Parental Alienation Q&A continued

Q: My daughter hates and despises me... says she will run away and hide or fight if I try to pick her up at her dad's for my parenting time. I am devastated. What should I do?

- Sad Alienated Mom #2

A: Oh my, I'm sorry. That must have been very hard for you to hear.

Please don't believe her when she says she hates you. What she means is that she feels terribly angry and confused and upset. Kids go to extremes in their emotional expressions. If they say they are so mad they could punch someone, it's their way of describing the intensity of their emotion. It's not an indicator of true intention or premeditated violence.

Parental Alienation Q&A

Q: I read your article, Defending Against Parental Alienation. I seem to be already doing all of these things, but my 2 kids (9 and 12) are not speaking to me. They live out of state, and I have custody of them in summer and on school holidays. Their stepmom is very angry with me because I told someone in confidence that I was concerned that she may be trying to alienate my kids from me, and somehow, word got back to her.

Since then, my kids won't return my calls or text messages, and periodically send me texts saying I am mean and demanding that I "take back" what I said about their stepmom. I am working with my counselor on this, but wondered if you would also have any suggestions (which I would bounce off of my counselor first before implementing) on what to do or not to do? I will see them for spring break, but they don't know that because they think they can just decide not to come.

-Sad Alienated Mom

A: Dear Sad Alienated Mom,

My heart goes out to you. I'm so glad you have a good counselor - this is one of the hardest possible situations for a parent to face, and you'll need a source of support where you can be completely candid and release all of your feelings in confidentiality.

My daughter complains about her dad's girlfriend

Q: My daughter comes home upset about lots of things that happen at her dad's. Lately, the biggest problem is that she does not like his new girlfriend. How do I handle this? Should I tell her to talk to him about her feelings? It's complicated, because sometimes I've seen my daughter be nice to her, so I don't even know what is real here. Should I tell my daughter that she's sending mixed messages?

A: This is a great opportunity to practice your empathy skills, because you have absolutely no control over this situation. Sometimes we are tempted to try to get our children to talk to their other parent about their feelings, but I think it is far more helpful to stay with your child's feelings in the moment than to try to help her solve anything.

Let's listen in on how it sounds to give empathy:

My ex calls too much when our kids are with me

Q: My ex just can't seem to leave our six year daughter alone while she is with me. He calls my cell phone several times a day, and if we don't pick up, he'll call back five or ten more times in rapid succession until he eventually talks to her. Recently he got her an email address and told her to check her email every day. It feels so disruptive and intrusive! How can I get him to back off?

A: Yuck. I don't blame you for feeling irritated!

I'd make a direct request by sending him an email. I wouldn't expect that he'll actually honor it, (although you never know!), but it's important for your own integrity that you are clear in your communication: Please leave a voice message if we don't pick up. She will call you back when we have a free moment. I'd prefer not to receive multiple follow up calls. 

My ex talks negatively about me to our kids

Q: I read your article about parental alienation. I have been dealing with my son’s father for several years now. All along, I've stood my ground, been open to allowing our son to have his own opinion, and somehow not given in to defending myself to my child. It does worry me that constantly hearing these negative comments will somehow damage my son in the future. I follow the guidelines in your article pretty consistently. Is there something else I could be doing to smooth the edges? 

A: Thanks so much for writing. First and foremost, let me commend you for the way you have handled this challenging situation thus far. Your son is lucky indeed to have you as a clear, conscious, and compassionate role model.

free parenting articles - very helpful strategies!!!

stumbled upon this site today, and spent hours reading free articles about an approach to parenting that is very similar to what Robin and I teach in our Inspiring Connections parenting workshops.

It's amazing stuff. Be sure to check out the ones about sleep, whining, aggression, and siblings. Aw heck, just read as many as you can. This approach is truly insightful and effective, and these articles will very likely transform your entire perspective on your role as a parent. I'd love to hear your thoughts and reactions.

For more information about Karen's parenting consultations, click here or visit

The Magical Power of Empathy

Parental empathy, which is nothing more than simply reflecting your child's emotion and perspective by repeating it back, is the magic wand I wish I'd known about when my kids were little.

The magnificent book and DVD by Dr. Harvey Karp, The Happiest Toddler on the Block didn't exist back then. I muddled my way through to it eventually, and to be honest, I'm still working on making it my default response.

Launching Our Teenagers

Q: How long it will take for my 19 year old daughter to wake up and see reality? Recently she moved to another state with her deadbeat boyfriend and their baby. My husband said that in time, (and it may even take a few years), she will see for herself what kind of guy she is with. In the meantime, I don't want to sit around sulking and dwelling on it. I thought we taught her right from wrong, so why is she making such terrible choices? Where did we go wrong? Can you give me a little bit of advice on how to not let this situation hurt me so much?

Jill from Florida (Mom of 4)

A: You have reached a pivotal juncture that all parents will eventually face:

The Big Letting Go.

I'm glad to hear that you don't want to sit around dwelling on your daughter's choices. You have your own life to live, your own choices to make, and your own opportunities to pursue.

Why ask why?

A helpful question to ask yourself when your child has just done something you find unacceptable or inappropriate is: "What was my child is trying to accomplish with this behavior?"

Why does this matter? Because children use immature strategies to get their needs met or accomplish their "goals". Their social skills are not developed enough to ask nicely, so they grab. They weren't born knowing that we use"excuse me" to ask others to step out of our way, so they just push their way through. What adult onlookers might interpret as manipulation, opposition, or cruelty is often simply evidence that kids don't know a better way to do things yet.