Home Perspectives Opinions On the High Holidays, it’s time to end parental alienation

On the High Holidays, it’s time to end parental alienation

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The High Holidays are upon us. It is the time when we are introspective and seek to determine what sins we’ve committed against God, our children, ourselves and others.

One such sin, a mammoth one, is parental alienation, which Wikipedia defines as “the process, and the result, of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.”

I know an individual who has not seen their children in seven years because their ex-spouse has “poisoned their minds.” I asked the parent how this person felt since last seeing them. The response was, “I keep busy, but I am heartbroken.” 

Another person I know who went through a similar process said, “It takes every ounce of strength from falling into a profound, inescapable and perhaps un-returnable state of depression.”

How does parental alienation happen? One parent told me, “Children are used as weapons. They are like panes of glass. Everyone who comes in contact with them smudges the glass in some way. Some get cracked, others smashed.”

The parent added, “I got angry and screamed on the phone when yet another visit was denied. I couldn’t go to the house to pick them up. Then it was supervised visits and tens of thousands spent on lawyers. My ex-spouse knew I was a good, attentive parent, so the way to get back at me was to separate us. My ex-spouse knew it would hurt me so much.”

Another parent who hasn’t seen their children in eight years stated, “In our separation agreement, we shared all Jewish holidays. That never happened. I was to have the kids on Wednesday. That never happened. I was to be with them every other weekend. That never happened. Often I’d get a call from [the other parent] two hours before I was to arrive saying, “Sorry they don’t want to go.”

And they didn’t.

What is a frequent outcome of parental alienation? A parent who hasn’t seen their three girls since 2006 stated, “One of my daughters was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. She tried suicide on many occasions. She was hospitalized.”

Another said, “My oldest son is very bitter toward me. He never got his happiness in life.”

I asked parents with failing health why they gave up on trying to see their kids.

One said, “I never gave up. They are still in my heart with love. I stopped taking my ex-spouse to court, because it’s too costly, and it seems the courts never punish the alienator. I am very sad they are missing out on being with their other parent, especially on Jewish holidays.”

Another stated, “Year after year, I sent my daughters birthday presents. They were returned unopened. My lines of communication started to dry up. One day, I went to pick up my kids. I had the court order. My ex called the cops. I showed them the order. They said they didn’t care. They said if I stepped on the property, they would arrest me.”

Finally, one parent stated, “I was the best parent. I gave my children love 24/7. I love my kids. They are my life.” Another said, “So many of the values I see them post online… I know they came from me, like social justice issues and the love of the arts. I know I had a positive influence on them. I know they miss me.”

It’s the High Holidays. If you’ve alienated your children from your ex-spouse, beg them for forgiveness. Beg God.

Then begin sharing your treasure with the other parent, their rightful gatekeeper, just like you!

Remember the spirit you are killing is your children’s.

Shanah Tovah. 

Sent comments to Avrum.rosensweig@veahavta.org.