Spring 2011 Newsletter: I Don’t Want to Choose

Welcome to Our First Newsletter!

We would like to share with you what is going on in the field of parental alienation.

As an alienated parent or family member we are often isolated with feelings of helplessness and utter despair, even rage that our precious children have been taken away from us. But you must take courage and believe that change is coming, not fast enough, but coming.

Over the next year we hope to present a quarterly series of guest writers who will further educate and inspire us with their ongoing research, knowledge and dedication. Studies continue to take place, lawyers with awareness of PAS continue to fight for their clients’ right to have a relationship with their children, and the public continue to become aware of how dangerous it is to alienate a child against a once-loved parent.

Warm regards,

Pamela Richardson
Author, A Kidnapped Mind
Founder, The Dash Foundation

Introduction to our Guest Writer

As I have stated many times now, we have come a long way from when I first discovered Parental Alienation Syndrome after reading the late Dr. Richard Gardner’s book in the early nineties. The general awareness continues to grow, support groups are far reaching and global, the legal system has precedent setting cases, and there are a growing number of hardworking professionals whose work has gained international recognition.

One of them is Dr. Amy Baker. Dr. Baker has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is the author of Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind, the author or co-author of over 60 peer-reviewed articles on parent-child relationships and is a national expert on parental alienation. She has been interviewed on Good Morning America and The Joy Behar Show.

We are delighted to introduce Dr. Baker as our first guest writer. Dr. Baker and Katherine Andre have started a program to help children torn in a loyalty vise between their two parents. Her program is designed to empower children not to be pressured to choose one parent over another, which is at the heart of every child suffering from parental alienation.

If you have any questions for Dr. Baker please contact her at amybaker@aol.com. The program and materials (the book and workbook) are available at www.amyjlbaker.com.

Teaching children critical thinking skills to resist the pressure to choose one parent over the other: The “I Don’t Want to Choose” Program

by Dr. Amy J. Baker

The IDWTC program was developed by parental alienation experts (Katherine Andre and Amy J.L. Baker) based on the following six premises: First, divorce is a stressor for children. All children experience loss and turmoil from a divorce (even when the divorce itself leads to a positive outcome for the children and family). Second, some parents behave in a way that creates pressure in the child to choose one parent over the other. Third, it is difficult for children to sustain a divided loyalty. Choosing one parent over the other when the rejected parent has done nothing to warrant the rejection (becoming alienated) solves the problem for the child in the short-term (Ellis, 2005). Fourth, alienation due to loyalty conflicts occurs as a process. Thus, there is a window of opportunity to intervene. Fifth, alienation should be avoided in order to prevent long-term negative outcomes (Baker, 2005; 2007). Sixth, children may need “permission” and skills to resist the pressure from a trusted neutral third party who is not aligned with either parent (a therapist, a school counselor).

Rejection of one parent in response to a loyalty conflict should be avoided when possible, as it is associated with long-term damage to the child’s self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and well-being (Baker, 2007). One part of the solution to this family dynamic is to educate all parents who are divorcing about the negative effects of loyalty conflicts on children and how to respond to the myriad of emotional minefields and traps involved in such a situation before it is too late (see for example Baker & Fine, 2008). Another approach is to teach children of divorce how to use critical thinking skills in order to resist the pressure to choose.

The I Don’t Want to Choose Program

The IDWTC program materials were developed to teach children critical thinking skills. A book and workbook can be used with individual children to read alone or with a parent, therapist or other trusted adult. The school-based curriculum is designed as a 20-week program facilitated by a school professional for groups of 6-10 children. In each (book, workbook and school curriculum), 17 family situations which are likely to induce loyalty conflicts are presented to children. The 17 family situations identified in research as key alienation strategies (Baker & Darnall, 2006; Baker, 2007) and include: one parent looks sad, angry, or hurt when you leave to be with the other parent; one parent asks you to spy on the other parent; and one of your parents says mean or untrue things to you about the other parent. These family situations can create a desire in the child to align with one parent against the other. For each of the 17 situations, the child is taught how to approach the problem in four ways.

Problem-Solving Approach 1: Critical Thinking Skills: Critical thinking is defined as the ability to examine one’s beliefs and consider the possibility of changing them. Engaging critical thinking skills allows children to consider that they are adopting false ideas which need to be examined and possibly revised.

Problem-Solving Approach 2: Considering Options: It is explained to children that when a parent asks a child to do something (keep a secret, spy on the other parent, and so forth) it is hard to object. Children are encouraged to respond to parental authority. Thus, the program teaches children how to slow down and respectfully step outside of the loyalty conflict without choosing sides.

Problem-Solving Approach 3: Listing to One’s Heart: Listening to one’s heart involves getting and staying in touch with one’s own truth. Children are reminded that they know who their parents are and what they mean to them and to stay strong in the face of pressure to change their truth.

Problem-Solving Approach 4: Getting Support: The final problem solving approach is getting support, from both within the child and from trusted others. Children are taught to develop and access their inner strength and courage through positive self-talk and taking care of themselves and listening to their bodies. They are also taught how to identify and seek support from trusted others (peers, mentors, relatives) in order gain perspective and encouragement when needed.

Currently, the IDWTC program has been run in six groups. Program developers have gained valuable insight into program operations. The long-term goal is to conduct a multi-cohort longitudinal prospective program evaluation. In the meantime, the program materials (the book and workbook) are available at www.amyjlbaker.com.

In the Next Issue…

We are honoured to announce that our featured contributor for the next issue will be Dr. Glenn Caddy.

Dr. Glenn Caddy is a clinical and forensic psychologist. He has served on the editorial board of numerous scientific journals and presently serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Family Therapy.

To touch on some highlights, Dr. Caddy has published over one hundred peer reviewed scientific manuscripts, four books and various Internet-based distance learning applications.

In 1990, Dr. Caddy left the world of academia and began his practice of clinical and forensic psychology. He is well known for his involvement in serious criminal matters, matters of high trauma and head injury, death and post conviction death cases and sex crimes.

Dr. Caddy has also worked extensively in issues involving cults, spiritual abuse, mind control and child abuse. It is within this context that his work in both mind control and shared delusional disorder led him to an interest and a reputation in the area of Parental Alienation. Dr. Caddy has served as a consultant or been qualified as an expert in more than one hundred cases in Australia, Canada, and the United States involving issues in parental alienation.

Your Stories

A Kidnapped Mind was written in hopes of increasing awareness of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Each day we receive many emails requesting assistance and it is difficult to give each the attention they deserve.

As Pamela is a parent, not a qualified legal or health professional, she can only personally recommend Dr. Reena Sommer, a highly respected psychologist who wrote the forward for A Kidnapped Mind. You can also request an urgent phone appointment with Dr. Sommer by filling out this form.

One of the goals of our website is to encourage parents to share their own personal story. Many families continue to suffer from this insidious form of child abuse and your stories can inspire, educate and comfort parents who have lost hope of ever seeing their children again.

All correspondence is posted anonymously to protect your family and your children’s privacy. Please reply to this email or contact us and we will be happy to post your story on the site.

Thank you for reaching out – our hearts go out to all families who have to live with Parental Alienation Syndrome.

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