How Can I Reconnect with My Children after Parental Alienation

The ten billion dollar question is "how can I reconnect with my alienated child?"

None of this is intended to be medical or legal advice.  The site authors hold no (zero) credentials and may have no experience with the methods listed below as a general courtesy.

If you are lucky, one of these  effective treatment methods  is available to you, because mental health and the courts spoke with a unified, informed voice.

Otherwise, rest assured, you are in a tough spot and there are no easy answers. In fact, quite likely, no answers at all.  But there may be some approaches that might possibly be better than most (but none very good):

  1. According to Amy Baker, ultimately the alienated child has to come to the point where they themselves say roughly "I was tricked, I was duped, this was all wrong".  I believe this is in her Co-Parenting Book.
  2. Ginger Gentile speaks on the importance of self care, saying that as the result of all the interviews she has done, there is a common thread of successful reunification. It is important to be able to offer love and compassion to the children, not a permanently broken life. This thread runs through many of the items beow.
  3. It is important to realize that your children are acting as they do because they have been subject to child psychological abuse. As hard as this is on you, it is much harder on your children. React to them with empathy and love. The alienator wants you to get into a big fight with your children, because that only further harms your relationship. Don't take that bait.
  4. Amy Baker has a new program for reconnecting with children it is entitled Restoring Family Connections.  Here is how she discusses it in her blog.
  5. For children who are now adults, buy Amy Baker's book "Surviving Parental Alienation" and turn to the back, where a suggestion is provided.
  6. For minor children, buy Amy Baker's book "Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex". This explains the problem from the perspective of your child.
  7. Also, consider Dr Richard Warshak's "Family Bridges" program at his web site.
  8. Surrounding oneself with people who show respect to you (e.g. treat you like you are a normal person) - the child might see this as an indication that you are not all bad.
  9. Somehow live a life that eventually counters whatever your child incorrectly believes about you ("be the opposite"). The hardest part is knowing what the child incorrectly believes about you, especially if you have no contact. Amy Baker's books talk about this, in depth.
  10. Amy Baker's book "Adult Children of Parental Alienation" has a chapter that lists ways that some children re-connected with their alienated parent (catalysts).
  11. Teach children critical thinking and how easily we can be influenced by other people without even knowing they are influenced.
  12. Pictures and home movies: Create screen savers / presentations of your good relationship before the alienation happened
  13. Fantasy pipe dream: Possibly educate all the bystanders and counselors and authority figures that don't understand what is going on and that assume you are a horrible person and pass that onto the child, either subtlety or overtly.
  14. Possibly have the child view Dr Childress Speaks to the Child , which is an 8 part series of 10 minute youtube videos.
  15. Possibly show the child Dr Warshak's Welcome Back Pluto DVD, available on Dr Warshak's web site
  16. Take care of yourself: Stay Happy Healthy, Successful and Spiritually Positive (Joan Kloth-Zanard). Craig Childress also has suggestions on how to deal with the complex trauma. One expert has said that, in a way, children must be enticed/seduced to return to the alienated parent and that requires them to have some measure of joy and happiness. Learn how US Navy Seals stay mentally tough and how important that is.  Understand how D. A. R. V. O may have been used against you when you confronted the offender. Consider adopting a non-blaming point of view, which will at least help you be seen in a better light. Read some information at the ambiguous loss web site.
  17. Gain deeper insight into what happened and what is happening by reading Foundations
  18. Read Dr. Kruk's outstanding and brilliant article on the experience of the erased parent, which may validate your experience and help you move into a better spot.
  19. Your success in reconnecting with your children probably depends on your ability to recover from all the stress, pain, trauma, and crazymaking that you have experienced. If you are angry, that is going to hurt you big time and will kill you in court. Read and understand the perspective of the erased parents and how to recover. Join a support group by consulting the master list of support groups.  Every time you tell you story or hear someone tell theirs, you will become stronger. In the ultimate of ironies, your child may look at your unhappiness and say that is the reason they have rejected you.
  20. Amy Baker's "Beyond the High Road" ebooklet, available on her website or at here
  21. Never give up.   Otherwise, the alienating parent will say "the targeted parent does not love you".   Giving up feels worse to the child than their pain of constantly rejecting you.
  22. Send Care packages to children you do not see, about every 2 weeks.
  23. Go to Ryan Thomas Speaks where he offers about 15 hours of video replete with comprehensive suggestions.  I am not sure if access to all the videos is still available. As a sample, here are several f free videos from Ryan Thomas .
  24. Amy Baker says that she does not advise people to "give a book on alienation to a child" and instead recommends empathy. Do Not Give Kids Alienation Books but understand it from their point of you (empathy).  She expands on this on her web site.
  25. Dr. Craig Childress answers the question "is it ever appropriate to tell your child about parental alienation"?  He says no, but the full answer is complex. His answer is on comment #4 on the post  you can see from the link.
  26. Sign up for a parent coaching session from Amy Baker (not free)
  27. Sign up for a session from Dr Warshak (not free)
  28. Click here are some thoughts from Dr Warshak
  29. Sign up for a session from Dorcy Pruter (not free)
  30. Sign up for coaching with Michael Allen (currently free). Here are 30 questions he recommends to get conversations started with kids.
  31. Consider these suggestions from Doug Darnell
  32. Consider trying to strike an emotional cord in your child by referencing an old picture (or pictures), a favorite flavor, or a shared experience.
  33. Keep any interactions that may exist guilt free and stress free (because from the child's perspective, you are associated with stress because of all the pressure from the other parent, and even presumed to be the cause of the stress.  The easiest way for the child to get rid of the stress is to get rid of you.)
  34. Elbow your way into your child's life, say possibly for example, volunteering at their school.
  35. Realize that PA is all about a power and control imbalance, and although it may not be possible to change that, but to the extent you can rebalance it slightly without any downsides, doing so can be helpful.
  36. If possible, get your kids involved in outside activities, as many as possible.  This is critical. And get them off to college far away, to wet their appetite for freedom and independence. If children remain in the orbit of their alienator after high school, it is less likely that they will eventually see the light. The more they can experience the world from a different perspective than the alienator, the much better off they will be.
  37. Click here for info on How to React in the initial early stages
  38. See if the Conscious Co-Parenting Institute Can Help.
  39. Amy Baker Article on What An Alienated Parent Should Do
  40. Obtain the perspective of other formerly alienated children and formerly alienated adults so you can understand the perspective of your child better.
  41. Join Ryan Thomas' biweekly calls for $20/month where he will answer all your questions. And learn from his answers to other people's questions.
  42. Others who offer counseling that comes recommended by some people Kathleen Reay, Linda Gottlieb, and Rebecca Bailey. Kathleen has a peer reviewed published paper  link to her program
  43. Here are  three success stories about children who have reconnected, as the result of mental health and courts taking a Childress style no-nonsense approach
  44. Get your child into structured therapy as described by Brian Ludmer.  Family bridges is one of these places.
  45. If you have a severe case of parental alienation with these 3 symptoms, the therapist "should" mark it a child psychological abuse V995.51, according to Dr Childress . This the opens up many relevant treatment options (see structured therapy above). Their published success rates can be extremely high.
  46. Here is some advice from Dr. Warshak  "I think your letter writers have both made the same, most common mistake that parents do in this situation: they’re hoping that time will heal the wound. They think that taking the high road means to say nothing about what they see going on, and when they see the child succumbing to one side of the story, they leave the child in that situation. Missing My Child quoted Ma Ingalls, “Least said, soonest mended,” but Ma Ingalls’ daughter Laura says, “Still best to be honest and truthful.” That’s the problem here — if children hear only one side of the story, then they’re left to cope on their own with the incomplete information that’s resulting in the destruction of such an important relationship. So rather than take a passive approach to try to maintain some harmony, I think it’s important that parents in this situation step up and find some way to communicate to their children, “I simply cannot accept being marginalized.” I suggest a more active approach in which you’re careful not to put down the other parent, but to find a way to communicate, “Look, there’s another side of the story.” You don’t have to tell your side of the story, but you do need to introduce the idea that there is another side to the story, and if you had all the facts, you would think differently."   And on a different question: "In the case of the Broken Dad, his emails aren’t being answered and his number is blocked from communication. So one approach would be to try to use an intermediary — perhaps someone in the family who recognizes the terrible price that this girl is paying for her parents’ divorce and will intervene to help the child realize that she doesn’t have to take sides in this, and that it’d be better for her not to. Otherwise, the father may need to use opportunities where his daughter does need something from him — a permission slip signed, auto insurance paid, etc. — where he can say, “It’s my responsibility as a father to make sure you have what you need, so we need to meet.” She may come to the meeting with a chip on her shoulder, but it’s a beginning."
  47. Send one of Dr. Childress' "letters to children". There are ones to Mary, Jason, Jessica, and John, to cover all the permutations of mother/father and son/daughter.
  48. Read Dr. Warshak's Poison Control Center, which includes a moratorium on discussing the past.  Also, there is a Family Bridges workshop for adult kids. Here is another reference and explanation for a moratorium on discussing the past.  Dr. Joshua Coleman puts it this way ". That said, you should do whatever you can to let them know that you're fine, you're happy, you're not damaged, you're not holding a grudge, you're not going to punish them. This goes again to the idea of reducing their feelings of guilt, worry, or responsibility as a way to pave the path toward greater openness going forward." Dr. Childress puts it this way "the child's self-awareness around these issues becomes capped by grief and guilt. This can sometimes prevent the child from developing insight into the surrounding issues. The child misinterprets the pain of grief associated with the targeted parent as somehow representing something "bad" that the targeted parent did or does that causes the child's pain - and then there's an unconscious guilt that motivates the child to avoid opening the issue - just move on. One of the things I've heard Dorcy recommend for the reunification phase is for the targeted parent to make it easy for the child. No need to dredge up past issues, no need to activate any guilt or grief. Solution focused. No worries. Where do we go from here."
  49. Read Dr. Warshak's essay.  Here is one excerpt "The difficult emotional task for rejected parents is to find ways to live a meaningful life without the children, while knowing that, as long as the children are alive, there is always a possibility of reconciliation. Even the most stubborn child, convinced that she wants no relationship with a parent, can change. New relationships, new insights into an alienating parent’s character and behavior, crises, unexpected challenges, becoming a parent herself—all can stir an estranged child into wanting to reconnect with a parent who has been vilified. It is important not to make the hope of reconciliation the centerpiece of one’s life, and not to allow the alienation to dominate one’s life. But this does not mean giving up every ounce of hope, a choice that most parents find unthinkable."
  50. Avoid Dr. Reay's list of the "the twelve most common mistakes alienated parents tend to make"  Here is a very short summary, but please read the longer list with full explanation
  51. Avoid saying Dr. Baker's list of 5 things to your child Dr. Baker's list of 5 things to your child
  52. Avoid the list of mistakes complied by Dr. Warshak, starting with "counter rejecting your child".
  53. Understand the game, so eloquently described here by Karen Woodall
  54. For some background and perspective, read Alienated Child Whispering by Karen Woodall
  55. You can pick up some good pointers on interacting with your children from this 2 hours interview with Dr. Childress and Dorcy Pruter.
  56. For awareness, this is how Amy Baker described the reconnection of the 40 adults she interviewed for her book, Breaking the Ties that bind, which she wrote her article in Social Work Today: "There appear to be many different pathways to the realization that one has been manipulated by a parent to unnecessarily reject the other parent. Eleven catalysts were described by the interview participants. This represents both good and bad news. The good news is that there are many different ways to evolve from alienation to realization. The bad news is that there is no silver bullet or magic wand to spark that process. For some participants, it was a matter of time and gaining life experience. For others, it was the alienating parent turning on them and, for others, it was becoming a parent and being the target of parental alienation from their own children. For most, the process was just that—a process. There were a few epiphanies, but most experienced something like a slow chipping away of a long-held belief system, a slow awakening to a different truth and a more authentic self. Most gained self-respect and a connection to reality and were grateful to know “the truth.” At the same time, they acknowledged that this truth was hard won and quite painful. Once they were aware of the parental alienation, they had to come to terms with some painful truths, including that the alienating parent did not have their best interest at heart, that as children they had probably behaved very badly toward someone who did not deserve such treatment, and that they missed out on a relationship that may have had real value and benefit to them."
  57. When asked if an erased parent could have an impact by changing their response, Dr. Childress responded, "The short answer is... yes. If the targeted parent changes his or her schemas for responding to the situation, then this can have a significant impact on the situation. Dorcy Pruter discusses this extensively. The mindset of the targeted parent - the authentic parent - can change the situation. Once we solve "parental alienation" (AB-PA) we will have the leisure to discuss these features more fully. What I want to avoid at this stage of the solution, though, is blaming the targeted parent - the authentic parent - for the pathology. It only takes one parent, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, to create this pathology. The targeted parent - the authentic parent - is not responsible for creating the pathology of AB-PA as evidenced in the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA (and the 12 Associated Clinical Signs). The targeted parent - the authentic parent - is NOT responsible for creating the pathology. The mindset - the schemas - of the authentic parent can significantly alter how the pathology manifests itself. When Dorcy talks about this issue, of the targeted parent's mindset, listen to her, her words will be full of valuable wisdom."
  58. It might be possible that with a deeper understanding of paranoia and persecutory delusions, it might be possible to relieve some of the stressors causing the decompensation into persecutory delusions. As noted by Dr. Childress, a divorce is not an ideal circumstance. Calling out their weaknesses is doomed. Saying "our children are doing really well" might help?  
  59. Here are a few classes that cost money on how to parent alienated child.
  60. Consider bringing playmates along to a visit, to help ensure the child has a good time.
  61. Study many or all of the books listed in Brian Ludmer's parenting library.
  62. Be aware of the harm to children when an erased parent criticizes the alienator on social media.
  63. This tip comes from Michael Allen, a Conscious Coparenting Institute coach: don't tell your children that you miss them, but rather, tell them that you love them.  Telling that you miss them can trigger their guilt, which is a major impediment to reuniting.
  64. Read Dr. Childress' essay on whether you should stay involved with an alienated child.  The answer is yes!!!!

Notes on Grief (text below is courtesy Dr Steinberg):

His the part that you work with in three separate ways. First, it is critical, regardless of the attitude and reception from the other parent, from the other parent's family and from your child that you stay in positive contact with them. Civility and cordiality in face-to-face contact is essential regardless of what is said in your presence or behind your back. In addition, sending your child cards, letters and little packages on unimportant days is appropriate. Also, communicating with your child by telephone, by e-mail and by facsimile can be effective. If you have completely lost contact with your child, then set your priority to find him/her and restore contact at least by distance. If this is impossible, then collect items and memorabilia in a special box or trunk reserved for your child and the possibility of future contact. 

Second, become active as a citizen for positive change, and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the system you blame for preventing you from having parenting opportunities with your child. This action may not change the disposition of your situation, but you may make the system a better place for other targeted parents and their children. 

Third, for your sake and for the sake of your relationship with your child, it is imperative that you forgive the other parent. Notice there was no mention of forgetting what has happened, or how you have been treated, but again, for restoring your emotional balance and your ability to cope with life challenges in healthy ways, you will need to forgive the alienator. For some, this is a spiritual journey, and for others the path is a secular one. What is important is that you go about this process in a unique way that you believe will work for you so the specter of losing your child is diminished, and your health and well being are in restoration.

Other worthwhile topics on this web site:
By Howie Dennison