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April 1, 2016
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How Does Your Child Feel About Divorce?
April 28, 2016

How To Cope With Target Parenting

You are feeling as if you are losing your mind and you begin to question if you have a mental health disorder?  Your anxiety level is through the roof! You are having trouble eating and sleeping. In addition, memories of being with your children are running rampant through your mind.  You can’t stop the flashbacks from the past life you happily lived with your kids. Are you crazy? Probably not but you could be a targeted parent.

When it comes to understanding parental alienation syndrome, researchers  spend a great deal of time investigating the impact on the child.  This is critically important,  but it seems that there is not enough time spent on the impact of alienation on the targeted parents mental health.

For those of you that are not familiar with the term “targeted parent,”  it  occurs following a divorce, when one parent convinces the children that the other parent is not trustworthy (targeted parent), loveable or caring towards their child when there is no evidence to back up these claims.

Being separated from your children is a major situational stressor.  It is one of the worst unresolved losses a parent can endure. Parents experiencing this kind of loss report feeling as though there is a “black hole” in their heart. Other targeted parents have reported that they have experienced severe anxiety, panic attacks, depression and post traumatic stress symptoms.  Does this mean that these parents are mentally ill? Probably not. It does however mean that they do suffer from situational stress that is often relieved once they reunite with their alienated children.

Situational stress can occur in any of our everyday life situations.  It’s usually a situation you do not have control over which involves conflict.   Sometimes people begin to feel hopelessness, sadness or fear due to the situation.


5 Tips To Help You Feel Less Stressed

  1. Increase Self-Awareness
    Recognize the symptoms your body is throwing out to you when you become upset.  If your muscles tense or you begin to feel your heart race-stop, focus and take a timeout.
  2.  Avoid Toxic People
    Avoid people who may cause you stress. You have a choice here. If someone is consistently causing you stress in your life,  limit the amount of time you spend with them.
  3. Let Go Of Control
    We usually feel most stressed when we can’t control things or we don’t know what will occur next. Many things in life are beyond our control. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control.
  4. Try To Alter Situation
    Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same.
  5. Share Your Feelings
    Center yourself and open up about your feelings to supportive friends and family.

Please know that anxiety is a symptom that can be reduced quickly. Don’t give your negative thoughts power. What you are coping with as a targeted parent is extremely provoking, but if you let your anxiety spiral out of control, you will limit your ability to move forward.

Dr. Sue Cornbluth is a nationally recognized parenting expert in high conflict parenting situations. She is a regular mental health contributor for an array of networks and television shows such as NBC, FOX and CBS. Dr. Sue has also contributed to several national publications. Her new best-selling book,Building Self Esteem in Children and Teens Who Are Adopted or Fostered is available now. To find out more about her work, please visit Dr. Sue’s website.


  1. CJ says:

    Hi Sue, Very intersted in your analysis & hope I may offer some first hand experience insight into it so we both may learn more. What kind of age would you say the child starts to realize & see through the lies ?

    • Hello

      Great question! The answer however is not so simple. In terms of a specific age, it is more that kids seem to change when they believe that the alienated parent is taking action to change and they see that action.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am constantly battling the struggle to not end my life because of this situation. I miss my children and they are around age 30 now. And it’s been years, but still it is killing me. I’ve tried EVERYTHING to not love and not miss and not hurt. And he is on his third wife and several other affairs and several other children and grandchildren. I wish I could get over it.

    • There is no way to stop loving and missing your children-that is a natural feeling when you are separated from them. Also, this is not about getting over it either. It is about getting empowered to find news ways to connect with them. It is never to late.

  3. leanne says:

    my experience with people who lost a parent to suicide is the are very likely to follow in the parents footsteps if the person feels abandoned or depressed later in life.

    don’t do it

  4. Vic says:

    My child is seeing how my ex-wife – his mother – and my siblings – his aunt and uncles – are behaving towards me. I am being smeared and defamed to all sorts of people. My child is now behaving oddly towards me. It happened literally overnight. I am a victim if false allegations. ‘Domestic Violence’…struck out! Paranoia, delusions, false accusations, etc. Child is now not coming for access.
    Is this ‘normal’ in PA???? Thanks.

  5. Tommy says:

    I was alienated after a false allegation of the worst kind. I was not arrested or questioned, quickly found completely innocent. The Friday before Father’s Day 2015 was the day my life became hell. The mother- who in the past have the children removed and placed in my care by Family and Children Services for neglect and abuse was not arrested or charged, and I find this disturbing. I am a disabled veteran that suffers from mental issues, I haven’t seen the children in a year-and-a-half. My children are my world – they were my focus – and they were the best therapy I could ever dream of. The trauma of this experience is absolutely horrible. I never thought being an innocent man could be such a bad experience. The authorities handing me a civil matter that I cannot afford is even more devastating and I am certain the children are being abused. The authorities ignore the obvious attack on me Criminally and have afforded me no information and obviously no rights to be protected as an innocent person. Everyday is a closer trip to the end of my path. I wish I could find legal help for us. My grief and sorrow increases every day.

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