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By Mila Koljensic and Rob Buswell

At the heart of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) lies a dark reality – Toxic Abusive Relationships (TAR) that tears families apart, leaving scars that linger for generations. Richard A. Gardner, MD, coined the term PAS to focus attention on the insidious manipulation of children during custody battles. Yet it is the toxic dynamics within these relationships that often serve as the breeding ground for parental alienation.

Understanding Toxic Abusive Relationships (TAR)

TAR involves patterns of manipulation, control, and emotional abuse. In the context of parenting, one partner may weaponize the children as pawns in a battle for power and control. Through subtle coercion or overt hostility, the targeted parent is demonized, and the child becomes a casualty in a war for which they were never conscripted.

The Devastation of Parental Alienation

The practice of parental alienation causes harm to the targeted parent and their relationship with the child. As more has become known about this issue, it has also been deemed a form of child abuse. These poor children are programmed to reject one of their parents without any justifiable reason.

Dr. Jamie Huysman, Founder and Executive Director of TAR Network™, believes that Parental Alienation is – clinically – the worst abuse of children. A child is half Mom and half Dad, and weaponization by either parent affects that child’s self-esteem in an extremely negative way. It takes years of clinical work to retrain the brain to not see half of themselves through the eyes of the toxic parents’ interpretation. Children experience severely diminished self-esteem because they’ve been victimized by alienation.

This dynamic is more frequently instigated by the custodial parent. Because fathers represent a higher proportion of non-custodial parents, they experience alienation in larger numbers and are victimized more frequently.

Guidelines for Parents Going Through Divorce or Separation

If you’re a parent going through a divorce or separation involving children (of any age), here are a few guidelines to ensure that you always put your child’s needs and interests first:

  • Be mindful of impact. Think carefully about the impact your words and behavior have on your children — don’t criticize your ex in front of them, and never directly ask them to take sides.
  • Children need love. Always bear in mind that children need to feel loved by both parents as they struggle to come to terms with the breakdown of family life as they know it.
  • Vulnerability to manipulation. Remember that children of all ages, particularly teenagers, are vulnerable to emotional manipulation. Consider how this war impacts their health and well-being in the long term.
  • Encourage relationship. If you can do this with honesty – without anger and animosity — encourage your children to foster the relationship with their other parent. Show a genuine interest in what they do during their time with your former partner.
  • Self-care for parents. Take your oxygen first! In order to help your child(ren), you must help and protect yourself first. PAS can hit hard – both emotionally and physically.

Neurologically-Safe Parenting

Separation and divorce under the best circumstances is difficult and extremely anxiety-provoking. The good news is that we can create a home life – separate from your ex – that respects your children’s emotional regulation with a safe, healthy atmosphere, and establishes boundaries between you and your children’s other parent. Also, you need to take care of yourself – physically and emotionally – to provide an excellent example for your kids, not just words.

Providing a neuro-safe environment in the home you share with your kids will help them to see the difference between walking on eggshells and  growing up in a home filled with safety, love, and acceptance. Remember these tips…

  • Focus on developing a loving, trusting, positive relationship with your child(ren).
  • Show compassion toward your child(ren) and respect their feelings.
  • Be aware of your tone and facial expressions during interactions with your high-conflict ex in front of your kids.
  • The only thing you can control is your own behavior.

Supporting TAR Anon™: A Lifeline for Survivors

TAR Anon extends a lifeline to those navigating the tumultuous aftermath of TAR. It serves as a sanctuary, a haven of understanding, empathy, and shared experiences —crucial elements in the sacred journey of healing.

Why Support TAR Anon?

  • A Vital Cause – TAR Anon addresses a critical need in our society, providing support and resources for survivors of toxic relationships.
  • Global Network of Support – Your contribution helps build a global network where survivors can seek refuge, find solidarity, and access tools for healing.
  • Empowering Survivors – TAR Anon empowers survivors to break free from cycles of abuse, fostering a community of resilience and strength.

Parental Alienation Awareness Day: April 25th

Observed internationally on April 25th, this day marks a solemn reminder of the silent struggles faced by families affected by PAS. It is a day to raise our voices, stand in solidarity, and advocate for change.

Around the world, Parental Alienation Awareness Day is marked in various ways, each symbolizing the fight against this insidious issue:

  • Flags and Banners – communities fly flags or banners to raise awareness in public spaces.
  • Bubbles of Love – symbolic bubbles are blown to represent the love and support needed for alienated children.
  • Notes on Social Media – messages of hope, awareness, and support flood social media platforms to reach a wider audience.

Join Us for a Memento of Love in Ireland

This year in Ireland, we invite you to be part of a special initiative to commemorate Parental Alienation Awareness Day. We will be marking the day with a Memento of Love campaign, a heartfelt tribute to the love shared between parents and children, no matter the circumstances.

Here’s how you can participate:

  • Choose your memento – take a photo of a teddy bear, a memorable location, or anything that symbolizes the love between you and your child.
  • Caption and share – add a heartfelt caption to your photo, expressing your love and longing for the relationship with your child.
  • Post to Alienated Children First – share your Memento of Love on the Alienated Children First Facebook page, joining a community of support and understanding.

Spread Love, Raise Awareness

As we come together on Parental Alienation Awareness Day, let us remember that love knows no boundaries. It transcends distance, time, and circumstances. Join us in spreading love, raising awareness, and advocating for change.

Together, we can make a difference for families affected by parental alienation. Let your Memento of Love be a beacon of hope, a reminder that love endures, and a call to action for a brighter future. Join us on April 25th as we stand united for Parental Alienation Awareness Day.



TAR Network™ is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing worldwide awareness and treatment to those whose emotional reality has been distorted by narcissistic abuse. The mission of TAR Network is to support men, women, the LGBTQ+ community, tweens & teens, families, parents who are alienated from their children, workers, and caregivers going through or emerging from TAR. With subject matter experts, affiliates, organizations with supportive resources, and our individual donor community our programs will help you out of the fog and into the light. TAR Network is currently developing several innovative projects: TAR Tales – a safe place to share your truth TAR Centers – a safe place to get vital CPTSD treatment TAR Anon – a safe and nonjudgmental worldwide support network. There is strength in numbers. We’ve all suffered from trauma and abuse at the hands of someone close. Please join us in this worldwide effort toward recovery.

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