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Putting an End to PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome)

Putting an End to PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome)

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Although I am not a mental health professional, being the mother of a blended family has added up to a vast amount of experience and first hand accounts of the many challenges that face us. I also find that when my family undergoes one challenge or another, I tend to obsess a bit, and read everything I can get my hands on to find out if others have gone down the same road as us. I learn from the many professional accounts I uncover and from the networking that I do, so that my husband and I can come up with what we feel are the best solutions for our family.

Divorce often brings out the worst in two peopleOne such area that has affected our family is Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS. The basic explanation of the syndrome is the attempt by one parent (usually the primary care parent) to alienate the child/ren from the other parent. It is the systematic brainwashing of the child/ren over time, so that it seems as if the child is making their own decision to separate from the parent, rather than it being a biased decision based on cues they receive from their primary care parent.

Divorce often brings out the worst in two people that at one time may have felt deep feelings of love for one another. It's only human nature to want to find some outlet for those feelings of loss, disappointment, regret, or even failure that generally accompany divorce. When there are children involved and each parent feels a need to vie for the time, attention and love from their children, the situation gets even more complicated.

Within Torah law, there are many areas that render PAS unacceptable. We are taught that we may not speak ill about another; there is the commandment to respect one's parents, and to treat another how we ourselves would like to be treated. But unfortunately, even though these ideas are well known, they are often inadvertently not practiced.

There are several situations that I know of, that lead me to believe that much of the issue stems from people actually thinking they are doing a kindness, or "helping" out. In one case, a woman turned to her community in a time of crisis due to stress and uncertainty at the time of her separation, and ultimately her divorce, from the father of her two children. Her community responded and helped her by protecting that woman and her family from the "evil" ex-husband that she described.

Unfortunately, at times, that "help" is not all that helpful. In the above case, the father was "blacklisted" from his children's schools, not by the secular court system that viewed him as an equal partner in parenting his children, not by a decision of a bet din, a religious court system, but by the community in which the mother chose to live with her children after the divorce.

There are families that I know in which one parent has remarried and the children from the first marriage are told (by those individuals looking to manipulate the situation) that they have been replaced and are not "loved" as much as the new children. One teenage girl told me that when she expressed to her mother a desire to live with her father, her mother responded that should she make that choice, she would be treated like a "maid," as in the fairy tale "Cinderella," second rate to her father's other children.

I hear the longing in my husband's voice during each phone call with his childrenOne friend of mine actually thought his father was dead for close to thirty years based on information supplied to him by his mother. When he became an adult he decided to check things out for himself and found his father was alive and well, and that his father had never stopped searching for him. Not knowing where the mother had taken him after they divorced, the father resolved to wait it out, in hope that his son would find him someday.

Unfortunately, even Jewish observance can be used as a game in vying to win over children's love, affection and obedience. Differing family customs might be used as a way to set families apart, claiming that one household's way of observance is more acceptable or correct than the other. After years of these types of negative messages carefully implanted, the child is confused, unsure of who to believe, and as a means of day-to-day survival, often sides with their primary care parent, the one that keeps a roof over their head and puts food on the table, regardless of the reality that it is the monthly support check the parent is receiving that pays for those necessities.

As my stepchildren have grown and matured, they have begun to understand that there may be more than one truth, or understanding of the truth. The love that they feel from us is real and they know it. They recognize and respect that we are straightforward with them regarding our feelings and needs, and include them in the decision-making for our family. Nevertheless, I hear the longing in my husband's voice during each and every phone call with his children, and I see the sadness and pain in his eyes as our family deals with the reality of our personal separation from the children day after day. We have learned that the best approach for us has been to be consistent and open with our children.

We must give the benefit of the doubt when we hear "awful" stories about divorce situations. The true story is rarely as it appears and by allowing one parent to be shut out of the children's lives, the children are the ones that ultimately suffer. Studies show that children that enjoy the benefit of the involvement of both parents on a consistent basis in their lives, do far better than those who do not have that advantage.

They start to see their parents as real people with strengths and weaknessesThe fact is, when dealing with PAS, it usually does backfire on the adults who have tried, intentionally or unintentionally, to manipulate their children. As the children grow and mature and start to mold their own futures, they begin to discern truth from fantasy. They start to see their parents as real people with strengths and weaknesses, and they generally desire to have relationships with both parents, but will often feel resentment towards the parent that kept them apart from their other parent. Kids grow up so fast, and the sad fact for those involved with a PAS situation is that the missed opportunities cannot be recaptured for the absent parent and their children.

What we can do is keep the doors of communication open at all costs. And as hard as it might be, regardless of how we feel, we should show respect to our ex and remember that this person is a part of our child. A child should love both mother and father and be loved by both mother and father. When parents make their dislike for the other so abundantly clear, it is terribly unfair to the child who then feels forced to choose. We must always remember to put our children and their needs first. For loving our children is much more important that trying to hurt an ex-spouse.

Susie Benzaquen is a mom living a real life "Yours, Mine and Ours." Her writing focuses on the challenges and rewards her family has faced over the years in blending their family into one. Susie immigrated to Israel several years ago and along with her husband is raising all of their eight children there.
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Anonymous toronto September 21, 2015

This is a excellent article. I completley agree. I wish that my ec huband could read it. Thank you for writing it. Reading this helps me stay on the right path . And , reminds me that I am no"t crazy ," "stupid" , or worse. Reply

Anonymous toronto September 12, 2015

Thank You To Everyone I can not thank you enough for sharing. While I do not wish anyone any harm @ all , I am grateful to know I am not the only one dealing with this situation. It is amazing to see that such injustice has been allowed to happen to our children & ourselves. @ least we know we have been fair , loving , kind , & have only wanted the best for our children. I have had full custody of my child. I tried my best to maintain a decent relationship with my ex. And have my child have a good relationship with the ex . Unfortunatley the ex does not have the same intentions & my child & myself have had to suffer the consequences. And suffer we. have. I know my child was trying to do the right thing by being fair to my ex. And now my child will not feel guilty that he was unfair to my ex by requesting that I retain full custody It was the most difficult thing my child & I have ever gone through. And the most dangerous for both my child & I. Now, my child knows first hand what I am protecting him from . Reply

Anonymous Pacific Northwest July 22, 2015

I thought on my situation for awhile. I decided to try my best to amplify the positive. If I find my sons treating me or their girlfriends in a constructive manner, I won't embarrass them at the time, but I will compliment them shortly after the event. I will remain reticent and avoidant towards derogatory behavior; that is the only way I believe they can develop behaviors that are more conducive to a constructive relationship. I think they will just ignor me if I resort to criticism. Reply

Anonymous Northbrook July 21, 2015

Misinformation To Anonomous regarding misinformation

Call it what you like even if you disagree with the term PAS. The situation is real and it messes up kids. I lived through it. My son will have nothing to do with his mother given a choice, and because of it, and recently told me his issues with how he approaches relationships is because of his mothers and my marriage. A child is a result of both parents not just the womb provider. Anytime you degrade a parent, no matter who, you degrade the child. It appears there is some bias on your part here. Just because a mother carried a child does not give her automatic jurisdiction as the fitter parent; just because a father fertilized the egg does not give him jurisdiction as the fitter parent. Each situation has to be evaluated on its own. As an example, my son was recently upset his mother forgot the date of his bar mitzvah. Does it make me a fitter parent because I remembered? I told him I have a good memory for dates, while his mother has other areas that are stronger than mine. Each parent has their strengths and weaknesses. He is still affected by the divorce and PAS as an adult. In summary, alienation continues to affect kids and it is a real issue whether diagnosed or not. Reply

CJ Pacific North West July 19, 2015

Recently my youngest son responded to me in an aggressive put down manner similar to how my ex treated me. My heart just dropped. I don't want my sons to take this derogatory way of interacting with women into their personal relationships as I understand personally how unhealthy that can make the relationship. I struggle with setting healthy boundaries with my sons while trying to re- establish my relationship with them after PAS ( parental alienation syndrome).

Does anyone have some constructive action items that I can try in the spirit of averting unhealthy relationships between my sons and their future spouses, while still not denigrating their relationship with their father? Reply

Anonymous toronto July 17, 2015

Severe Parental Alienation Thank tou for writing about this all too real emotional abuse. Too often people refuse to believe this Syndrome is possible. People perfer to actually blame the innocent child( especially adult children. ) Rather than offer encouragemnt or positive solutions ; they wrongly judge blame & leave one feeling depressed & hopeless. Just knowing about this syndrome brings hope determination & the strenght needed to endure & overcome this most difficult & deibilitating situation. Do you have any ideas about helping the adult children, who are victims of this severe èmotional abuse ; reunite alive & well with their astrained parent ( who is also a victim of this syndrome ).? Reply

Anonymous March 8, 2015

Misinformation PAS is not officially recognized by the DSM because it has no scientific or diagnostic validity. Though there are many cases of emotional abuse of children by divorced parents, in many cases this fake "diagnosis" is also used to discredit children's very real misgivings in divorce court by claiming they were "brainwashed" by the other parent. If a child says they do not want to be put under the partial or full custody of a parent because that parent is emotionally/physically/sexually abusive etc., then they are diagnosed with "parental alienation syndrome" and their concerns are no longer taken seriously. Many tragic cases of abuse have been perpetuated because of this shoddy "diagnosis" - I have personally seen and heard of many children being ripped away from the fitter parent and placed with an unsuitable one because of this libel. Reply

Anonymous toronto January 6, 2015

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing about this Every family has challenges. And , this includes SPAS. I am very grateful , that as the parent who has been awarded full custody of my child, I never did this . And , we must never blame our children for any of this. It truly is not our children' fault.
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Anonymous September 12, 2014

When a person hates the parent of the person that much to the extent of Severe Parental Alienation then they do not truly love that person. Dr. Amy Baker says : the victim ( the child ) begins to have self hate because part of them ( their very own biological parent ) is hated by the Alienator. Especially when the targeted parent is the biological mother . The child actually comes from the biological mother ' womb - the child is actually living inside the mother' s body for 9 months . The child absorbes the hate towards the biological mother , as their own. This is not healthy for the child - and is a very unhealthy & unsafe environment for the child. Any hate is unhealthy & Severe Parental Alienation is based on hate. We have every right to remove our children from a unloving , unsafe , dangerous environments ( @ any age ). And we know how dangerous it is for our children to be forbidden from having a relationship with us. This occurs when people want to G- d forbid hurt them. Reply

Anonymous September 11, 2014

Reuniting Alienated Adult Children & Their Very own Biological Parent " The Best Way To Deal With Severe Parental Alienation : Never give up - no matter how awful the harrassement , bullying , degrigation , emotional abuse is ... never give up on your child . There is just reason to be worried about your very own biological child ( no matter what age ). Continue trying to get the Court , the Professionals to understand the seriousness of the situation . Persevere & prove that you have your very own biological child' s interest& safety @ heart. Understand the nature of the problem - that your child is being victimized . Be pro - active by seeking constructive action . Continue to love your children unconditionally" - Dr. Amy Baker " Adult Children of Parental Alienation. " G -d Bless you Dr. Baker Reply

Anonymous Northbrook September 11, 2014

Update from Northbrook Ohio, I got married again, and my new spouse and my daughter are like sisters. Ex spouse and I now have a civil relationship. Things certainly have changed in 15 years. Just think positively. Email your daughter. Just do what you can. Reply

Marcia September 10, 2014

Our children have the right to get the help they need to recover from the Severe Parental Alienation - as do we - loving kind caring non abusive parents who have been victimized by Severe Parental Alienation. We need & love our children & they need & love us. Even as adults- children need their parents. The reason for the Severe Parental Alienation is negative & can be extremely dangerous. We must get the help we need. And our children must be made aware of the reality of Severe Parental Alienation - it is their right . It is their right to have the love security & comfort of their biological parent that they have been denied.

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Anonymous September 10, 2014

The children (including adult children) that have been victimized by SPA need a lot of unconditional love from the targeted parent..It is the right of the child (adult children also) and the targeted parent to get the help they need to recover from the SPA. The child & parent (especially when the targeted parent is a biological parent & has always been a excellent caring loving parent) has every right to be safely reunited on Earth - alive & well. These children are being denied the love comfort & support of the targeted biological parent. These children are terrified to even call the targeted parent. SPA victims have low self esteem, have guilt, have post traumatic syndrome - and it is not even their fault. Our children truly need our unconditional love now more than ever. SPA is a form of psychological war fare - the alienator ( not always even the biological parent ) has many different motives. And love is not one of them. Reply

Anonymous September 10, 2014

How well said. What you have written is very true. Unfortunately, SPA can be extremeley emotionally abusive. And it may even happen to a adult child. The targeted parent is usually the one who is loving & not abusive. The alienator makes the child fearful of the targeted parent through fear manipulation bullying .... the child (even adult children) are forbidden from even talking about the targeted parent. These children stay away from their very own loving biological parent because they fear for the safety of the targeted parent - as well as their own. SPA is a systematic - calculated thought out form of emotional abuse. The children (even adult children ) that are subjected to SPA wrongly feel it is all their fault. They believe that all their negative thoughts & words are their own. They are not their own thoughts - they are thoughts & words that have been told to them by the alienator. None of this is the child 's fault @ all. SPA is that powerful - even for adult children Reply

Anonymous September 10, 2014

please help us Dear Ms. Baker - how do we arrange a meeting with the adult child & parent ? Sometimes many people are involved with the SPA and the child is feeling too unsafe to meet with the parent . Ms. Baker - do you have a email that I could please write to you ? It is a urgent matter . Thank you & G- d Bless you . My child & I need help desperately.
. Reply

Anonymous September 10, 2014

G - d Bless You All Most professionals are unaware of SPA and do not know how to identify & deal with SPA. Please tell us how to arrange a meeting with the adult child & the parent . Reply

Anonymous September 10, 2014

I am completely shocked & amazed .... I truly can not believe what I am seeing.... a discussion about the challenge my child & I are in. Not only that - but the author - who has given me such hope & knowledge is writing . Dear Amy - G- d bless you. My child & I are truly victims of SPA. It is not only young children who are victims of SPA - adult children are victim s as well. I am too overwhelmed with emotion to continue writing. G- d Bless all of you . I pray that I will be writing you
that the positive outcome I am praying for day & night will have happened - my child & I are safely reunited on Earth alive & well. Reply

Anonymous Ohio May 1, 2014

Thank you Northbrook. I pray you are right. It's been six years though. I've read Richard Warshak, he's a leader in the field, and the longer the duration, the worse it looks. But I really appreciate your good wishes and kind words. I only have an email address for her. Reply

Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D New Jersey May 1, 2014

I always glad to see the topic of PA being openly discussed because it is only in the light of day that people can learn from about this problem and benefit from the wisdom of others. I did want to add my two cents as a professional in the field, which is that while some kids figure it out on their own, not all do and therefore it behooves parents dealing with this to learn as much as possible and to be as strategic as possible. Sometimes people think the choices in these situations is to be passive or to retaliate and I don't believe that is true. There are strategy ways to respond that don't involve counter alienation but do increase the chance of protecting your relationship with your children. This is what I teach in my coaching and what I write about in my various books including the recently releases "co-parenting with a toxic ex: what to do when your ex tries to turn the kids against you" Reply

Anonymous Northbrook Il April 30, 2014

Ohio, I just wish you the best and pray that one day your daughter will see the light. Mine did. Just keep trying and never give up. Mail her cards if you have her address. Just do what you can. Reply

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