Advocacy, Anger, Blended Families, Child Abuse, Conflict Resolution, Divorce, Divorce Poison, Dr. Amy Baker, Dr. Gardner, Grief, Growth, Healing, Losing a Child, Mediation, NJ, Parental Alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Peaceful Parenting, Post-Divorce Issues, Step-Families
Holidays in our household are very special, despite the road blocks we used to meet and the current longing for someone who is missing. My family and extended family, especially on my husband’s side, is very tight-knit and we enjoy getting together on a regular basis, and especially on holidays . I have 5 biological children and 1 bonus-daughter from my husband’s previous marriage. Needless to say, planning the holidays around a blended family schedule was usually stressful, confusing and always uncertain, especially for my husband. Nonetheless, once we all gathered, we had a blissful and cheery time.
I use the past tense “was” because for the past two and a half years my step-daughter has been suffering from what they call Parental Alienation Syndrome, which you may be very well aware of if you are following my blog. I say “suffering” but I don’t even know if she is consciously suffering. My step-daughter has not been to our home in two and a half years! My husband’s only way of contacting her is through his former wife’s cell phone, and I’m sure you can imagine that doesn’t get him anywhere, except a constant stream of voicemail.
Since I have been married to my husband, I have witnessed first-hand how painful it can be when a former spouse does everything in his or her power to alienate the other parent from the child. My husband, for the longest time, bowed down to his former wife’s demands, stating “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Sooner, rather than later, this caused tension in our own marriage; who likes to see their husband get walked on like a dirty rug? Not me. However, with a little bit of marriage therapy (highly recommended for a blended family) we grew to a deeper understanding of each others feelings and fears and learned how to deal with these frequent situations together. Nonetheless, I could see what was happening with my husband’s relationship with his daughter before he could, except I didn’t know there was a term for it; Parental Alienation. I happen to be an adult child that suffered from Parental Alienation, and unfortunately, I spent 11 years of my childhood separated from my dad because of it.
Back to my point. How do you all get through the Holidays with a difficult ex, blended family schedules, or a child that sulks the entire time they are with you? Or, worse, going through the holidays without seeing or speaking to your child?
Small things are difficult for us, such as signing my step-daughter’s name on holiday cards, yet she is missing from our family photo on the front of the card. I create a yearly holiday newsletter that we send to our loved ones, yet we have nothing to report on my step-daughter. My husband won’t say anything to extended family, he doesn’t even speak about it to his immediate family. We usually give a one liner “DD is going great, she is in the ___th grade.” We all used to buy her gifts, but her mom would drive her to my in-laws home where she would return them in a black garbage bag.
My husband won’t do the court thing again. We been through that and he’s been completely let down from the court system, not to mention the exorbitant costs of legal services. So, we are basically in limbo here. My husband never discusses the situation (which reminds me of families living with alcoholics, “don’t tell anyone our secret”.) There is a lot of shame or embarrassment that the Targeted Parent faces because, “what will people think?”. His parents, my step-daughters grand-parents, have stopped talking about her as though she never existed. I’m more in the grieving process, but I’m so confused. I think I’m the only one is the family that has focused my energy on understanding this situation, learning from it, healing from it, and now talking about it. My children are the ones to speak about their big sister often, they ask when will she be back “when will she stop being angry?”. I’ve started up a meetup group to discuss Parental Alienation with other parents and family members who are going through this same situation.
So, what do you do? How do you handle it? Where are you at in the process? Have you brought back a child from “the dark side” (as my son calls it; he’s completely into Star Wars theory)?
Here’s one thought. As the holidays approach, turn your shame, your suffering, your confusion, your anger into a positive approach. Write a letter. Tell a friend. Tell a stranger. Join a support group. BUT, Don’t Give Up! Your Child NEEDS YOU! Children need BOTH parents!