Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Parental Alienation Disrupts Healthy Attachment

Craig Childress, PsyD says, over and over, that children do not turn away from a parent; it is counter-intuitive in the developmental process. It is not the child’s agenda to reject and when this occurs, he affirms, there is always a predator lurking. That is, regardless of how bad or sick the parent is, a child does not reject them and that in order to do so there has to be a pathological process initiated and sustained by the alienating parent. That said, with parental alienation, the destruction to the child’s development is extreme.

Parental Alienation Disrupts Healthy Attachment

In order to have a healthy sense of self, a child needs to have the world as a mirror, as a place to have their thoughts, feelings and desires validated. Essential to the development of a healthy self is attunement, that is being aware of the other-their feelings, desires-being able to be on their page and read their emotional state of being and readiness. Good attunement is a prerequisite to good attachment which is then a prerequisite for the formation of healthy relationships in life. In normal parenting it is the parent that attunes to the child-the parent connects with the inner working of the child to foster their strengths and desires and passions; with alienating parents, it is the opposite.

Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Psychological Characteristics of Alienating Parent

Parent Alienation Syndrome occurs when individuals who have certain psychological characteristics manage internal conflict or pain by transforming psychological pain into interpersonal conflict. Divorcing parents often experience humiliation, loss of self-esteem, guilt, ambivalence, fear, abandonment anxiety, jealousy, or intense anger. These normal but very painful emotions must be managed. Usually people in crisis rely on characteristic relationship styles and pain management techniques. The Team has found alienating parents to have the following characteristics:

  1. A narcissistic or paranoid orientation to interactions and relationships with others, usually as the result of a personality disorder.(2) Both narcissistic and paranoid relationships are maintained by identification, rather than mutual appreciation and enjoyment of differences as well as similarities. Perfectionism and intolerance of personal flaws in self or others have deleterious effects on relationships. When others disagree, narcissistic and paranoid people feel abandoned, betrayed, and often rageful.
  2. Reliance on defenses against psychological pain that result in externalizing unwanted or unacceptable feelings, ideas, attitudes, and responsibility for misfortunes so that more painful internal conflict is transformed into less painful interpersonal conflict. Examples of such defenses are phobias, projection, “splitting,” or obsessive preoccupation with the shortcomings of others in order to obscure from self and others the individual’s own shortcomings. “Splitting” results when feelings, judgments, or characteristics are polarized into opposite, exhaustive, and mutually exclusive categories (such as all good or all bad, right or wrong, love or hate, victim or perpetrator), then are assigned or directed separately to self and other. (I am good, you are bad.) The need for such defenses arises because alienating parents have little or no tolerance for internal conflict or even normal ambivalence. The interpersonal result of such defenses is intense interpersonal conflict.(3)

  3. Evidence of an abnormal grieving process such that there is a preponderance of anger and an absence of sadness in reaction to the loss of the marital partner

  4. A family history in which there is an absence of awareness of normal ambivalence and conflict about parents, enmeshment, or failure to differentiate and emancipate from parents; or a family culture in which “splitting” or externalizing is a prominent feature. Some alienating parents were raised in families in which there is unresolved or unacknowledged grief as the result of traumatic losses or of severe but unacknowledged emotional deprivation, usually in the form of absence of empathy. More frequently, alienating parents were favorite children or were overly indulged or idealized as children. Continue reading “Psychological Characteristics of Alienating Parent”

Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder


What if the custodial parent says that they don’t want the other parent to have access to any of the child’s school records?

What if the custodial parent says that they don’t want the other parent to see or communicate with the child while at school?

What if the custodial parent continues with their demands and acts in an unreasonable or hostile manner?

What if one of the parents wants the teacher to write a letter based on their observations of the child in school or about the child’s relationship with the parent?

Are schools good exchange points for parents to exchange their children?


Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Inside the Mind of the Alienator

Inside the Mind of the Alienator

If we were to get into the mind of the alienator we would find some very sick and disorganized psychopathology. (typically a narcissistic/borderline and for men accompanied by psychopathy and a persecutory delusional system, for women a narcissistic/borderline and/or histrionic features). These people, both men and, women, were arrested at a very early stage of development. There are no/weak boundaries, impoverished ego strength, weak impulse control and reduced and sometimes delusional reality testing. Their path through life often carries that of a persecutory delusion-that is, they are the victim of a punishing parent and then an evil spouse and world. To them, everything is everyone else’s fault; they take no ownership for their behavior unless it glorifies them.  In fact, the rules that exist apply to everyone but them and following an illegal path is not unusual, especially in cases where psychopathy occurs (typically more in men). The typical dynamic is that of the narcissist/borderline where their sense of entitlement governs their behavior- a sense that is really to counteract the deep feelings of low self-esteem, unworthiness and, powerlessness.

Narcissists, being remarkably resistant in treatment, are often unable to “get it” and cannot see what helping professional, judges and authority figures during the divorce are telling them: they are right and everyone else is wrong. Their need to vindicate themselves and see themselves as the perfect parent is a strong survival issue and they will go to any lengths to do that, even it means hurting the child in the process.

That said, these parents who pretend to be perfect show themselves in the legal system. They ask for  more visitation, sometimes 100% visitation (finding any reason for the child not to visit), ask the child to testify (“hear my child, hear me”), cut off communication and show no co-parenting, cooperation and accountability with the targeted parent yet firmly adhere to the notion that they strongly encouraged visitation and the child refused.

One parent even sent the judge texts where he attempted to turn the child away (who was not yet turned away) that had harsh denigrating language about the other parent; in this case, the delusional system was so strong that he was even unable to see that this would work against him.  There is no end to their mission. Unfortunately, this is not a custody issue but a child protective issue; it is an issue of child abuse. Continue reading “Inside the Mind of the Alienator”

Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Remember, it is not the job of the school to interpret or enforce court orders.

Do not get caught in the middle by trying to interpret Court orders

Unless a court order specifically states something is to be done, don’t do it.  When in doubt ask the requesting parent to get the court to make the order more specific.  Where there is doubt, make decisions based on the child’s best interest.  From the perspective of an educator, the involvement of parents in their children’s lives at school is a positive influence that has a tremendously positive effect on the child.


Encourage third party involvement

Educators can encourage parents to use the services of third parties who are trained to deal with the types of problems facing separated or divorced parents.  Third parties such as mediators or family coordinators can act as a third party and provide services as a liaison between the school and the parents.  It is important for educators to keep out the dispute as much as possible and let trained third parties deal with these kinds of problems.  When schools deal with third parties instead of the parents when there is a dispute over access, then at least they know that the information they receive from a third party is reliable.  If educators get involved in matters outside of those relevant to the best interests of the child, then they may find themselves at odds with one of the parents, which should be avoided if possible.


Never assume that a parent is a “risk” to their child

Sometimes schools over-react when a non-custodial parent shows up at the school. If a parent has been granted unsupervised access to a child, which most are, then it is safe to assume that the court has determined that the child is not at any risk with that particular parent.  Most parents love their children, and those that bother to take the time to show up at the school often are the ones who are trying harder to be with their children.  If a non-custodial parents shows up at the school to pick up their child, then why should they be treated or questioned any differently than any other parent?  Once staff at a school know who a particular parent is, then they should not be treated any differently than any other parent.


In fact, questioning a non-custodial parent or interfering with them seeing their child, could be the basis of a human rights complaint or a lawsuit against the teacher and the school.   Remember, it is not the job of the school to interpret or enforce court orders. Leave this is the job of the courts and the police.


For problem cases, keep court orders on file

In situations where a parent is wanting to have the school take action on a matter they “claim” is in a court order, ask the parent to bring in the court order so that it can be reviewed to ensure the accuracy of the parent’s claim.  Court orders are considered public documents and are on file at the courthouse.  If t is thought that there may be ongoing problems with a particular parent and it is expected that other teachers or staff may face similar requests in the future by the same parent, the school should keep a copy of the court order in the student’s file for future reference.


Encourage and Promote Parental involvement at their child’s school

Whenever possible, schools should encourage parents to become involved in their children’s activities at school.  Many studies have confirmed that parental involvement with their children’s schools can have significant and positive impact on a student’s performance at school.  Children of separation and divorce already are at a disadvantage with other students so anything that educators can do to help these children better their grades should be encouraged.  A large study of almost 17,000 children, completed recently in the United States, clearly shows that students do better when parents are involved at their children’s school.  This was especially true in cases where non-custodial parents became involved.  


Do not be allow yourself to be used as a gatekeeper by a vindictive and controlling parent

Often parents with custody will come to the school and tell the school that the non-custodial parent cannot see the children before, during or after school. Politely tell these parents that schools are to educate kids not to fill the rolls of take the place of the courts or the police.


Treat all parents and family members with respect and give them equal consideration

Try to treat parents of separation and divorce no differently than you would any other parent.  Give then the same consideration and respect as all the other parents.  Try to understand that these parents, especially those who are considered as non-custodial parents are going through great hardships. The problems faced by these parents affects their children which in turn affects them as students.


Get involved when it comes to the best interest of the child!

Teachers and educators play an important and vital role in the future of our young people. They should take their important role as a member of our community seriously by helping those children and families who are in need.  If you see a parent acting in a manner that is not in the best interest of their child, then if asked to do so by any party, report this.  Too often, educators see vindictive and controlling parents try to destroy a child’s relationship with another parent, yet when asked by one of the parents to help bring this to the court’s attention, they say “I don’t want to get involved.”  One old saying states that “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Both parents and educators are part of the community’s village and all must share a responsibility for all those children who live within our “village.” 

Recognize the signs of a hostile, controlling and alienating parent

All educators should read the list of items which help to identify a parent who is alienating the children.  Recognize these signs and report them to the other parent.  Parental alienation and hostile parenting is child abuse.  Any parent who tries to keep another parent from taking an active role in their child’s activities at their school is not acting in the best interests of their child. Continue reading “Remember, it is not the job of the school to interpret or enforce court orders.”

Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Guidelines for educators to help reduce conflict in families and to help promote the best interest of their students

In response to this problem facing the schools, members of the Family Justice Review Committee, together with input from various health, legal, educational professionals came up with a number of suggestion and recommendations to help teachers and school officials do what it right for our children.

The guidelines and recommendations developed here have been based on the following criteria:

  1. To provide teachers and school officials with practical and easy to follow guidelines.

  2. To promote respect, fairness and consideration to both of the child’s parents and extended family members.

  3. To take into consideration the child’s wishes.

  4. To minimize the likelihood of confrontation between the school and parents

  5. To avoid misinterpretation of Court Orders are respected.

  6. To help minimize conflict between parents and family members.

  7. To ensure that the rights and freedoms of parents are not 

  8. To minimize the possibility of lawsuits against school officials or school boards.

  9. To help ensure that any other factor considered relevant to the best interest of the child is considered in any decision made by teachers or school officials.

Continue reading “Guidelines for educators to help reduce conflict in families and to help promote the best interest of their students”

Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Custody/Parenting issues related to a child’s school

In recent years, especially with rising divorce rates and the number of families in conflict over the parenting of their children, schools have been dragged unwillingly into the divorce fray.  Many school officials  acting without clear policy and with little understanding of the dynamics of family conflict, have often reacted in ways which has only served to intensify conflict within the family, create bad feeling between parent and school and further cause emotional harm to children.   Lack clear policies and failure to inform teachers and school officials about how to effectively deal with this growing area of concern has helped to allow this problem to continue.

The vast majority of problems involving children of separation and divorce at school are created when one parent, usually the custodial parent, will attempt to manipulate teachers and school officials into a position that supports them in their attempts to create interference with their child’s relationship with the other parent or members of the other parent’s extended family during the times that the child is in attendance at school.

Often, the parent who is attempting to manipulate the system is doing so out of anger and revenge against the other parent.  Seldom are they acting in the interests of their child.. Teachers and school officials must be vigilant to ensure that they do not get drawn into the conflict by taking sides and reacting in a manner that is damaging to the child or acting outside of the law. Continue reading “Custody/Parenting issues related to a child’s school”

Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Definition of Parental Alienation

The primary weapons parents use to alienate their children against the other parent include:

  • Badmouthing – This includes criticizing and belittling the other parent, or telling the child that the other parent is dangerous, crazy, or somehow unworthy of the child’s love.
  • Interfering with the Child’s Contact – This includes delivering the child to the other parent late, picking him up early, making excuses to keep the child during the other parent’s scheduled time, refusing to allow the child to call or otherwise contact the other parent, or excessively calling the child while he is with the other parent.
  • Causing the Child to Reject the other Parent – This includes making the child feel guilty for loving the other parent, creating conflict between the child and the other parent, forcing the child to choose between his parents, talking to the child about inappropriate matters (details of the marriage or divorce).
  • Undermining the Child’s Relationship with the other Parent – This includes drilling the child for details of his visit with the other parent, or asking the child to spy on the other parent, encouraging the child to call that parent by his or her first name, changing the child’s name to exclude the other parent.
  • Undermining the other Parent’s Role in the Child’s Life – This includes refusing to provide the other parent regarding the child’s schooling, medical care, and activities; refusing to notify the school, sports team coaches, doctors, and others of the other parent’s contact information; having a step-parent refer to him/herself as “Mom” or “Dad” when dealing with the school, teachers, coaches, doctors, and others; refusing to invite the other parent to important activities such as birthday parties, graduation, parent-teacher conferences, school plays or concerts, and the like.

Continue reading “Definition of Parental Alienation”

Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Dr. Bernet reviews the eight criteria for diagnosing parental alienation

Today, we’re featuring a guest article from Dr. William Bernet, who is president of the Parental Alienation Study Group and Professor of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Bernet reviews the eight criteria for diagnosing parental alienation that were originally developed in 1985 by Dr. Richard Gardner. These eight symptoms all occur in the child rather than in either parent.

Although Dr. Bernet cautions that the symptoms still need to be studied further, he says they have held up well as indicators of parental alienation.


Frivolous rationalization for the complaint

Lack of ambivalence

Independent thinker phenomenon

Automatic support/Reflexive support

Absence of guilt

Borrowed scenarios

Spread of animosity

Continue reading “Dr. Bernet reviews the eight criteria for diagnosing parental alienation”

Posted in Parental Alienation & Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Combating the seeming indifference to suffering

Tragically, this lack of response is routinely reported by parents alienated from their children, who seek the help of legal, child welfare and mental health professionals, and anyone who will listen to them, in a desperate attempt to find someone to intervene in this serious abuse of their children. As they muster the courage to break through shame and speak about their fears, anxiety, and profound grief, they continue to be subjected to a mean-spirited cultural response, where their woundedness is often ignored or, worse, mocked and ridiculed. In the rare instances where parents are listened to, there is rarely any offer of support in regard to the alienation. These responses are illustrations of the “bystander effect,” which is the typical response not only of lay people but also, alarmingly, of child and family professionals, to reports of parental alienation. Continue reading “Combating the seeming indifference to suffering”