Living in the province of Ontario, I am fortunate to have the day off tomorrow because of the new statutory holiday “Family Day”. This holiday was created because the provincial government feels that “there is nothing more valuable to families than time together. And yet it seems tougher than ever to find, with so many of us living such busy lives.”
Families. Single parent households, blended families, same-sex families, cohabitating families…….there are, I know, many other reconfigurations that I haven’t even mentioned. When you’re divorced and single suddenly the words family day take on new meaning.
What if you’re divorced with no children, and perhaps no extended family in your life to share the day – does that mean you can’t celebrate? I suggest, reach out to your friends who have become your extended family. Let them know how special they are to you. Think about what family means to you and start building important bonds and relationships that you hope can be long lasting.
If you have become estranged or alienated from your family and children use this time to reflect and try to understand what went wrong. Perhaps this can be the day when you start mending those broken relationships. The ending of a relationship between a parent and a child is probably one of the most painful experiences to ever happen.
To be estranged is a breakdown of the bond between a parent and the child and a distance between the two occurs. For what ever reason, there was something that caused the loving relationship to turn into one of apathy or hostility. Even worse, is parent alienation, which is a form of mental abuse.
“The most heinous situation in child custody disputes is called pathological alienation or parent alienation syndrome (PAS). In this scenario, one parent becomes obsessed with destroying a child’s relationship with the other parent when there is no good reason to do so. Alienation can be mild, moderate, or severe….. The children’s will and choice are removed from them through a form of brainwashing. This is a serious form of child abuse, because if it isn’t stopped, the children are headed for psychiatric disturbances, failed relationships, and dysfunctional lives in which they will pass this behavior on to their own children.”
The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice from 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors and Other Experts (Chicago Review Press, July, 2007)
What do you do to overcome these devastating scenarios? Dr. Robert A. Simon, a clinical and forensic psychologist in California suggests:
“Parental Alienation Syndrome, though a very real phenomenon, is something that I believe has become rather “trendy” these days. One of the things I’ve come to understand about PAS is that even when a parent deliberately sets out to alienate the children from the other parent that the other parent often behaves in ways so as to “confirm” the alienation. In terms of re-establishing a relationship with your children, it is vital that you look carefully at yourself and at what you are doing or have done that may play into the hands of the children’s other parent.. Otherwise, no matter what the courts do, the children will still struggle in their relationship with you”.
“My suggestion is that you consult with a qualified, experienced family law specialist who has worked with issues of alienation before and that you also hire a family law forensic psychologist to consult with you and the family lawyer on the matter. “
I also suggest that you work with a parenting expert, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker to help understand the dynamics and guide you to put the relationship right. If you are dealing with a painful experience and having a difficult time rebuilding the relationship, you should still try to work with one of these professionals because you are most likely dealing with your own emotional turmoil that needs healing.
For a gut wrenching story on the disastrous effects of PAS I urge you to read A Kidnapped Mind: A Mother’s Heartbreaking Story of Parental Alienation, by Pamela Richardson. A Kidnapped Mind is a heartrending and mesmerizing story of a Canadian mother’s exile from and reunion with her child, through grief and beyond, to peace.
I would also like to refer you to the links at the side of this blog, there are some helpful sites to research these topics as well.
What I hope that you will take away from reading this post is how important it is for children to have a healthy relationship with both parents. Of course, if one parent is abusive either physically or emotionally, that is not what I am referring to. I am talking about a loving, healthy relationship where children are not used as pawns and both parents take their responsibilities seriously meaning emotional, financial and ensure their basic needs met.
If you are contributing to the breakdown of the relationship or your child’s other parent is, please reflect and consider the long term effects on your child and help to start rebuilding those relationships today.
If you are as fortunate as I am to have a healthy relationship with your children, then give them an extra hug today and tell them how much you love them.
Family day, parent child relationships and the meaning of family I’m sure for many is a hot topic. I urge you to share your thoughts. What are you doing to encourage a good relationship, overcome a painful relationship, or living with a strained relationship…….I would love to hear from you, please share your thoughts.
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