How could I have helped my step-children realize they were victims of Parental Alienation before the damage was done and the relationship damaged beyond repair? It’s a question that haunts all alienated parents and step-parents.
If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years of being a step-mother, it’s that there are two sides to every story. Neither party in an acrimonious divorce is 100% innocent nor 100% wrong. Neither side of the story is completely true. Both parties are wounded and angry and this, unfortunately, may overflow into the children’s attitude towards on parent or another, coloring their feelings. Parental Alienation takes this to a whole new level when facilitated and exploited by a personality disordered parent.
If I had it to do all over again, I would ask my step-children this one question:
What did he do that was SO bad?
I don’t mean what they were told, but what they actually experienced at the hands of their alienated parent, statistically usually their father.
In my step-children’s case, I know they’d draw a blank. If there had been any abuse, it would long ago have been thrown in our face, written in court documents, crammed down our throat. That never happened.
The children’s only complaints were the visits and visitation didn’t last long enough! The way they ran to their father and flung their arms around his neck told me how much they loved him. The alienation was never their idea, never their choice.
This is your chance to address Parental Alienation before it grows gnarled roots of bitterness, impossible to eradicate from the soul of your child.
Ask them why they’re angry at you. Ask them what you’ve done to lose their love. Make it safe for them to tell you what they believe to be true about you. Don’t be defensive. Give them space to be hurt, to be angry.
If they are indeed alienated, they will either have nothing to complain of or else have been told a complete lie about you.
Then slowly, carefully, tell them the truth. They may not believe you’re not the bad guy, but at least given them a different reality to ponder. A reality that you’re not so bad after all. They may bluster but they’ll begin to ask themselves, ‘Yeah. What is so bad about dad? I like him. He’s always nice to me. He’s not angry or bitter. Mom’s always mad!’
Little seeds of doubt will grow and blossom, competing for sunshine and water, starving the ugly weed of Parental Alienation.