Growing up with Parental Alienation

I offered to write this piece as I wanted to share a view of parental alienation that I suspect is often missed. That of the child caught in the middle.

My parents divorced when I was about nine. As divorces go, I imagine it was fairly amicable. When we (my younger brother, sister and I) returned home from our summer trip to our Grandmother’s it just so happened that Dad was living in his own home. Something we had been told was going to happen while we were away. They had been in separate rooms for a while so we weren’t surprised.

I remember spending half a week with each parent, agreed from the start with no court order. Our Dad started questioning what our Mum was doing almost immediately, would call her names, would tell us it was her fault that they divorced, that he regretted they had split up and wanted to have her back but she was stopping him. He would say “you know I care most for you” or “you would be better living with me.” This went on for about a year, week in, week out. My reluctance to go home to my Mum’s increased with each visit. During all of this, our Mum said nothing.

After some time she got a partner. My Dad accused him of being gay, going so far as to accuse him of touching children, implying my brother was at risk. He’d tell us he wanted to keep us safe, that he loved us more than anyone else in the world and that’s why he was warning us.

I was still at primary school, not far off moving up to secondary school, when I reached the point of hating my Mum. After all, she didn’t love us as much as my Dad, it was her fault that the divorce had happened and that we weren’t a family anymore, we would have a better life at Dad’s. So I left one night and walked there, leaving a note saying I never wanted to see her again. To give him his credit he did immediately drive me home.

“I remember being so confused, suddenly everything that I had believed was a lie.”

Only at this point our Mum opened up. She had felt we were too young to understand so hadn’t wanted to speak to us. She gave me the facts about what had happened; that it was my Dad who had cheated, causing the divorce. I remember being so confused, suddenly everything that I had believed was a lie. My Mum was honest, she was unemotional and did not get involved in any of the name calling.

I came to dislike our time with our Dad more and more. Weekly we would hear “you are old enough to choose to live with me” and every time I would feel upset. I didn’t want to hurt him by saying no but couldn’t be disloyal to my Mum. He continued to tell us that she wasn’t a good Mum. The difference was that now I was onto him.

Our time continued to be split between a warm, loving and positive home, where no bad word was spoken about anyone and a home filled with hatred, disregarding the children that it was harming.

As a teenager I went off the rails a little. I was eaten up by guilt for the feelings that I had  had towards my Mum when I was younger. We were closer than ever at that point but it was so hard remembering that at one time I had detested her. It was hard living with the knowledge that one of the people I had loved most in the world had manipulated and lied to my siblings and I.

I started seeing a Life Coach who helped put things back together. She was the only adult who was completely removed from the situation and acknowledged the difficulties I had faced. Not long after my 18th birthday I saw my Dad for the last time, though didn’t know it then. Able to see the harm he had caused and more confident in trusting my decisions, it was my choice not to make contact again.

“Parental alienation is something we should all be more aware of.”

As an adult, I continue struggle at times with guilt around how I treated my Mum still. I realise I didn’t treat my Mum badly, that wasn’t my choice, I didn’t know. I also have difficulty trusting what people say at times, after being lied to for several years I think that’s to be expected.

Parental alienation is something we should all be more aware of. It can happen silently, without courts, without parents having to fight to see their children, it can happen in any family.

In the future, I hope professionals are quick to put help in place for affected families and children. I also want to give hope to parents who are having limited contact, or know that their partner is trying to turn their very own children against them. Those relationships can be rebuilt and now our little family unit is incredibly close, perhaps because of our shared experience of someone trying to pull us apart.

7 thoughts on “Growing up with Parental Alienation

  1. Thank you for sharing your point of view as things unfolded. I do not know how old you are now but I have to say that I felt uneasy when you said that at 18 you saw your Dad for the last time, and that that was your choice. I feel uneasy because at first I thought he had died. Then I thought no, you are just talking about the last time, without any particular significance. But you said it was your choice so it must be a cutting off. I am a totally alienated parent, which is to say totally cut off and out of my child’s life. Moreover, at the moment that child has been induced to believe endless fabrications about me including having affairs, violence, and recklessness with money. I think totally cutting a parent, child, of ex out of your life is a necessary healthy temporary state of affairs. Long term I think it is unkind and unhelpful. If you think you are totally right and all understanding about your father’s character flaws are you not thinking exactly what my daughter is thinking about me now? It is disquieting to think that just a thread of communication would have saved my daughter from the worst of her tormenting misapprehensions. I suppose my questions are, How long do you intend to cut off one of your parent’s completely?

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    • Hi Richard, I cannot comment on behalf of the author. However my understanding from her circumstances is that she was alienated from her mum by her dad. Simply the other way around in your case. Why the author has no contact with her former alienating father, perhaps she feels that she does not have, need to disclose this. Saying this, my heart goes out to you my friend. I myself am an alienated father that has absolutely no contact with any of my three children. My thoughts are with. Stay strong, thank you for reading. I have to believe that reform will come one day.

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    • Hi Richard, first thank you for your comment. I don’t know how old your little ones are and I’m in no way saying that in every case having that open communication will be the answer to helping get things rebuilt – I am no expert but it must always be the start?

      I last saw my father at 18 (I’m now mid-20s). We did have an occasional text/telephone call for a few months following this but always instigated by me and because I felt guilty for not keeping in touch. I knew what kind of person he was when I chose to stop trying, I grew up with him after all. There may come a time when I want to get in touch again but I cannot say when that may be. My Mum continues to keep in touch with him, trying desperately to keep him in touch with my siblings as they have also drifted apart, so I know that if I did not have his contact details she would be able to provide them and would be happy to do so.

      It must be incredibly hard if children are having no contact with their alienated parent and a different situation. I imagine that all children will, at some point, wonder who their ‘other’ parent is. I believe people will always try and find out for themselves, especially if they have fond memories of that parent as a young child.

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  2. As an alienated parent, your words bring hope to us who have little or no contact with our children. We are either prevented from or have reduced contact , to the very people we love , in a relationship that has become toxic for whatever reasons. I can only speak for my self when i say that my main worry has always been that my child will think that because i left the relationship, that i left them. This will never be the case but i dont want to outdo Super parent to prove my affection. What you have so brilliantly shown me is that it will work out and i will hopefully have a better relationship with my child. Having the patience to wait, is another thing…….
    Thank you

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