Episode Summary

In this episode we discussed parental alienation, what it is, the controversy surrounding it, and tips on how to deal with it.

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Show Transcript

All right, hello, hello, everybody, and welcome to yet another episode of the Emotional Embuffination podcast. I’m your host, David Enevoldsen. And here on Emotional Embuffination, we are training to become emotionally buff enough to overcome any conflict in life. And at the same time, we’re trying to discover new levels of success and happiness and try to figure out how to optimize happiness, to make sure that we’re mostly just feeling those good feelings, or at least feeling as many of those good feelings as we can. This podcast is just one of a bunch of resources I have available. If you want to learn more. Check out the Emotional Embuffination website which is www.embuffination.com. On today’s show we are going to be talking about parental alienation and I want to go through a couple of things. One is what the heck does that even mean? Another one is I want to talk a little bit about some of the legal implications speaking about that from the perspective of a family law attorney. Although I’m not practicing family law anymore, I did for quite a while and that was a common issue. And then lastly, I want to give you some tips, kind of offer some suggestions as to what to do if you are facing it. All right, first off, parental alienation. What is that? I think in its most succinct way or the most succinct way of describing it, I would say it’s a situation in which there’s a parent and usually this is with separated parents, divorced parents, something like that, where one of the two parents, if not both of the parents, is essentially brainwashing the kid or kids to hate the other parent.


Repeating that just to make sure it’s clear. In essence, you get one of the kids, I’m not going to repeat it, I’ll just frame it in a different way, you get one of the kids or one of the parents is, convincing the kid or kids that the other parent is evil or a monster or some sort of terrible person and the kids start to hate the other parent. There’s a few criteria that I’ve heard articulated for what parental alienation can mean. Historically, it’s been often characterized as a syndrome, although we’ll get into that in just a second. But the things I often hear about it are when one of the children or one of the child or children reject or criticize the other parent, the criticisms often become really exaggerated, unwarranted, in essence, it becomes criticism for the sake of criticizing just because there’s sort of a contempt going on towards this other parent. Sometimes you’ll see children speak of the the parent for whom they have contempt in these real derogatory terms and have zero inhibitions about it. They speak without feeling embarrassed. They don’t feel guilty. Like they almost just seem like that’s normal and that’s what they’re supposed to do. And then kind of on the flip side of that, you will frequently see that the child or children have just absolute support for the other parent.


That is to say that they will glorify them, deify them. That other parent can do no wrong. So this is when you see that sequence of things, that’s kind of what we’re talking about when we’re describing parental alienation. Let’s look about let’s look at the history for just a second, because I think it’s sort of important to understand the history here in order to understand some of the controversy around it. That the term stemmed from back in the eighties, the 1980s. There was a fellow named Richard Gardner who coined this phrase. He actually said parental alienation syndrome. And in its original framework, the idea in his mind was that 90% of children in custody cases were suffering from this disorder. So, he was actually looking at it as a disorder, not just a situation or a matrix of things that is going on in the midst of some sort of breakup. He was initially extremely focused or I think just generally he was extremely focused on mothers who were trying to alienate fathers. That is to say, you would have from what his perspective was, he would see moms that were saying that dad over there is this terrible monster and you need to have nothing to do with him. And then the moms would be successfully convincing the kids that dad was this terrible person and then the kids would start to hate dad.


There’s a lot of overlap with sex abuse claims. And he took the position that the majority of sex abuse claims in custody litigation were false. Now, this is an interesting one to me. Just as a side note here, because we had as I’m no longer doing family law, but when I was and again, for anybody that’s not familiar, family law is like divorces and custody fights of children and that kind of thing, I did it for a long time. But one of the running jokes became that the second you would have any sort of divorce or breakup and there were children involved, suddenly sex abuse was an issue and the Department of Child Safety had to jump in and start doing investigations. And it would be interesting because this happened a lot like a lot. I constantly saw claims of sex abuse and it became almost a joke that just if a case was going on, you going through divorce, suddenly this person with whom you had zero qualms about handing your children and having this person watch your children without supervision whatsoever now suddenly they’re a sex abuser and they’re trying to molest your children. And if you leave them alone with the kids, all hell is going to break loose. So, I feel like just anecdotally, there’s some support for this. Now, this is by no means to say that sex abuse does not happen. It absolutely does. It clearly does.


And we don’t want that to be the case, of course. So, the court system, I think, rightly takes those claims seriously when they’re there. But it’s very, very common to have them when they’re totally unfounded. But at any rate, circling back to what Gardner was talking about, he was looking at the majority of sex abuse claims and he was seeing these as very intertwined with parental alienation situations were false. And he had this proposal, that denial of maternal contact with children was necessary to fix all of this in order to deprogram the kids. In other words, he’s saying all these moms out there are trying to say that dads are terrible people, and the way to fix it is to take time away from the moms so we can deprogram the children so they start to be okay with dad again. Well, not terribly surprisingly, there popped up a lot of controversy about that. There was a lot of kickback from around the idea of parental alienation syndrome. And I think the way that he framed it almost necessitates a kickback being just if in a vacuum we’re looking at this as this is mothers trying to alienate fathers. Speaking as a former family law attorney, yeah, this happens a lot, but it also happens the other way around. I have seen this very, very often with fathers alienating mothers. So, this can happen in both directions. But when you come in and you say that this is what this thing is, parental alienation syndrome is all wrapped around moms, you’re going to get some kickback because that’s not what the case is.


And it’s kind of problematic to moms. It’s not by just saying this is how it is all the time you’re really giving an unfair, skewed perspective on what’s going on with the parental relationships. So, there was a lot of kickback. A lot of people think that it’s not even a thing. It is not to my knowledge, it is still not recognized by the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If you’re not familiar with that. It’s kind of the the Bible of mental disorders. It just covers everything from depression to various psychos, psychotic disorders to you name it. It’s in there, borderline, bipolar, etc., etc.. And so, it’s not listed in there. And there was quite a bit of push to have it there. Now there is something called, so it’s sort of there now in the DSM five, which is the most recent one, which has something called child psychological abuse. They have not used the term parental alienation and I mean that the child psychological abuse includes significant developmental pathology in the child, personality disorder, pathology in the child delusional, psychiatric pathology in the child. So it’s not exactly framed as parental alienation as I read it, but there’s kind of an effort to it. There was a lot of push there. A lot of, a lot of times that I saw it. It became a huge controversy within the Family Court cases. Well, let me back up a step before I get to that.


The fact that it’s not in the DSM, in my mind makes sense because I have a really hard time characterizing this as a disorder per se. I mean, you have a situation where you’ve got kids who are sort of skewed and they’re getting their heads messed with because one dad is or one parent is saying that the other parent is just evil incarnate. But it’s hard for me to jump to the level of disorder on this. And in fact, I have I’m not going to go into detail on this in this particular podcast, but I have a lot of problems with just the the application of the DSM generally and sort of the over medicalization of especially some real low level things like depression and anxiety, where I’m going to go into more problems with kind of the application of some of these characterized disorders and whatnot in the DSM later. But regardless, it’s not in there formally. So that has become one of the objections is it’s not a thing. Now, there’s also some controversy or some efforts at distinction in this controversy, I should say, wherein people are saying, okay, well, it’s not parental alienation syndrome, it’s just parental alienation. And people are trying to frame it as it’s just a phenomena that happens. And to me, this makes a little more sense, frankly.


But you still get kickback and there’s still a lot of people that think it’s just it doesn’t even exist. And you can find whole websites dedicated to kind of disproving the idea that and I’ve seen research articles, etc., trying to disprove the idea that there is any such thing as parental alienation. Now, as a practical matter, it’s very, very tough to deal with this in the legal context, which is really where the main part of the application of this is going to be. Just to express my feelings about it. Having worked as a family law attorney, it’s absolutely insane to me to think that this is not something. I don’t think it’s a disorder per se, but there is definitely a pattern that you can see with certain people where a kid like a kid shouldn’t just automatically hate one of the parents. That doesn’t make sense. Like, even even in situations where kids are abused, like just directly abused by a parent, they typically don’t just outright hate that parent unless and until they become much older than anything we’re going to be dealing with in a family law context. So the fact that they start to being polarized so, so egregiously and on top of that, I very often will see situations where it seemed very clear there was parental alienation going on and the kid would parrot language by the alienating parent, the one that was kind of aligning them against with them against the other parent.


So there’s there’s definitely something going on in this, and I’ve seen it many times and it’s definitely a problem. It creates some serious issues in parental relationships with children. And so we have to figure out what to do with it, right? In the legal community, I heard about it constantly. I’ve had cases, custody fights where we took them to trial and we would go in and present all this evidence. We’d have experts testifying. And just I remember a case where we presented an expert, absolutely uncontroverted. The other parent didn’t even say anything about it. And we had an expert saying there is clearly parental alienation going on and we need to fix it by altering the parenting time structure and all that. It was completely ignored. And this is unfortunately one of the things that I often find in a custody battle is I don’t know if it’s that the courts don’t know what to do with this or how to interface this into the underlying parenting time arrangement, but it was very frequently just ignored or given very little weight if it was paid any attention to at all, or it just didn’t seem to be in any sort of output a factor in what was going on. I’m not saying that there are no judges that will ever listen to that or weigh in on it, but it never seemed to be a swaying factor, and yet it’s a serious issue.


So, I always found this concerning. And it’s hard to do much with it. You can throw thousands and thousands at experts trying to prove this up. And this is, of course, going to depend a little on your jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have recognized it in different ways. Across the country, there’s been a really interesting string of court cases as courts are struggling to figure out what to do with this in the first place from a legal perspective. And so we’ve been slowly establishing case law. Some jurisdictions are kind of latching on to it, some haven’t said anything, but it’s tough to do much with it right now, as a practical matter. So with all of this in mind, we know that or at least I believe that there’s clearly something going on in a lot of situations where you can see that a kid is just solidly alienated against a parent and you can see that that kid is parroting the same language and the same arguments and logic that the other parent is is spewing all the time. Like, you know, some kind of brainwashing is happening. It may not be malicious and intentional. It’s kind of hard to imagine that it’s not at least malicious. But I think a lot of the time and I’ve been on the other side of this fence, too, like I’ve represented people who I thought were alienating the kid against the other parent. And it’s sort of tough in that situation because it’s often presented like, well, my kid’s smart enough to know what’s going on.


And my kid clearly just has a good head on his or her shoulders, and they just see the truth in the evil of this other parent. And so I think that they sort of when you’re in that role, you sort of think that your kid is sort of coming up with this independent analysis, but it’s just not how it works. Children just don’t operate like this. And the fact that they just sort of automatically parrot the language, I think is is the most telling sign of this. At any rate, it’s an issue we have to deal with. I don’t think there’s a great legal remedy other than fighting to preserve time, but wasting enormous amounts of energy depending a little bit on your jurisdiction, again. I’m not I’m not trying to give you legal advice here in terms of how to present a case. I’m just saying my personal history with it has been very problematic because I’ve spent enormous amounts of time and energy and trial time trying to point out an alienation, an alienating pattern that was going on that seemed to mean absolutely nothing in the eyes of the judge or the court. So that brings us to the next real big question, which is, so what do you do about it? You know, it’s going on or you believe it’s going on and you think you’re the parent that’s being alienated.


And by the way, if you are the parent that is alienating and you somehow recognize that, you’ve got to fix that because you’re putting an enormous, enormous amount of stress on your kid. Your kid should not be involved in any of the legal decisions at all that are going on in your custody fight. Your kid should not know about any of this stuff other than what the parenting plan is. If you’re in the midst of a court battle, you absolutely should not be talking to your kid about that court battle. It is so destructive. It messes with your kid’s heads so badly. Like, do not do that. Just don’t do that. It’s really bad. If your kid starts asking questions about it, then you just got to deflect and say, look, this is an issue between your mom and your dad. We’re going to figure this out. Don’t worry. Everybody cares about you. We all love you. And just leave it at that, like deflect onto a different issue. But you don’t have to disclose any of this stuff and you shouldn’t be disclosing any of this stuff if there’s an active case or even if there isn’t an active case going on, you shouldn’t be talking about the dynamics between the two parents. Just shift onto something else. So if you are the parent and you recognize that this is the case, if you are the parent that is alienating, do what you can to minimize that.


You’ve got to change the pattern around so that you’re not putting that much stress on your child. And if you create hostility with the other parent, even if you absolutely hate them and you’re convinced that they are evil incarnate, the more hostility that you create and I’m telling you this from having seen a million custody fights and having personally been in my own custody issues, which I think I managed, and I can’t take all the credit for this. My ex also has managed well, but I think we’ve got a really good working relationship with our kids, and a lot of that comes out of just not being a jerk. And, you know, no matter what you think about the other side, you don’t have to fight every single little battle and dump it onto your kid. The better you can get along, even if you don’t agree with the other person, even if you think they’re evil, even if you think they’re the most awful human, if you could even call them human that’s ever been created, the less conflict you have with this other person, the less it’s going to spill onto your kid. And I promise you, they’re going to see this stuff. I have seen so many cases where kids were watching conflict with their parents and then became super maladjusted when they started hitting their teen years. I’ve seen kids kill themselves after their parents were just nonstop fighting in custody battles.


I’ve seen them grow into teenagers and then commit suicide. This is serious stuff. You have to do what you can to minimize the amount of conflict. And if you are a parent that is alienating or it’s even possible that you could be the parent that is alienating, take those issues away from your kids. Do not burden them with this stuff. But let’s talk about the flip side now. If you are the one that is being alienated, this is one of the most frustrating positions you can be in. It is very, very challenging because you feel like you’re being carved out from your kid’s life. It’s emotionally taxing. You’re probably already dealing with some very challenging stuff because let’s face it, you’re fighting with the other parent. You’re going through a divorce or custody fight or something. You’re trying to deal with the normal trials and tribulations of life and make sure that you’ve got a roof over your head and you have the job and you’re taking care of your kid and all this other stuff. And now you’ve got this emotional fight that you’re dealing with on top of that. This is not easy. And I think this is probably one of the most difficult things a human being can face on an emotional level is fighting a parental alienation situation. There’s a couple of tips that I would offer to you that are coming from my experience, and this is primarily as a family law attorney, but I’ve also seen it in friends and family, and I have seen some of the impact of this.


So, the very first tip that I would offer to you is you have to preserve time with your kid. I think that one of the impulses is when you start to I’ve literally seen this more than once, you start to try to exercise some parenting time with your kid, you want to be around them, hang out with them, take them to school, whatever. And as you’re doing that, you’re getting this enormous amount of resistance because the kid’s already sort of brainwashed and has decided they hate you. I’ve seen people just kind of do that and do that and then eventually just throw your, throw their hands in the air and say, I give up. I’m not. I can’t. And then they just give the kid to the other parent and then say, it’s just not worth the fight. It’s it’s not, I’m not getting anywhere positive. I feel like I’m hurting my kid, etc.. You have to preserve time with your kid. And whatever that means in the legal fight, and this probably turns into a legal fight because inevitably it’s going to turn into a custody battle, if you can’t agree, whatever that means, make sure that you have some time with your kid. Now, a lot of jurisdictions sort of default into the equal time situation. Not everybody. That’s how Arizona, where I am, works.


Not every state is going to work like that. There’s a lot of things that can skew the parenting time equation and who gets what amount of time. Whatever time you can preserve, you have to preserve that. If you can get at least equal time, that is ideal. Here’s the issue: If your kid is already brainwashed or your kid is becoming brainwashed and you’ve got a parental alienation situation going on. Then if you are not there, if you do not have a presence in this kid’s life. All they’re going to do is become further brainwashed because they’re just going to continue to listen to this other parent and they’re going to say, oh, look, your mom or dad is this terrible monster that doesn’t want anything to do with you. He or she abandoned us and has just gone now. And all you’re doing is confirming what this person said. And the kid’s going to have no exposure to you. You’re just going to become this kind of monster. And I wrote about this in the Emotional Embuffination book, this idea of detachment, in one of the chapters, it was the commonality chapter. When you don’t have any exposure to the other person, it’s really easy to vilify them when they’re standing right in front of you, that’s a different story. I have often, as a family law attorney, I had this experience where I would have a client come in and they would start telling me these stories about this other party.


And before I’d ever met them or heard from them, I would start thinking like, “Oh my God, this person is evil. Like, I can’t can’t even imagine that they’re going to have horns coming out of their heads.” And then I get to a hearing and I see this person. I look at them and I’m like, “This is like a normal person. She doesn’t seem so bad. He doesn’t seem so bad.” And especially if I have any dialogue with them in the courtroom halls or something. Very often I just go, okay, we just guys, you two are really bad together. Like, it’s clear that you’re just a normal person. You have your weaknesses and whatnot, but you’re not like the demon that I thought you were. Now, imagine if I, as an adult lawyer, I’m thinking this just unconsciously not even realizing that what my client is telling me is influencing my perception of this person. Imagine what’s happening to a kid who’s just getting brainwashed into thinking that you’re a monster and has no one else presenting anything else. If you go years of time without being exposed to your kid and all your kid is hearing is like what a terrible parent you are, that’s all they’re going to believe. That’s why it’s so freaking important that before anything else, you do what you need to do to preserve time with your kid. If you can get to equal time, that is the best situation.


I mean, the ideal situation would be I have my kid all of the time and I can reverse all the brainwashing that’s gone on. For lots of reasons that may be unrealistic again, depending on what jurisdiction you’re in. But at a bare minimum, you want to be having at least equal exposure to your kid. And if not that, even if you like, you only get your kid a weekend, a month or every other weekend or just on weekends, or it’s some unequal amount of time, exercise that time. Like you have to be around your kid. You have to have a foothold in your child’s life because it is absolutely imperative that they continue to have a face associated with you in their life that they are talking to you face to face so that you don’t just become this like faceless monster that is what the other parent is describing them as. So, whatever that means in the court case, fight to make sure that you have time and do not give up on it no matter what kind of conflict you’re running into. Exercise the time with your kid and once you have it, like exercise it. I mean, don’t don’t just fight for it and then say, okay, I’ve got an order in place that says I can have time with my kid and then run away. Actually spend time, fight for time with your kid, and then spend the time with your kid. This is fundamentally important. This is the most important rule at all in terms of dealing with parental alienation. Make sure you’ve got time with your kid and you’re spending it. That’s tip number one.


Tip number two is, let’s assume that you got some time with your kid now and you’re preserving it. You’re exercising it. One of the common things that I think people run into is inevitably there comes this argument with the kid about something. Well, my dad said you did blah, blah, blah, or my mom said that you keep doing this and or you did this in the divorce. And your impulse, and I’ve seen websites that I’ve seen people generally promote this specific advice of the first thing you want to do is argue with the kid and tell them why that’s wrong. And then you want to make sure that you are outlining your reasons that and correct them to make sure that they understand the truth. I think this is a mistake. In my book Emotional Embuffination, Chapter ten, I have a whole chapter about that’s entitled Stop Fighting with Facts. And the theme of that chapter is all centered around this idea that when you have somebody that is emotionally entrenched in an idea they believe strongly in something like I believe strongly that Democrats are right and liberals are the way to the future. And if you’re a conservative, you’re a hate-mongering white monster or something like that, or you can flip it.


If I believe strongly that conservatives are right and Republicans are the way of the future and the leftists are these commies that are going to destroy the world. Whatever the position is, if you’re emotionally entrenched in that thing and I come in and I try to throw facts at you to try to controvert your position. I am not only going to get nowhere, but I’m going to further push you into believing the thing that you believe. Now, I actually cite some research in the book in that chapter where I talk about some studies where they did a lot of this stuff in the political context, where they would measure how firmly somebody was convinced of something. And when people started presenting them with information that contradicted their positions, they became even more entrenched in those ideas. So, in effect, if I start arguing with you and think about this, think about this in the context of political arguments that you’ve seen, like think back to the whole COVID environment. Do you, whatever political position you have on that, if you’re on the right or the left or whatever, think about people that you saw, that you argued with or you saw someone else arguing with: How often did that argument change the position? I’m not talking about people that were like not really sure about what’s going on, but I’m saying two people totally convinced of their positions and that they are right with opposite viewpoints are sitting there arguing, how often did people go, “Oh, you brought up some great factual points. I was totally wrong. I’m sorry. I will change my position now.”


I never saw that, like, ever. Like from 2020 up to the present, I never saw anybody arguing about COVID issues or masks or vaccines or any of that stuff where somebody was throwing out factual arguments in some sort of heated argument and they changed positions. I saw people that changed positions, but it was never as a result of that. And most of the time those people were already sort of on the fence as to where they were going to go anyway or they weren’t, not nearly as emotionally entrenched in the ideas. There’s a lot of research showing that we use different parts of our brains when we’re already decided on what’s going to what we believe in. And the psychologists call this motivated reasoning. Where if I engage in in a discussion where I already believe a certain thing is true or a certain string of things or theme about things is true, and somebody starts to argue with me. I don’t listen to the argument with an eye towards assimilating this information in a rational way. I listen to the facts that I’m being presented with to try to flip them back at the person or to try to punch holes in what they’re saying or to find the logical flaw or something like that.


This is what adults do. Now put this in the framework of a kid. Kids do the exact same thing, but they have even less awareness than most adults do about what they are doing on an emotional level. So if we put this in the framework of I’m a child, my mom or dad told me something about the other parent and I believe it, and I’m emotionally aligned with that person. And let’s say it’s my mom told me that dad abandoned us and he was cheating on my mom and he was abusive. And then I get over and I am talking with Dad because dad gets some parenting time. And I, as the kid say, you were cheating on mom and you were abusive to her. And I as dad know that’s totally false, if I start arguing with my kid, those same things are going to be happening. That kid is going to use a different brain region than what they would be using to just assimilate information in a vacuum. To try to understand how they can fit the information that’s coming back at them into either proving that dad is a liar or that there’s some information here to prove the claims that I already believe in. And then that argument’s going to get more and more toxic. And so, Dad is going to get even more frustrated because he’s going to be trying to disprove these lies. Kid is going to be upset because he’s essentially being confronted on this thing and he’s going to get angry around that.


And what happens? You spend all of your parenting time arguing and everybody feels like crap. I would submit to you that this is not a good way to spend the parenting time that you have with your child when you’re already in a strained relationship with them. That begs the question, what do you do? Your kid is starting to talk about the things that happened in your divorce or the things that are going on right now in the custody fight. I would offer to you that even if you’re hearing lies about this, keep the denials very straightforward. Do not get into factual arguments about them. Just say I don’t agree with that and then shift the topic off of whatever that is. I don’t agree with that statement. But these are issues that your mom and I or your dad and I need to work through. This is not something you should be worried about. All you should be worried about is how you’re feeling when you’re with me and when you’re with your mom or dad. And then just deflect onto something totally different. Don’t get into factual arguments with your kids.


And that leads into tip number three on this. And that is to as kind of an alternative to shifting into these factual arguments and wasting all your time and energy and emotional focus on lies and trying to correct those with a kid that’s not going to buy into what you’re preaching, at least not now. Instead, focus on what your kid is feeling. So, to me, this I talked about this again in the Emotional Embuffination book, and it wasn’t specific to kids, but it very much applies to kids. Human beings tend to speak things on the surface, but often feel something different underneath. And we’ll often go to great lengths to sort of misrepresent, in our words, what we’re actually feeling to make it sound better. So, if I’m feeling something underneath, even if the thing that I’m saying outwardly is conflicting with it, I start to generate associations out of these feelings. So, if what this all boils down to is that if your kid is acting like they don’t like you and they’re convinced that their mom or dad or whoever’s on the other side is just an angel, Godsend, wonderful person that could do no wrong, if you fixate on generating positive associations around that kid, they’re going to start to feel positively when they’re spending their time with you and they start to generate associations about you being a positive influence. Let me give you an example of this. Let’s say that I, I’m in this strained relationship with my kid’s ex. I’m not. I actually feel like we’re in a pretty good spot. But let’s just say that that was the case. Like, I thought she was an evil monster and she is saying all these bad things about me.


I could spend all my time arguing with her or with my kids about how she’s really the bad one and I’m not. Which is, again, going to make us all riled up. Or I could sit here and say, All right, daughter, son, let’s not get into that. Let’s let’s worry about those, I don’t agree with that. But let’s just let your mom and I sort this out. Instead, let me focus on spending some time doing the things that the kid likes to do. Are there video games, board games, some sort of pastime that I can engage in with my kid? I can, is there a place that my kid likes to go? Is there a park that we can go to? Is there a thing to do that we could go do together? Is there like, can we exercise together? Like, can we go ride bikes together? Whatever it is. Like, figure out what your kid likes and find a way to engage on that level. Make sure that you’re going out of your way and you really have to listen to your kid’s desires. Like what are they reacting to in a positive way. In an extreme alienation situation this can be tough because you have to really punch through that shell initially. But have some understanding of what it is that your kid likes to do. Talk to them. You know, figure this out. Every kid is going to be different, obviously. But what do they like doing? What makes them happy? What makes them excited? And then try to engage with them, provide them opportunities to do this stuff.


Because what you want to do is create this these positive feelings about the time with you. Because now not only are you not a faceless monster that you’re just talking about behind closed doors with the other parent, but now you are the person that takes them out and has some fun to do some of these things that they’re already enjoying. This is really important. Focus on the feelings, focus on what the kid likes to do. This does not mean just do whatever they want. I mean, you’re not trying to just be the Disneyland parent. If you’re not familiar with that expression, there’s oftentimes there are scenarios where you have one parent that just lets the kid do whatever they want to. And this becomes particularly problematic in a situation where, like one parent just has weekends or something or like they only get to see the kid over the summer where you’re not really dealing with the schoolwork and the day to day struggles that the kid really doesn’t want to deal with. I’m not saying if you’re in a situation where you have to be dealing with those things, abrogate, abrogate all responsibilities related to it, your kid has to have basic hygiene. They have to take a shower every day. They have to make sure they’re cleaning themselves. They have to go to school. They have to do their schoolwork.


All of those things are important and you have to have appropriate discipline, etc., etc.. But at the same time, you want to make sure that you’re allocating some time to whatever your kid enjoys doing and foster a positive emotional state when your kid is with you. Don’t waste all your time arguing with your kid about things that are in the past or dealing with the other parent.


Okay, tip number four. This one is tough because and I think this is especially difficult for people who are, feel like their lives are caving in on them or are super high on the agreeableness spectrum. If you want to look at the big Five personality aspect perspective. And the tip is to express and act out of a place of confidence. Now, I know that’s much easier said than done. It’s it’s kind of hard, especially if you feel like your life is caving in and, you know, you just you’re going through a divorce right now and you don’t even know how you’re going to cover the bills or where you’re going to live. And you just feel scared out of your mind. I understand that. But you want to minimize how much of the stuff you’re dumping on your kid. You you’re perfectly entitled to have fears. And if if your, if your world is falling apart right now, that’s sure as heck understandable. With that said, you want to be as strong as possible for your kid.


The reason this comes into the parental alienation situation is that human beings again, just on a global level, but children are certainly no exception, human beings gravitate towards confidence. And I’ve seen research studies where they have tested people who just kind of say things incorrectly, but with a lot of confidence and loudly and other people sort of gravitate to them and choose their ideas over someone else who might be absolutely right, but is saying it in a meek way. It is very important that your child not think that you are a train wreck. Especially if you’ve got a parental alienation situation going on. Again, I recognize this is not difficult, but the key thing I think the key takeaway, especially if you’re having a hard time expressing confidence or feeling confident around your child in the first place is to minimize how much chaos you are dumping onto them. Your kid is probably scared whether he or she is articulating it or not. They’re scared when these crazy things are happening in their lives. I went through my own divorce and it was probably about as amicable as a divorce could be. And I remember my kids when I first kind of broke it to them, they it was clear they didn’t know what to think or what was going on. I mean, this was like their whole lives falling apart. It was terrifying to them. And so we talked and they ended up feeling fine.


I was reassuring to them, that sort of thing. But I did not go through and just start saying, I don’t know what we’re going to do. This is just your other parent just left me here and it’s terrible. I mean, then your kid is going to soak up that you don’t know how to manage life. Now, what happens if the other parent and you’ve got on the other side of this very likely someone exhibiting narcissistic behavior patterns, because that’s the kind of behavior pattern that starts to alienate. Now, if you’ve got somebody doing that to you and they sound super confident, even if they’re totally wrong about all the conclusions about lying, about the things that are related to you, your kid is going to graft on to that confidence in a time when he or she feels like the world is caving in and it’s terrifying to that child. If you are feeling stuff, your kid is feeling it ten times worse. So where are they going to gravitate to when they’ve got one parent that sounds super confident about how to resolve all this versus one that’s just imploding. That’s why it becomes so important that you express confidence or at a bare minimum, do not expose your kid to any more chaos than you have to. Shield them from that stuff.


All right, tip number five, and this will be the last one I’m going to offer you today. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could throw in here, but I think this is a good ending point with it. Tip number five is to acknowledge gender distinctions. And this one, and I’m not even sure how this interfaces with some of the contemporary issues with non-binary stuff and transgender issues. And I’ve kind of touched on some of that and other podcast episodes, and I’m sure we’ll talk more about it. But at least looking at kind of traditional gender roles, I have noticed in my own work as a family law attorney, there was a stark correlation with a child aligning with the parent of the gender that they were associating with. In other words, I would see a son who would graft on to Dad and dad would alienate mom. Or the other way around. Mom would kind of hook up with daughter. Daughter would hate dad and mom would be alienating dad. There is a really obvious correlation that I saw in the cases that I worked on, not every single case, but there was a lot of cases like that where it was the gender aligned parent was the one that seemed to have the stronger foothold. This is really challenging. If you are a mom and you have a son and dad is alienating you and you’re doing all these other things, you’re expressing confidence, you’re making sure you spend time with your kid and focusing on their feelings, you’re not arguing about facts.


You’ve preserved the time in the first place. Let’s say you’re doing all this thing, this stuff, but still, you’re sitting here watching your son graft on to dad or your daughter graft onto mom and still seem to like hate you, or at least be very dismissive of you or something like that. If that’s the case, then, you may not like this part, but acknowledge the gender roles here. Acknowledge that your child is intuitively going to grasp for a role model in a sense that is aligned with their gender because subconsciously I think we sort of align with that when we’re in that developmental phase, we like I as a boy, I’m going to want to graft on to my dad because that’s sort of the model for living that I have. And at that age I’m still trying to figure it out, like how do I live in the first place? And so, if I have already identified as I’m male and I’m sitting there watching Dad versus mom, I’m going to try to copy dad more or vice versa. If I’m a daughter and I’m looking at mom versus dad, Mom is more representative of the thing that I think that I need to grow up to be. So I’m going to graft more onto mom. So acknowledge that those gender distinctions are there and acknowledge that your child, even if you don’t like the other parent, needs a role model of mom or dad.


And both of you are important. This does not mean that if you are mom, you play no role in your son’s life, or if you’re dad you play no role in your daughter’s life. There is abundant research talking about lacking either parent can cause all sorts of problems. It just it’s bad. You can increase crime rates or the likelihood that someone’s going to end up in prison. They’re going to have all sorts of problems, drugs, etc., etc.. So you need to be involved and a kid needs both parents if it’s at all possible. You want your son to have a mom. You want your daughter to have a dad. Like you need to have both parents in the equation. But if you are seeing this disparity and it’s lining up with these gender distinctions, don’t lose heart over that. Just acknowledge that this is a thing that happens. And do everything you can to stay present and do all this other stuff, like don’t get too caught up in the factual arguments, focus on their feelings, do everything with confidence, etc., etc..


This is a really, really challenging fight. Like I said, I think this is probably one of the most difficult things that at least on a day-to-day basis, human beings deal with. I think death is probably one of the highest on the list. Divorces, family breakups are number two in the list, at least kind of in the normal human experience. I’m not talking about like you’re in a concentration camp comparing it to that or something. But it it’s emotionally traumatic, which is why we’re talking about it on Emotional Embuffination.


This is a huge, huge emotional trigger and stressor for people. Which means that you have to manage yourself as best you can. Do everything you can to keep your emotions in check. Make sure that you are in control of yourself, because if you can’t be stable, you can’t expect your kid to be. And once you have gotten yourself to a relative level of stability, make sure that you’re going through this little checklist and just do not give up. It’s a long, difficult fight. But do not give up on this. If you walk away, if you step away from your kid at some point because you just feel like this fight is too ugly. Later on, your kid is going to say, Well, why weren’t you there? You left. And they’ll partially be right. It may be hard and you may be fighting walls at every turn, but just stay present and do your best. Just don’t leave. Like don’t abandon your kid or they’re going to figure you didn’t care. And the other parent was right. It’s a tough battle, but it’s an important battle. If you value the relationship with your kids. Do not give up.


Alright, I’m going to leave it there. That’s going to bring us to the end of today’s show. I hope that you find this useful. I know parental alienation is a very difficult topic and for some reason a controversial one about it’s even existence. But I’m hoping that you can use something here that’s going to make your relationship with your kids better. Or even if it’s not, even if you’re not dealing with a parental alienation situation, I hope that this can be useful in terms of dealing with your kids or just improving yourself generally. Remember, you want to keep becoming more and more emotionally embuffed all the time. This becomes ten times more important when you’ve got kids because you are their role model, that you are what they look up to. You are what they’re going to model and how you feel and how you train yourself to feel is exactly the thing that you are training your kids to do and feel in their own lives. So do you want them to grow up and be miserable or do you want them to be well-adjusted, emotionally balanced and able to deal with conflict? And if you want to train them in that, you need to be good at it yourself. Which means you’ve got to work at it. You’ve got to be doing this every day. Continually working on making sure that you have strong emotional states. At the end of the day, the emotional embuffination objective is to take you into a place of emotional strength that is sufficient to go from saying,”The struggle is real,” to saying, “What struggle?” Thank you all for listening. Have a great week and I will see you on the next show.