Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) hurts children and prevents them from having time they deserve with both their mother and father. Alienation impacts kids whether they’re at home or at school, and now the Brevard County School Board has committed to drawing attention to the problem. It’s one small step in a grander plan one father’s rights advocate has for the state of Florida — and ultimately, for the country.
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David Henry, 34, of Melbourne, Florida, first raised the issue with the school board in March, in hopes of having April declared Parental Alienation Awareness Month. He believes protecting a child’s relationship with both of his or her parents is the key to keeping common risks, from gang membership to teen pregnancy, at bay.
The proclamation, which passed by a 3 – 2 vote, reads as follows:
School Board of Brevard County, Florida
Parental Alienation Awareness Month
WHEREAS, alienating behaviors, often found in high-conflict divorce and custody situations, can cause mental and emotional anguish to children, depriving them of their right to love and be loved by both parents; and
WHEREAS, parental alienation takes advantage of the suggestibility and dependency of children and deprives them of their right to love and be loved by both parents; and
WHEREAS, parental alienation is considered harmful to children, robbing them of their sense of security, and can affect them into adulthood with tragic consequences; and
WHEREAS, childhood established the integral fundamental understanding, concept, and importance of gender, religious, economic, and racial equality
WHEREAS, Parental Alienation Awareness Month is intended to increase knowledge and understanding of the problem and to help parents, caregivers, and social services providers stop the abuse of innocent children caught in the crossfire of the people they love.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the School Board of Brevard County, Florida, hereby designate the month of April as Parental Alienation Awareness Month.
Two members of the school board voted against the measure. According to Florida Today, board member Andy Ziegler thought it was too complicated of an issue to support without more discussion, while board member Misty Belford felt uncomfortable with the wording, saying:
“I struggle with saying that every parent should always be in a child’s life.”
But is that what the proclamation says?
Belford’s reaction highlights one of the biggest challenges in confronting parental alienation — mistaking what the term really means.
Florida-based licensed mental health counselor Christine Hammond lays out the differences in what people perceive as alienation and what it really means in her blog, The Exhausted Woman, at PsychCentral.com. Says Hammond:
“There is hardly a day that doesn’t go by in my counseling practice where someone brings up the concept of parental alienation. The problem is that the term is frequently misused… Parental alienation occurs when one parent encourages their child to unfairly reject the other parent.”
Separation is sometimes necessary when a child’s safety or health is at stake. Alienation occurs when there is no legitimate risk, and sometimes, it occurs without the offending parent realizing it. Thus, the importance of third parties being aware of the signs.
It turns out that Henry himself was subjected to parental alienation growing up. He wasn’t allowed to see his mother after his parents’ divorce. For other children, it is long-term criticism of the other parent that creates a wedge between father and child. And for others, the manipulation is intense, direct and intended to create fear or disgust. Hammond says these actions have a way of backfiring and damaging relationships between kids and both of their parents.
Henry is doing his best to prevent that by pushing for recognition at the local level on up. Next stop? The Brevard County Commission.
Are you and your children suffering due to parental alienation? Find out how to fight it with help from They’re Your Kids Too written by respected fathers’ rights attorney, and founder of DadsRights.org, Anne P. Mitchell.