Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.

Caught Between Parents

Restoring Family Connections

How to repair the broken parent-child bond

Posted Oct 14, 2016

Since my first book on parental alienation was published 8 years ago I have been fascinated by the topic of adults who were alienated from a parent when they were children.

Ideally, one day parental alienation will be identified in a timely fashion and addressed in a swift and decisive manner by the relevant legal and mental health professionals. Until then, there will be adults who, when they were children, were turned against one parent by the other parent. Some of these adults will want to reconcile with their targeted parents. That will be a very very happy day indeed for the targeted parent, but it will not necessarily be an easy process in which all the old wounds will be easily healed and all the poisonous traces of alienation will be fully eradicated.

Parental alienation results in distorted thoughts and feelings on the part of a child towards a parent such that the child comes to hate, fear, and condemn an otherwise loving and normative parent. Thus, an adult child who returns as an adult to the targeted parent may understand intellectually that the targeted parent is normative (his or her imperfections would not typically result in a child rejecting that parent) but emotionally may still respond to the targeted parent with exaggerated reactions of fear, resentment, and hostility. The targeted parent in turn may respond with his or her own fear response, highly sensitive to the potential to be hurt and rejected once again by the beloved child.

In essence, the foundation of trust between parent and child has been compromised if not damaged. Despite the clear need for services for this highly vulnerable population, there has been no formalized treatment protocol for doing this kind of work. To fill that gap, the Restoring Family Connections program model was developed. I am so excited that clinicians have started to become familiar with the manual and will be able to offer the service to families in their community. I plan to continue to blog about the program as I hear from the front-line professionals what works best for working with targeted parents and their adult alienated children.