In this profession we’re very aware that when there is a divorce and children are involved, the children suffer most. This is especially true when one of the parents works diligently to convince the kids the "other parent" is to blame for the break-up.
With divorce rates at an all-time high comes the potential for a very common behavior, Parent Alienation Syndrome; when a parent attempts to alienate the “other” parent from the children. It puts the kids in the middle and increases the devastation kids feel in a divorce.
The damage a parent inflicts on their children when they psychologically manipulate them against the other parent is unacceptable. Children begin to feel and deal with unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent or other family member. Most commonly PAS is seen in child custody disputes. If there’s a bitter divorce, and most of the time they are, one parent may attempt to turn the child/children against the other parent. Typically, this parent feels justified in doing so; most of the time it's a way to "get back" at the other parent.
Over the years working with adolescent boys in The Quest Project® , too many times I see a mom trying hard to keep her son(s) from his dad and/or from being "like" his dad.
I know there are mothers that work very hard to make sure the relationship between father and son stays intact; when the father is abusive, addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, unreliable or unhealthy the priority must be to keep the child safe. Same goes for dad!
Male adolescents need a man to help them develop into a man. It takes a healthy circle of men to define a healthy man!
It's innate and natural and whether we like it or understand it, he needs a healthy male example to become a healthy man.
Research supports the most powerful role model in any child’s life is the same-sex parent. Parents tend to be more involved with same-gendered children (especially fathers and sons), and during adolescence the absence of the same-gendered parent has a negative effect more so than the absence of the opposite-gendered parent (Jacob et al., 2013).
When a Mom tells me they "don't want their son to be like his dad." Or that they are afraid because their son "acts just like his father!" I can assure them more often than not; a boy will be who he wants to be. He needs love, support and healthy direction from both parents.
Reading material on PAS is readily available. I strongly recommend understanding and getting educated for parents going through a divorce or for those that fear they may be consciously or unconsciously alienating their child.
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Clayton Lessor, PhD, LPC founded The Quest Project in 1996 and has since helped 2,000+ boys turn their life around to become the next Generation of Men. He is the author of two books, “Saving Our Sons-A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Boys for Success” and “Generation of Men-How to raise your son to be a healthy man among men.” Dr. Clay is an expert in childhood trauma and male adolescent development.