Collateral Damage of Parental Alienation

Undermining Moms and Dads results in serious societal problems.

As divorce rates continue to rise, Provincial and Federal Acts are changing processes to make it easier for families with children to come to agreeable terms of divorce earlier. The Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020 proposes to align more closely with the Federal Divorce Act so to modernize language around terms used in processes of custody and access. Any updates in legislation that minimize the emotional injury caused by separation and divorce on children is always a good thing. Families are worth fighting for, and many people have repaired what at first might appear to be failing relationships.

In more recent times, “parental alienation” has emerged as a clinical term designed to capture the detrimental impacts on child-parent relationships caused by a persistent campaign of denigration aimed at discrediting the love, care, and compassion of one parent by the other. Research has found consistent indicators of this long cited phenomenon in children that results in an overall unbalanced perspective of one parent in favour of another by one or all children involved. It is possible that only one child in the divorcing family shows evidence of parental alienation even where siblings continue to hold fair perspectives of both parents. Over time, this persistent denigration takes hold, and one or more children reject the second parent in favour of the alienator.

The reasons for one parent to actively denigrate and injure the reputation of a child’s second parent are complex, and normally link back to the fundamental reasons for separation and divorce in the first place. Relationships built on unhealthy and insecure attachment styles are prone to years of distrust, ongoing emotional testing, and poor personal boundaries that can sadly permeate the family relationship style as well. You are likely going to handle your divorce emotionally in a similar manner that you handled your marriage. If you were open to regular dialogue and honest interchange while happily married, then you are more likely to want to talk about serious problems with your spouse that may or may not result in divorce. If you had a high conflict marriage, then the odds are higher that your separation and divorce will be likewise.

Adults seeking divorce following extramarital affairs are often implicated in active parental alienation of one parent over the other. Children may be exposed to details related to sexual infidelity for which they are not emotionally mature enough to understand or process without support. Emotionally injured and grieving parents may unconsciously engage in role reversals with their kids thereby expecting emotional support and nurturance from their children, rather than maintaining their role as care-provider for their children. Depending on a parent’s ability to cope and recover after their marital break-up, many adults turn to their children and family, rather than trusted adult friends or professionals to work through their pain.

So many people share details about an affair or marital break-up with people at work, in their community, or in the family that they later regret they had. The compulsion and need to share is a natural and healthy one designed to keep you from experiencing a full mental or emotional breakdown. Finding the appropriate person to share your emotional pain is important to your health and to the wellbeing of your children. A skilled counsellor, mental health practitioner, social worker, or psychotherapist will help to create a safe place to talk about your feelings, identify emotional roadblocks, and re-build important personal boundaries following martial separation.

An unexpected impact of parental alienation is the general collateral damage caused to Moms and Dads across society. There appears to have been a gradual and increasing denigration of parenting over time, whereby children are more often referred to a Kids-Help service before checking-in with their own Mom or Dad. In my opinion, it is important that clinical social work with children and adolescents always include the option of bringing Mom or Dad into the identified problem, and more importantly into possible solutions. Services that forgo parents as primary care providers risk further damaging the most fundamental relationship in a child’s life. If we are truly aiming to build a better and safer world for our children and grandchildren, then we need to make a better effort at being loving and respectful people with one another.

Updating legislative processes to adapt to adult decisions in ways that minimize emotional harm to children is a grand plan, learning early to make healthy adult decisions for your entire family may be an even greater one. Divorce hurts us all, behave responsibly.

Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW, Owner Lakeside Wellness Therapy Affiliates

#wellness #mentalhealth #parentalalienation #parentingiskey

Expect only the best from Child Psychotherapy.

There are several reasons why you may need the services of an expert Child Psychotherapist. Reasons may include medical conditions, early trauma, adoption, or poor social adjustment to school or daycare. There are significant considerations before making the right choice for your family.

Entrusting your child to the care of a psychotherapist is an important decision.

It is absolutely reasonable to inquire about the counselling experiences, level of education, expertise, and mental health credentials your psychotherapist has to date.

There are 72 models of Psychotherapy and you have a right to ask questions about what makes them the best option for your child.

There are six professional colleges in Ontario that regulate the practice of psychotherapy. A Child Psychotherapist may be registered with the college of nurses, psychology, psychotherapy or social work.

Pediatric training and/or direct experience with children is a professional practice expectation when offering counselling services to young people.

Mental Health counselling with children is uniquely different from work with adults. Although broad based theoretical models are shared, clinical approaches and engagement strategies are different. 

Attachment-Based Child Psychotherapy uses evidence-based strategies that grow emotionally connected family members, healthier relationships, and happier homes.

A primary caregiver is often included for at least part or all of the clinical sessions with children under the age of 12 years. Older children may benefit from individual psychotherapy as well. 

Be sure to check out website and professional information online. Review more than one option and decide on the best fit for your child and family. Ask questions about assessment and treatment plans, fees, scheduling, and recommended resources.

Your child’s mental health and wellness is important. Engaging the services of a private practitioner ensures consistent, effective, and longer term treatment models. There are times when children share events with registered social workers, psychotherapists that must be reported to local Children’s Aid Societies.  In cases where disclosures happen in individualized contexts, parents are NOT informed about these reports unless directed by child protection professionals. 

Where reports are made to Children’s Aid Society due to questions of protection, it is important to remember that the system is designed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your child. Where CAS workers have to visit your home, child protection advice is also important to learn for parents unclear about what constitutes “abuse” under the law. 

Private options ensure flexibility, child-centered planning, and high quality services. Expect only the best for your child and find the right clinician today.

Sunny dispositions deserve to shine!

#wellness #childpsychotherapy # mental health #counselling #childrensaidsociety

Ending Painful Chapters

Ending painful chapters of one’s life.

People often refer to personal experiences or stories, both as happy or painful “chapters” of one’s life. It helps to think about the past when friends, school associates, work life, or romantic partners were different. It is also helps to mine these memories for both happy and painful times, and to see what made this difference. Who or what helped you feel well or unwell for example.

The view that a chapter of one’s life may come to an end is very helpful to people undergoing significant changes in their own lives. An end to a marriage, longstanding romantic relationship, a professional career, or voluntary or community position are all very stressful each in their own way. People often seek the support of a clinical social worker, psychotherapist, or counsellor to help mitigate normative emotional disturbances caused when one chapter of life comes to an end. What or who played a disruptive or agitating role in your life? Are you able to identify a repetitive pattern or trend?

To me these transitional times between chapters where one chapter is closing and another begins is a nanometric space of personal change. Tasks of identity are dynamic and constantly growing over time from childhood to senior living. The idea that people grow and change over a lifetime is widely accepted, and perhaps even expected more now than ever. It used to be common to remain in the same profession, marriage, house, parish, community or country for years and years.

Using this literary metaphor in clinical counselling sessions creates a conceptual framework in which to contain, and process otherwise overwhelming, and at times, debilitating emotions. This is especially true when events occur beyond one’s control or in unexpected ways. Most people experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety when marriages end due to infidelity or sudden death.

Knowing that everyone shares similar vulnerabilities is in and of itself healing. Knowing that there is a temporality or timeline for emotional disruptions caused by life is also healing. Believing that people are able to move on, grow from, and flourish after devastating events or unexpected change is a fundamental underpinning to all approaches of clinical social work and psychotherapy.

Processes of healing are not possible without the view that painful chapters come to end. Processes of healing begin when the human heart opens up to the unfolding of life in a new chapter. This new chapter of life usually involves some of the people, roles, places and interests from the past, and sometimes not. You will know who or what you wish to remain in your life by the way you feel, and only you know that. Be confident in your personal feelings and embrace what your own heart and intuition reveals to you.

What are some of the ways you help your clients identify health and wellbeing following devastating news or events? How do you confidently and deliberately support your clients to recognize their own growth and support them in cultivating and growing health in new and exciting ways? How do you validate insights into harmful people or messages from the past? What approaches do you use to empower clients to move through and beyond this pain? Do you fundamentally believe that your therapeutic interventions work? If not, what are you doing to improve your own conceptual and practical knowledge base and skills to ensure therapy people deserve?

#healing #wellness #growth #change #personal