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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!

 

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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.