Parental Alienation Awareness Website

Parental Alienation Syndrome

by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

The original article may be found at:

Parental Alienation Syndrome

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach - Thursday, 6 July, 2006

I’ve written a great deal about my parent’s divorce and its affect on me and my siblings. I was recently approached by two women, Robin Denison and Sarvy Emo, who started an organization called The Parental Alienation Syndrome Awareness Campaign. They told me that they started an organization to alert the public to how prevalent it is becoming for one parent to try and turn the children against the other in a divorce. They told me that there are many clinicians who would diagnose this as an actual syndrome, meaning that the child is being conditioned, slowly, by one parent to dislike the other and internalize feelings of real hostility and negativity towards his mother or father. Every child needs a warm relationship with both of their parents and this insidious alienation is bound to scar the child deeply.

While I disagree that this a diagnosable illness that requires medical treatment, I absolutely agree with the two women who have approached me of the catastrophic consequences to a child when he or she is turned off one parent by the other, when he or she is forced to take sides in a divorce, and when he or she is made into an enemy of his father or his mother. From the many counseling sessions I have done involving parents who are divorcing, I have come to believe that this is almost the norm, that one parent will seek to either punish the other, or to find solace and comfort by drawing the children closer to them at the expense of the other parent. This alienation takes place especially in families where either the mother or the father feels that they are the aggrieved party in the divorce, say for example a man who decides to leave his wife. The wife will often seek to punish her ex-husband for the stress he has brought on his family, by using the children as weapons in her arsenal against him. Likewise, she might fail to differentiate what was done to her personally, however unjust, versus what was done to his children. Meaning, even if the father leaves her, he doesn’t necessarily have to leave his children. That doesn’t mean that I would ever condone a man abandoning his wife to be with another woman. But even if he has been a terrible husband does not mean he has to likewise be a terrible father. Conversely, if a woman decides to leave her husband, often because she does not wish to stay in a lonely and loveless marriage, her husband might decide to tell the kids that his wife left us - “us”, not “me” – making it thereby impossible for the children to ever enjoy a warm relationship with their own mother. Surely, this could never be healthy for them. I was very moved that these two women, both of whom have been affected by parental alienation syndrome and hence are devoted to the cause. And let’s face it, as a child of divorce I personally know the harmful and life-long consequences of divorce on children. Let’s not make it worse by using kids as pawns in a parental game of chess.

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Copyright Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, 2005

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