The Parental Alienation Syndrome is the deliberate attempt by one parent (and/or guardian/significant other) to distance his/her children from the other parent and in doing so, the parent engages the children in the process of destroying the affectional ties and familial bonds that once existed. The alienating process develops over time and the distancing between the children and the targeted that occurs includes some or all of the following features:
- The alienating parent speaks badly or demeans the targeted parent directly to the children.
- The alienating parent speaks badly or demeans the targeted parent to others in the presence (or within audible distance) of the children.
- The alienating parent discusses with the children the circumstances under which the marriage broke down and blames the targeted parent for its failure.
- The alienating parent exposes the children to the details of the parents' ongoing conflict, financial problems and legal proceedings.
- The alienating parent blames the targeted parent for changes in life style, any current hardships; his/her negative emotional state and inability to function as before and conveys this to the children.
- Allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children may be made.
- Alienated children come to know that in order to please the alienating parent, they must turn against the targeted parent.
Children who are exposed to the ongoing conflict and hostility of their parents suffer horrendously. The guilt they experience when their parents first separate is exacerbated by the added stress of being made to feel that their love and attachment for one parent is contingent on their abandoning the other. Although children are powerless to end the struggle between their parents, they come to believe that if they turn against one, in favour of the other, the unhappiness they experience on an ongoing basis will come to end. If the alienating process is at all successful, the long term consequences for children victimized it may be even more profound. It may negatively affect their ability to form long lasting relationships with others, damage their self esteem, and substantially affect their life view of the world.
Treatment of PAS is difficult for many reasons. It involves the coordination of many specialists, perhaps attorneys, court representatives, teachers, and, most importantly, parents who are not presently capable of working together productively. Psychologists at HartoHeart & Associates Inc. have been working in the area for the last 15 years and have learned how to productively coordinate the many facets of this treatment. Additionally, they promote respect and care of ALL parties involved, using both individual and family counseling, as well as producing well documented records for court, whenever needed.