Parental alienation, sometimes called hostile aggressive parenting, is a behavior by a parent or another adult that a child trusts—such as a grandparent, uncle, or aunt—that may cause alienation between the child and another parent. This alienating behavior, which is unwarranted and without any justification, may be temporary or long-lasting. It is a type of psychological abuse towards a child and parent by the other parent. In the child’s case, they are psychologically manipulated. This often happens during family separation and divorce. The causes, characteristics, and definition of parental alienation have and continue to be debated.
Parental alienation may be detrimental to a child’s emotional and mental health; in extreme cases, it may cause psychological effects that last into adulthood, putting them at a higher risk for mental and physical illness. In the immediate, it may manifest itself in fear, respect, and hostility by the child towards the other parent. These effects on children, where they have unwarranted negative feelings toward a parent, may be called parental alienation syndrome, a term coined by Richard Gardner in the 1980s after he studied children going through separation and divorce. Some have since debated his naming of the occurrence as a “syndrome.”
Parental Alienation Awareness Day aims to make people aware of parental alienation and to encourage alienating parents to seek help. More people are able to deal with the issue if they know how it works and how it can be damaging to children, and the earlier it is dealt with, there is less of a chance that children will develop symptoms. Social change can come with awareness and education: once society knows more about the issue, and parental alienation is recognized, change will happen.
The beginnings of the day go back to 2005. Sarvy Emo learned about parental alienation and hostile aggressive parenting after seeing what a friend’s children were going through. The children were experiencing parental alienation at the hands of the ex-wife of her friend Roger. Emo first tried to talk to the ex-wife about how her actions were negatively affecting the children, but that was not effective. Emo then tried to publish an article about parental alienation in a local paper but it was not accepted. She then came up with the idea for an awareness day, to educate many on the harmful effects of parental alienation behaviors on children.
The holiday was first held in 2006. Sarvy Emo originally wanted the date of the holiday to be on March 28, the birthday of her friend Roger, but after she contacted Dr. Richard Warshak about the day, he suggested having it on April 25, as he was going to be presenting a workshop in Toronto on the topic on that date. This turned out to be a fitting date as April is also Child Abuse Awareness Month. The holiday has continued to be held on April 25. The Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO) was formed a few months after the initial observance and continues a year-round mission of education and awareness about parental alienation.
During the first year of Parental Alienation Awareness Day, the governor of Maine issued a proclamation for the day. Efforts were then made to get proclamations from all states, and more governors made proclamations the second year. A two-day conference sponsored by the PAAO, held in Florida, also took place during the second year. By the third year, rallies and events were held around the world, and the PAAO sponsored webinars. In 2010, Bubbles of Love Day was created and added to the day. It made the day more accessible to the public and to children and gave it a positive spin. Participants are to “blow soap bubbles for at least 10 minutes in honour of all children who should be allowed to love and be loved by both parents without fear or guilt.” Worldwide, bubble-blowing events are organized and people also blow bubbles on their own. Bubble blowing is done in public spaces and information about parental alienation is handed out.
How to Observe
You could observe the day by volunteering to raise awareness. Register to become a volunteer on the day’s website. You could also organize an event for the day. Events can be posted on the day’s website, but you must register as a volunteer before doing so. If you are not organizing your own event, you could check for events taking place near you. You could also organize or attend a Bubbles of Love Day event. Bubbles are to be blown for at least ten minutes and information about parental alienation is to be handed out.
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