With National Parental Alienation Awareness Day falling this week, two Alabama mayors once again made national news by declaring this week, April 23-29, National Parental Alienation Prevention Week – and wouldn’t it be wonderful if this could be the last Parental Alienation Prevention Week? Then, we could celebrate a much more joyous occasion, National Happy Children Week, perhaps.What is “Parental Alienation?” Imagine two loving parents, but they don’t get along, and they divorce. Sometimes, a child who previously loved the parent now turns against him or her, and professes to hate the parent. We’ve all seen this, unfortunately.
We must protect children from the brainwashing that produces this tragic result, which often has lifelong consequences. With that in mind, I’d like to extend a big thank you to Mayor Woody Jacobs of Cullman, Mayor Hollie Cost of Montevallo and the Alabama Family Rights Association for bringing attention to the issue and its consequences for children, the innocent victims.
Far too often, the courts order sole custody to one parent after a bitter, winner-take-all custody battle. Because the non-custodial parent often has so little time with their child, the winning parent is empowered to poison the child’s mind against the ‘absent’ parent, which creates heartbreak for child and parent.
Once established, parental alienation can be almost impossible to reverse. What can you do about a child who screams, struggles and runs away when the targeted parent tries to take her home? And what kind of therapy can work when the child then goes home with the offending parent, only to be subjected to renewed brainwashing?
But there are ways to prevent this form of child abuse. Shared parenting – where children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent – is an arrangement that prevents many cases of parental alienation. It is difficult for anyone to turn a child against a parent with whom the child experiences frequent loving care.
Experts at the last International Conference on Shared Parenting concluded “there is mounting evidence that shared parenting can both prevent parental alienation, and is a potential remedy for existing situations of parental alienation in separated families…”
Next month, the most renowned child development experts on post-divorce parenting arrangements from throughout the world will again convene, this time in Boston, to present and review 40 years of careful research by social scientists and examine whether children do better with a shared parenting arrangement.
This scientific event, the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017, is critical because it has the potential to help eliminate parental alienation. Rarely does a scientific conference raise the possibility of dramatically changing the lives of tens of millions of families. However, with nearly 50 child development scientists from 18 countries, the Memorial Day weekend conference sets out to do just that.
While shared parenting remains uncommon in the United States, it has been the norm in Sweden and Australia for years, and more than 20 states have proposed laws in recent years to implement it, according to The Wall Street Journal. In just the last six months, for example, Missouri enacted a shared parenting bill, and the Kentucky legislature unanimously passed a bill mandating shared parenting in temporary orders, which the governor signed the into law earlier this month.
The legislative trend toward shared parenting falls in line with the overwhelming research supporting shared parenting arrangements. As one recent example, look to the article “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data” by Arizona State University’s William V. Fabricius. The findings, which were published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Psychology, Public Policy and Law, strongly support shared parenting for young children. Despite these findings, courts award sole custody to mothers nearly 80 percent of the time. This statistic becomes deeply concerning when you consider the devastating effects of the sole custody status quo on children impacted by child custody, which is now one-third of children. According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:
- 63 percent of teen suicides;
- 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
- 71 percent of high school drop-outs;
- 75 percent of children in chemical abuse centers;
- 85 percent of those in prison;
- 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
- 90 percent of homeless and runaway children.
On the one hand, we have a grave societal crisis in that our family courts deprive so many children of the love and care they desperately need and want from both parents, and on the other hand, we have hope: The rock stars of shared parenting research will be at the same place at the same time, all focused on identifying what’s best for kids. During the conference, we will finally apply science instead of guesswork in determining what is in the best interest of tens of millions of children. For the sake of our children, my hope is that lawmakers throughout the nation heed the conference results so the pain of parental alienation can be avoided.
Let’s work together to make shared parenting the norm in Alabama and all throughout America, and erase National Parental Alienation Awareness Day from the calendar.