PLANTATION, Fla. – The United States has the sixth highest divorce rate in the world, causing break-ups that have a devastating effect on both the couple and their children, especially when one spouse tries to force the kids to take sides.
It happened to Holly Dresson when her 15-year marriage came to an end.
“How do you move forward from a family of four children? The depression and anxiety was right there in front of me and I didn’t know how to make sense of it one way or another,” she said.
Dresson said her ex-husband turned her children against her, cutting off all contact for nearly a year.
“My worst nightmare. I never thought I would be alienated from my children and didn’t even know there was such a thing as parental alienation,” she said.
Psychiatrist Dr. Juandalyn Peters said Parental Alienation Syndrome was a term first coined back in the 1980’s.
“It’s essentially where one parent deliberately turns the children against the other parent for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s anger over perceived abandonment because of the divorce or jealousy that the other partner has started a new relationship, or straight out revenge,” Peters said.
According to mental health experts, parents who damage their children’s natural affection for the other parent are doing serious damage.
“They end up feeling guilty and having trouble bonding with both parents because they feel they have to pledge allegiance to one or the other and that’s a horrible position to put a child in. They’re essentially being weaponized,” Peters said.
Dresson channeled her emotional pain through poetry, and, with the help of therapy, overcame her depression and finally got to see her children.
“And by the grace of God I’m telling you, without my faith I never would have made it through,” she said.
Parental alienation is difficult to prove in court but concrete evidence that the other parent is intentionally driving a wedge between a child and parent, such as text communication, can bolster a case.