how can you help a child and his/her rejected parent?


North Dakota Law Review, Volume 75, 1999, p 323-364; Parental Alienation; Note in the Best Interest of the Children by Douglas Darnall

• Listen to the child, without negating what the child is saying, regardless of how outlandish it may be (that is the child's reality) and then encourage the child to hear the rejected parent's point of view. Appeal to the child's maturity by saying that is the way mature people handle conflicts.

• Appeal to the child's intellect by encouraging him/her to carefully consider ideas or statements that are blatantly false or outlandish.

• Point out to the child how persuasive advertising can influence a person's thinking and try to relate that to the child's thinking about the rejected parent.

• Look for books or movies that can stimulate discussion about the importance of two parents and the sadness of having only one parent.

• If appropriate, invite both the child and rejected parent to the same function, making the child aware that the rejected parent is valued and appreciated.

• Look for opportunities to provide positive input about the targeted parent.

Children who are exposed to PAS suffer in a variety of general as well as specific ways from this experience. It will often have both temporary and lasting effects on their lives. This is obviously not the intention of the alienator, but it is the result of such alienation procedures and programming which causes the child to show a negative attitude and behavior towards one of the parents.


Below are the more common symptoms of parental alienation. Many of these behaviors will look familiar, because some alienation occurs in all divorces. Some symptoms may come as a surprise, because many don't think of the behavior as something that can hurt children. Common symptoms include:

        • Supporting the child's refusal to visit the other parent without reason; 
       • Allowing children to choose whether or not to visit a parent, even though the court has not empowered           the parent or children to make that choice; 
        • Telling the children about why the marriage failed and giving them the details about the divorce
        • Refusing the other parent access to medical and school records or schedules of extracurricular
        • Blaming an ex-spouse for not having enough money, changes in lifestyle, or other problems in the
          children's presence; • Refusing to acknowledge that the child has personal property and denying the
          child control over taking personal possessions to the other parent's home; 
        • Rigid enforcement of the visitation schedule for no good reason other than getting back at the ex-
        • Assuming the ex-spouse is dangerous because he or she had made threats in the past during an
        • False allegations of sexual abuse, drug and alcohol use or other illegal activities by the other parent; 
        • Asks the children to choose one parent over the other;
        • Reminding the children that the children have good reason to feel angry toward their other parent; 
        • Suggesting adoption or changes in name should a parent remarry; 
        • Giving children reasons for feeling angry toward the other parent, even when they have no memory
          of the incident that would provoke the feeling, and especially when they cannot personally remember
          the incident or reasons for being angry; 
        • Special signals, secrets, words with unique meanings, or a private rendezvous arranged between the
          child and one parent; 
        • An intention to use children as witnesses against their other parent; 
        • Asking the children to spy or covertly gather information to be used later against the other parent; 
        • Setting up temptations that interfere with visitation; 
        • Giving the children the impression that having a good time on a visit will hurt the parent; 
        • Asking the children about the ex-spouse's personal life;
        • Rescuing the children from the other parent when there is no danger. 


         • The child feels the need to protect a parent who is depressed, anxious, or needy. 

         • The child wants to avoid the anger or rejection of the alienating parent. 

         • The child has unresolved feelings about the rejected parent and the divorce 


        • Have trouble trusting others. 

        • Have low self-esteem. 

        • Have difficulty sustaining intimate relationships. 

        • Experience shame for hurting the rejected parent. 

        • Suffer from depression. 

        • Engage in substance abuse to relieve the pain of parental alienation. 

        • Are more likely to experience divorce.

        • Are more likely to have difficulty with authority and the law. 

        • Experience the loss of their own children through parental alienation 


How to identify Alienation 

Combating Alienation

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  •  Anger is a common reaction of many children to the process of alienation. The anger however will be expressed towards the target parent as one sides with one of the parents in the relationship against the other. The fact the children are forced into this kind of situation causes considerable distress and frustration and the response often is to show aggressive behavior towards the targeted parent in order to accommodate the programmer.
  • Loss or a lack of impulse control in conduct. Children who suffer from PAS are not merely suffering from aggression but also often turn to delinquent behavior. There is considerable evidence that fathers and their presence and influence can do much to prevent and alleviate the possibility of delinquency most especially in boys.
  • Loss of self confidence and self esteem. Losing one of the parents through the programming procedure can produce a lack of self confidence and self esteem. In the case of boys identification with a male figure has been curtailed, especially if the alienated parent is the father.
  • Clinging and separation anxiety. Children especially very young children who have been programmed to hate or disdain one of the parents will tend to cling to that parent who has carried out the programming. There is considerable anxiety induced by the programming parent against the target parent including threats that such a parent would carry out a great number of different negative actions against the child as well as the programming parent.
  • Developing fears and phobias. Many children fear being abandoned or rejected now that they have been induced to feel that one of the partners in a relationship usually the father is less than desirable. Sometimes this results in school phobia that is fear of attending school mainly due to fear of leaving the parent who claims to be the sole beneficial partner in the formal relationship. Some children suffer from hyperchondriacal disorders and tend to develop psychological symptoms and physical illnesses. Such children also fear what will happen in the future and most especially there is a fear that the programming parent or only parent who is allegedly the “good parent” may die and leave the child bereft of any support.
  • Depression and suicidal ideation. Some children who are so unhappy at the tragic break up of the relationship are further faced with animosity between the programming parent and the targeted parent. This leads to ambivalence and uncertainty and sometimes suicidal attempts occur due to the unhappiness which the child feels brought about by the two main adults in his or her life.
  • Sleep disorders is another symptom which follows the parental alienation situation. Children frequently dream and often find it difficult to sleep due to their worries about the danger of the alienated parent and the guilt they may feel as a result of participating in the process of alienation.
  • Eating disorders. A variety of eating disorders have been noted in children who are surrounded by parental alienation. This includes anorexia nervosa, obesity and bulimia. 
  • Educational problems. Children who are surrounded by the pressure of having to reject one parent having been less brain washed frequently suffer from school dysfunctions. They may become disruptive as well as aggressive within that system.
  • Enuresis and Encopresis. A number of very young children due to the pressure and frustrations around them suffer from bed wetting and soiling. This is a response to the psychological disturbance of losing one parent and finding one parent inimical to the rejected parent.
  • Drug abuse and self destructive behavior frequently are present in children who have suffered from parental alienation. This tendency is due to a need to escape one’s feelings of the abuse they have suffered through the experience and the desire to escape from it. In the extreme such self destructive behavior can lead to suicidal tendencies.
  • Obsessive compulsive behavior. This psychological reaction is frequently present in PAS children. Such children will seek to find security in their environment by adopting a variety of obsessive compulsive behavior patterns.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks are also frequently present in children who have been involved in PAS processes. This may be reflected through psycho-somatic disorders such as nightmares.
  • Damaged sexual identity problems. As a result of the PAS syndrome children often develop identity problems especially as they may have failed to identify with one member of the originally secure relationship.
  • Poor peer relationships may follow the PAS situation due to the fact that such children often are either very withdrawn in their behavior or are aggressive.
  • Excessive feelings of guilt. This may be due to the knowledge deep down that the ostracized parent who has been vilified has done nothing wrong to deserve the kind of treatment received by the child or children. When this view occurs the child, especially when older, begins to suffer from feelings of guilt.

Now follows a series of symptoms found in children, when they are presented over a period of time, with brain washing or programming against another parent. The effects are both short and long term. It must be stated from the beginning that not all the symptoms about to be mentioned occur in all children who are involved in the parental alienation syndrome scenario. There will also be some difference between the very young child and the older child who have more experience of the PAS process. Not all the symptoms mentioned occur in all children. However some symptoms undoubtedly will occur and effect the child unless some form of treatment is carried out which eliminates the impact of the alienating process:


Children displaying these tendencies may well be the subjects of parental alienation by one parent. If this is the case, attorneys and judges need to know how to help stop it, as well as deter and prevent further alienation.

A relentless hatred for the targeted parent;
• Mimic the alienating parent;
• Refusing to visit or spend any time with the targeted parent;
• Having many beliefs enmeshed with those of the alienating parent;
• Holding delusional or irrational beliefs;
• Not being intimidated by the court's authority;
• Reasons for not wanting to have a relationship with the targeted parent based only on what the alienating parent tells the child;
• Difficulty distinguishing between personal memories and what he or she is told;
• No ambivalence in a child's feelings; feeling only hatred without the ability to see any good in the targeted parent;
• No capacity to feel guilty about behavior towards the targeted parent or to forgive any past indiscretions;
• Sharing the alienating parent's cause to destroy the relationship;
• Hatred extending to the targeted parent's extended family without any guilt or remorse.

The symptoms of parental alienation describe a parent's behavior towards the child. It says nothing about how the parent's behavior impacts the child's behavior or attitudes towards the targeted parent. If parental alienation is successful and influences the child against the targeted parent, then the observer will see symptoms of parental alienation syndrome For example, if a child doesn't appear to have a problem with visits, one can safely conclude that parental alienation syndrome is not severe or present. That is not to say that parental alienation is not occurring, and in time the child may display severe symptoms of parental alienation syndrome. Often, children appear healthy until asked about the targeted parent. Some of the behaviors an observer can expect to see in the parental alienation syndrome child include:


If your ex is actively or passively alienating your child(ren)’s normal affection toward you, he or she was probably emotionally abusive while you were together. Parental alienation is her or his way of continuing to abuse and hurt you via remote access. Generally, most bullies don’t see themselves as such. If you confront your ex about this behavior, they’ll deny it and blame you for your deteriorating relationship with your child(ren), even as you make every effort to be a present and involved parent.

Parental Alienation is damaging to children, whether or not they reject a parent. It's important to recognize and stop the harmful behaviors of the adults before any 'symptoms' develop in the child, and before the behavior escalates to Parental Abduction or Parental Homicide

Parental Alienation Syndrome was defined by Richard Gardner as ‘a disturbance in which children are preoccupied with deprecation and criticism of a parent-denigration that is unjustified and/or exaggerated.'

Parental Alienation focuses on the parents’ behavior as opposed to the alienated children's conditions, which is termed Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Parental Alienation vs. Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental alienation, or Hostile Aggressive Parenting, can be mild and temporary or extreme and ongoing. Most researchers believe that any alienation of a child against a parent is harmful to the child's emotional and mental health. Extreme, obsessive, and ongoing Parental Alienation can cause terrible psychological damage to children extending well into adulthood.

Parental alienation, sometimes called Hostile Aggressive Parenting, is a behavior by a parent, or an adult a child trusts, such as a grandmother/father, aunt, uncle, etc., whether conscious or unconscious, that could create alienation in the relationship between a child and a parent.

Parental alienation can be considered a form of emotional abuse for at least two reasons. First, the strategies that the alienating parents used to effectuate the alienation are emotionally abusive in and of themselves. That is, the alienating parents verbally assaulted, isolated, corrupted, rejected, terrorized, ignored, and over-pressured the children in order to alienate them from the targeted parent. These behaviors are part and parcel of what constitutes emotional abuse of children. In addition, it is proposed that separation of a child from a parent also constitutes emotional abuse.

No child should be called a traitor simply for loving the “other” parent