If you are the targeted parent in Parental Alienation Syndrome, you know all too well how heartbreaking this situation is. I’ve been hearing more and more cases of this happening, and it feels similar to the rampant mindset in today’s world of “cancelling” another human being. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss what it is, 8 manifestations of it, the necessity of grieving through it, and how you might choose to see this situation to alleviate your suffering.
Parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to foster a child’s rejection of the other parent. Parental alienation syndrome develops in children who come to hate, fear, and reject the targeted parent as someone unworthy of having a relationship with them.
When I write, it’s typically not from a clinical perspective with lots of supportive documentation and research.  Rather, I offer my views from an emotional, relational, and sometimes spiritual standpoint after 14 years of formal coaching experience. My legacy is about raising awareness of emotional and positive intelligence practices so that all beings have more empathy and compassion for one another, especially when we have differing beliefs.

If you would like support while navigating this painful terrain of parent alienation, check out my upcoming Heal Your Heart Retreat.

Have You Been Cancelled As A Parent?

If you have, I want to say I’m sorry that this is happening to you. From the women and men I’ve spoken with who have been cancelled by their children, there is nothing more painful in some ways.  Divorce is often claimed to be harder than being widowed because it feels personal when someone leaves us.
Similarly, when a living child decides that one of their parents isn’t worth their time, it can be very emotionally damaging to the targeted parent, worse than death in some ways. With death, we don’t feel as personally responsible or blamed for the person exiting our lives.
Parental Alienation: Have Your Kids Turned Against You?
The targeted parent is the parent being cancelled by the child, as a result of being manipulated and encouraged by the mastermind of the deal, the alienating parent.
This type of rejection of the parent is devastating. It pulls them into a grieving cycle as you can imagine.  Further, they often have disenfranchised grief (see more about this from last week’s blog), where they don’t feel they have a right to grieve because the rejection from their child is complicated.

Sheri’s Heartbreaking Story Of Parental Alienation

Sheri McGregor is an author, certified life coach, and has a Masters degree in Human Behavior. She wrote Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children (2016) as well as Nature’s Healing Spirit: Real Life Stories to Nurture the Soul (2018). I highly recommend you read both books.
Sheri explains how she wrote Done With Crying in response to being estranged by her son in his 20’s, and how she slipped into despair. She sought help to deal with the denial, blame and shame, but instead found a lot of judgment.

Rejected Parents Are Harshly Judged

“Beliefs about how much parents influence children’s development are pervasive and oversimplified. Because of ideals about unconditional love and the mother-child bond, those who speak about adult children who estrange themselves are often judged, or even shunned.

So we tend to isolate ourselves, fearing we’ll be looked at with speculation as to what we did wrong. We can even start to look at ourselves this way, wondering how our lifelong love for our children could be interpreted any other way.
In my search for help, I discovered that even so-called experts judge parents, believing we must have been too strict, too lenient, too nosy, too opinionated, too . . . anything.
But shaming parents who have done their best only isolates them. Humiliated and hurt, abandoned parents face a quandary: tell and perhaps be judged (and further hurt), or suffer in silence (and be cut off from any possible help).”

Patterns I’ve Noticed In The Targeted Parent


Sheri states the problem so eloquently and succintly. Typically parents are blamed for how their kids turn out. Admittedly, parents do play a big role in influencing their child’s development, but so do a lot of other things, like TV, social media, news, their schooling, politics, their friends, other family members, their diet, THEIR choices. Obviously, the alienating parent who has an agenda to seek revenge against the target parent plays a huge role in influencing the child.
Of the many people I’ve spoken with over the years who have experienced estrangement by their grown children, every single one of them, though not a perfect parent, struck me as very gentle, kind, loving, and conscious. I don’t mean to over-simplify here; relationships are complex.  You might even say that the targeted partents I’ve met are highly sensitive and empathic, but I can’t guarantee that is the case–it’s been my impression though.

Eight Manifestations Of Parental Alienation Syndrome

(Read here for the rest of the article “Parental Alienation Syndrome — The Parent/Child Disconnect” By Amy J. L. Baker, PhD Social Work Today Vol. 8 No. 6 P. 26–Nov/Dec 2008 Issue)
Parental Alienation: Have Your Kids Turned Against You?

1) A Campaign of Denigration

Alienated children are consumed with hatred of the targeted parent. They deny any positive past experiences and reject all contact and communication. Parents who were once loved and valued seemingly overnight become hated and feared.

2) Weak, Frivolous, and Absurd Rationalizations

When alienated children are questioned about the reasons for their intense hostility toward the targeted parent, the explanations offered are not of the magnitude that typically would lead a child to reject a parent. These children may complain about the parent’s eating habits, food preparation, or appearance. They may also make wild accusations that could not possibly be true.

3) Lack of Ambivalence About the Alienating Parent  

Alienated children exhibit a lack of ambivalence about the alienating parent, demonstrating an automatic, reflexive, idealized support. That parent is perceived as perfect, while the other is perceived as wholly flawed. If an alienated child is asked to identify just one negative aspect of the alienating parent, he or she will probably draw a complete blank. This presentation is in contrast to the fact that most children have mixed feelings about even the best of parents and can usually talk about each parent as having both good and bad qualities.

4) The “Independent Thinker” Phenomenon

Even though alienated children appear to be unduly influenced by the alienating parent, they will adamantly insist that the decision to reject the targeted parent is theirs alone. They deny that their feelings about the targeted parent are in any way influenced by the alienating parent and often invoke the concept of free will to describe their decision.

5) Absence of Guilt About the Treatment of the Targeted Parent

Alienated children typically appear rude, ungrateful, spiteful, and cold toward the targeted parent, and they appear to be impervious to feelings of guilt about their harsh treatment. Gratitude for gifts, favors, or child support provided by the targeted parent is nonexistent. Children with parental alienation syndrome will try to get whatever they can from that parent, declaring that it is owed to them.

6) Reflexive Support for the Alienating Parent in Parental Conflict

Intact families, as well as recently separated and long-divorced couples, will have occasion for disagreement and conflict. In all cases, the alienated child will side with the alienating parent, regardless of how absurd or baseless that parent’s position may be. There is no willingness or attempt to be impartial when faced with interparental conflicts. Children with parental alienation syndrome have no interest in hearing the targeted parent’s point of view. Nothing the targeted parent could do or say makes any difference to these children.

7) Presence of Borrowed Scenarios

Alienated children often make accusations toward the targeted parent that utilize phrases and ideas adopted from the alienating parent. Indications that a scenario is borrowed include the use of words or ideas that the child does not appear to understand, speaking in a scripted or robotic fashion, as well as making accusations that cannot be supported with detail.

8) Rejection of Extended Family 

Finally, the hatred of the targeted parent spreads to his or her extended family. Not only is the targeted parent denigrated, despised, and avoided but so are his or her extended family. Formerly beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are suddenly and completely avoided and rejected.
In a 2007 study (Baker & Darnall, 2007), targeted parents rated their children as experiencing these eight behavioral manifestations in a way that was generally consistent with a high degree of frequency.  
One exception was alienated children being able to maintain a relationship with some members of the targeted parent’s extended family, which occurred in cases where that relative was actually aligned with the alienating parent. This suggests that the context of the contact with the targeted parent’s extended family (that relative’s role in the alienation) needs to be understood prior to concluding whether this component is present in the child.

Talk About A Case Of Injustice–What About The Alienating  Parent?

What would motivate the alienating parent to alienate their child from their co-parent?  It seems to me that the targeted parent is being blamed, shunned and held responsible for the entirety of the parent/child relationship which is totally unrealistic and unfair.

Think about the impact of gossip.

What if a co-worker, Bob, came up to you and whispered in your ear, “Have you seen that new guy who started in Accounts Receivable?  He’s a total idiot.  Doesn’t even know how to dress. And his breath stinks to boot.  He’ll never make it around here.” Would you be able to maintain your objectivity towards Bob?
Even if you did consciously give the guy a chance, emotionally and subconsciously a part of you has already pigeon-holed him as defective.
We humans are easily manipulated and wired for negativity.  Sadly, we tend to look for the worst in others.  That being said, can you see how readily we can be influenced and deceived into believing lies?  If you add on top of that the fact that a child is hardwired to WANT TO believe in and love BOTH parents, can you see how it would be extra confusing for a child to begin to believe that one of their natural advocates in life, the targeted parent, has turned into an enemy not worthy of their love?

Emotional, Physical, And Sexual Abuse

In the same article as referenced above, “Parental Alienation Syndrome — The Parent/Child Disconnect,” this is what was stated:  “Many of the interviewees revealed that the alienating parent had emotionally, physically, or sexually abused them.
These data should help put to rest the prevailing notion that all children (in their naive wisdom) will ally themselves with the parent better able to attend to their needs. The people interviewed appeared to side with the parent on whom they had become dependent and whose approval they were most afraid of losing, not the parent who was most sensitive or capable.”
The last sentence is worth re-reading.  Our children are being loyal to the parent whose approval they most seek, from a place of pain. They want one parent’s love so much, that they are willing to reject the other parent, who probably on some level feels “safer” to reject. 
This rejection of their parent has negative consequences on the adult child too as this type of separation and disconnection never feels good and is very disorienting, especially when they know on a deep level, that the targeted parent is being unjustly treated. It’s not healthy for them as they age, but that’s a topic for another day.

How Can You View This Situation To  Get Some Relief?

This is such a complex subject that I want to honor its depth.  So my suggestions are merely a starting point. I’m happy to talk to you about it.

I’m teaching an upcoming Heal Your Heart event that would be a good first step as well.

Parental Alienation: Have Your Kids Turned Against You?

1) Realize it’s not your fault. You’ve done your best. 

You are lovable and good enough and your child’s rejection of you has more to do with them and their needs as well as the fact they’ve been manipulated, rather than a moral judgment of you.

2) Deep healing is needed to move through the grief

I recommend energy work which I do and can help you with). You will always love your child, AND you’re a human with feelings who deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. By maintaining your belief in  yourself, knowing who you are, staying grounded, you can survive and thrive through any life challenge.

3) Develop positive intelligence

Having the ability to be resilient and see the gift in ANY life scenario will be a huge blessing to you. Let’s face it. Life can really suck at times.  When seen through the eyes of your Inner Sage or Higher Self, it’s all OK. We can surrender to just about anything.

I believe in you and love your sensitive, caring spirit.  You aren’t perfect (who is?), AND you deserve to feel loved, accepted, valued and appreciated no matter what anyone else says or does.

Much Love,
Angie Monko,
Holistic Divorce/Loss Coach