What Can Yet be Done With Older Children Who Have Been Long Term Victims of Parental Alienation?

Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D

Southern England Psychological Services


Abstract & Summary

One of the most difficult tasks facing expert witnesses (psychologists/psychiatrists) is seeking to reverse parental alienation of long standing when the child has reached adolescence or become an adult. Despite the difficulty the author describes a strategy which is sometimes effective to make a victim aware of the constancy of the alienated parent.s love, and to provide a rational explanation, via a letter, for the now adult explaining the process of parental alienation.

What Can Yet be Done With Older Children Who Have Been Long Term Victims of Parental Alienation?


I begin with the two recent letters received which follow and show the concerns of two long term alienated parents who have not had contact with their older children (16+) for many years. The parents who were so alienated have in many cases been virtually obliterated in the minds of these now older children, adolescents and adults. The children’s names in these scenarios have been changed to avoid identification since they are based on real cases. We will consider first the causes and long term effects of the alienation of children followed by some possible strategies for dealing with the long term effects of parental alienation in the older child, adolescent, and even adult.

Causes and long term effects of alienation of children

The causes of long term alienation is most often the unceasing, implacable hostility of the custodial parent against the now long term alienated parent. It may be noted, in at least one of the letters, that the process of turning a child against a parent starts early and is ongoing and relentless. The innocent parent often is not permitted to have any contact with the child and the child eventually adopts the view of the alienator and rejects what is so often a good parent. The alienated parent is not allowed to play any part in bringing up the child and of guiding that child. Such animosity of the hostile parent.s action is eventually difficult to reverse. The child, and later adolescent, increasingly believes he/she has indeed only one good parent and the other is a bad parent. The latter is the vilified, rejected father/mother.

The alienated parent suffers tremendously from the unjust rejection he/she has to endure. Some parents such as those so unjustly treated eventually follow the advice of an expert psychologist understanding family problems and start another family. At the same time they should .keep the door open. for the child who has been alienated to make contact. This unfortunately seldom happens, especially with the passage of time. Judges frequently predict wrongly, that the child when an adult will ultimately make contact with the rejected parent of their own volition. Here unfortunately is where we have the situation where the absence does not make the heart grow fonder.  It is just the reverse: absence leads to the forgetting or total rejection of the absent parent. In the back of their minds, however, such children have a memory of eventually understanding how they have been unjustly and cruelly turned against the alienated parent. Sometimes this does not occur and they should be made aware of this by the psychologist seeking to remedy the situation.Frequently, I have told such parents that they should have counteracted such alienation earlier, and if necessary, to have sought a change of residence for such emotionally abused children. There response is a combination of regret, anger and a feeling of betrayal as well as helplessness now that they are seeking help so belatedly.

Attempting to deal with the long term effects of parental alienation in the older child, adolescent and adult

Needless to say counteracting the long term effects of parental alienation is fraught with great difficulties. All efforts made are virtually always ineffective because the effect of the alienation process has been .set in concrete. and hence is extremely difficult to reverse. In the older child.s mind, the now absent parent is virtually forgotten, or merely remembered as a .bad experience.. All good memories of that parent are either forgotten or changed into its opposite.

Fathers and mothers who are alienated eventually give up the struggle to make contact with the unresponsive, but still loved child. Telephone calls, letters, emails, and even presents given are not responded to. The child or adolescent does not even remember how the absent parent looks. Frequently the child.s name has been changed to that of the new partner, often without the permission of the denigrated, natural father. When the alienating father remarries, or has a new partner, that partner now becomes the mother figure while the natural mother, if referred to at all, is called by her first name. This is similar to the absent natural father whose paternity has been obliterated.Despite this pessimism and the unlikely favourable outcome, I still urge parents to try once again to seek contact by my dictating a letter on their behalf to their now older children or those who are now adults. In that letter I try to stress the sorrow of the alienated parent and how they as father or mother have never stopped loving their children and will continue to do so , even when there is no response from them.Such parents must however, realise to help to melt the heart and mind of an alienated adult is difficult to achieve. Despite this, a letter explaining in non critical ways, how the individual has been alienated and why this has taken place can do no harm. It can in time make the child and the now adult, consider their rejecting behaviour and eventually seek contact, even after many years of having rejected that parent.The now adult may, in time, reflect on what the letter contains and to seek some kind of relationship with the long term absent parent. This is more likely to happen when the individual has become an independent adult and is no longer residing with the alienator and hence no longer being alienated. It is important to make the more independent older child or adult, aware of the alienating scenario which has so turned him/her against the absent loving parent. In providing such information, it is vital not to attack or attribute the blame towards the alienator, even when it is deserved. Such an attack can be detrimental towards achieving one.s objective of finally having some contact and perhaps even a relationship, following a reunion with a still loved son/daughter despite the passage of time.