cope.

One is to reach out for support via social media, the online community, led by groups like FNF, the PNP movement of which we have been a pivotal part, NAAP, grandparents groups and committed individuals.

Some of the most vociferous include:

@fatherscontact; @sasquires3006; @JaneEjackson; @daddyduwsf; @DivorcePioneer;  @JoJoWAR_DRUMMER ; @Bgrandparents; @Peace_not_PAS; @mick_ogden; @stopalienation.

The extended anti-PA network includes “woke” social workers, legal and reconciliation experts and offers invaluable and informed support for affected parents, children and extended families.

So please do follow them on twitter and join in the awareness-raising conversations and protesting online.

One of the parents who has been instrumental in striving for change, by continually challenging the institutions and organisations to address the out-dated leadership, processes and culture problems that are allowing PA to creep into the cracks between agencies, has been transformation consultant Ian Buckingham. He has featured here before  in the ongoing Cafcass dialogue and change debate.

Ian champions the use of storytelling both at home and at work as a means of making sense of the challenges we face.

He reminds us that myths, legends and stories have long been the way of engaging with and educating children about the values and behaviours we hold dear; that life’s rocky road of adventure is never straightforward and that we need to be resolute in adversity and humble and balanced in moments of success.

Along with the business books, Ian has just published the first in a series of children’s fiction books. They are described as entertaining escapism, first and foremost, intended to entertain adults as much as children in the Blyton, Lewis or even Rowling tradition.

heros-journey_story

But as with the best children’s books, there is a clear moral undertone. Overcoming estrangement and adversity in order to forgive, re-focus and re-unify is the over-arching theme.

As you might expect, given they’re aimed at children 7-11 and young adults, the message is conveyed with the help of changeling children, mermaids, were-creatures, pirates, incredible magical items and a cast of thousands of animals who come together to save parts of the planet along the way.

If you are lucky enough to have anyone to read them to, or know a special young person who enjoys a cracking read and would benefit from a bit of escapism with an important message, then do grab a copy or two of Legend of the Lost, the first in the trilogy.

They are available online for orders now and will be in the shops the end of August.

As a special favour to our parent network however, Ian does have a limited number of advance copies of the first edition available.  He will be happy to personalise a message for you/someone special.

If you know a special someone who will benefit from that sort of message in an uplifting tale of overcoming adversity and reunification , then contact him via the website related to the books.

0

Reunification Case Study III: An alternative to a solicitor

In the previous two posts on the theme of re-unification and re-connection, we showcased some of the expertise of the children’s social work team by focusing on the case study of Will and his son Zac.

Complementing and enabling this work, by helping to remove the legal barriers erected by the alienating parent, was one of our network of McKenzie Friends, a much more cost-effective alternative to using a solicitor and a lot less daunting than representing yourself in court.

In this blog, Amanda outlines the nature of her interaction with Will and his son that paved the way for the reunification of father and son:

I became McKenzie Friend for Will after, disillusioned and around £30k less well off, he found himself needing to apply for enforcement.

He was referred to me and we met so that I could hear what had happened in his case. His 6 year old son Zac was living hundreds of miles away, following separation, and he had literally run out of money to deal with the relentless obstructions that the mother was placing in the way of their relationship.

At our first meeting, I viewed his paperwork and heard the story in his words. I could hear that there were most certainly elements of alienation here. When a parent has to return to Court time and time again, despite Court Orders, that is a big clue and whilst I had no criticism of the work that Solicitors had done for Will and Zac to date, it always concerns me when parents are “forced” to spend tens of thousands just to get Court Orders to spend time with their children with no guarantee of enforcement. Will had the money, and could have continued to pay for representation.

What about all the thousands of parents that don’t. Who helps them?

In any case, Will had decided that he wanted to give self-representation a go. And so we made the application, and forged onwards.  A good Mckenzie Friend will give loads of support and advice for free, which when dealing with high conflict or alienation cases, can be invaluable, and so we talked often and at length about what to do and what we needed to be asking the Court for.

It was very clear from the outset that the mother in this case was not going to comply with the existing Order, and we immediately asked the Court to appoint a Guardian under Rule 16.4, which they did. This then led to various interventions, including a third party organisation called Core Assets, attempting to work with the family.

They made a few attempts to work with Zac, whom the mother said had suddenly become afraid of his father (this had been said before), due to a whole host of allegations which included things that had happened when the child was very young (and had previously been dealt with by the Court and Cafcass), and new allegations, such as ridiculous assertions that Will had eaten the child’s food, and had returned him muddy and wet.

shadow

It was observed by Core Assets that the mother would not leave Zac for them to hand him over to Will, and at one stage she was overheard telling him quietly that he “didn’t have to go.”

This is something we see time and again, the coercive control and manipulation of little minds.

At one very memorable meeting, with the Guardian, Core Assets, the mother and the mother’s partner, the hostility towards the father was palpable from both the mother and her new partner and it was at that stage that Core Assets said that there was nothing they could do, that the child was simply too anxious and mother too implacably hostile to work with.

At the next hearing, we made a Part 25 Application, for a report by a psychologist, and were lucky enough to get our preferred expert. Navigating such applications as a litigant in person is never easy, and we needed the support of both the Guardian and the mother’s solicitor to get this done and again I cannot stress as the financial burden was Will’s alone. Had he not had those available funds (in the region of £6,000) I am unsure that he would be spending time with Zac to this day.

The expert report was amazingly detailed and clearly identified alienation, along with a recommended action plan which included reunification work which then paved the way for us to further propose an Independent Social Worker for  to carry out the action plan.

Our preference was to use Alison (who features earlier), knowing how experienced she was in cases like this, but the Guardian was cautious due to the distance between her and the case. Again, the father’s willingness and ability to fund this work and cover the majority of the cost ensured that he secured Alison’s support.

As a McKenzie Friend, this case was one of my longest running, with proceedings from Enforcement Application to conclusion lasting just over 2 years. I continue to support Will, and he will call for advice, guidance and coaching on all aspects of co-parenting which I give for free, and currently things continue to go well for him and Zac.

I certainly hope we never see a return to Court.

I must stress that there are many, many parents that I work for as a McKenzie Friend who do not have the money to pay for my minimal fees, let alone a solicitor or a barrister and for whom the costs associated with a Part 25 Application such as the one Will made would be completely unaffordable.

It is one of the absolute scandals of our age that people are denied justice and a relationship with their children as a consequence of financial hardship, especially when this has been caused by the divorce process itself.

We hope we are able to provide a much more affordable and cost-effective alternative to trying to deal with alienation all alone.


Please Note:  The issues we deal with in this blog are distressing. If you feel you need support over and above the resources available, we will gladly refer readers to professionals within our team, such as those mentioned, who can help deliver results and who operate in line with our core principles. 

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers. Any wish to remain anonymous will be respected as you will observe.

 

5

Ten Steps to End Parental Alienation

It has been well over a year since the CEO of Cafcass, Anthony Douglas, openly acknowledged that his organisation recognised the existence of Parental Alienation or PA and were taking steps to adapt their internal processes, procedures and staff protocols and training to help address it.

At the start of the Summer, I composed a letter with a select group of well-informed parents, requesting an urgent update and progress.

We were sent a polite, but clearly “holding” reply, although we were assured that our suggestions would be factored into the improvement work.

Since then we have seen little practical change. We have learned that Anthony Douglas intends to retire in March yet no commitment has been made regarding the outstanding work. Although worryingly, it has been suggested by certain commentators, that people see the change work taking around ten years.

A decade.

A childhood.

Sad Dolly.jpgOur network includes lawyers, doctors, social workers, entrepreneurs and management consultants. So we asked shared parenting advocate Ian Buckingham, a respected change management and organisation culture change specialist who has spoken out about PA in the past, for his views on the position and what could and should be done to address an issue now affecting millions of children and parents in the UK alone.

“I’ve worked on change programmes with organisations across sectors from investment banks and oil companies through to charities and government departments and the first point, which should provide some comfort to suffering parents enduring this abuse, is that change starts when a senior leader has both the conviction and drive to lead it.Mr Douglas clearly has the conviction, but now he’s leaving, the drive is going to be questioned.

The second point is that a problem as deep rooted as this needs to be addressed upstream nearer the source, not just downstream where the symptoms present. With this in mind, PA is not solely the responsibility of Cafcass. It’s pointless blaming them. Many agencies contribute to the root cause, from the legal profession and police through to social services generally.

A cross-agency approach to finding a lasting solution is clearly required. And  special interest groups like mothers and father’s groups don’t always help. They can entrench positions, if not careful. We are trying to change gender stereotypes and that isn’t easy because they have become ingrained in norms.

But to give people some sense of reality, you can change a corporate culture within 18 months. However, it requires cross-functional working between departments and the organisation needs a clear strategy. It must take a consistent systems and behaviours approach and implement it thoroughly and professionally with external support to keep the top team accountable and focused.

So, given the importance of the issue and the fact they have been aware and have acknowledged the problem, in terms of their sphere of influence, I would expect Cafcass to be most of the way there by now. I would also expect to see their CEO promoting a cross-agency solution, with the support of MPs. We have seen some signs of that. But progress appears to be very, very slow.

With regard to PA in the wider context, I believe the joint-working, cross-agency approach needs to bring about the following ten things:

  1. A law change to bring the same rigor to family law that we see now in employment law, where gender discrimination is illegal. This should mean 50/50 rights and responsibilities for both biological parents, meaning they both have to work out how to care and provide financially for their child and ensure that both parents have the security and stability to do so. This should be part rebuttable based on capability and fitness to parent based on hard evidence not conjecture or accusations.
  2. “No-fault” divorce to minimise acrimony and an exaggerated adversarial narrative.
  3. A law change to make shared parenting an absolute obligation, ensuring that biological parents have to work together to co-develop thorough child arrangement plans.
  4. Role of lawyers to change dramatically, with 1 lawyer appointed to a family and to focus on the needs of the children in the short and longer term based on the shared parenting and 50/50 premise and the child’s right to a relationship with both parents. This will take away much of the adversarial, winner-takes-all approach that currently creates acrimony and lasting harm. I would also expect to see different and better training of family lawyers to accommodate this.
  5. Much more support provided upstream for the family unit in the form of:
    1. marriage, relationship, grief and couples counseling
    2. facilitation and coaching to help parents move on respectfully and complete their shared parenting plans constructively
    3. child-centric mediation and conflict management
    4. child-centric courses and workshops
    5. mentoring and advocacy for family units
  6. Legal-aid available to family units, not individuals to help finance and ratify the agreements not prolong acrimony
  7. Court to ratify and finalise shared parenting only once these steps have been completed and to insist on a sliding scale of enforcement options.
  8. Enforcement to be a last resort, but to include:
    1. financial penalties (costs met by the defendant not litigant)
    2. community service
    3. modification of the financial arrangements and shared parenting plan
  9. Third party to provide a secure and confidential communications platform for couples to communicate about the child arrangements and to act as a permanent record, replacing contact books and the slew of ad-hoc data.
  10. An independent body (like an OFSTED) to own and review the process, continuously improve it and handle complaints.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that there are a great number of vested interests at play. Family law and its aftermath is a multi $£billion industry. However, resisting change for self-serving reasons renders complicit parties as guilty of contributing to child abuse as malicious parents. It is clear that unless the various government and other parties change, they will become obsolete. Witness the rise in LIPs and mounting talk of a class action by alienated parents.

The trade-off with this solution is that it is still likely that a similar quantity of funding will be required that currently trickles into the pockets of law firms and grief counselors downstream. Only, service providers who adapt to the upstream support model, however, will be able to fund their services. not as litigation specialists and enforcers, but as coaches, mentors, mediators and advisers upstream, preventing problems rather than creating or sweeping up after them.”

sadironman

Interesting food for thought from someone who knows about culture change and how transformation works within organisations.

But perhaps Ian’s final words are the most pertinent.

“Of course, multi-agency change is more complicated than just changing 1 organisation. But assuming Cafcass is on track, I see no reason why PA shouldn’t become as extinct as institutional racism or sexism within 2 years, provided the reformers get the right people in the “room.

After all, if this were an oil company with a leaking pipeline, it would be sorted by now,. Yet arguably PA causes much more damage. We just don’t have the same photos of impacted penguins to grab the attention of the world’s press. “

There is now a very strong wind of change blowing, motivated by the passion of millions of voting tax payers clearly being widely bullied and abused, as their children are, by a system oddly no longer fit for modern purpose.

And what’s more important than our children?

The right change shouldn’t be so hard, should it? But the big question is, what do the people currently responsible for child protection and family law really care about:

  •  reforming to end the bullying and abuse?

or

  • maintaining the lucrative status quo?

Very interested in your comments on this blog either by posting below or contacting us. Please do share this far and wide as we need to continue to raise awareness as, if you’re not affected, the odds are you soon will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

Parent Alienation: Collage of Love

Very happy to support this excellent initiative again, following the very powerful candle and Christmas decoration collages in support of cruelly alienated children and parents.

Please do check it out and send your messages of love:

heart3.jpg

Here is the final collage in all its loving glory.

Children, can you spot the heart dedicated to you?

heart3.jpg

2

Reunification case part II

This is the second part of our blog by the reunification expert team, illustrating that re-connecting, even after extreme alienation, is not only achievable, but that there is a proven pathway that alienated parents can follow.

We last left the story at the point in the process where the little boy had been re-introduced to his wider family. Now for the rest of the tale:

The next visit I had planned was to include dad but only on Facetime and in a ‘spontaneous’ way so I arranged for Will to call his sister at a particular time when I knew Zac and his cousin would be sitting still.

Remember that Zac had had no direct contact with Will for over two years and so this needed to be done gently…fortunately technology is most useful at these times and so it was very much a choice whether Zac even looked at his aunts phone when Daddy called.

Facetime is not intrusive for children as you can just look or walk away.

It never ceases to amaze and move me how children even when they have been told terrible things about a parent nonetheless demonstrate the strength of their early ( pre- separation) attachment relationship and Zac looked delighted and excited in equal measure when he could see that it was his dad on the Iphone, and asked me if he was ‘allowed’ to say hello. I told him ‘of course’ and despite a sudden shyness he spoke to him… tentatively at first but then more confidently ( reassured I am sure by the presence of his family and myself ).

For the first time in a period of time equating to nearly half of his life.

A big step was taken that afternoon. However this is also a stage at which a sudden resistance is most likely.

A worry which is always present at this stage is that the child goes back into the resident parent’s home before the necessary change has taken place with that side of the family and so the ‘reset’ button is pressed.

Although this more readily happens with older children it is often the case that the child will at this stage attempt to disengage from the reunification process. He may express a previously absent fear of the parent or an antipathy towards the professionals who are assisting.

He is quite simply trying to please everyone and if this is too hard, he will usually, from a self protective instinct, prefer to please the parent upon whom he is most dependent.

This is natural and children are hard wired to do this. In alienation it however becomes maladaptive behaviour and children struggle to reconcile their love for the villified and targeted parent with their desire and need to please the resident parent.

Herein lies the harm.

What we also frequently find at this stage is a kind of mirror ‘splitting’ whereby the splitting/ black and white thinking existing in the main home where Mum is all good and dad is all bad ( or vice versa) is mirrored in the child’s reaction to the professional team. If the child suddenly reacts in a different way to me at this juncture he is probably reflecting the resident parent’s anger towards me for having succeeded in successfully and happily reintroducing the child to the parent they have been painting in a very bad light to that child.

We need to deal with this without losing momentum. This is where ‘ the team’ is crucial…

In our team we are fond of the ‘good cop bad cop’ analogy. This can work well as we can take on differing roles, all of which are important. I like at this stage, if this happens, to use my family support workers as new additions to the direct work. They are important as they ‘don’t do the court stuff’ and are freed up to be the more ‘fun’ person for the child to work with when the parent might have discouraged the child from trusting and working with me .

They have the same aims and similar skills but introducing them when this might be the reality for the child works well.

Meanwhile in the ‘background’ to this, we work with the whole family to reintegrate the targeted parent and I coach the resident parent in how to speak about the ostracised parent to the child.

Our  ‘contract meeting’ where the resident parent meets with the social worker and says out loud to the child that they want them to see them and that not seeing them has been ‘a mistake that we have made as your parents’ gives  a very clear message to the child that the resident parent is in favour and gives them the ‘emotional permission’ to see them.  My coaching can occasionally work so well that a 12 year old girl screamed at her mother the other day ( she is part of a particularly tricky reunification with her dad) “ I don’t like you any more, you’re turning into Alison!!”

The next hurdle once some contact has been established is to get a face to face meeting. I say hurdle not because the child is resistant but because to keep everyone ‘on side ‘ at this stage is a carefully planned operation.

With Zac as can be seen above, he was immediately excited to see his daddy, nothing it seemed would get in the way…and despite some minor blips, nothing did. As the school was Zac’s ‘safe place’ …this is normal for young children, I included (the much loved and looked up to) Mrs Phillips and arranged over the next session with Zac for Daddy to ‘come and see my classroom and meet my teacher.’

The emotions involved in such a reunion cannot be overstated. Zac ran into his father’s arms as soon as he saw him and the teacher and I were both holding back tears.

It’s probably worth saying at this point that I have never done this work and had a child of this age NOT be overjoyed to see their estranged parent.

It’s the older children however who, having had more negativity and with more complex emotions associated with puberty and adolescence who prove the most resistant and troubled.  At these times I feel blessed to be able to effect this kind of change and healing.

So, with Zac and his dad…how to progress after the positive start?

The history of this particular family case is that the contact ( I SO hate that word) had stalled several times at the stage of the overnight contact beginning. Allegations were made and a CAFCASS officer had made a recommendation- based it would appear solely on the information given her by the mother- that overnight contact shouldn’t be attempted.

That was 2 years ago, before the psychological report which identified alienation and significant harm to Zac from that alienation.  So I knew that this was what I had to ensure happened. And I was very aware that I needed to build on the progress already made. So I made a plan to get the first overnight sorted out asap.

hands

Zac had never been to dad’s current house and also hadn’t met his new partner..too many changes and surprises all at once are not good for anyone let alone a 5 year old boy so I counselled dad that the partner needed to be away for the weekend ( that was something that needed to be dealt with separately and sensitively ) and that I would endeavour to stay overnight.

Yes, this is kind of ‘different’ for a social worker…most social workers do a 9-5. Even we freelancers  don’t commonly stay at a clients home overnight. However if the child used to stay overnight then the normalisation of the contact/ parenting time requires that he does again..which is where we need to be responsive and to think outside the box a bit.

So a couple of years ago when I developed this service I wrote an ‘overnight contact protocol’ which sets out the very necessary boundaries and rules associated with this rather unconventional sort of social work.. this is sent to every client and his or her lawyer / Mckenzie friend.

Zac was very excited about the prospect and I was careful to make ‘fun’ plans to accompany this crucial step.  There is a need to be creative here…Zac just loves dogs and one of my own dogs is trained as a therapy dog, and is a definite hit with my younger clients… so it was planned that the dog was also to stay overnight.  ( bear with me here,  it really does work!)

The Friday arrived and I was clear that I needed to collect him from school- collecting a child from the home in these situations just doesn’t work, the conflicts and divided loyalties are too great- and so Dad, the dog and I went to the school. Zac was excited to introduce his dad to the teacher again, loved the fact that Captain ( the terrier) was with us, and excitedly told his friends ‘ this is my daddy!!’.

Will looked as if he was going to cry and I patted him on the back and advised him’ keep it in for now’.

The evening and the night was without incident and as I usually do I showed  Zac that I was in the spare bed and that Captain and I were available all night if he had ‘any troubles he didn’t want to bother daddy with’.   He slept soundly however and didn’t wake at all and was very happy and bouncy when he awoke.

The rest as they say is history….its not a linear thing, there have been blips and some ( thankfully temporary) setbacks but Zac and Will are now reunited.

It’s not always as straightforward as this. But I wanted to give a picture of a child who had said to several previous social workers that he didn’t want to see his Daddy. They had in turn, having no knowledge of and no training in the dynamics of hostile family cases and alienation questioned  the safeguarding information.

Surely there must be a reason for this child to state he is fearful of his father they said…could we have missed something?  We can’t force him…as his mum says, surely he can’t be forced to see his dad.  In this situation the ‘no smoke without fire’ theory flies completely in the face of the child’s best interests. It becomes clear that the smoke, in fact, is coming from the party pointing the finger.

shadow

He cant be made to see his own Daddy…Really?

He is 5.

If he refused to go to the dentist or school would it be good parenting to allow him to choose?

But the local authority social workers did nothing when Zac said ‘no’ he ‘didn’t want to go with them’…he clung to mum, they always collected him from her..she ‘couldn’t force him’ either…and consequently Zac lost so much time, missed family christmasses, weddings and the love of his paternal family. His dad and the paternal family missed his first day at school.

They are playing catch up now. Better late than never but couldn’t this just have been avoided if the professionals dealing with it at the early stages had recognised what was going on and what needed to be done?

There is a huge need for training for local authority social workers in this complex area of family law, we are developing this area..watch this space.

We have worked with children from 2-15 and in a wide variety of situations.

The bereaved parents ( for it is indeed a living bereavement) in these sad scenarios are mums as well as dads. Due however to the systemic gender bias which allows women to assume control of the parenting following separation no matter how involved the father has been,  it is overwhelmingly  dads with whom we work. However we aim to work with the whole family if we can. The changes that we assist in bringing about are far more long lasting and meaningful if we take both parents with us on the journey of change.

Next time…..

…In the final part of this blog we will share the context, how the team came to be working together, a few more cases studies and more ways to access support.


Please Note: This blog deals with extremely distressing issues. It is our aim to provide victims of alienation with a voice and trusted professionals with an opportunity to suggest ways to address the challenges this community faces. Should readers need additional support, we will gladly refer readers to trusted professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles.

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected, as is the case above.

 

0

PA: Part of the abuse is the language

Doublespeak is a term invented by George Orwell in his seminal work 1984 which describes a dystopian world in which a totalitarian state partially controls its subjects through the use of language.

Semantics is a rather academic term relating to language,  the relationship between words and how they are applied to generate understanding or make us feel a certain way.

In Orwell’s world, the state created doublespeak, a way of dumbing down or de-sensitising certain words because of their emotional connotations.

It was such a powerful concept that it has had the opposite effect to that Orwell intended,  Or looked at another way, his prediction has come true.

Ironically PR companies and modern political institutions have adopted doublespeak to numb people to the unpalatable or to fool them into supporting something or someone they probably wouldn’t if they were truly aware of their motives or the implications..

We’re surrounded by  language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words.

Think of euphemisms used at work, e.g., “downsizing” for sackings, in the military “servicing the target” rather than bombing or “collateral damage” rather than dead civilians. It is  meant to make the truth sound more palatable, to stop people rebelling.

Doublespeak can also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. An example is where lawyers use terms like “harrassment” as it has a multitude of applications that can be applied to any number of ends reliant upon the interpretation of a third party. This makes it useful as a net to cover a variety of offences. But it also lays it open to abuse by the unscrupulous.

In both applications, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth either because the intention is unpalatably malevolent or to create confusion and doubt.

But often, in family law, doubt can make a huge difference, like if someone of excellent character suddenly has to try to defend themselves and their children and their relationship in an arena that is so emotionally charged because what was the most natural thing in the word has suddenly been made something they have to beg to third parties to fulfil.

Family Law should be the most user-friendly of all branches of law given it is directly concerned with the most vulnerable of subjects, people, human beings. But it is packed full of doublespeak and complex semantics.

Here are just a few examples.  I’m sure you can think of many more:

  •  contact (usually referring to a third party’s adjudication of a loved one’s allowable time with their own child)
  • access (similar to the above but extended to include the extent to which they may be allowed to influence their own child’s life through decision making etc)
  • parenting time (a stranger’s judgement of how much a biological parent is going to be allowed to spend with their child doing what parents naturally have a right and responsibility and passion to do)
  • harassment (seemingly engaging in behaviour that knowingly causes another harm or distress)
  • parent alienation ( a situation in which a resident parent (usually but not exclusively) turns their child against the non-resident parent, intentionally or unintentionally

Semantics really matter. They matter because there is a strong correlation between the words and the feelings they invoke and the emotions they relate to. And deliberately invoking negative feelings causes harm and distress. Ironically, it is harassment.

Doublespeak is a reflection of doublethink and when it comes to our kids it’s doubledumb.

A biological parent knows no love greater than that for their child. Anyone who has experienced being a mother/father knows this.

But imagine, as a person of good character, if your natural nurturing time spent developing and inspiring their education and growth was suddenly rationed by a third party and referred to as “access” or “contact”. What impact would that have on you both? Is it likely that the repeated use of those words and phrases could be perceived to be deliberately hurtful and abusive?

Now consider that time spent with the other parent is never referred to in the same way.

Now imagine if, having bitten your pride and swallowed your doubts in the interests of the children, you have agreed to a legal process using these doublespeak semantics.

Even if you now have a clear court order defining your “parenting time” and your “contact” and clear consequences should that order not be followed, you are reliant on your former partner to set the agreed dates, communicate with you about the children’s development and events, their health and well being, all the natural parenting norms. But, because of spite and malice and selfishness they simply don’t.

Now imagine if the court now can’t or won’t make them.

But, being a responsible parent who understands the importance of your “contact” allowance,  you have to find a way to communicate with your estranged partner direct as you have no other choice:

  • What if they then deliberately alienate the child, employing prolonged negative reinforcement, knowing that you won’t be able to prove it as even the term is open to a great deal of interpretation and not all judges or social working professionals understand it?
  • What if they then invoke another doublespeak term “harassment” recognising how vague and open to wide interpretation it is, citing your communication? For someone who is fundamentally opposed to you being a parent, it is easy enough to claim that they find it uncomfortable to be contacted, given the notion of the children spending time away from them represents the opposite to their world view.
  • What if this is then reported to the police who see you as somebody only allocated time rather than a proper parent like the resident parent and hear the resident parent claiming to feel “harassed”?

You see, words are really important.

Semantics matters.

Orwell was, of course, right.

Doublespeak is a reflection of doublethink and when it comes to our children, it’s doubledumb. Dumb in the sense that it’s stupidly abusive. But also because it teaches children that communicating and loving is punished.

It weaponises the abusers and enables them to alienate children from a positive relationship with both their parents by corrupting communication.

And because communication is at the core of life, this causes our children a great deal of immediate and longer term harm.

They need their parents to do what’s right for them, in tandem.

They need Peace not PA.


If you’re struggling and need support to battle parent alienation, get in touch.

We can connect you with legal expertise, mentors and reunification specialists and will be happy to provide you with a platform to communicate your story, as well.