Doing Life Together

upset girlJerry has no relationship with his children now that he and his wife are divorced. Prior to the divorce, Jerry was very involved in their lives. But the relationships took dramatic turns due to something called Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS).

In the 1980s, a forensic psychiatrist coined the term parental alienation syndrome (PAS) to describe the efforts of one parent to turn their children against the other parent. The syndrome involves deliberate mental and emotional abuse that can occur among highly conflicted couples who fight over custody. The result is a child who harbors tremendous negativity toward a parent that is not based on actual experience with that parent. PAS destroys family bonds that once existed between children and a parent and is based on lies. There are no legitimate reasons why children are taught to harbor animosity toward the targeted parent.

It usually takes the form of one parent blocking another from seeing the children due to a belief that children will be harmed by visitations. False allegations of child abuse and sexual abuse often are in play.

A less severe form of this is when a parent blocks a child from visitation due to the inconvenience of visits. Visitations are seen as a chore or an errand, not a means of promoting the parent-child bond. Over time, one parent is seen as superior over the other.

The motivation behind PAS is usually rooted in poor coping from the failed marriage. Instead of a spouse engaging in healthy grieving for the loss of the marriage, they engage the children in the ongoing battle. They feel so damaged from the breakup that enlisting the children in the anger and blame serves as a way to further the blame. Sometimes the spouse who vilifies feels so rejected and alone that they turn to the children for nurturing and support, even companionship. What emerges is a “we against the world” position.

If you see signs of alienation, continue to reach out to the children involved and don’t give up on the fight. Your children are too important.

Except and adapted by We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle (Baker Books, 2015)

ID-10066791A friend’s wife was diagnosed with ALS. Another, lost his wife to cancer and yet another had a son involved in a tragic car accident. When trouble hits, we wonder why. Why doesn’t God do something about disease, evil and all the other problems that seem so prevalent in our world? We know He has the power to act, but often feel he delays or just doesn’t care.

He does care. To see His caring, we have to put on our spiritual glasses. To cope, we need corrective vision.  The eyes of our heart need to be opened.

When difficulty comes, we can’t see the big picture and don’t know what God is doing in the depth of our souls. So we need tools to help us make sense of the moment and look below the surface. Three tools help:

1) The Scripture. When we read Scripture, we see the promises of God and remind ourselves that God is trustworthy. Everything He has for us will be accomplished and nothing is being done away from His watchful eye. God is in charge of all the earth, yet it is easy to think that He has abandoned us during dark moments. The best antidote for those feelings of despair is to read His Word and be reminded of his presence, caring and concern for us.

2) The Cross. The cross is where Christ suffered for us. It was part of God’s eternal plan  in which he established his dominion over sin and death so we don’t have to suffer eternally. Jesus ruled over sin and evil so we can experience new life and healing. Jesus has the last word when it comes to disease, evil and all other difficulties. He has overcome!

3) The Resurrection. Because Jesus rose from the grave and had the power over death, life doesn’t end at the grave. There is the hope of a better day, a day with no more suffering or pain. Until then, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. So keep praying, hoping and asking for healing. Each day, that power beats back the darkness and brings hope.

So while we suffer here, we use our spiritual glasses to look through a corrected lens. God has given us His word to remind us of his promises, the cross to take our judgment, and the resurrection to be victorious over all death, disease and pain. This day isn’t the final day. Even though it may not feel like it, God is in control through the difficulty and will meet you where you are. But put on those glasses to see a little clearer. Live in the hope of tomorrow.

I love my motherThis week we celebrate Mother’s Day. All over this county, moms will be receiving flowers, candy and going out to dinner. There will be special celebrations and multiple ways to honor our moms.

But this Mother’s Day, I want moms to think about the gift they give through the years when they raise their children, especially mothers who raise daughters.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a mom whose identity is firm and certain. That’s right, the better you feel about yourself, the more confident you are as a woman, the better gift you give your daughter. You give the gift of a positive and strong woman identity.

How you do that has to do with Mother’s Day and honoring your own mother. No matter the state of your relationship with mom, it’s never too late to love, honor and connect with your  mom. The more you work things out with your  mom, the better mother you will be to your children. Teach by doing. Develop the “I” in “You,” because a mom who knows who she is, passes that legacy to her children.

This Mother’s Day honor your mom by working out your issues with her. Stay connected to her even when difficult issues present because you are teaching your daughter how to handle this powerful relationship. The more you work it our with your mom, the better mother you will be to your children. And that is a gift that continues to give for generations.



I love my motherI was interviewed for a magazine article on mothers and daughters from my book, I Love My Mother But… The reporter asked this question: Should mothers and their daughters be best friends? Why or why not?

Here is my answer:

The early years are characterized by more authoritative (not authoritarian) styles of mothering. You are teaching and guiding. Friendship requires an equal partnership and you are clearly not equal when you are raising her. You need to keep the lines of communication open and shift your parenting to match the developmental stage, but also provide consequences for problematic behavior.

Parenting changes through the developmental stages with different tasks required of both mom and daughters. For example, as your daughter moves more into the teen years, rather than telling her what to do, you begin to ask her what she should do and guide her choices. This is important in developing her independence. A goal in raising a daughter is to help her become her own person, but stay connected to her mom. In therapy, we call this being separate but attached.

Later in life, when young adulthood brings the kind of healthy separation and individuation a daughter has with her mom, the two begin to move to more of an adult friendship.

So early on you are not her best friend. You are guiding, shaping and teaching. As she grows into young adulthood, the relationship begins to shift into more of an equal position. You are still her mom, but you relate to her more as an adult woman with her own identity, more like a friend whose person you begin to admire.

Instead of best friends, we should be their biggest cheerleader, guide, mentor, and the one person that no matter what happens will always unconditional love and validate them for who they are.