In the 1980’s, Dr. Richard Gardner introduced the theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a phenomenon often observed but hardly understood in Family and Divorce Court at that time. PAS described a parent-child relationship as “…a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.
In other words, PAS happens because one parent—for whatever reason—is attempting to turn a child’s love and regard for their other parent into fear, hatred, and distrust.
There are many sources online which give examples of parental alienation. One of the more serious takeaways from these sources are that parental alienation, if severe enough, can be considered child abuse for the mental harm it does to children. That is why it is so important to educate yourself on this issue if you suspect your child/children’s mother is guilty of parental alienation.
It is difficult to give a detailed description of signs and symptoms to look for with PAS because every family is different. As with any diagnosable disorder however, you will probably know something is wrong when you see a drastic change in your child’s behavior.
Some general, common symptoms of PAS are: an increase in your child’s negative behaviors, your child suddenly withdrawing more from you, and a decrease in your child communicating or spending time with you. You may also see your child becoming more angry, apathetic, or sad for no discernable reason.
If you see these things happening but cannot find a clear cause for the sudden change, it might be time to consider that your ex is alienating your child from you.
How to Fight Back
If you suspect that this is happening to you, what you can do to help your kids get out of this situation? The first thing I advise is getting your child or children to see a therapist. This can be done in many ways: call your insurance company and ask which mental health providers are in your area, do a Google search on nearby therapists, or ask your pediatrician for recommendations. The main emphasis here is to find someone who specializes in working with children and is willing to help you in court if things come to that. Other things to keep in mind on this point: if you have full legal custody of your children there is nothing to worry about, but if you have joint legal or no legal, chances are your ex will need to agree to therapy services.
If she refuses, call your local child protective services agency and tell them about your suspicions of PAS – if they conclude PAS is occurring, they can often intervene in the situation from there.
Get the Law on Your Side
Another vital resource in the fight to protect your kids from PAS is seeking guidance from an attorney.
During the separation process with your ex, you may have already connected with an attorney, and if this is your case, ask them about your legal options for PAS-suspicions. If you do not currently have an attorney connection, make one. They are a valuable resource and make a huge difference for you in court. Many family and divorce lawyers talk about PAS on their websites, so if you’re having trouble knowing where to start, use a search engine to find PAS-experienced attorneys in your city or county.
Parental alienation is a very senseless, awful thing to happen in families. Suddenly through divorce, one parent believes it is acceptable to traumatize their kids with fear-mongering and other manipulative tactics to get the child on “their side.” As men and fathers, we need to protect our children from experiencing all kinds of abuse, but if you have the misfortune of identifying PAS in your child, hopefully this article has been helpful in giving you strategies for what to do next. You are not alone.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author/writer. It does not express the views/opinions of Daddy's Digest and the content has not been verified by a legal, medical or mental health professional. Always seek the guidance of a qualified professional before taking important family decisions.