Caught Between Parents

Supporting children through the challenges of divorce

Coaching Targeted Parents

Initial Comments

This blog posting will be one of a series reflecting on my experience of being a parental alienation parenting coach. I have just started this enterprise, although I have been speaking with targeted parents since my first book on the topic was released, about 7 years ago already. My main impression from coaching so far is that targeted parents feel (and rightly so) that their child is rejecting them. This is a natural and obvious conclusion based on the hostile and rejecting behavior of the child. These children are cruel, heartless, and devaluing of their parents. HOWEVER, what targeted parents sometimes lose sight of is that from the child’s perspective, the parent has rejected the child. If the psychology of alienation is understood, it is clear that alienated children have been led to believe that the parent whom they are rejecting does not love them, is not safe, and is not available. Only then, once the child has bought into this false belief, does the child reject the targeted parent. Thus, the primary response to the alienation must be one of loving compassion, emotional availability, and absolute safety. By being these things — rather than saying directly to the child, “I am too safe, I do love you, I am available” — the child can experience the parent in a way that counters the negative messaging the child is being exposed to. Obviously, this may not be sufficient to completely turn around an alienated child, because there are other factors reinforcing the alienation such as fear of the favored parent falling apart or withdrawing his/her love of the child — but it must be a part of the solution.

Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D., researches parental alienation and children of divorce.

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