The Joy Of Imperphect Parenting


“...we’d make different mistakes. We’d make better mistakes, next time. Yes, we’d make better mistakes.”
— The Odd Life Of Timothy Green



 Allowing children to love and be loved is paramount. Over the years my husband and I sought out ways to be in charge of ourselves, regardless of what takes place in their other home.  We took parenting classes, read books, and went to counseling . What we have adopted is an article we found on parental alienation that we turned it into a family plan. 



"To prevent the devastating effects of Parental Alienation, you must begin by recognizing the symptoms of PA. You will notice that many of the symptoms or behaviors focus on the parent. When the child exhibits hatred and vilifies the targeted parent, then the condition becomes parental alienation syndrome. After reading the list, don't get discouraged when you notice that some of your own behaviors have been alienating. This is normal in even the best of parents. Instead, let the list help sensitize you to how you are behaving and what you are saying to your children."


Symptoms of Parental Alienation

Copyright 1997 by Douglas Darnall, Ph.D.



* Giving children choices when they have no choice about visits. Allowing the child to decide for themselves to visit when the court order says there is no choice sets up the child for conflict. The child will usually blame the non-residential parent for not being able to decide to choose whether or not to visit. The parent is now victimized regardless of what happens; not being able to see his children or if he sees them, the children are angry. 

Our Goal: Is to eliminate as much conflict and stress as possible on our children and free them up to love both parents/families. Make our children aware of unhealthy affects on them if discussions occur with them and the other parent. 

Our Plan: Discuss visitation with co-parent only and not bring our children into the conversation. 

*Telling the child "everything" about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce is alienating. The parent usually argues that they are "just wanting to be honest" with their children. This practice is destructive and painful for the child. The alienating parent's motive is for the child to think less of the other parent. 

Our Plan: To let our children know the details surrounding the separation between parents is a private matter and will not benefit them. However, make them aware they are well-loved and they were not the cause or source for the separation.

Our Goal: Not to defame the other parent and to create a safe environment for our children to be experience love and affection at both homes. 

*Refusing to acknowledge that children have property and may want to transport their possessions between residences. 

Our Plan: To purchase items for our children that are theirs regardless of residence. 

Our Plan: Provide stability and consistency for our children by making a place for their items.

*Resisting or refusing to cooperate by not allowing the other parent access to school or medical records and schedules of extracurricular activities. 

Our Goal: To share as much information about our children as possible with the other parent regarding schooling/medical/ and spiritual activities regardless of the other parents reciprocation. 

Our Plan: To make extracurricular activities about our children so we can best facilitate their upbringing and also not interfere with their parenting time.

*A parent blaming the other parent for financial problems, breaking up the family, changes in lifestyle, or having a girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.

Our Goal: Take responsibility for our own finances and not inquire or discuss the finances at the co-parents house.

Our Plan: Take care of our children’s needs regardless of other parents financial abilities/responsibilities. 

*Refusing to be flexible with the visitation schedule in order to respond to the child's needs. The alienating parent may also schedule the children in so many activities that the other parent is never given the time to visit. Of course, when the targeted parent protests, they are described as not caring and selfish. 

Our Goal: To create a way for our children to spend as much time with each parent as possible.

Our Plan: Not to schedule events that will take away from either parent’s time so our children will benefit from experiencing connection with both parents as much as possible. Share with our children the importance of the need to spend as much time with each parent as possible and that facilitates their ability to be involved in extracurricular activities and recommend ways to meet as many of their needs as possible, not just one. 

*Assuming that if a parent had been physically abusive with the other parent, it follows that the parent will assault the child. This assumption is not always true. 

Our Goal: Create a safe environment for our children to live at our home at all times, including emotional, physical, and otherwise, security.

Our Plan: Not ask our children leading questions about other parent: neglectful, abusive, or otherwise. Not to make accusations, interrogations, or assumptions, rather seek professional help if we have sincere concern about their well-being.

*Asking the child to choose one parent over another parent causes the child considerable distress. Typically, they do not want to reject a parent, but instead want to avoid the issue. The child, not the parent, should initiate any suggestion for change of residence. 

Our Goal: Provide a home for our children where they can enjoy life and not worry about it. We seek to allow our children to rest at night and not struggle with love/hate/bitterness/unforgiveness, and loyalty. 

Our Plan: Not cause our children to choose Mom or Dad. Not make them have to deal with who they have to love the most or desire to live with based on manipulation, guilt, stress, fear, and especially by making their other home appear inferior.

*Children will become angry with a parent. This is normal, particularly if the parent disciplines or has to say "no". If for any reason the anger is not allowed to heal, you can suspect parental alienation. Trust your own experience as a parent. Children will forgive and want to be forgiven if given a chance. Be very suspicious when the child calmly says they cannot remember any happy times with you or say anything they like about you.

Our Goal: To provide guidelines, boundaries, and consequences to teach our children so they grow up to become healthy adults.

Our Plan: Not to give into fear of their fit, their false beliefs, and their emotions, over doing what we know is right and best for them: Especially, regardless of what their other parent tells them is “true.”

*Be suspicious when a parent or stepparent raises the question about changing the child's name or suggests an adoption. 

Our Goal: Is to foster a healthy relationship between all parental figures so our children grow experiencing love and not rejection.

Our Plan: Focus on connecting our children with their biological parents first and love our children regardless of the other parent(s) actions.

*When children cannot give reasons for being angry towards a parent or their reasons are very vague without any details. 

Our Goal: Do not discuss the other parent with the children, but encourage them to talk about their personal thoughts and feelings with them directly. Create a safe place for our children to feel happy, safe, and loved by both parents.

Our Plan: Not to provoke our children to become angry or hateful toward their other parent.

*A parent having secrets, special signals, a private rendezvous, or words with special meanings are very destructive and reinforce an on-going alienation.

Our Goal: Create a place where our children do not have to live secretive, guarded, or fearful.

Our Plan: Confront the other parent when issues arise and not bring our children into the conflict.  If more serious action is needed we will get the court system involved as a last resort.  

*When a parent uses a child to spy or covertly gather information for the parent's own use, the child receives a damaging message that demeans the victimized parent. 

Our Goal: To mind our own business and not inquire of personal matters regarding the other parent.

Our Plan: To create an atmosphere that does not demean anyone in our children’s lives.

*Parents setting up temptations that interfere with the child's visitation.

Our Goal: Remove as many extra complications in our children’s lives as we can be responsible for.

Our Plan: Not use manipulation as a tool against our children as life is hard enough without co-parents making it more difficult than it needs to be.

*A parent suggesting or reacting with hurt or sadness to their child having a good time with the other parent will cause the child to withdraw and not communicate. They will frequently feel guilty or conflicted not knowing that it's "okay" to have fun with their other parent. 

Our Goal: Allow our children to enjoy both parents so they grow up with confidence and freedom to be happy with both parents.

Our Plan: Not to create drama, overreact, and or give into insecurities about our children’s affections toward the other parent. We are divorced. We do not have to like the other parent, however, we will not hinder our children from liking their other parent.

*The parent asking the child about his/her other parent's personal life causes the child considerable tension and conflict. Children who are not alienated want to be loyal to both parents. 

Our Goal: Allow our children to love both parents without causing them to have to choose “sides.” Focus on our personal families needs, health, and how to better our parental skills.

Our Plan: Not inquire about personal matters about the other parent. They are none of our business and will only cause harm. Their is no benefit for anyone.

*When parents physically or psychologically rescue the children when there is no threat to their safety. This practice reinforces in the child's mind the illusion of threat or danger, thereby reinforcing alienation. 

Our Goal: Remove drama from our children’s lives while they are in our care. Walk them through managing their emotions from anger, pain, frustration, and more. 

Our Plan: Provide our children with skill sets and coping mechanisms to deal with life in general.

*Making demands on the other parent that is contrary to court orders. 

Our Goal: To follow the court order that is in place. If the other parent is willing and able to discuss, negotiate, and appropriately walk in relationship in regards to the children, be open to dialogue. 

Our Plan: To set clear boundaries and guidelines when it comes the care of our children to relieve as much stress and conflict as possible.

*Listening in on the children's phone conversation they are having with the other parent. 

Our Goal: Allow our children to have their own personal relationship with both parents and not interfere with their contact and relationship.

Our Plan: Not monitor our children’s relationship with the other parent through any medium including phone conversations, text messages, email, etc.

*The child is encouraged to be with friends or play on video games in preference to being with the alienated parent.

Our Goal: Making parenting time a priority over other activities and relationships. 

Our Plan: Create a place for children to enjoy family activities, social activities, and healthy interactions with both households. 

*The alienating parent tends to seek to curtail all communication between the child and the alienated parent.

Our Goal: Make open lines of communication for children in whatever way possible.

Our Plan: Provide our children with a phone and internet access so they can stay connected to both households as much as possible. 

*The alienated parent is seen as the scapegoat. He or she is blamed for everything that has gone wrong with the child. There is no sense of ambivalence.

Our Goal: Take personal responsibilities for ourselves and our own mistakes as parents.

Our Plan: To teach our children to take personal responsibilities for their own actions regardless of anyone else's. 

*Alienated parents are viewed as being despicable, faulty and deserving of being rejected permanently.

We would like to be intentional about creating a place for our children to grow up as healthy as possible in every area of their lives. We are setting goals and plans on how we would walk through our relationship with our children regardless of how their other parent handles their side of the relationship. This will have both short term and long term benefits on their lives.