Tag: Parenting

Free Range parenting
Children Are Now Protected by ‘Reasonable Independence’ Laws in 3 States, Including Texas

Free Range Parenting…? In Texas?

little boy cowboy
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Parents need not fear investigation for letting kids engage in “normal behaviors”.

Original Source article by Katherine Martinko

Published June 9, 2021 09:34AM EDTFact checked by Haley Mast

The state of Texas just passed a law (HB 567) that protects a child’s right to “reasonable independence.” This means children will be allowed to engage in normal childhood activities, like walking to school, sitting unattended in a car for short periods of time, or staying home alone, without their parents being accused of neglect and possibly getting investigated by the authorities. 

Texas is the third state to pass such a law, after Utah and Oklahoma. Independent play advocates are thrilled because Texas has a population of 29.1 million people, which means when the populations of the other two states are considered, roughly one-tenth of Americans (34 million) are now protected by these laws. Hopefully, that’s a big enough chunk of the population to start changing the culture of helicopter-type parenting.

Lenore Skenazy, author of “Free Range Kids” and founder of the Let Grow non-profit, spoke to Treehugger about this monumental occasion. “Getting Texas is so fantastic,” she gushes over a Zoom call, pointing out to this Canadian writer that, combined with the other two states, 34 million people isn’t too far off Canada’s entire population of 38 million. 

She went on to explain that we are dealing with a flawed system in which bystanders report unattended children because they want to be helpful, but then give it to authorities who don’t have a way not to investigate. They must start an investigation because a complaint has been lodged. 

“We’d like that not to have to happen if the circumstances are simply that a kid was walking to school,” Skenazy explains. “What these laws do in terms of parenting is allow you to stop second-guessing yourself when you know what you have to do and what’s best for your kid. And sometimes what you have to do is not what you would love to do.”

Financial instability is a complicating factor in these investigations because often children are left alone out of necessity, not because a parent doesn’t know what they’re doing. To interpret certain things as neglect simply because of what it is on paper doesn’t take into account real life, and this law does.

Skenazy gives the example of a single mom running to catch a 7:15 a.m. bus to get to her job, but there’s only one per hour and the babysitter hasn’t shown up yet. The mom has to choose between losing her job or trusting her six-year-old to be alone for 20 minutes till the sitter arrives. Now, Texan parents in that situation no longer need to fear possible repercussions.

“The law recognizes that when you’re doing that, it’s not because you’re a neglectful parent, it’s because you don’t have the means to provide constant supervision, even when you want it.” And that, Skenazy explains, is because “people stretched thin don’t have the same resources that wealthier ones do to supervise their kids constantly.” 

This flawed system affects countless families in the United States. Roughly 37% of all American children will be contacted by Child Protective Services (CPS) at some point in their lives. If you’re a Black family, that number rises to 53%. So laws like this one “provide a little more equity,” to quote Nevada senator Dallas Harris, who’s been trying to pass a similar law in her own state.

kids running through a field
Getty Images/Flashpop

When asked what CPS thinks of the new law, Skenazy makes it clear that CPS does incredibly important work.

“We venerate CPS. The last thing we want is kids getting hurt. We don’t want to see any kid starved, beaten, or literally neglected,” Skenazy says. “So we feel that, by removing these excessive cases, CPS can do what we dearly want them to do, and what they do, which is to investigate serious cases of abuse and neglect.

“I hope that CPS does not think we are disparaging them. We are hoping to have a sea change in the culture whereby seeing a child unsupervised but fine doesn’t raise anyone’s hackles or open any kind of case,” she adds. “And I think that [CPS] would be glad because nobody wants to waste their time.”

Let Grow, the organization that Skenazy founded in response to the immense support she received after publishing “Free Range Kids,” is actively involved in passing these reasonable independence laws in several states. It pulls together stakeholder groups with representatives from CPS, parents, teachers, psychologists, district attorneys, public defenders, and lawmakers willing to sponsor a bill. 

Often the laws take several tries to pass. Texas failed its first attempt two years ago, and South Carolina’s effort didn’t pass in the House before COVID shut it down, so it will have to wait another two years.

Nevada’s law, which was co-sponsored by a gay Black Democratic mom of one and a straight White Republican grandma of 20, didn’t pass this year, but Skenazy says she’s hopeful it will next year. About the Nevada law, she tells Treehugger that the Democrat sponsor joked,

“If you see both of us sponsoring a law, it’s either a really bad idea or a really good one! We think it’s a really good idea.”

Skenazy goes on to say that, in light of the Texas victory, she’s excited for kids, for parents, and for moms especially. “Sometimes I think of free range kids as being about trusting people, of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt,” instead of assuming everyone’s out to cause harm.

 “Treating everyone as suspicious and possibly terrible is not only a depressing way to live, but it’s also statistically incorrect and it’s not rational to think the worst of everyone. You can have a much better life if you think better of people.”

Not to mention an easier life as a parent, if you don’t feel you have to monitor your child every minute of the day or fear being punished for allowing your child that freedom. We’d all be better off with these reasonable independence laws governing our states (and provinces). 

And we’ll probably be hearing more about them. As Skenazy says, “When you think about, one-tenth of America… That can’t be a crazy idea because it’s sort of mainstream.” 

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cps
Child Development and The Effects of Trauma

Brain research indicates that birth to age three are the most important years in a child’s development. Children learn in many different ways.Each child has his own way of learning—some learn visually, others through touch, taste, and sound.Watch a group of children and you’ll understand at once what this means. One child will sit and listen patiently, another cannot wait to move and count beads. Another wants you to show her the answer over and over.Children also learn in different ways depending on their developmental stage. One thing we know is all children love to learn new things by exploring and discovering. Children love to solve problems during play and in daily activities.

In the first eighteen months after birth, an infant makes miraculous progress. In this relatively short time span, an infant sees her world through her senses. Babies gather information through touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound.To help infants mature and learn, the caregiver should stimulate but not overwhelm them. The overall goal is not to “teach” your baby but to interact and explore her world with her.Older infants are on the move. They take great pleasure in discovering what they can do with their voice, hands, feet, and toes. Soon they practice rolling skills, crawling, walking, and other great physical adventures.Here is what you might expect during the first eighteen months and beyond.

One Month

At one month of age the child can’t support its own head and is awake about one hour in every ten. The child is wholly dependent on its caregiver.

Three Months

By three months of age the child’s hands and feet are fascinating. The child will laugh and coo at them. The child will remain alert for 15 minutes, maybe longer, at a time.

Five Months

At five months the child may be able to roll over and sit with support. He or she can hold toys. At this age the child will babble and is alert for two hours at a time. By this time, the child will eat most baby food. If toys are just out of reach the child will try to reach them.

9 months

The child at nine months will become very busy! He or she will explore everything! By this time, the child should be able to crawl, sit, pull on furniture, grasp objects, and understand simple commands.They begin to be able to enjoy time with other babies and react to their happiness and sadness.

One year old

At the end of their first year, the child may be able to pull myself up and sidestep around furniture. They may begin walking. They make lots of sounds and say “Mama” and “Dada.”

At one year of age they are curious about flowers, ants, grass, stones, bugs, and dirt. They like to get messy, ’cause that’s how they learn. They have fingers want to touch everything. They like to play near others close to my age but not always with them. If walking, please walk at their pace.

12-18 Months

Between the age of twelve to eighteen months, the child will like to eat with a spoon, even if it spills. He or she will explore everything high and low. The child may have temper tantrums because they will have no other way of expressing my feelings or frustrations.They may be fearful and clingy. It is during this time that evening routines become important: music, story, and bath time.The child will like balls, blocks, pull toys, push toys, take apart toys, put together toys, and cuddles. They will say “No” and mean it.

18 months

By eighteen months a child can walk well but still falls allot. They may jump. They say a lot of words, especially the word “mine”—because everything is “mine” to the child.

During the next stage of life, your child is beginning to define himself. The child needs activities that spur his imagination and vocabulary. During the toddler years, children get into everything.

The terrible terrific two’s

At age 2 the child is loving, and quite affectionate, and responsive to others. They will feel sorry or sad when others my age are upset. They may try hard to please you. They don’t need you so close for protection, but please don’t go too far away. The 2 year old may do the exact opposite of what you want and may be rigid, not willing to wait or give in.A 2 year old may even be bossy. “Me” is one of my favorite words. There are fears a two year old has, especially of sounds, separation, moving household objects, or that big dog.

3-5 Years

Three through five years are the preschool years, when the child will be incredibly busy. Cutting, pasting, painting, and singing are all daily activities.The child starts kindergarten around age five, and will begin learning numbers, letters, and simple directions.

A three year old is charged with physical energy. The three year old child will do things on my own terms. With a mind like a sponge, reading and socializing are essential and gets them ready for school.The three year old likes to play pretend a lot and enjoys scribbling on everything. I am full of questions, many of which are “Why?”The child has become fairly reliable about using the potty by this age. Playing and trying new things out are how children of this age learn . He or she will begin to listen more and begins to understand how to solve problems.

4 years old

Four years old is an active stage, running, hopping, jumping, and climbing. The four year old loves to question everything “Why?” and “How?” . He or she is interested in numbers and the world in general.They enjoy playing with my friends and like to be creative with drawings, and recognizes their own pictures to be different from everyone else’s. The four year old is proud that he or she is so BIG now!

Age 5

That brings us to age 5. Finally the child seems to be slowing a little in growth. With good motor control, but still small muscles aren’t as developed a the larger muscles are for activities such as jumping. This age comes with activity levels which are very high and play time has direction. The child will like writing his or her name, drawing pictures, making projects, and going to the library. Much more interested now in doing group activities, and sharing things and expressing feelings.They may prefer quiet time away from the other kids from time to time and be anxious to begin kindergarten.

6 to 8

Six through eight years of age have busy days filled with recess, homework, and tear-jerking fights with their friends. They begin to think and plan ahead. They have a thousand questions. This age group has good and bad days just like adults. Get ready, because it’s only the beginning!A six year old is affectionate and excited over school, willing to go eagerly most of the time. The 6 year old is self-centered and can be quite demanding. He or she thinks he is a big kid now and can be impatient, wanting demands to be met NOW. At this age the child begins to want to be around older children more than with younger ones. They will often have one close friend, and sometimes will exclude a third child.

7 Years Old

When the child reaches age 7, he is more quiet and sensitive to others than at six. Sometimes at this age, he or she tends to be mean to others of the same age and younger. which might include acting out to hurt their feelings to a 7 year old tends to be more polite and agreeable to adult suggestions and I conscious of his or her schoolwork and is beginning to compare his work with others wanting his schoolwork to look “right.”

When he or she makes mistakes, the 7 year old can easily become frustrated.

8 Years

An 8 year olds curiosity and eagerness to explore new things continues to grow. Friends are more important and at this age, the child enjoys playing and being with peers. Recess may be a favorite “subject” in school. The 8 year old may follow you around the house just to find out how you feel and think, especially about him.

The 8 year old child is developing an awareness of adults as individuals and am curious about what they do at work. Around the house or at child care, 8 year olds can be quite helpful.

9 to 11

Children from nine to eleven are like the socks they buy, with a great range of stretch. Some are still “little kids” and others are quite mature. Some are already entering puberty, with body, emotions, and attitude changes during this stage.

Parents need to take these changes into account when they are choosing child care for this age group. These children begin to think logically and like to work on real tasks, such as mowing lawns or baking. They have a lot of natural curiosity about living things and enjoy having pets.

They have lots of energy, and physical activities are important such as sports and group activities. The child will begin to find his taste in clothes, music, and friends. He will want individuality if his choosing, or, a hair cut a certain way. Priorities like school are not as important now as a social life

At this age, girls are often taller and heavier than the boys. Some girls may be beginning to show signs of puberty, and we may be self-conscious about that. They can feel powerful and independent, as they know what to do and how to do it. They want to think independently and want to be independent and will be eager to become an adult.

The pre-teen adolescent years

As children enter adolescence, they to want their independence. Yet they still want to be children and need your guidance.

As your child grows, it’s easier to leave him at home for longer periods of time and also ask him to care for younger children. Trust your instincts and watch your child to make sure you are not placing too much responsibility on him at one time. Talk to him. Keep the door open.

Eleven – Fourteen

Your child is changing so fast—in body, mind, and emotions—that you hardly know him or her anymore. One day they are as responsible and cooperative as an adult; the next day they act more like a six-year-old.

Planning beyond today’s baseball game or slumber party is hard. One minute it’s sunny and the child is enthusiastic. The next minute it’s gloomy and your child is silent. Keep cool. These children are in the midst of a delicate process; they are becoming more self-sufficient.It’s Independence Day for them, as they are more independent than they used to be, but still quite self-conscious. They may think more like an adult, but there’s no simple answer to any thing.

They like to talk about issues in the adult world and think for themselves, and though they may often feel confused, their opinions are very important to them, and they want others to respect them. They seem to be moving away from my family as friends are more important than ever. To make sure they got on and are liked by their friends, so they sometimes act in ways that adults disapprove of.

They still need reasonable rules set by adults. However, they need the adults to be more understanding and cooperative. They want nothing to do with babysitters—in fact, they believe they are mature enough and can often be left alone or even to watch others.

Trauma and the Brain

“The human brain is designed to sense, process, store, perceive, and act on information from the external and the internal environment. All of these complex systems and activities work together for one overarching purpose—survival” (Goldstein, 1995 cited in Perry, et al., 1995).

Neurons are the building blocks of the brain. During development, neurons create networks that link to create systems. These systems are how the brain regulates all functions. Brain functions are organized from the most simple to the most complex. The development of these functions is sequential, meaning prior events impact future development.

A key fact that child welfare professionals, judges, and others who work with child welfare-involved families should know is that there are critical developmental times when neural pathways are being formed that can be significantly altered by traumatic events (Perry, 1995, 2009).

Exposure to chronic, prolonged traumatic experiences has the potential to alter children’s brains, which may cause longer-term effects in areas such as:

  • Attachment: Trouble with relationships, boundaries, empathy, and social isolation
  • Physical Health: Impaired sensorimotor development, coordination problems, increased medical problems, and somatic symptoms
  • Emotional Regulation: Difficulty identifying or labeling feelings and communicating needs
  • Dissociation: Altered states of consciousness, amnesia, impaired memory
  • Cognitive Ability: Problems with focus, learning, processing new information, language development, planning and orientation to time and space
  • Self-Concept: Lack of consistent sense of self, body image issues, low self-esteem,shame and guilt
  • Behavioral Control: Difficulty controlling impulses, oppositional behavior, aggression, disrupted sleep and eating patterns, trauma re-enactment

Source: Cook, et al, 2005

The Brain Development in Infancy

Brain development in infancy and early childhood lays the foundation for all future development. Neural pathways form at great speed and depend on the repetition of experiences.

Experiences teach the brain what to expect and how to respond.

When experiences are traumatic, the pathways getting the most use are those in response to the trauma; this reduces the formation of other pathways needed for adaptive behavior.

Trauma in early childhood can result in disrupted attachment, cognitive delays, and impaired emotional regulation.Also, the overdevelopment of certain pathways and the underdevelopment of others can lead to impairment later in life (Perry, 1995).

By age three, the brain is almost 80% of its adult size;

By age five it is 90%.Although this creates a sense of urgency regarding intervention, it is also important to know that the brain has the most plasticity in infancy and early childhood, meaning there is the most opportunity for change.This is both the reason that prolonged trauma in early childhood can be so devastating, but also a window of opportunity for interventions that can alter the brain in positive ways (CWIG, 2011).

Children and Teens

Brain development continues in the school-age years, but more slowly.During this stage neural pathways are pruned or eliminated to increase efficiency. In addition, the brain coats neural pathways to protect and strengthen them (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).This process allows the school-age child to master more complex skills, including impulse control, managing emotions, and sustaining attention.

Trauma during this (school age to adolescence) stage of development can have significant impact on learning, social relationships, and school success (NCTSN, 2008).

The impact of trauma at this age also depends on the onset. If trauma continues into the school-age years from early childhood, the impact is greater on overall functioning.There is some evidence that trauma that begins during the school-age years will have a different impact than trauma that begins in early childhood.

Specifically, school-age onset seems to result in more externalizing behaviors (acting out) whereas early childhood onset results in more internalizing behaviors (withdrawal, depression, self-blame) (Manly, 2001; Kaplow, 2007).

In adolescence the brain goes through another period of accelerated development.

The pruning of unused pathways increases, similar to early childhood. This process makes the brain more efficient, especially the part of the brain that supports attention, concentration, reasoning, and advanced thinking.Trauma during adolescence disrupts both the development of this part of the brain and the strengthening of the systems that allow this part of the brain to effectively communicate with other systems. This can lead to increased risk taking, impulsivity, substance abuse, and criminal activity (NCTSN, 2008; Chamberlin, 2009; Wilson, 2011; CWIG, 2009).

Sense of Security

Survivors of childhood trauma need to feel safe and find a sense of security. Children need to feel physically and psychologically safe.

To feel psychologically safe, children need consistency and predictability.

It is important that caregivers provide predictable and consistent rules, environments including routines, clear expectations, consistent feedback, and positive reinforcement.

Caregivers should learn to truly listen to the child. Pay attention to possible triggers, which may be people, places, or things that make the child feel threatened.Increase the caregiver’s awareness of behaviors that are reactions to triggers. It may not always be clear to an outsider what the threat is, but the threat is real to the child who has experienced trauma.

Most importantly, reassure the child that everyone in her life is working to keep her safe. That reassurance, backed with the consistent actions by the caregivers, will, in time, create the trust and sense of security, essential in to the healing process.

Special thanks to the following sources of wonderful information-

How trauma effects brain development

Ages and stages of child development

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cps, parental alienation syndrome
Obsessed Alienation – Severe Parental Alienation in Custody Cases

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“I love my children. If the court can’t protect them from their abusive father, I will. Even though he’s never abused the children, I know it’s a matter of time. The children are frightened of their father. If they don’t want to see him, I’m not going to force them. They are old enough to make up their own minds.”

The obsessed alienator is a parent, or sometimes a grandparent, with a cause:

to align the children to his or her side and together, with the children, and a campaign to destroy their relationship with the targeted parent.

For the campaign to work, the obsessed alienator enmeshes the children’s personalities and beliefs into their own. This is a process that takes time but one that the children, especially the young, are completely helpless to see and combat. It usually begins well before the divorce is final.

The obsessed parent is angry, bitter or feels betrayed by the other parent. The initial reasons for the bitterness may actually be justified. They could have been verbally and physical abused, raped, betrayed by an affair, or financially cheated.

The problem occurs when the feelings won’t heal but instead become more intense because of being forced to continue the relationship with a person they despise because of their common parenthood. Just having to see or talk to the other parent is a reminder of the past and triggers the hate. They are trapped with nowhere to go and heal.

The characteristics of obsessed alienation are as follows

  • They are obsessed with destroying the children’s relationship with the targeted parent
  • They having succeeded in enmeshing the childrens’ personalities and beliefs about the other parent with their own.
  • The children will parrot the obsessed alienator rather than express their own feelings from personal experience with the other parent.

  • The targeted parent and often the children cannot tell you the reasons for their feelings.

  • Their beliefs sometimes becoming delusional and irrational. No one, especially the court, can convince obsessed alienators that they are wrong. Anyone who tries is the enemy.

  • They will often seek support from family members, quasi-political groups or friends that will share in their beliefs that they are victimized by the other parent and the system.
  • The battle becomes “us against them.” The obsessed alienator’s supporters are often seen at the court hearings even though they haven’t been subpoenaed.

  • They have an unquenchable anger because they believe that the targeted parent has victimized them and whatever they do to protect the children is justified.

  • They have a desire for the court to punish the other parent with court orders that would interfere or block the targeted parent from seeing the children. This confirms in the obsessed alienator’s mind that he or she was right all the time.

  • The court’s authority does not intimidate them.

  • The obsessed alienator believes in a higher cause, protecting the children at all cost.

  • The obsessed alienator will probably not want to read what is on these pages because the content just makes them angrier.

There are no effective treatments for either the obsessed alienator or the children.

The courts and mental health professionals are helpless.

The only hope for these children is early identification of the symptoms and prevention. After the alienation is entrenched and the children become “true believers” in the parent’s cause, the children are lost to the other parent for years to come.

We realize this is a sad statement, but we have yet to find an effective intervention, by anyone, including the courts that can rehabilitate the alienating parent and child.

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More on Parental Alienation

Divorce is one of life’s most painful passages. It is painful for the spouse who wants it, painful for the spouse who feels rejected, and painful for the children.

We can understand and empathize with the spouse who feels wronged and wants revenge, or the spouse who is overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of losing the children, or the spouse who prefers to forget that the marriage ever was.

But using the children to get revenge, to cope with anxiety, to erase the past, is unacceptable.

Parents must hold themselves to a higher standard.

Parent/child relationships are particularly vulnerable when children are first informed of the impending separation, or when one parent actually leaves the home.

If your spouse manipulates the children to blame you for the divorce, or to believe you have abandoned them, affection can dissolve overnight as their distress and hurt feelings are channeled into hatred.

The risk becomes multiplied if, for any reason, you have no communication or contact with the children after you leave the home. This keeps you from reassuring the children of your love and helping them understand that they do not have to choose between their parents.

A child who feels caught between two homes may feel that the solution to the conflict is to declare a clear allegiance to one household. This motive can result in alienation from either parent.

A child who is anxious or angry about the remarriage may channel these feelings into unwarranted hatred of the remarried parent and stepparent. Or the child’s alienation may express the disappointment of reconciliation wishes that have been dashed by the remarriage.

Regardless of the child’s underlying motivation, if the favored parent welcomes the child’s allegiance and fails to actively promote the child’s affection for the other parent, the child may cling to a maladaptive solution.

The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.

enablers

PAS is more than brainwashing or programming, because the child has to actually participate in the denigrating of the alienated parent. This is done in primarily the following eight ways:

1. The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior.

2. The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger.

3. The child is sure of him or herself and doesn’tdemonstrate ambivalence, i.e. love and hate for thealienated parent, only hate.

4. The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The “independent-thinker”phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this.

5. The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent.

6. The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent.

7. The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividlydescribes situations that he or she could not haveexperienced.

8. Animosity is spread to also include the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.

In severe cases of parent alienation, the child is utterly brainwashed against the alienated parent.

The alienator can truthfully say that the child doesn’t want to spend any time with the other parent, even though he or she has told the child that he has to, it is a court order, etc.

The alienator typically responds, “There isn’t anything that I can do about it. I’m not telling the child that he can’t.

Alienation advances when the alienating parent urdses the child as a personal therapist. The child is told about every miserable experience and negative feeling about the alienated parent with great specificity.

The child, who is already enmeshed with the parent because his or her identity is still undefined, easily absorbs the parent’s negativity. They become aligned with this parent and feel that they need to be the protector of the alienating parent.

Parental alienation can be mild and temporary or extreme and ongoing. Most researchers believe that any alienation of a child against (the child’s) other parent is harmful to the child and to the target parent.

Extreme, obsessive, and ongoing parental alienation can cause terrible psychological damage to children extending well into adulthood.

Parental Alienation focuses on the alienating parents behavior as opposed to the alienated parent’s and alienated childrens’ conditions. This definition is different from Parental Alienation Syndrome as originally coined by Dr. Richard Gardner in 1987:

“a disturbance in which children are preoccupied with deprecation and criticism of a parent-denigration that is unjustified and/or exaggerated.”

Parental Alienation Syndrome symptoms describe the child’s behaviours and attitude towards the targeted parent after the child has been effectively programmed and severely alienated from the targeted parent.

Parental alienation, on the other hand, describes the alienating parent’s or parents’ conduct which induces parental alienation syndrome in children. Parental alienation is a form of relational aggression by one parent against the other parent using their common children.

The process can become cyclic with each parent attempting to alienate the children from the other. There is potential for a negative feedback loop and escalation.

At other times an affected parent may withdraw leaving the children to the alienating parent. Children so alienated often suffer effects similar to those studied in the psychology of torture.

Alienating parents often use grandparents, aunts/uncles, and other elders to alienate their children against the target parent.

In some cases, mental health professionals become unwitting allies in these alienation attempts by backing unfounded allegations of neglect, abuse or mental disease. Courts also often side with the alienating parent against the target parent in legal judgements because parental alienation is so difficult to detect.

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Extreme forms of parental alienation include obsessive brainwashing, character assassination, and the false inducement of fear, shame, and rage in children against the target parent. Moderate forms of parental alienation include loss of self control, flare ups of anger, and nconscious alliances with the children against the target parent. In it’s mildest forms, parental alienation includes occasional mild denigration alternating with a focus on encouraging the children’s relationship with the other parent.

Parental alienation often forces children to choose sides and become allies against the other parent. Children caught in the middle of such conflicts suffer severe losses of love, respect and peace during their formative years.

They also often lose their alienated parent forever.

These consequences and a host of others cause terrible traumas to children as studied in Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Parents so alienated often suffer heartbreaking loss of their children through no fault of their own. In addition, they often face false accusations from their alienated children that they cannot counter with the facts.

Finally, they often find themselves powerless to show that this little-known form of cruel, covert, and cunning aggression is occurring or has occurred.

Often the problem can be cured only by realizing the underlying causes. The reasons are very numerous and varied. These are examples:

  • Money. The custodial parent may wish to have more than the non-custodial parent is willing or able to provide and the children are leverage pawns.
  • Retaliation. ‘You wanted a life without us. Now you have it.’
  • New family member.The mother forms a new romantic relationship and wants her new man to be the father. The non-custodial parent is a hindrance to that new relationship, an unwanted reminder.
  • New partner’s interference. Mother’s boy-friend or new husband wants to be the man in the child’s life and works to exclude the father.
  • Jealousy Mother’s empty life is in stark contrast to Father’s recovering one. Mother may not wish the father’s new partner to have the role of ‘rival mother’ – particularly if she is insecure about her own abilities.
  • Property rights. Mother regards child as her property and is unwilling to share
  • Social appearance.Mother could never admit that she is not the sole focus of her child’s life.
  • Depression, Poor health.General negative view on life interpreted by her as being a result of the marital breakup and therefore his fault.
  • Simple hatred by the mother of the father.
  • Hostility from the father toward the mother is viewed by her as a risk to the children as well, so she feels that she must ‘protect’ the child by preventing the father from visiting. Mother may have no basis whatsoever for feeling that the father will be hostile to the child.
  • Possessiveness of the child’s attention and affection. The Mother may have no other close family and be envious of the father’s friends and relatives.

  • Mother convinces herself that the father is a dangerous human with extreme character flaws to which the child should not be exposed. Mother assumes that activities enjoyed by the father are risky to the child, even though other children may engage in those same activities.
  • Mother has taken a gender approach and is hostile to all men. This can be particularly true if the mother has limited her own contacts to other single mothers. She may be unable to sustain a wholesome relationship with a man.
  • Punishment. Mother eliminates visits or shortens contact with the father if the children do not behave. “You have not finished your homework. You cannot go to dinner with your father.” or “You did not obey me about your bedtime. You are grounded here and while you are with your father this weekend.”
  • Perceived competition with the former spouse. This is particularly true when the non-custodial father spends more on the children than the mother is able to do. Also called “Disneyland Dads”, the father uses his time in high dollar activities while the mother has to make do on free and low cost amusements for them. This also works in reverse with the “competitive” mom – where the non-custodial parent plans an activity, such as a driving vacation and then the custodial mom has to ‘trump’ it by flying the children out of the country on vacation. Neither parent seems to notice that the TWO vacations are far more than the child would have received if in a pre-divorce home and that the child’s values are being distorted on a very subconscious, but permanent level.
  • Self-esteem. The mother’s interests and activities may be so focused on the children that she has no life if they are not around. She does not wish to, or cannot admit, that they have fun if she is not part.
  • Fear of abandonment.Mother worries that children may choose the father over her if given the opportunity.
  • Control. The children may be the only means the parent has of directing the life and emotions of the former spouse.
  • Reverse control. The mother may have never wanted a man except to sire the child and, once that role is complete, the mother wants him well away from her child. Watch for parents who say ‘MY child’ when talking to the other parent.
  • Punishment to the Father for forming a new marriage. ‘You were supposed to stay single and grieve for me forever.’
  • Mistaken belief that the father was actually not interested in the child.Many men are not granted much of a role in baby care, so as the child grows older and the father is ‘learning how to parent’ he may not spend as much time with the child –which may be viewed in retrospect as disinterest. Parenting does not come naturally to everyone and non-custodial parents have less of a chance to practice, with their mistakes being more visible.
  • Lifestyle conflicts.Mother and father have different choices in cultures, religions, and values and she wants to isolate the children into hers.
  • Emotional dependence.The mother may feel that the child has only so much capability for affection and wants it all for herself.
  • Resentment of reminders of failure.The mother may view the dissolved marriage as a failure and wish to avoid all memory of it.
  • Concealment. The mother may be having difficulties and does not want the children to provide information about her situation to the father.

Theses cases involving Parental Alienating are very frustrating to the targeted parent. Many times the offending parent feels totally justified in their actions. They cannot see the damage they are causing their children.

How can targeted parents in these situations be helped?

Encourage them to keep their heads up, maintain perspective, and contact the right professionals. Open up the line of communication with their children, recognize early warning signs of trouble, and respond appropriately to rude and hateful behavior.

Avoid common errors made by rejected parents through recognition of the problem and quickly obtaining the proper experts, which is crucial in developing a strategy inn a custody case involving Parental Alienation.

If necessary, ask the courts to order an evaluation and most of all to order treatment to reverse the damages caused by such conduct.

Sources:

Parental Alienation Syndrome by Lynn M.Swank,

Dr. Richard A. Warshak. Divorce Poison, Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex, Regan Books, New York,

Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

Three Types of Parental Alienation Copyright 1997 by Douglas Darnall, Ph.D.)

Forensic Family Services, Inc.

false allegations
How pedophiles use “Patsy’s” to get away with child sexual abuse – Two True MUST READ Stories

(Trigger Warning: This post may contain information about the topic of sexual abuse that may be sensitive in nature to some readers )

I have thought about this article allot before writing it. This is very difficult.

I am not writing it to gain anything, but in hopes that someone reading it does. ..

gain knowledge…awareness…

the truth…

I don’t want anyone to go through this, but I know many will…

So maybe this will make a difference somewhere to someone…

somehow…

There’s a sad truth called sexual abuse that we really don’t want to talk about, but we must.

There are perpetrators of sexual abuse that we don’t ever want to know, but we do.

There are mistakes that are made and reality becomes something we don’t want to face, but we have no choice.

The truth is, children are sexually abused. There’s no sense ignoring it. It does not make it go away.

Sometimes the wrong person is blamed, and the abuser gets away with it….this does not necessarily happen because of an error in judgment, or a lack of concern, but something far more sinister…

It happens on purpose.

Yes, on purpose. By design; following a perpetrators methodical plan..with an end goal being to abuse more and to get away with it.

This article will show you how they do it, so you and i can possibly stop one of them.

Protect your child with open eyes.

The following two stories are true cases where this horrific type of situation occurred. I know this topic is a difficult one. It is disgusting, vile, immoral, and sad. It is still vitally important to talk about, even if we don’t want to. Why? Because cases like these that are not isolated. They happen all the time, and if the abuser has his way, it will happen again, on purpose.

Pedophiles and child molesters are everywhere. They look like anyone you meet. They prey on children, and, most of the time, the children know them.

The predator must rely on others to trust him, need him or fear him. without at least one of those elements, the predator cannot gain the compliance he needs to abuse. Sometimes the child even loves their abuser.

Sexual abuse destroys that innocent trust (and the ABILITY to trust) by exploiting the fears and needs of the victim. They intertwine themselves into their victims lives, devastate families, and change their victim into someone new.

They do all of this harm for their own sexual gratification, and their need to fulfill it, without getting caught.

They plot, plan, and seek out their victims. They must groom them -a process by which they slowly work with the victim until the predator feels confident they have gained the trust and silence of their victim before introducing the actual sexual abuse.

First they must find their victim, prepare their victim and then, finally, they abuse their victim. It’s a process.

Pedophiles are sick …and the sickness doesn’t go away..

They are notoriously incurable, and will usually re-offend, having more than one victims. Sex offenders who molest children have many traits in common, and when they are caught, you can bet they don’t get caught with their first victim, or on their first abuse. Usually they have had many victims prior to getting caught, or they have abused many times.

They do not rehabilitate very easily or very often, and did I mention, that most of the time, they will re-offend?

Abusers comes in all shapes, sizes, genders, race and with different preferences. Victims can and are both male and female alike. No one is immune. Do not be misconstrued about the appearance of a predator, they don’t always look like three monster they are.

The abuser is a predator and predators hunt. The predator is opportunistic. Like any predator on the hunt, if he sees the opportunities laid out before him, he will jump on it. Sometimes he must make his own opportunities. He must be-friend a child, or the parent of a child, in order to gain access to the child.

The predator loves to see an opportunity to have a ‘patsy’… another innocent person to take the blame for their abuse they are committing against a child. I have two such stories to tell you.

The end result of sexual abuse is tragic, and as you’ll read, the truth is sometimes not revealed until far too late.

Here is the story of a little girl ill call “Child A “-

Child A was 4 years old when the abuse began. Her abuser was her mother’s 2nd husband. Child A was born to parents who were teenagers. The couple had split up when she was 2 years of age, and found themselves caught in a bitter divorce and custody battle before they could even legally purchase alcohol. However the contention was not between the two of them, but the maternal grandmother had intervened and filed suit and she wanted custody.

The mother was only 16 when she got pregnant with child A, and out of selfless love for her daughter, she admitted she wasn’t ready to be a full time single mother. A bitter pill to swallow. The mother also knew that fighting in a custody battle would just add to the already volatile conflict.

The mother made the difficult decision to back up from the court battle. She settled for sporadic visitations on the 5th weekends of the months. She would have the ability to stay in contact with her daughter and be involved in school functions, advised of any pertinent health matters, etc etc. Since most months only had 4 weekends, this meant she only had possession of her daughter every few months for one weekend.. but she talked on the phone, had lunch at school with her, and stayed active in her child’s life.

The mother had a boyfriend who ultimately became her 2nd husband, the stepfather. They lived together when child A was 4 years old, so most of the time, he was there when her daughter would visit. The mother rarely, if ever, left her daughter alone with her boyfriend, not because she mistrustd him, but mainly because she cherished every minute she had with her.

At the time, the custody battle between her father and the maternal grandmother had reached a boiling point. It became brutal. The two adversaries were in and out of court on a regular basis. They fought over everything, seemingly petty issues. The temporary orders they were going by were ridiculously detailed. They fought over everything from child support, visitation, to cutting the child’s hair, piercing her ears, the clothes she wore between the two houses, even hair barrettes. You name it, they fought over it- and they were going back and forth to Court all the time to “clarify” the orders on any issue. Honestly, it was bad.

So when the maternal grandmother accused the father of sexual abuse, many people who knew the situation werent surprised. The child’s mother, always felt like the allegations were outlandish against her ex. She just believed it, at first, to be one more ridiculous ploy the grandmother came up with, designed to try to deprive the child’s father of custody.

A social worker was brought in to investigate, and the child made an outcry…

“My daddy hurt me with my white panties”….

Things got very real at that point. For everyone. Ploy or not, things went from ridiculously annoying to damn serious.

The little girl was subjected to sexual abuse exams and the mother and father was subjected to interrogations. The father was adamant in proclaiming his innocence, and he was terrified. He had remarried and begun a new family and these false allegations against him could possibly cost him his new family. He already lost jobs, spent untold amounts of money on attorneys, and endured strikes against his reputation. He suffered from the stress, and the unimaginable trauma of being falsely accused of the heinous crimes.

The allegations were severe but after investigations were complete, the allegations of sexual abuse was never substantiated against him.

The custody battle continued on for an unbelievable total of 14 years before it finally ended when the child was a teenager.

Ten years later… At age 14, child A had, four the first time, talked about her abuse. She told a friend from school about the sexual abuse committed against her a decade before by her stepfather, that began when she was four years old. Abuse that her father had been accused of… abuse that turned so many lives upside down..

How did this happen?

When the predator was abusing he saw an opportunity. He knew, due to the raging court battle between the father and the grandmother, that any sexual abuse allegations would easily come against the father and easily believed by others that the father had perpetrated the abuse. There was the perfect person or ‘patsy’ opportunity right before him. He knew the grandmother would jump to that conclusion and use it in court. He also knew, given the child’s young age, she was easily manipulated and not necessarily credible.

Child molesters are meticulous in their abusing routine. From the choosing of a victim to how they go about carrying out their abuse, they are methodical and deliberate, in all they do.

The abuser in this case called himself “daddy” to the little girl as he abused her. In doing so …he perfectly set up the situation so that when the outcry was initially made, it was made against her “daddy”… shifting all focus and blame to the child’s father.

By the time the child grew older, age 14, when she told her friend the true identity of her abuser, that friend went to the school counselor with the information. However the authorities and CPS did not see much reasoning in pursuing charges, insofar as much time had passed, and Child A was no longer at risk of being abused by that perpetrator, as he and her mother had long since split up. Both had moved on, with new spouses and other children, and were living new lives. Of course, for him, that meant new victims.

As I said earlier, by the time they are caught, it’s usually the first time they abuse a child. There’s usually several previous occasions or victims that they got away with. In this case, the perpetrator had moved on, remarried a woman with a little girl, and abused her for several years without incident. That is, until Child A told her friend who told the school. That launched a snowball effect which ultimately led to the investigation of this man and his relationship to his new stepdaughter. Eventually, that girl confided in a friend at her school in a note she wrote detailing the years of abuse. A note that was found by her mother, who took it to authorities.

He was finally caught.

That monster is serving several concurrent sentences of 40 years each, and a couple 20 year sentences, for his abuse against his stepdaughter that spanned almost 6 years. It is unlikely he will ever be released.

Child A’s father was finally vindicated.

The next story I’ll call Child B.

Child B was, once again, the subject of a bitter custody battle where allegations were made against the mother’s second husband. Although the investigations were unable to determine if the abuse occurred or by whom, the mother eventually signed over custody to her ex, to end the allegations against her new husband who she believed was innocent.

Years passed that the mother did not even get to see Child B. It was tragic.

Then one day news broke that the couple’s old next door neighbor is being looked at for sexual Abuse of another child. Thats when the mother realised it could have conceivably been their ex neighbor who abused Child B. That neighbor never liked Child B’s new husband, and was always interested in the status of the custody battle. He always seemed extra interested in Child B, spending time with her, but until the confusion of the custody battle passed and the new realizations came out several years later, the mother had not seen the signs.

Child B is a case still unresolved. The trauma the like girl endured was severe. It’s taken many Year’s for her to regain a sense of normalcy and to begin thriving again.

Almost ten years old now, Child B has reached a good point in her life where she is healthy again. The mother has gotten back some visitations with her daughter, and both mother and father have decided not to discuss the abuse with her. Hopefully when Child B is ready, she will talk about it. They will continue to monitor the situation with their old neighbor from afar, and they were hopeful that the truth will be found without reopening any traumatic investigations in Child B’s now thriving life. They simply feel it would prove too much for the girl.

Her stepfather, however, has finally been vindicated.

So as you can see, these predators will take the opportunities they see to abuse.

This can be prevented by staying vigilant, eyes wide open, to everyone whose in your life. Use discretion when sharing information about situations you may be going thru, like custody battles or marital problems. Keep those things to yourself. Pay attention to anyone showing unusually high interest in your child, making readings to be alone with your child, offering rides, or to babysit. Takes notice of anyone who seems interested only in the Child, and not in adult company. Who seems to want to become closely knit in the Child’s life. Don’t discount anyone it can be a neighbor, coach, family friend, or even a family member. Keep your eyes open and communicate with your child about whose around them. Teach them what’s appropriate and not inappropriate and let them know you are the for them. Make them feel safe to talk to you should anything happen.

Hopefully this will never be a reality for your family, but if it does come to your door, remember to always keep aware of your child’s surroundings. Don’t let the moments focus you in the wrong direction. If the wrong person gets accused, the real predator gets away with it, and continues to abuse.

Godspeed.