Close Care in Parental Alienation Case
For the first time, I was called by a parent as a parental alienation consultant to assist in facilitating a first night of a 9-year-old girl with her daddy. He had not had his daughter been sleeping for 3 years, in addition, he had been accused of abuse in the past. Before the school holiday, the court of appeal (family affairs) had pronounced the following.
The child had to stay with the dad for 24 days, with only 3 nights each from a Saturday on a Sunday, in the presence of the grandparents.
The first night could not continue because all conditions could not be met. The grandparents could not attend that night. Meanwhile, this poor child had to make the transitionbridge 20 times. This is literally the way children have to cross between one and the other parent. Halfway, they need to untie the band they have with one parent and connect with the other parent. Children who are trapped in parental alienation can not do this. This is too difficult for them, because of the pressure that comes from each side they are literally splitting.
Forcing a child to go through it for several days in a row twice a day is pure child abuse because it causes an extreme separation anxiety if the child is not helped. Here again, evidence of how little knowledge judges and counselors have about the psychological mechanisms of separation, conflicted divorce and not at all about parental alienation. In consultation with the father, we decided to stop the transition the following days when this little girl had to be picked up and returned in the evening. This in the interests of the child, not to put it unnecessarily under pressure.
Two weeks later we had a new attempt. It was terrible to see how this little girl clung to the bars of a fence to not take part. The mommy asked her daughter in my presence: “If xxx promises not to shout and he promises you not to hit you, will you go?” Speaking of influencing. The mother referred to the dad in the presence of their daughter as being ‘only the adoptive father and also called him only by the first name‘. Consequently, the child lives in the rigorous conviction: “This is not my dad and I’m in danger if I go!“. After a thick quarter we were still there, then I put my alarm clock and gave the mum another 5 minutes to convince her daughter and put her in the car. It was obvious that the mother did not prepare her daughter for her overnight stay. She had not foreseen any necessary things to stay for a weekend. When the 5 minutes were gone, the dad and myself, on my advice, went to the police to file a complaint against failure to comply with the sentence. On this the mother left on her bicycle with her daughter, also towards the police. Arrived at the police station, this child showed even worse the parental alienation reaction. She hid away behind the pillars at the police station, even dragging the chairs (4 attached to each other) to be able to sit behind a pillar so she did not have to see us. (her dad and myself). The inspector who took our hearing had not seen this before and wondered why this child showed such extreme fear without any reason for it. This behavior is thus the parental alienation reaction. During the hearing, the mom always intervened, which I benefitted from asking if she had prepared a suitcase for her daughter to take with: pyjamas, clothes, toothbrush etc. First she lied and said, “yes , but I could not take it on the bike.” I said, “No, you’re lying, you did not have a suitcase for your daughter.” “Yes, but the dad should take care of that,” she replied. I said: “No, he should not, you should do that. She lives with you, he has not been in her life for 3 years so you have to take care of it.” In panic, because there was a penalty hanging over her head, she still tried to convince her daughter. It was heartbreaking to see. The child dropped to the ground, screamed, kicked, wept …. she could not be convinced. The mom tried to get the dad and I involved again. I said to her, “No, nor the daddy, nor I have to convince the child, that’s your job, as her mom, her main caretaker, with whom she lives most of the time.” “You see, I’m doing my best,” the mother cried. “Yes, I see.” I said. “I also see that you need help with your parenting skills, as you fail to convince your daughter to stay a weekend with her father”.
What took place in the police station gave me a very clear picture of the family hierarchy in this split family. Mother and daughter form a dyadic partnership. The daughter has fully taken over from her mother’s rigorous conviction. She also grabbed the power and it’s the daughter who decides what’s happening.
According to the sentence, the girl had to stay another weekend 2 weeks later. Because I myself and ‘House of Reunification’ put the wellbeing of the children in mind, and I was present at previous attempts, and I found it heartbreaking for this little girl, I sent an email to the mother with Tips to Follow, and Tips not to do (eg prepare a suitcase, and call the father “dad” in the presence of their daughter etc…). And it worked! The mom was waiting outside with her daughter on one hand and in her other hand a suitcase. This was already a good start. In response to my mail, the mommy had asked to context counseling if we could not be more patient, they suggested giving her half an hour’s time. Once again it was a push and pull, the girl took again everything out of the closet to avoid having to go, the mum again tried to accuse me of being angry and shouting, trying to persuade me and the dad to place the girl in the car. For the sake of fairness, I must also report that the mother tried to apply my tips. Just like last time, I just kept my feet on her parental authority. Finally at 23 min after 9 am., I set my alarm again, so she had 7 minutes left. Suddenly, the daughter was in dad’s car, minutes before my alarm clock went off.
The first hurdle was taken. Once arrived at the grandparents (overnight stay in their presence according to verdict ????) she did not want to leave the car, she did not respond to our questions and didn’t responded at all to our encouragements.
This outer layer of anger and indignation is a protective layer that the child puts around himself. The innerly authentic child is still present deep inside. Only with the cat, she could make connection at the moment.
One and a half hour later, she was completely relaxed and began to chat with her grandmother and she could also connect with her dad. Her handbag with her cellphone kept her anxious. It cost us little effort to convince her to go to a toy store, where she could choose a gift for herself. I already hear you thinking, “bribe” yes indeed, a child’s hand is filled quickly and it is then a means, the glue, if you want, to restore a connection that was broken for years. It was great to see this girl flourish and see her innerly authentic child appearing. To hear her laugh, play with her dad, sing in the car, give a demonstration of her arts on the trampoline etc …. .
It is very clear though that she determines what’s happening, she doesn’t like somebody to correct her behavior or commits her. I also found that both the grandparents and the daddy dance to her tune and even ask for permission. Also other dismissed parents do this, because of fear. Now, all in all, the whole day has actually gone very well. At one point, she even forgot her handbag with her cellphone. The dad told me that it was very long ago to have seen her and having experienced her like this.
Untrained experts in parental alienation can hardly believe that a child with so much hostility and fear changes in such a short time to a normal child. The enchantment is broken and that’s all that’s needed in a pure form of alienation. Her inner child remained visible until she went to sleep.
On Sunday morning the protective barrier was all over her again. Neither the dad nor I had a good morning. She did not want to go anywhere and did not participate in any activity. She is then rude and impolite. The knowledge that she had to go home that night was enough to put on that protective suit. Because she had been busy with her cellphone in the morning, I took it away as soon as I had the opportunity. This to prevent her from contacting her mother again. Throughout the day we had two more opportunities to remove the sleeve and bring her inner child back. However, from 3.30 pm., her protection stayed on, and she counted down the hours to go back home.
And no, it’s NOT OK that this child should return to the infected environment.
But we have to do that for the time being. The next step is that we ask a meeting with the juvenile judge and I present the report of this experience with my findings and recommendations. I have already had contact with the child advocate, who understands that what is happening here is child abuse. The juvenile judge is about to place this child in a home. Both the child advocate and myself want to avoid this any cost. When a child is placed there, the child is punished and the rejection of the hated parent is worsened if there is no suitable guidance for this split family. Let’s cross our fingers that one of our newly trained professionals, get the mandate to do a thorough investigation and propose a treatment plan. And let’s hope that we can execute it.
We need judges, attorneys and counselors who dare to think out of the box and dare to approach new, unintended paths to address this serious form of psychological child abuse. Anyone who is closing their eyes and still claims that parental alienation does not exist, because the term is not included in the DSM5, is involved in this form of child abuse and is guilty of failure to help someone in need.
As ‘Jef Staes’ said so beautifully, “We are knowledgeable, but not competent” (see the video on youtube: Ik ben het pensioendebat kotsbeu!) I hereby appeal to all family – and juvenile courts, give us the power to tackle this distressing issue.
For more information on future training, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Petra Van Den Hoeck
Coordinator & Parental Alienation Consultant