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More tales of the growing danger posed by Parental Alienation abuse.

It would appear that society remains either ignorant or hostile to the plight of men, including fathers. But as parental alienation, the contrived rejection of one biological parent by the children, as a result of the negative influence of the other (usually resident) parent, grows to impact more mothers, will it be treated with the seriousness it should be?

Well two developments in the last week may hold out some hope.

Firstly, the good news is that the WHO or World Health Organisation now recognises parental alienation and this must mean that agencies like CAFCASS will have to up the pace of their long debated reforms.

The second incident, however, was yet another tragic case in which another resident parent (in this case a mother) and her partner (not the biological parent) killed and injured six children in their care in one night.

I won’t share morbid details here but there are now too many of these incidents occurring for society to continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that BOTH genders are capable of cruelty and that actually the SAFEST scenario for the children of separated families is for shared care, enabling both biological parents to co-parent, share the pressures and provide safeguarding safety nets.

Much-respected shared parenting advocate Dr Sue Whitcomb explains:

“IMO the gendered lens used far too often conflates the violence of men with the violence of fathers, as in this heavily cited paper “The murder of children by fathers in the context of child abuse” – 62% of the “fathers” were NOTin fact birth fathers “

“A failure to undertake independent, objective research through a non- gendered, ideologically driven lens leaves children at risk of harm. This research report from DCSF  again suggests birth fathers are no greater risk to their child than birth mothers.

As Dr Sue points out, the relentless depiction of men as child safety risks falsely maligns birth fathers. The actuality is that bad people are capable of bad things regardless of gender.

Mothers and new partners are likely to present a higher physical risk to children when all factors are taken into account. And that is before recognising the harm that emotional and psychological abuse of children causes rather than physical abuse alone especially as the former is far more prevalent including issues like the alienation of a child’s biological non-resident parent and the impact this has upon their development and wellbeing in the medium to long term.

To illustrate these points consider this haunting story from one of the parents in our large social media community of parents desperately trying to either address the alienation of their children or re-connect with them, mindful of the harm it is doing to their children and them personally.

alienator-1

“My former partner used to work with me in our HR function. I used to respect her for being efficient and professional when dealing with matters like redundancies and tribunals etc. Little did I know that those “skills” would be used to cause me, my family and our children immeasurable hurt and harm.

She left me shortly after the birth of our second child, a bolt from the blue as, despite the normal pressures of starting a family, we had a fairly idyllic life.

I soon discovered that all was not as I had thought. She had been siphoning money from our business, had shut down my backup financial accounts and moved finances into the children’s accounts to which only she had access.

We initially agreed to split amicably and focus on the children. But soon her lawyers began a ridiculous abuse narrative that my solicitor naively felt we shouldn’t challenge for fear of recriminations.  However it was her fast track to seemingly bottomless legal aid at the time, something I never realised.

We had shared every aspect of parenting but she had moved the kids hundreds of miles back to her parents. They then colluded in the asset stripping that followed using the children as leverage.

The worst happened, however, when she moved her new boyfriend into the house my assets financed. He started emotionally “grooming” our youngest and most impressionable. This guy would literally turn up to events we were all at, our young daughter in his arms and spend the whole time grinning and winking at me.

I discovered that she was using this new “babysitter” to go out with girlfriends, and he would have free access to bathing and putting her to bed. To cover his tracks, he soon stopped her from coming to stay with us during her “court allocated” Daddy time.

When I would call for the children, he would stand in the window with our youngest laughing at me and mocking me, stroking her hair or kissing her. How I retained my self-control I will never know.

They then started making additional financial demands, the implication being that they would make access to the children harder unless we complied. When I refused to play ball, they took me back to court and used the pathetic “abuse” narrative to gain legal aid.

During one especially public event, he turned up on his own with our youngest and I confronted him, politely and said that we should “make an effort to get on literally (if reluctantly) offering the hand of friendship.

He refused. He just stared at the floor frozen with shame and fear while the entire neighbourhood looked on.

That night I was invited to attend the local police office to help them with an “emotional abuse investigation”. It turned out I was the “accused”.

The gloves literally being off now, I went to my MP, the Headmaster of the school, wrote to the senior partner of her legal firm, wrote to the Prime Minister and District Police Commissioner and lifted the drains on the case. After a few weeks of hell in which I still faced prosecution for allegedly “bullying them” (somehow), I eventually received a formal apology from all concerned. But the abuser faced no charges or consequences and I was told to “trust Mum’s judgement”. When I politely declined the investigating officer privately agreed with my judgement.

A week later her lover left her. This stranger who had bathed my children, who got into bed with them and babysat them unsupervised had been cheating on her the whole time. When he failed to extort money from me and could see that I couldn’t be intimidated, he left overnight.

But far from concluding and improving matters, this now tipped the children’s mother into a new phase of hate and rage. Of course, she blamed me for her latest woes and turned up the heat on the children,

Our youngest never came to see us again something that still bends me double with indescribable anxiety, and our eldest lasted several more months despite constant negativity, surveillance while with us and control via electronic devices.

We turned to the court for help. But they were pitiful, constantly reinforcing the sexism and even corroborating the “Mum knows best” line. Despite formally warning her to comply with the order they took no action to address her behaviour.

There is no doubt our lovely, lovely innocent children have been abused, whether physically I can’t confirm. But most certainly emotionally. They have been treated inappropriately and they will now sadly see this behaviour as normal, which is outrageous.

During the very occasional moment of civility with my ex, perhaps most terrifying of all is the fact that she never takes responsibility for her behaviour. At work she used to blame others when she was ruining people’s lives. Now she abdicates responsibility to lawyers, her mother and other parents who “advise” her. She even blames the children for not “wanting to come and see us”. Again, she is woefully negligent in her parenting and this will have a lifelong impact on all of us. It is truly terrifying that the powers that be don’t, won’t or can’t recognise this behaviour for what it is, deliberate and calculated alienation, bullying and abuse.

The most obvious missing link is the understanding that passive aggression is often the worst form of abuse and that is where we are now…zero communication, zero contact, complete bullying by ignorance and denial of loving parenting, a child’s most basic right”

Now this parent’s woes have not turned out as tragically as some, in a physical sense. But he has suffered years of constant abuse simply trying to be a father and fights back terrible depression caused by the emotional, financial and coercive abuse his former partner and enablers have deliberately directed at him using and abusing the authorities and his children.

But still his greatest pain comes from knowing what she is capable of and now teaches the children without any checks and balances from him.

If you have a parental alienation story to tell, then please do share it either here on the social media platforms. We will only end this social disease linked to mental health abnormalities if we all keep talking about it. Silence is sadly compliance so please, please speak up. Yes, it hurts. But your children will be hurting for a lot longer…your grandchildren too, unless we can stop this.

 

 

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Parental Alienation: The Words Matter

“The truth? What’s that? Don’t you know that the day has come when the truth is what we care to make it?”
― Iain Crichton Smith, Consider the Lilies

This quote speaks for the age of modern parenting, where sadly parents are being shorn of their beloved children by a legal process that encourages adversarial divorce and the misuse of abuse legislation in order to weaponise one parent at the expense of the other and force them from the home and their own children’s lives while paying for the privilege.

The truth, in such situations, is no longer the truth, but what the abusive party chooses to make it. And our children are suffering damage that will last for generations.

Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is the act of deliberately abusing influence over a child in order to cause them to reject a parent. It is normally perpetrated by a resident parent as they have the time, control and opportunity and is more readily achieved when they are aided by their close network of family and friends. Given they often have a selfish agenda too, they often are.

Daddy11

People who commit such a morally repugnant act, proven to cause lasting psychological and developmental harm to the children, not to mention the target parent who in extreme cases may be driven to taking their own life, are understandably desperate to cover up their guilty actions.

They deploy a range of strategies for doing so, ranging from abdication:

“…friends and family made me”

“I’m only doing what my solicitor has told me to do”

through to ignoring any and all communication, a tactic called stonewalling or grey stoning,  passive aggressive savagery posing as “protecting the kids”

These people are experts at manipulation and projection and, worse still, are highly adept at blaming the loving victim for the hate crime that is killing them:

“He is a narcissist. All he ever cares about is himself and controlling us”

Yet it’s patently clear to any objective third party:

  • who has the actual power
  • who is the abuser and
  • who is the abused

as it certaintly isn’t the parent left out in the cold and the darkness struggling for warmth, light and love.

Word Power

Semantics, or the use of words, become one of the first weapons that alienators use.

First they deploy the lexicon of legal termonology to create an “us” versus “them”. The non-resident parent or NRP suddenly becomes the “absent” or “visiting” parent. Time with their own children is called “contact” or “visitation” and strangers refer to their beoved children as “subjects” or “case numbers”.

In the enabler groups where the hateful gather in gaggles to hiss and snarl their guilt-riddled poison, struggling non-resident parents are called “narcs” and “perps”, echoing the language used in physical abuse cases. Anybody who stands up for the abused is often mobbed by groups of enablers dismissing them as MRAs (men’s right’s activists), even though alienation knows no gender ,as more and more mothers are finding themselves targeted.

Parental Alienation was initially known as PAS or Parental Alienation Syndrome, but such was the volume and viciousness of the attacks on those who first coined the term by those desperate to cover their tracks, it has been abridged and re-focused.

STOP

Alienated or Estranged?

Attempts have also been made to re-categorise the millions of parents deliberately alienated from their children by the actions of their former partners, not as alienated but as estranged

The implication here is that the blame falls upon the targeted parent who has seemingly chosen to sever their relationship with their child or it has come about as a result of natural consequences of divorce like logistical challenges or even intractible hostility on the part of the NRP.

However, it doesn’t take a genius to spot that the hostility is usually generated by the resident parent who has what they want and is now desperate to assume complete control over the children without the irritant of their ex partner hanging around trying to play Dad or sometimes Mum. Follow any case and the NRP is aways the one compromising just to hang onto any fraction of their parenting role allowed despite the financial cost and constant humiliation. These are not the actions of a bully or an abuser. The truth is quite the reverse.

Because words matter, it is hugely important that all separating parents pay very close attention to the semantics throughout the child arrangements and legal process. Don’t settle for excuses like “we talk this way because that’s the legal process”. If you don’t trust or like the words, change them. Remember they are YOUR kids.

Better still, because words really matter, take control of your story. The children will be hugely influenced by what they hear as this will be what they remember. Make sure your social media is full of the love and affection you feel for your children. Send them cards, notes, emails filled with pride and joy and affection for them.

Tell Your Story

Unfortunately some of the negativity assoctaed with parental alienation is the fact that divorce is an industry.

Lawyers, social services, mediators, therapists and, yes, pressure groups are making a lot of money from misery.

One of the reasons why a certain children’s book and author has so much cross-gender support within the anti-alienation community is that:

  1. It is written by someone who understands the positive power of words
  2. The author is a father who has battled this social disease for a decade and it represents a positive, loving, balanced, empowering, hopeful and engaging response to the challenges of modern family ife.
  3. it is not a money making scheme but an engaging, educating and uplifting work.

To quote the author, Ian Buckingham:

“Modern life is tough for parents especially who have to balance pursuing two careers while caring for their kids. We have had gender equality at work for decades and the same in schools. Until we start to recognise both parents as equals and that they share responsibility for provision and childcare, home life is going to lag behind the demands of work life and misery, especialy for children, will creep into the cracks.

I wrote Legend of the Lost as a celebration of the love parents have for their children and kids for their parents and siblings regardless of their  gender. or family composition It captures the magic of being young and innocent and has powerful messages about overcoming adversity at its core, despite the toughest of trials.

None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. Children teach us this more than anyone else as they love us for our quirks as those quirks are part of them too. They helped me write this book and now these words keep that message alive forever. We just need more adults to remember them and to be more compassionate to one another.”

ClairePollardChalfont

Judging by the many messages, reviews and photographs on the website and social media pages, plenty of parents are getting the message.

The words really do matter.

These words matter.

Your words matter.

So whatever hell you’re going through, whatever emerges from the PA quagmire next to suffocate your relationship; whatevr attacks you have to endure and sustain, remember THE WORDS MATTER!

Pick up a copy of something inspiring if you need it, re-charge by connecting and communicating with the online community. Or better still open the keyboard and become a voice for the love you share with your children.

Because the best way to ensure that the truth remains free from the censors and the double speak is to take control of your own narrative.

Find your voice.

TELL YOUR STORY!

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The Rape of Innocence

I, like many parents, have been horrified by the creeping propaganda infesting children’s culture which recently plumbed new depths in a “cartoon” depicting the sexual assault of a fairy princess by Prince Charming.

This was widely shared by organisations like Amnesty International, allegedly as part of the #MeToo movement seemingly in an attempt to raise awareness of the need for mutual sexual consent.

Right!

sleeping-beauty-walt-disney

Of course, any parent in their right mind supports the aim of programmes and campaigns designed to improve the safety and security of our children. That isn’t my concern. What troubles me, as the title of this blog alludes, is the corruption of innocence and the erosion of childhood by the people behind this early-years targeting approach.

The cartoon in question depicts the archetypal Disney-esque Princess, a sort of mashup of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, in a deep sleep in a classic forest glade. She is then approached by the archetypal Disney Prince who first kisses and then, to use the street phraseology, clearly  begins to “finger” her.

prince

The message is clear and obvious once they over-lay the street patois and interject the chat about “meeting at a party” etc? But my biggest objection is that it would have been far more powerful and far less cynical to have made a film about teenagers for teenagers deploying the tropes, medium and platforms that relate directly to teenagers. But, I guess the issue is, they probably wouldn’t have stirred up the same controversy and outrage leading to the “buzz” the juvenile social media drivers seem to dictate.

The pressing questions I have with this cynical approach to alleged education is “where are the grown ups?” or “why has nobody stepped in to question the wisdom here?”.

The Disney Princess demographic is probably age 3-11. Like it or not, however, children are finding ways to access the internet using our devices a lot earlier than they should be. Children of that age range will see this!

Parents are most likely to be reading fairytales and stories to their children at that age. So are you ready for the “fanny banging” chat at bedtime?

Oddly, if you’re like the vast majority of parents and want to stimulate their imaginations and cultivate mysticism and magic and romance for as long as you can while gently and carefully introducing values, wisdom and life skills, you do not want teenage or other extreme propagandists dictating this for you.

It used to irritate me watching advertisements during children’s prime time tv that are devoid of male role-models, all aimed at mothers. It  disappointed me watching children’s tv programmes in which Dads are the perpetual idiots and butt of all jokes or superhero movies devoid of female role models. And I thought I had seen it all when I was forced to introduce positive male characters into certain stories like Mermaid SOS while reading them to the children as THEY were asking where the boys were?

But then I watched Maleficent, the re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty by Angelina Jolie, infamous for her personal family issues, and had to spend days reassuring the children that there were “good men in the world” after all, “honestly”.

maleficent-18

The use of fairytales as moral exemplars and ways of conveying the values of the times is nothing new. If you read the classics in their original form, they echo the big issues of their age, be they the danger of strangers, the difficult relations within extended families or the impact of dangerous play, disease, war or famine. And yes, they do deal with relations between the genders and romantic love as a bastion of stable society. These classics have been adapted down the years to suit changing mores and norms. But we now appear to be going way too far too fast.

What is it saying about our society when stories aimed at 3-11 year olds depict explicit sexual assault? Well, clearly, it sends very mixed messages via a format, the fairy story that should be a safe, innocent space in a world that seems to have fewer oasis of calm and innocence by the day. And what or who is next on the agenda, Father Christmas?

This trend towards sexualiising  children and the undermining of their innocence through excessive involvement in adult matters is, in my view, considerably concerning given the fact that children are increasingly portrayed as disaffected and unhappy in virtually every opinion poll. I believe the same applies to the abuse of “wishes and feelings” reports used in child arrangements disputes. Adults are forcing children into positions where they are having to choose between parents underpinned by a mistaken belief that they are both neutral and empowered enough to make decisions that are only fit for adults. It is actually damaging to the children and completely misses the point that it is impossible for the child to be objective as they are being controlled by the parent with whom they spend most of their time and who has control over their schooling, relationships and key activities.

So what can we , as parents, do about this relentless rape of innocence?

A few quick and simple things.

  1. If you still have influence over your children, then please do monitor what they are watching and reading and when. It is YOUR responsibility to ensure they get a balanced picture in line with YOUR core values. Set parental controls on social media and devices and get rid of and/or have conversations about messaging that you believe is contrary to your beliefs.
  2. Source great stories or tales in films and books that support a balanced view and ensure these are easily available. I always had a great selection of the classics to supplement the inevitable Disney and sought out authors that I believe portrayed healthy role models. Ian Buckingham’s Legend of the Lost is a current case in point.
  3. Make your voice heard and complain about the buzz-feeding nonsense like the latest campaign or films like Maleficent that are nothing short of sexist propaganda.

clairepollardchalfonts

If you’re in a a dispute over shared parenting, you owe it to your kids to make your views known about the way wishes and feelings reports etc are used and make a stand for your kids.

Innocence doesn’t last very long. Our children need their parents, the adults, to stand up for theirs.

SO make your voice heard.

Remember, (and this is an apt use of the metaphor) you need to be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable.

Silence by those properly empowered to know better, actually does encourage abuse.

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Parental Alienation & Death in the Afternoon!

hemingway

I’ve long been a fan of the writing of Hemingway.

A complex, controversial man who had such a deceptively simple style. 

He would have loathed the current age because, in many regards, he may be considered to represent what certain factions have, with some success, managed to label “toxic masculinity”.

This movement started in the 50s, continued in the 60s and 70s when Germaine Greer famously humiliated Norman Mailer, another writer of “machismo” and has found fresh voice and plumbed new depths in the social media age in which, by some ironic twist of fate, Greer herself has now become a target, thereby exposing the fanatics for what they are.

You can dig out reams written on the topic, but in essence the term “toxic” refers to the characteristics of men that stem from the added dose of testosterone that comes with the gene package. It’s a catch-all pejorative to describe all acts of aggression and dominance attributed to testosterone, implying that they are throwback qualities of a pre-evolved state and have resulted in the wars and atrocities that befall society.

Of course, this entirely one-eyed narrative neglects to recognise that the same attributes blamed for the woes of the world could also, if properly focused, be credited for many if not most of the world’s advances, developments and achievements in most spheres of life from engineering through to the arts and that the style of the attacks are, in themselves, examples of intolerant toxicity.

But that’s another debate for another day.

The book from which the  headline is taken, is a book about bullfighting.

bullfight

Hemingway spent his life obsessed with masculine pursuits of the hunting, shooting, fishing and hard drinking varieties and was fascinated by the characters he encountered along the way.

But he was also famously a depressive as a consequence, extremely self critical and took his own life.

Traveling on the train last week, a poster caught my attention. It was one of many now appearing, sponsored by the Samaritans, a suicide prevention campaign clearly aimed at men.

Then, hauntingly, as I was reading, news came over the PA of someone who had thrown themselves in front of a train.

A death in the afternoon.

For the rest of my journey, I couldn’t get two images out of my mind….the iconic cover of Hemingway’s book about bull fighters. And that poster of the man standing alone in the shadows.

See, if you read tales of bullfighting written back in the day, the bulls are often described as monsters, savage beasts to be bested by the courage of the meek, even effete matador with nothing but dexterity and guile to protect him from the raw aggression and power of the mighty animal.

It suddenly became clear to me that this is exactly the toxic narrative we are being fed about masculinity now.

This repeated aggressor/plucky hero narrative makes it so easy for naive third parties to enable the immoral, vindictive and the maliciously intelligent seeking to use children as weapons to separate their partners from their assets and subsume their lives. But not by matching muscle with force, but by goading, hobbling and then using guile to abuse and then exploit them while fooling onlookers into believing that the one butchering the dumb animal in stages is in fact the victim.

No surprise that modern parents are confused at times. The world has changed so fast that following the example set by our parents and grandparents is very, very difficult.

Both genders are so often called upon to be strong AND sensitive, thrusting AND forceful yet accommodating AND compassionate. We can’t just choose a camp and remain in it like our forebears largely did. We are simultaneously expected to be providers and carers, warriors and nurses and it’s bloody difficult, especially while the previous generation have set a different example but criticise us for our choices.

Post-war fathers still expect sons to behave like the bull and treated them that way. Our mothers are probably more aligned to the matador.

Yet frankly, we’re opposed to blood sports altogether.

So what is the true state of modern parenting?

Well, we’re expected to believe that perfection abounds if we believe social media. But if you happen to be one of the unlucky millions separating from someone who either complies with these toxic stereotypes, is advised by people who do or you are being assessed and judged by them, then the resident parents will be portrayed as the poor little person waving the cape and the “other” as the raging bull. Lest we forget, hwoever, in bullfights the matador has an army of helpers who hobble and cripple the poor “toxic” beast fighting for its life before and during the “battle from whence few bulls emerge alive. The bull has only its stamina and instincts.

Perhaps there is some hope, however, implied in the narrative behind the narrative?

Hemingway’s book is actually a very intimate portrayal of the matadors who, as you follow their stories, turn out to be tragic figures. Despite the fancy clothing and headlines, even the very best only enjoy brief glories but then fade into obscurity, with very few exceptions.

Most importantly, people are now starting to see these blood sports for what they are; cruel exploitation.

Sympathy has now turned to favour the poor, tortured animals and there is scant respect for their sadistic tormentors.

I have little doubt that, eventually, the deliberate alienation of one parent by the passive aggressive parent, deflecting attention away from their sadism with flashy “due process” and an army of lawyers on horseback like fee-chasing picadors and toreadors, will come to be viewed by society as the cruel and selfish blood sport it is. But society has some way to go to look beyond the gaudy cape of excuses and the trappings of moral indignation that somehow justify the abuse.

PA is not society’s salve to soothe the wounds of toxic parenting or masculinity or authority as the sneak-thieves will have us believe.

Parental alienation IS toxic parenting.death

Passive aggression, of the matador variety, may not be as apparent as the outright aggression of the bull. But it burns deeper and longer and it is arguably even more destructive to children and society at large.

If the practice of parent alienation is allowed to continue unchecked, sponsored and cheered on by baying fiesta crowds of enablers, there will be many more tragedies.

But which death in the afternoon will it take for people to finally say “enough is enough”?

Your brother’s? Your father’s? Your best friend’s? Your girlfriend’s?

Yours?

 

 

 

 

 

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PA: Your kids don’t need a martyr, they need you!

As we enter the traditional remembrance season during which those who sacrificed themselves for the “greater good” are recognised, it is worth reflecting that men have been programmed for self-sacrifice since, well forever.

They instinctively sleep by the bedroom door, allegedly hard wired to be the first reactor, defender, first victim should something nasty invade the “cave”.

They learn from the overwhelming weight of narrative tradition in films and fairy tales that they are supposed to endure trials on behalf of the family, the community and to prove themselves worthy of a partner. And this generation of fathers still has the “muscle memory” of grandfathers who “went away” and sacrificed themselves for the greater good in world wars, allegedly doing so with a quiet, resigned dignity.

The problem is, it’s a cliché to which we’re now largely desensitized because it’s frankly expected, a given and as a consequence, it garners little sympathy, attention, credit or even support. In fact, it is increasingly used as a weapon against men, especially in court by unscrupulous individuals trying to portray the masculine as “aggressor and risk” and the feminine as “protective and nurturing” when the opposite can just as readily be true.

Is it, therefore, any surprise that men clad in superhero outfits scaling big monuments to give voice to the injustice of parental alienation, are largely marginalised and ignored because, well, most people expect suffering on behalf of the family to be part of the parent’s lot and certainly the man’s lot and are intolerant of what is perceived by many as self-pity or selfishness.

dead-captain_america

Of course, the flip side of that equation has been sexist stereotyping of women as passive princesses, objects of ambition, victims of the birth rite, nurturing earth mothers, long-suffering stalwarts and mainstays of the family “left behind” to cope when men march against men or lack the maturity to cope with family life.

But, as with the masculine stereotypes, how dated and inappropriately subordinate these female stereotypes seem to our modern minds. We’ve spent decades now subverting these clichés and evolving to a more empowered vision of the female gender.

Yet, let’s be honest, can the same be said of the sacrificial male archetype? Has this really changed or have we simply bolted more onto the weight of what we expect from boys, dads, brothers, fathers, grandfathers, men?

Modern, so-called metrosexual males, to varying degrees, have tried to play their part as reconstituted fathers, often in the face of hostility from Baby Boomer grandparents who are largely threatened by the criticism implied by this evolution of parenting. They have at least tried to be partners in the truest sense during the key phases of child-birth and nurturing, recognising, in return, the just cause of female equality in the workplace and home.

But what happens when the fairy tale family, the meeting of two apparent equals goes wrong, as more than 1 in 3 now does? Seems that our systems still operate to that out-moded gender polemic.

A large part of the  problem is, we have yet to create the precedent that is appropriate to the pace of the evolution of the individual models. In short, our divorce process is patently out of step with the vast majority of parenting processes. One has evolved while the other appears to have stalled. And it is here, in this gap, that the abuse of children and non-resident parents of both genders is happening.

In the movies, there’s a noble place for the self-sacrificing male who falls on the grenade for his colleagues, who takes one for the team or who helps the women and children to the lifeboats while he waits to drown. The problem is, how sensible is that action if he is the  only one who knows how to row, is the strongest, the best nurturer, leader or navigator? Chances are, they will all perish, he will only have bought them time. And this analogy applies to many divorces which lead to bankrupted fathers and alienated, badly damaged children forced to repeat the patterns of their parents.

Current divorce legislation seems to be the equivalent of the terminal threat to the growing number of fathers alienated from their children by the system. They may have been prepared to sacrifice their house, pride, fortune and even much of their fathering time to the “grenade” – strewn cause. But what if it destroys them? Who wins if the children are abandoned? And what if the real threat to the children’s futures wasn’t actually from the outside but was lurking within all along in the form of an unstable partner hell-bent on destruction? This is the nightmare that keeps all non-resident parents, regardless of gender, awake at night, most nights, I can assure you.

Parent alienation is an abuse of power by one party to inflict ongoing trauma on the other, using the children and family assets as weapons. It happens to non-resident mothers as well but, largely owing to the legacy of sexist thinking, the vast majority of non-resident parents are currently men.

Children need both decent parents in their lives for a whole variety of reasons. And it’s an irrefutable fact that, whatever their flaws, fathers are equally amazing. They get stuff done, they invent, they create, they engineer, they care, they love deeply and are among the finest of artists, always have been and yes when necessary they can be formidable warriors too.

So if you are unfortunate enough to be reading this without the benefit of a 50/50 shared parenting arrangement and sometimes the road ahead seems strewn with peril and jeopardy, just remember that your children need you and there is little point  sacrificing yourself, walking away or throwing yourself on that emotional or psychological grenade.

Society has evolved and our answers to challenges facing us need to evolve as well. Our children need answers not problems, parents not martyrs, peace not pas and  you really are man/woman/parent enough to find another, better way.

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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.

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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.