DEAR ANNIE: I am so sad watching the devastating effect that parental alienation is having on my grandchildren, and I feel powerless to help them.
My daughter is the target of an ex-husband who is determined to turn their children against their mother. My 13-year-old granddaughter attempted suicide last week and went to a facility for several days. She is now getting therapy, but I don’t know whether the truth will come out about what is going on in this very messed up family relationship.
I feel like asking my ex-son-in-law whether he loves his children more than he hates his ex-wife so he will realize who is being hurt most by his actions. My daughter went to counseling for a year before leaving her husband, and the counselor said her husband is very insidious with a narcissistic personality. She left him because he was controlling and emotionally abusive. She was supposed to have custody of the children, but her ex convinced the children that they did not want to leave their neighborhood, school and friends. My daughter did not fight it because it was what the children were encouraged to choose.
She also knows her ex-husband would use the children to hurt her. When she recently went to sign the final divorce papers, he said that if she tries to change the custody arrangement, she will never see her children again.
Is there any recourse for this kind of behavior? My daughter cannot afford to fight this in court, and we do not have the resources to help, either. — Sad Grandmother
DEAR SAD: Parental alienation is very real and can happen to either parent. It can cause the children tremendous psychological harm that can last a lifetime if not addressed. Your daughter needs to document every instance where her ex has kept the children from her, encouraged the children to think ill of her, spoken negatively about her in front of the children or threatened her access to the children. At the same time, she should not become angry around her ex, because he will use it against her.
We know it can be expensive to keep fighting in court, but this is a form of emotional abuse, and she needs to protect her kids as best she can before the damage is permanent. At the very least, suggest that she consult with an attorney who specializes in parental alienation cases.
DEAR ANNIE: “Pregnant” may feel huge, may even be huge, but she really doesn’t need to be constantly reminded of it. Fifty years ago, toward the end of my first pregnancy, I mentioned to my OB that I was as “big as a house.” His reply has stayed with me ever since. He said, “No, you are magnificent with child.” The more I thought about it the more I realized he was right. God bless him.
Over the years, I’ve told many magnificent pregnant ladies that pearl of wisdom. — Now I’m Older and Wiser
DEAR OLDER AND WISER: While your OB’s response is much kinder than telling a pregnant woman she is huge, we see no reason to comment on a woman’s size under any circumstances. It tends to provoke a negative reaction even with the best of intentions.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.