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With the Ugly Truth about Parental Alienation Syndrome Ė PAS
issues gather as much heated debate than the concept of Parental Alienation
stated, PAS refers to the child of separated parents who comes to reject a
parent and/or that parentís family and/or anything or anyone associated with
that parent on the basis of undermining behavior by the other parent.
not a true diagnostic label in the context of the American Psychiatric
Associationís Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, it is an issue hotly
contested in the most fractious of child custody/access battles. Unresolved, the
child outright rejects a relationship with one parent in favor of continuing an
exclusive relationship with the other parent. Whereas the rejected parent will
advise the outcome is the result of the manipulations by the favored parent, the
child in time comes to present the preference as their own choice.
have struggled with this matter for years as have mental health professionals
who seek to reverse the disastrous effects of a maligning parent to restore
reasonable relationships all around.
pain and anguish felt by the rejected parent is tremendous to say the least for
they are experiencing the loss of a child who otherwise appears available. To
boot, in the process, this parent is typically vilified, made out to be a
monster as the alienation process unfolds. To say this is crazy making is an
Courts do wade in to try and right these wrongs, they are challenged to not next
ruin the relationship with the preferred parent over that of the rejected parent
although at times courts will make orders requiring; reversal of residence;
supervised access to no access; and mandatory attendance at treatment.
understand these intrusive interventions, one has to consider PAS as the family
equivalent of an aggressive cancer.
a cancer so aggressive so as to threaten life and limb. The treatment regime may
include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These treatments are all known to
be devastating in and of themselves, but if to survive, they become a necessity.
So it is with PAS and intrusive family interventions.
ugly truth though remains. Not all cancers can be successfully treated and
patients die. So too of PAS. Not all relationships are restored and indeed some
lives are given way to anger, depression and suicide.
any form of aggressive cancer, be it physical or social, early intervention is
key. Also key is the role of legal counsel. It is unfortunately too easy to
ratchet up parental conflict through zealous litigation in these cases.
outcomes may prevail if legal counsel would recognize the deleterious effects of
litigation in favor of seeking clinical and conciliatory approaches.
Unfortunately however, it is all too common that those parents bent on
destroying their childís relationship with the other parent somehow or other
find very litigious lawyers who buy into their one-sided accounts of the other
parentís shortcomings to fight tooth and nail on behalf of the maligning
all our great efforts, then, at times there is no way out of these situations.
As in medicine, not all diseases are treatable.
all seems but lost, the challenge becomes one of coping in the face of great
adversity. To have any sense of hope that a future relationship may transpire,
one has to survive to that future. Resist alcohol; resist drugs; resist self
defeating behavior. Engage in a healthy lifestyle; form friendships; seek
entertainment; take care of your health.
only thing known for sure in the heat of battle and terrible discontent is that
it is awful and hurts terribly. The future though, remains uncertain.
best one can do is be prepared to greet it, however it presents itself. Therein
while tragedy may strike, we strive to overcome. We seek to remain resilient and
if a relationship at one stage of life is lost, we hope to be there to pick up
at another stage of life. Learning to live with patience in the midst of
adversity is key. Ask any cancer patient.
the way, you will be co-parenting no matter what. The only question is the
degree to which you do so successfully and in the end, peace between the parents
provides for the better outcome for children regardless of what you agree to.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
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