Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.

Caught Between Parents

Surviving Parental Alienation, Part 3

The agony and the ecstasy of reconciliation

Posted Feb 11, 2015

This is the third and final blog that provides an overview of a recent book on parental alienation entitled, Surviving parental alienation: A journey of hope and healing. In that book, several stories written by targeted parents are analyzed in order to say something larger about the dynamics of parental alienation. In the final set of stories, targeted parents wrote about their reconciliations with their formerly alienated children. With the benefit of hindsight, the stories were deconstructed in order to understand the reunification process. The stories are offered both to understand how reunifications occur but also to provide hope to targeted parents who have not yet reconciled with their alienated children. The themes presented include the catalyst to reconcilation, reasons for hope, little things have big meaning, and what the targeted parent did right.

Catalysts to reconcilation were first presented in "Adult children of parental alienation syndrome: Breaking the ties that bind" (Baker, 2007), which explored the topic from the perspective of 40 adults who lived through alienation as children and were interviewed about it when they were adults. The stories presented in this book confirms these catalysts. Every story reflected at least one of the 12 known catalysts written about by Baker (2007). There is both good news and bad news in this is that yes, some kids do figure it out and come around, but no, we don't know which catalyst will work for which child or when it will work.

Nonetheless, these stories present numerous reasons to maintain hope. The stories confirm that some of these children come back and are able to open their hearts once again to the formerly despised targeted parent. Ideally, targeted parents who read this book will be able to gather strength to forge ahead in their own alienation drama knowing that they may be able to one day reconnect with their beloved child. In the meantime, they can feel better knowing that even seemingly little actions on their part carry great meaning to their children. Despite the vilification of them by their children, it appears from these (and other) stories that alienated children often hold in their heart a desire to love and be loved by the targeted parent. The alienated child may appear to hate and have no desire or need for the targeted parent, but that is simply not the case. 

The stories reveal that targeted parents made many excellent choices and did a lot right that ultimately helped them reconnect with their lost children. For example, they became educated and informed about alienation. They read books, spoke to professionals, and gathered with other targeted parents in order to understand the problem as best they could. Second, they never gave up hope or stopped trying to maintain contact with their children. They showed up at sporting events and at school. They sent text mesages and emails. They continued to message to their children their unconditional love and acceptance. They tried to understand the alienation from their child's point of view in order to maintain empathy with their child, to forestall the anger and bitterness that can take root in the face of the ongoing pain and humiliation seemingly inflicted on them by their child. When their child returned, the parents—as much as they wanted to—did not rush the child, neither did they expect nor demand an apology. Most of the targeted parents seemed to understand and accept that their children were victims in the family drama and were not fully responsible for the pain they caused.

Reading the stories of reconcilation can offer both hope to currently targeted parents as well as helpful insights into how to navigate and travel this most painful of journeys.