Post written by FUAN Guest Contributor Wendy Wilson.
Wendy's views are her own and may or may not reflect the positions of Families United Action Network.
When we think of staying healthy, most people think first of physical health, but in truth, good physical health begins with good mental health. While being isolated at home, this has been a real challenge for many people.
For those dealing with Parental Alienation, it is undoubtedly more challenging. We must learn that the essential person in this struggle is our self. When I first started the journey of healing from Parental Alienation and years of abuse, I sought out as many experts as I could find.
Connecting with such experts at this time is not an easy task because of social distancing. Reading and staying connected through venues like this can be very helpful. I was lucky to find several people willing to pour their knowledge into me. One such expert told me that the way to stay outside the drama is not to fight back and always demonstrate that we are (HHSS) Healthy, Happy, Safe, and Secure.
Because I have focused on things I can control, I was happy to go with this. I obviously cannot stop others from spreading lies or from saying things that are unhealthy for my children to hear. I can control what I do and say around my children. So that is how I got to this topic. No matter what is said about us to our children, we must always remember that we must not degrade their other parent for our kid's mental health. The reason is that bad-mouthing your ex ultimately has the effect of degrading them as well.
During this historic and unstable time, there are some things that we can do to demonstrate this process to our children. My goal has always been to teach my children that true happiness comes from within. With the pandemic, we are forced to focus on ourselves due to the lack of life distractions. Today is a perfect time to focus on healing and setting healthy boundaries.
As we learn a new lesson or master a new skill, we can mirror it to our children. This is leading by example. As we demonstrate our healthy lifestyle and boundaries, we are teaching our children how they should live. Many of us did not make great choices in relationships in the past, and we do not want that to be the only example our children have to follow. Teaching them to fear or hate the other parent is not in their best interest.
As alienated parents, it is even more critical that we model good behaviors toward the other parent. We must take the time to heal from the abuse that placed us where we are. I had to overcome a severe anxiety disorder. I wish I had known that I had PTSD from the alienation I experienced. I was misdiagnosed for years.
Since then, I have learned several coping techniques that helped me learn to control my emotions. We have to work past our own PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other issues to show our children healthy alternatives for dealing with problems. What better time to work through some of this than when we are spending more time at home?
I recognized right away that I needed to gain control over my triggers. This way, I could control myself the next time my ex attempted to alienate my children. I called one of my mentors and explained the situation. I told him my most significant need was to regain control of my emotions. He taught me mental rehearsal. He explained that just like athletes, we need to condition our responses to different situations. This process reminds us of what to do in stressful situations so that we do not react during the moment.
I am sure you are wondering how this works. I was utterly shocked to learn that this was a thing. Basically, after a bad exchange, you relive the whole thing. You think the whole exchange through. Not only what you will say, but how you will feel and what others will probably say. By practicing the exchange over and over, you are better equipped for the next time something similar happens.
It is equally important to control written exchanges… a hard lesson for me. In the beginning, I would engage in the back and forth banter. By doing this, outsiders would see me as equally toxic. I was often told that we were both to blame. They would always say he was worse, but that we both needed to learn to put our children first.
In the beginning, I had to have a friend review every exchange. I needed to learn that nothing I said would help. It is impossible to have a logical discussion with a narcissist. They will never admit that they are at fault.
All communication needs to be treated like a business transaction. It should be factual, cordial, and void of emotions. This takes practice, but once you master it, I promise it is liberating. There is no reason to debate or convince them of the truth because it will be lost. Here's a tip. If you feel that there is something that needs to be said, it is best to journal it; so that you have it when you go to court next.
Do not under any circumstance bad-mouth your ex to your children or on social media. I promise it will be used against you in court. No matter what they have done, you will be accused of not putting the kid's needs first. Think of this as living above reproach. I fully understand how hard this is, but one slip-up may take years to recover.
The communication type I am explaining is called modified no contact. At the end of a narcissistic relationship, going no contact is a great way to heal. No contact is obviously not an option when kids are involved. Modified no contact is the next best thing. If the topic is not about the kids, feel free to ignore the message. If the kids are the topic, I suggest three steps.
- Step one, never reply right away. It is best to take your time. Read the email a few times before responding. If the email triggers you, have a trusted friend read it, and help. By slowing down, you make sure you fully understand what is said. You also ensure that the response is not a knee jerk reaction.
- Step two, review or have a friend review emails. Until you have fully mastered modified no contact, I recommend having someone else review every email. I also recommend that you review your responses a few times before sending them. Remember, less is more. Only the facts. Zero emotion and do not argue. Save the fight for at court where it will mean something.
- Step three, do not engage in arguments. Once you reply, you are done. That is the hardest part. They are always up for a good argument. It is hard not to get sucked in. No matter what their reply is, do not get sucked in. You do not owe them anything, and certainly will not be able to have a logical conversation with them. If you feel compelled to reply, make it short. One or two sentences should be plenty.
These are some of the coping techniques that have helped me survive this pandemic. I can tell you that as I master these techniques, my stress level has become much less. I have regained the power over my life. I am also able to better focus on being the mother I know I am meant to be.
Remember that our children are watching us. Even if we rarely see them, they are stalking us on social media. You can use this to your advantage. If you do not physically see the children often, allow them to “see” you, but make sure they see you as you would like to be seen…as loving and caring, not as bitter and vindictive.
Live the best life possible. Do not forget to laugh often. It will be seen. Practice living in joy. If you mindfully practice these suggestions during the pandemic, you will emerge stronger and healthier mentally when it is over. Good mental health will serve to make you a better parent able to be there for your children emotionally now and in the future. There is no better time than today to look toward a happy, healthy, safe, and secure tomorrow…both physically and emotionally.
Other Posts by Wendy Wilson
How To Be Thankful Today
Children Deserve Better Than A Cookie Cutter Parenting Plan
Shared Parenting 2020
About Wendy Wilson
Wendy was born into a family lacking healthy boundaries. The abuse had gone on for generations and was viewed as a normal part of life. She was born fatherless. Her first stepfather was abusive in every way imaginable. By the age of ten, she had witnessed violence in her home that most people couldn't even imagine.
She suffered from severe PTSD. Then, there was nowhere to turn for help and support. She had a fantasy throughout her childhood; her father would show up one day to save her. She would finally be in a safe house with peace and comfort. She was convinced that if she had a Dad, he would love, cherish, and protect her.
As an adult, Wendy recognized her need for therapy. This revelation started years of misdiagnosis and struggling to figure out who she was. These years were hard, but they gave her tons of coping techniques that would become invaluable later in life.
She continued to lack boundaries and made relationship decisions similar to her mother. She still longed for a father in her life, and still was very much a victim. She could not see past her suffering and felt like a ship tossed around by the waves.
After Wendy had her first child, she realized that she had the choice to change the generational curse. Her decisions would make a difference in how her son saw the world. She wanted him to have everything she didn't.
Breaking the cycle was more difficult than she imagined it would be. The one thing she always did was to encourage her son's relationship with his dad. Even when his dad chose not to be involved, she tried her best to encourage involvement.
Years later, after another failed relationship, she remarried her other children's father. He was mentally, sexually, and physically abusive not only to her but to her children. She did everything to set boundaries and keep her children safe.
Wendy also tried everything to save her marriage in order to make sure her children would have their dad in their lives. Despite all of her efforts, Wendy finally had no choice but to put the children's health and safety first.
After the marriage ended, Wendy did everything in her power to encourage her children to spend time with their absent father. She couldn't always force him to show up but would try to maintain contact. After a few years, her ex-husband met and married another woman.
At that time, as is often the case, dad decided that his new wife was a more fit mother and that she should be raising the children. That was when Wendy was forced to battle in court.
It was several years into that battle that she learned a name for what she was going through… parental alienation. Wendy found her voice and began to help others. She refused to allow her suffering or the suffering of her children to be in vain.
Wendy continues the fight for the rights of children and against parental alienation. She has joined ranks with Families United Action Network, and we are thankful for that.