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Intervening in Parental Alienation? Feedback appreciated!

post #1 of 2
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This school year, "Sam" has become one of DSS's core group of best friends.  DH and I don't have a "let's all get together for dinner" relationship with Sam's parents, but we (DH especially) run into them a lot, btwn our boys' friendship and it being their 8th-grade year, with many extra events requiring parent attendance/volunteering.


Sam's parents separated last summer and are going through an ugly divorce, which can feel especially isolating, for Catholics who are very active at their parish/school, as Sam's are.  Catholics certainly aren't immune to marital problems and divorce, we're just supposed to feel extra-guilty and "outside the norm", about it.


I have witnessed Sam's mom erupting with anger about his dad, to a large group of other 8th-grade moms, when Sam was around (though not nearby, listening).  This was early in the school year, when the separation was fresh, and I kept quiet and just listened to her.  It was an inappropriate time/place to vent, but haven't we all had moments when we just couldn't hold it in?  And the people at our church/school have long been her support network.  Should one only be able to draw on that support when one's needs are trivial and/or morally neutral, like needing someone to pick up your kid after school, or having an illness or death in the family?


But DH says she makes increasingly negative comments about her ex, nearly every time DH sees her, sometimes in clear earshot of Sam.  Sam's dad tells DH (and others at church) arguably worse things about her, albeit in more one-on-one settings.  Recently, Sam has begun telling DH (when his mom is present) that he hates his dad and having to spend time at his dad's house.


DH feels uncomfortable and knows that if Sam's parents feel this angry toward each other, they're not likely to be very receptive to anyone suggesting they tone down what they say.  However, he is very bothered about Sam turning against his dad (who may not be perfect, but has always seemed to be a very loving and certainly a very involved father).  Also, Sam's mom has recently begun seeking DH out, to vent about Sam's dad (crossing a room full of people she knows, to talk specifically with DH).  This suggests she sees DH as an ally and not the neutral, captive sounding-board he feels he has been.


DH and I agree that his experiences with DSS's mother obligate him, morally, to say something to both of Sam's parents, especially his mom, since she seems to be the one successfully turning Sam against his other parent.  We agree this should be said with sympathy, not finger-wagging, validating how upset she feels and how difficult it can be for anyone going though a divorce to stop and notice how they're coming across to others, or how their child's experience differs from their own.  We think she should know that DH's ex, who was also very polarizing, turned DSS against him for a while, even though everyone who sees DH and DSS together - including Sam's mom - knows DH is a good father; and that ultimately it resulted in DSS's mom losing custody.  Surely, if DSS's mom had thought things could come to that, she would have modified her behavior earlier.  (Well, we don't think that's sure, in her case, but it would be sure for most mothers.)


However, I don't think DH will actually talk to them.  He will really mean to, but put it off and never do it.  Should I invite her to lunch and talk to her?  On one hand, most things have been said directly to DH, not me.  On the other hand, there has been no expectation that DH keep secrets from me and I don't mind saying that we've discussed it.  I feel strongly that it would be wrong - after our family has suffered everything we have, regarding Parental Alienation/alienating behavior - for us to silently watch another family get caught up in it.

Edited by VocalMinority - 4/16/13 at 8:25am
post #2 of 2

I would probably try NOT to be the sympathetic ear. You or DH can't stop them from bashing each other in front of their kid, but you CAN stop them from doing it WITH you. If the kid made another "I hate my dad." statement in front of me, I'd probably say something like "It's tough to be stuck in the middle, especially when there's pressure to pick a side. Keep the door open with your dad, you might feel differently once things settle down." 

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