Saturday, December 15, 2012
Rejected Parents: Get Help!
Rejected Parents must contend with multiple sources of conflict—both with others and within themselves. Despite the complexity of the issues they face, however, Rejected Parents are oftentimes reluctant to seek help until matters become critical or even beyond remedy.
Consider one example. When a mother became severely depressed, she was unable to take care of her three children. While she received psychiatric treatment, her children lived exclusively with their father and stepmother. When she recovered and tried to resume parenting-time, the father refused her access to the children and persuaded the children she was a child sex abuser. Her informal attempts to improve matters met with heavy resistance. She hired a lawyer to handle legal matters, but fearful that seeking informal problem-solving help would be taken to mean that she was still depressed and unable to function, she did not seek consultation until many months later.
In another instance, a father had been trying for several years to reconnect with his two sons. His ex and the boys’ therapist agreed that the boys needed a relationship with their father. But whenever he identified opportunities to spend time together, he encountered foot-dragging, excuses, and overt opposition. When one of his children had school difficulties he didn’t hesitate to hire a tutor—but he was unaware that he needed help developing a problem-solving strategy to address the estrangement.
One reason such parents don’t seek help is embarrassment. Anticipating that others will assume they did something wrong to trigger the children’s rejection, they are reluctant to speak openly about their difficulties. And their concern is not unfounded; many Rejected Parents report encountering this bias when they reveal to others that they are estranged from their children.
A second reason is that they—and their lawyers—are not aware that such help is available. They may not know that even in the worst situations, specialists familiar with the problem of parent-child alienation may be able to identify opportunities and strategies to make a positive difference.
Rejected Parents have three interests when seeking help. First, they need advisors who can be trusted to understand the pressures they are under, to maintain confidentiality, and to be free of conflicts of interests. A psychologist hired by the Favored Parent to work with the children, for example, may offer consultation to the Rejected Parent—but just how much will they advocate for repairing the relationship if it would jeopardize their working relationship with the parent who hired them? Second, Rejected Parents need advisors with specialized knowledge about parent-child alienation. It is not enough for a psychologist to be generally familiar with family systems dynamics or divorce issues. Rejected Parents need practical advice specific to parent-child alienation. Finally, Rejected Parents need advisors who can invent strategies and suggestions tailored to their unique situation rather than promoting a one-size-fits-all method.
For more tips and strategies, read early posts on this blog or obtain Welcome Back, Pluto – a DVD specifically written and produced for children and family members dealing with this tragic problem.