The most frequently asked question that I have heard from alienated parents after “What do I do next?” is “Will my child return?”
Although there are no guarantees, many professionals believe and have seen many alienated children return. Some are helped to return by therapists, assisted by court orders, and others may need to be deprogrammed. Some believe that when natural maturation occurs and children are able to think for themselves, that they initiate and begin the process to reconcile.
Some may require intervention. Intervention can take the form of bringing to light the themes of the alienator’s belief system or program. One common theme called the denial of existence sends the message to the child that the other parent is not significant. Children are not allowed to talk about the parent, express joy about the parent and are given a subtle, but clear message to refuse to acknowledge the parent at social functions. There are other themes that you can read about in Children Held Hostage.
The extended family especially have an obligation to intervene to help children by bringing to light the brainwashing and offering communications to correct the alienator’s misrepresentation of reality. Children always lose when they don’t feel free to love both parents.
Studies reveal that geographical distance from the alienator and more time with the rejected parent is also a powerful factor in reconciliation. This may not be possible unless you are involved in litigation and are fortunate enough to be in a court system that recognizes and is knowledgeable about PA.
It has been estimated that 95 percent of alienated children reconcile and only 5 percent do not. From clinical experience and anecdotal stories, there are similarities among the cases.
Among these cases, the similarities suggest that four factors are important.
- Contact of some kind with your child, especially around milestones like birthdays, graduations, or other important events. Cards, phone calls, or letters may be misinterpreted as harassment, but on the other hand, they may just be important reminders to your child that you exist and you care.
- Love, love, love. Keep sending out messages of love. Children who have returned tell me that they didn’t want to hear the parent defend or explain unless asked, they just needed to see loving actions.
- Community support, and personal and family support provide a much-needed network of assistance. Closely akin to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to intervene on behalf of PA children. As Clawar and Rivlin point out in their landmark book published by the American Bar Association, Section of Family Law called Children Held Hostage, “the legal system in most states is not currently adequate to protect children from this form of abuse.” Mental health professionals, teachers and coaches, attorneys, family members, friends and others who discover the brainwashing process “have an obligation to intervene on behalf of the child” just as they would for other forms of child abuse. (Note: in California at least, progress in this area has been made since the book was published in 1991. California mediators are trained in recognizing alienation.)
- Hope. Accept what is happening, choose to go on with your own life, but maintain hope. It is a thread that runs through stories of successful reconciliations. Figure out what it takes for you to stay hopeful, even without months or years of reciprocity or acknowledgment of your efforts. For some, a support group, church attendance, counseling, journal writing, Yoga, or meditation classes have helped. For others, writing a loving “final” letter of acceptance has helped and even started a reconciliation process. Whatever it is, find it, practice, it and do it.
Hope is closely connected to staying inspired. Read about other reunited cases and perhaps you will find ideas to help you. Remember what Dale Carnegie said,” Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
There are cases of children reconciling, even as adults, and even after years of being alienated. Some adult children return with feelings of guilt for the way they have treated their rejected parent. They experience anger and betrayal at the parent who deceived them into believing lies and manipulating their emotions. Some require treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder before being able to address the alienation issues and the ways in which their part in the alienation process has affected their adult lives. Although the missed years can never be restored, they can be forgiven. You can go forward and establish meaningful connections once again. Others have gone before you; you can too.