This is the situation divorced parents fear more than any other (OK, maybe next to child support payments that empty your bank account!). If you are determined to put the needs of your kids first, it’s very hard to see them being held hostage by your angry ex. It feels like a really helpless, hopeless predicament but it’s not!
As a stepmom supporting an alienated parent, you can help them to take an optimistic perspective on their situation. That’s how I saw my role, anyway. I really believe that I played a part in helping my whole family overcome this problem by staying positive and keeping us emotionally afloat!
I won’t lie – it wasn’t easy. I had a cartload of resources and knowledge from my working life as a health consultant and I relied on a small army of support professionals who held me up when I was down.
Here are some common misconceptions that stop parents from taking constructive action:
- There’s nothing you can do
- The kids are probably saying what they mean anyway
- It’s going to cost a fortune to deal with it
Let’s take these one at a time:
1. There is something you can do – actually, there are a lot of things. The most important part is keeping a positive mental attitude despite the heartbreaking circumstances. One important thing to be aware of is that most kids eventually reach out to the alienated parent and build a close relationship, but it can take years until they are old enough or strong enough to do it.
Much of what you can do today is to fortify yourself for a long wait. You probably know what’s coming next – my list of things to do to keep yourself positive! The best thing you can do for your partner is to share your positive energy.
I can spell it out for you here, but I don’t expect all of you to be able to implement all of these things on your own. Nevertheless, I encourage you to try any or all of these for yourself and reach out for help to go deeper or to become more secure in your positive attitude.
Gratitude Journal (grab my free template > here < )
Essential Oils/Bach Flowers (I generally choose these individually for each client’s unique needs, but there is info available online if you want to self-treat with these)
2. It’s important for dad to give his kids space to be angry at him, and the same is true for you. It’s true that their life changed when their parents divorced and they have a right to be angry about that and to talk about that if they need to.
On the other hand, your step-kids are not saying what they mean if they don’t want to visit anymore, they’re saying what they have to say to survive. In their minds, survival means receiving love from the dominating parent (in this context, bio-mom). Her love for them is surely real, but it’s conditional on taking her side and rejecting dad. Kids have to meet what they believe the conditions are in the only way they can.
My own step kids have been able to talk about their experiences with alienation and they say they felt they had to hide their desire to visit or to live with their dad. Some kids naturally want to protect and support their mom, who they may perceive as being more emotionally needy than dad in many ways. Moms are more likely to lean on their children for support, although the reverse can certainly be seen as well.
In a way, kids know that the parent who loves them unconditionally will keep loving them no matter what, but the one who lays out conditions (whether they know they are doing that or not) will withdraw his or her love if they don’t play their cards right. The kids are therefore walking this tightrope perfectly – they get love from both parents in this way!
3. It can cost a fortune, but it doesn’t have to. Family law is big business and it thrives on your highly charged emotions. Make sure you are dealing with your emotions in another way (see #1 for ideas). Then, check out Legal Shield, which is a membership system for prepaid legal services. It’s a bit like a typical Auto Club where you pay a fee that gives you access to towing, battery charging or lock-picking. Legal Shield gives you access to unlimited questions with a lawyer by telephone, and a discounted fee with a qualified lawyer in your area if you need to be represented in court. They also have a phone app with an emergency button so you can get a lawyer on the phone inside of 3 minutes! I spoke with one stepmom who says that she and her husband successfully re-instated visitation of his children after BM refused to follow court orders. Eventually, they even got full custody of both kids and the fees they paid were both reasonable and affordable – like, under $5K for the 7-year process!
In the end, remember that your partner is doing all the rowing, so his back is facing the goal. Your work is to face forward, keep him on course and report signs of progress! Don’t forget that you don’t have to do this all alone – help is all around you.
BTW, If you’re not already a member of my Facebook group >>The Spectacular Stepmom<<, come on over and join us!