Reuniting with a minor child after experiencing parental alienation is a dream come true, a prayer answered, and a huge, huge challenge. Why? You may not understand how deeply parental alienation changes things between a parent and child.
Parental alienation is different from a short-term problem, behavioral difficulties, or a temporary, but unwanted, separation between a loving parent and child. Some have termed parental alienation a type of child abuse because the child experiences a deep and strongly felt negative (but unjustified) change in their belief about a parent the child was once close to and loved very much.
You might wonder if it is even possible for someone to disrupt a close, loving relationship between a parent and child. The answer is yes..
If you are the targeted parent and you are blessed enough to have a chance to re-establish regular contact with your child or have your child return to living with you, be very careful as your create goals and expectations for that reunion
Some things to keep in mind:
Your child is not the same person they were before they were subject to parental alienation. Losing the love and closeness of a parent due to re-programming and brainwashing is very traumatic to a child -- even if the child seems to support the falsehoods they have been taught. The child’s ability to trust is deeply wounded. An unnatural, unhealthy dependence upon the alienating parent is created. Even if the child begins to resist or resent the brainwashing forced upon them, they are no longer certain they can emotionally “return” to the targeted parent, so the child retains many of the false, alienating beliefs forced upon them.
If you were the targeted parent, it is very likely you have a different lifestyle, belief system, or way of life compared to the alienating parent. Your child must now make a major adjustment to your new routines. Anger and negativity are addictive. If you have managed to take the high road and avoid speaking and acting negatively about your former spouse or partner, your child may find it odd that name-calling, overtly hostile actions, and “bashing” are not a part of your regular conversations and discussions. You may appear “weak” because you ignore rather than engage in “trash-talking” and the like.
Depending upon how long you were away from your child, it may take years for your child to learn new ways of being in the world. If the alienating parent had control of your child during key, character-forming years, you may have to accept that the person you once knew is gone and may not return. Be open to beginning again. Be open to knowing this “new” person.
At the same time, allow yourself to grieve the loss of time and shared experiences. Sometimes targeted parents spend immense amounts of time and energy on “getting their child back” only to find the person you reunite with is not the person you once knew. Your child may have no interest in recreating themselves in the image you remember. Get help from a counselor, a knowledgeable person, or a trusted, listening friend. Don’t try to go it alone.
If your child has returned to you because of court action, illegal behavior of the alienating parent, or a similar circumstance, your child may not have wanted to leave the home to which they’d become accustomed. Your child may feel angry about living with the person they hated or disrespected. Your authority may be challenged because your child has been taught you are not worthy of respect, courtesy, or obedience. Be prepared for the fact that this reunion may have a different meaning for your child than for you.
Allow time for you and your child and other family members to re-integrate your lives.
Getting your child back is a blessing, despite the difficulties that may accompany the return. Be prepared and prayerful as you begin another chapter with your child. Ask God for help, insight, and courage. Accept that you may no longer have the relationship that once existed, but it is possible to have a relationship worth sharing.