Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

Parental Alienation Solutions

December 14, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Parental Alienation Solutions
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
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Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
Parental Alienation Solutions
Dec 14, 2023
Attorney Billie Tarascio

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Step into the world of high-conflict divorce on the Modern Divorce Podcast, where we tackle a pressing issue head-on: Parental Alienation. Today's important espisode features Reunification Family Therapist, Cathy Himlin, of Himlin Consulting, teaming up with family law attorney and host, Billie Tarascio, to unpack the elements of this complex phenomenon and equip you with the essential parenting skills you needto rebuild a connection with your child.

In this important episode, Cathy shares some amazing insights driving Parental Alienation, including:

  • The surprising truth behind why even 'nice guy' parents can find themselves on the outside looking in
  • The contentious issues surrounding reunification camps
  • The hidden layers of grief that silently shape family dynamics.
  • How children absorb their parents' emotions like sponges
  • The detrimental effects of permissive parenting
  • The stages of child developmental that can potentially influence on parental rejection

Even if you're the parent who is spending the majority of time with your child, this episode unveils a host of issues that every single parent should be aware of. To find Cathy, you can connect with her on Facebook and Linkedin.

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Step into the world of high-conflict divorce on the Modern Divorce Podcast, where we tackle a pressing issue head-on: Parental Alienation. Today's important espisode features Reunification Family Therapist, Cathy Himlin, of Himlin Consulting, teaming up with family law attorney and host, Billie Tarascio, to unpack the elements of this complex phenomenon and equip you with the essential parenting skills you needto rebuild a connection with your child.

In this important episode, Cathy shares some amazing insights driving Parental Alienation, including:

  • The surprising truth behind why even 'nice guy' parents can find themselves on the outside looking in
  • The contentious issues surrounding reunification camps
  • The hidden layers of grief that silently shape family dynamics.
  • How children absorb their parents' emotions like sponges
  • The detrimental effects of permissive parenting
  • The stages of child developmental that can potentially influence on parental rejection

Even if you're the parent who is spending the majority of time with your child, this episode unveils a host of issues that every single parent should be aware of. To find Cathy, you can connect with her on Facebook and Linkedin.

Announcer: [00:00:00] We hope you enjoy this episode of the Modern Divorce podcast. But first, an important message for our listeners.

Billie Tarascio: Hi, this is attorney Billie Tarascio, and my partner, Julie, and I have created a resource for you if you are representing yourself in family court. No one should go into family court without knowing the basics, and we will teach you everything you need to know at Win Without Law School to represent yourself with confidence.

We'll teach you how to get exhibits in, how to draft your pre trial statements, and how to speak to the judge so the judge won't listen. We'll teach you how to defend against false accusations, and everything you need to know to be an effective advocate, both if you're negotiating or if you're presenting evidence.

Don't wait, go to winwithoutlawschool. com. We can help you. 

Billie Tarascio: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast. I am your host Billie Tarascio. Today I am joined by San Diego therapist Cathy Himlan, and we are going to be talking about [00:01:00] parental alienation, resist refuse dynamics. Very complex issues with court and family law.

Cathy, welcome to the show. Thank you so much. Yeah, I'm so happy that you are here. There are, this is an area that people really, really want to talk about and people feel very strongly about. So first, how did you become kind of specialized in this area 

Cathy Himlin: of practice? Well, I, uh, am a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional clinical counselor, and I started my career off being a dependency social worker and was called, what they called, a reunification social worker.

So I spent years doing that, working with foster kids, and my whole job was to reunify parents with their kids or vice versa if it was possible, because we're talking about people who have criminal charges against them. a lot of times, the kids that have been [00:02:00] abused or neglected. Um, fast forward, um, maternity leave and started a private practice.

I decided to be in my license more, which is again marriage and family therapy, and I have a lot of training in family therapy and child therapy, and I just stumbled across this type of therapy after a few years in private practice. Thought, oh my gosh, this is so perfect. I don't deal, have to go to the prisons and deal with the criminal level parents.

It's no offense to them, but they're harder to deal with sometimes, or work with. Um, I get to work with people in family law, this is so much easier, and, and, it's not easy, but it, compared to working with abuse allegations and stuff, it's just a different type of work. So I got really interested after a few years, and I was trying to understand it.

And work with these, these kiddos who didn't want to see their parents and it was perplexing to me. So, for the last ten or so years, I've been doing that mainly, that's been my specialty. And trying to figure out how do we, how do [00:03:00] we help these families come back together? How do we heal? You know, whatever it is, the, the trauma or the pain that's happened between the parent and the child to have this get to this point.

Where a child's completely rejecting a parent. Right. With no abuse allegations all the time at all. So, on occasion, but not often. Or sometimes 

Billie Tarascio: there's abuse allegations, but, but they're, like, what I would consider to be fairly frivolous. Like, like, one time my mom left me outside and told me I had to eat my popsicle outside.

Or, like, that's one that I've heard. Or, you know, you didn't Consider My Feelings When. Um, so I really want to talk about this because, um, it's such a controversial topic. Let's, let's just, let me start by asking you, do you believe parental alienation is real? 

Cathy Himlin: Yes. By the definition that's out there, there's so many.

It [00:04:00] feels real, but it's, to me, that's too simplified to say that phrase. It's way deeper than that, and there's reasons behind that dynamic showing up with families. 

Billie Tarascio: So, can you define When, when I ask you, is parental alienation real, how would you define it? 

Cathy Himlin: In the, in the ways that I've heard other people define it, it would be, um, when basically a, another parent, or it could even in my opinion be another party of some sort, another family member or friend even, or whoever, says or does some things to influence that child to not see a parent.

So that's what parental alienation to me means. But, in my mind, well, out there in popular opinion from what I've heard so far is that it's sort of a purposeful thing. Like, this parent is just going to take this child away from the other parent, or co parent the other parent, and they're going to keep them.

Um, and make it so that child never wants [00:05:00] to see that, that other parent again. But I've taken a deeper look at that. And I think there's reasons where the, not to make excuses at all. I mean, there's real cases like that. I get that. But in a lot of the cases I'm seeing is that there's. trauma in that own, that parent who's doing the alienating that's causing them to react that way.

There's so many things that they're doing that I don't think they're aware they're doing because I hear parents in this position, um, say I'm totally in support of the, of the relationship with the other parent. And some of them are actually genuinely saying that. I really believe think they are but their own anxiety, their own trauma in their past, their own like fears of what's going to happen to this kid if they release them out of their home gets in the way.

And they don't see how that's affecting the child and it's, it's complicated. I don't think it's so simple to just say, Friendly alienation is happening in this case, and we need to do something, [00:06:00] take the child away from this parent or something. I mean, not Because there certainly is a 

Billie Tarascio: spectrum, right? On one end of the spectrum, you have parents who are intentionally and knowingly with a group of other adults working to separate children from one parent.

And then, and then there's all that gray area. So let's talk about this gray area for a

Cathy Himlin: Well, one of the behaviors I've found interesting so far, um, that happens is when a parent just www. Misses their child so much, like on transitions to the, their co parent. They're like, okay, and they're clingy. They're like, okay, just tell me if anything wrong happens. Just call me. Here's a special phone.

Don't tell your parent, your other parent, or things like that. They'll do things like that, and then the child's sitting there going, there's something wrong here. There's something wrong in the [00:07:00] other home when there isn't. So anxiety, The, the insecurity of like, like a loss of letting this child go to the other parent when they're used to being maybe the main caretaking parent, um, primary caretaking parent.

That's one that I see a lot. And that doesn't mean there's no domestic violence in these cases. There's no abuse. There's just this person who's very insecure to let their kid go because, oh my gosh, we're going from maybe a situation where they were a stay at home parent. They had that kiddo, I can't even say the percent of the time, but the majority of the time, and alone a lot of the time.

Like, let's say five hours a day they had the kid alone while the other parent's off working out of the home. That's 25 hours a week we're now about ready to take away from them. Or more, when we're split, splitting to a 50 50 custody schedule. So, they get really nervous. And it's like a loss. Yeah, [00:08:00] and then, 

Billie Tarascio: you know, you add in new partners.

So if I'm the, if I'm the primary parent and I'm anxious and let's say I have a kid who might be even special needs or sensitive or like, I'm just very attuned to this child's needs and happy meeting them, and then I have to release that child to another parent who doesn't meet those needs in the same way I do, and might have a new partner, and might treat them in ways I don't like.

Like, that is incredibly nerve wracking. 

Cathy Himlin: Yes, absolutely. So what are they 

Billie Tarascio: supposed to do? 

Cathy Himlin: Well, I mean, part of it, like in that scenario, You know, we'll bring up fast food. You've got the parent like this who is health conscious, is making sure the structure's there for homework, the bedtime routine, and they make them a certain lunch every day for school, and they're very regimented and really, really on it for caretaking this kiddo and their physical needs especially, but the other parent's not so into that.

Right. And they may take them to fast food after, [00:09:00] after, um, school every day, or on the weekends. They may have their bedtime be a little looser, or maybe homework doesn't get done until 9 o'clock at night. So they, they have a hard time with that because they can't, they can't do it, they can't control that anymore.

And I'm not calling them controlling, I'm just saying they used to be in charge of all that with that child, and now they only get that child part of the time, and, and There's other schedules happening and that part is driving them, like, it makes them anxious to think, oh my gosh, then this kid isn't getting a good upbringing.

They're not getting their homework done. They're not getting their nutrition. And it's understandable because They have lived their entire, well, the child's life to that point a lot of times, just controlling that environment, trying to give them the best life they could, and now they've got to hand over other time, and now it's not happening the way they envisioned.

Their whole vision of that child's life and what they planned for them has now been [00:10:00] destroyed or changed, and their mind destroyed, which is why they're reacting this way. Yeah, that makes 

Billie Tarascio: so much sense, like it's so relatable, I could so understand, you know, and our culture puts so much pressure on parents, especially moms.

Cathy Himlin: Yeah, to make sure everything's okay. Okay, 

Billie Tarascio: so that is a very understandable, um, relatable reason that you might get a dynamic that could lead to resist refuse. 

Cathy Himlin: Yes, 

Billie Tarascio: okay. Talk to me about 

Cathy Himlin: that. What is that? That's sort of in the, it's in, it's in the literature. I don't know if it is for laypeople literature, but in some of the courts like the Association for Family and Conciliation Courts have a lot of articles in their journal about this situation, and that is they just call them resist refuse cases when a child is resisting or refusing contact with a parent, and it just has a [00:11:00] special dynamic, and so we talk about how can we How can we help this child?

How can we help the other parent? But how can we help this family? Come back together. And it's, it's a problem the community is trying to solve. There's a lot of articles out there, a lot of people, um, talking about it, you know, professionals. And we're trying to just figure out, why are these kids doing this?

Because there's, there's justified and there's unjustified reasons for rejection. So justified reasons are when there's abuse, neglect. There's domestic violence they've witnessed. Maybe there's some substance abuse that's impacted them. That's been scary. Something that scared a child. Um, that's a reason to be hesitant to go with a parent because they don't feel safe.

But these unjustified reasons we see a lot of, um, are there's really nothing like you were saying, like they had them go outside and eat a popsicle. You know, I've, I've had. Several like that, like one, a classic one is you didn't come to my ballgame on this Saturday, even though [00:12:00] the parent went to all the other ones in that entire season, that one Saturday they missed, they got upset and they stopped going to see their parent.

I've seen cases like that, like What is that? We don't do that in intact families. And intact families are families that aren't going through a divorce or custody dispute. We don't do that. It's rare. I mean, you can have a teenager go rogue, sure, in an intact family. But we don't pick or choose our parents over whether they've missed one of our ballgames.

But we see that in these cases. So. That's 

Billie Tarascio: a great point. So, but then, I've got people in my comments saying, I grew up in an intact family and hated my father and rejected him. I just did it by going to my bedroom. Yes. So is that real? Is 

Cathy Himlin: that the same? It is. Well, I don't know. I mean, in the fact that it's being a parent, a child is [00:13:00] rejecting a parent.

Yeah, that's the same. They don't have a choice to leave the house. They don't have another parent to go stay with and avoid that parent. So, sure, it can be the same, and it could morph into other things or develop into other things, like going off and using drugs or hanging out with the wrong people, sneaking out of the house.

Those behaviors might start stemming from that kind of situation, because if a child is having to retreat to their room within an intact family, because of a parent that they're scared of or mad at all the time, there's a problem there. So yeah, there's going to be similar type things happening at some point, but usually it happens when the child is ambulatory, like has more, has a bike, or has, not a bike, but a car.

When they turn, you know, 16 to 18 and they can take off more and not be as present, that can cause that problem, and then it's hard to repair after that. Sure, sure. But in these cases, it's like they, they feel like they have a choice. Whether they have a mom or dad or a parent, [00:14:00] and they choose. Do you think that 

Billie Tarascio: that's a good thing or a bad thing?

Cathy Himlin: I think that kids thinking that they can choose whether they have a parent or not in their life is really unhealthy for them. Children really, really need two parents, whatever that configuration is. Because they're They're entitled to have a healthy relationship with both parents, if it's possible.

Sometimes it's not, because of abuse allegations and things in the moment. But if it's possible, they don't grow up as well. I don't have, like, any research to cite, but just in my experience, I've noticed that, um, Kids who take the choice aren't necessarily doing better. They'll say they feel better.

They'll say they're calmer, they're less anxious, they're less depressed, but really, there's the stuff that has not dealt, been dealt with, like the elephant in the room. They're just, it's not being dealt with. There's some pain in there that's not being worked out. But this [00:15:00] is the, like, This 

Billie Tarascio: is the thing that I try so desperately to communicate that I feel like I'm never able to communicate.

Having conflict within a family is normal. 

Cathy Himlin: Maybe there's 

Billie Tarascio: real conflict between a child and a parent, but by participating in the reunification process, you have the ability to repair the conflict. And when you as a parent are unwilling to encourage your children to repair the conflict, that looks like alienating.

Cathy Himlin: Right. And the response that I 

Billie Tarascio: get is, well, with a narcissistic parent, there's never gonna be, they can never be a healthy parent. They can never have a healthy relationship. What are your 

Cathy Himlin: thoughts on that? Well, there's a school of thought that the whole premise of personality disorder is narcissistic personality disorder.

Then you have histrionic personality disorder, [00:16:00] borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. They're cluster B, they're cousins is what I call them, cousins. If we just stood and talked about those things, then right, we're going to pathologize somebody and then we're going to get nowhere to solve the problem.

I work with these personalities technically if you want to define them that way all the time. Most of my parents have some traits of these. It's just that's all I work with. But if that's how we look at them, then there's no cure or there's no way to heal with them. But if you really dig down deeper into what's making them tick a little bit.

People come across as narcissistic because of some wound inside of them from their own childhood. So if you can understand that a little bit and help teach them to bridge the gap to their child in a way that they don't have to defend themselves all the time and point their fingers out and say it's all your fault.

type thing, and they don't have to defend this inside of them that's so hurt, and they can see [00:17:00] how you can empower them to reach their child in a way that's, that's positive, and they don't have to be defensive, then sometimes some of them learn. So I've seen people with that diagnosis. And I've seen people with Borderline Personality Disorder, um, Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis, those two are very common, we talked about at least in court cases, um, that you can help them.

It takes a little longer and you have to have patience and you have to have understanding and you have to know how not to trigger them. So, but it's just trauma. It's, these labels we keep putting on people just make people stuck. They can't change because we have labeled them. But when we look deeper and we look at why they're doing what they're doing, we can help them.

What's their fear? So have you seen parents 

Billie Tarascio: that, let's say, have been emotionally abusive, [00:18:00] um, maybe coercive and controlling? Have you seen those parents 

Cathy Himlin: become good parents? Sometimes. Not all of them. And I would say things are on a spectrum, like a continuum, you know, like we were talking about, um, with parental alienation.

So it really depends on how complex their trauma is, and what I've seen their background is, and how dialed up this, this, uh, situation has been. Like, has this been going on for a few months? Has this been going on for years? So if it's been only a few months, And we've got some new behaviors because a parent's getting really panicked and thinking their child is being taken away from them, so they're starting to act out in behaviors that are scary.

Then if you can catch them sooner and reassure them that they're not going to have their child taken away and there's hope, give them some hope and tools on how to reach their child in a different way. You can help those parents. The ones that have been doing this a [00:19:00] really, really, really long time. And they haven't seen their kids for a long time.

Those are harder to work with. But I think what happens, and there was some quote I was looking up, and I'm just gonna paraphrase it. I don't know if you've seen it, but something to the effect of the easiest way to make a sane person crazy is to take their child away. I'm totally butchering and paraphrasing this.

Some of these people that are called narcissistic aren't. I mean, I love how Well, it's just the media diagnosis people. People, you know, the world diagnosis people, they don't understand these diagnoses really and what, what they really mean. I mean, I could sit here and call someone like a bipolar, has a lot of energy.

Well, not necessarily. Or ADHD, these kids get overdiagnosed for the ADHD because they can't sit still or they have a lot of energy. Well, that's not necessarily ADHD, though that can be, sure. So when we go and we don't understand how to diagnose and [00:20:00] do that, then, then things get stuck. But I've, I think we get stuck, but I think that these parents, a lot of them that I've seen that have been accused of being narcissists, actually turn around and they're able to reach their child in a way that is not accusatory, that is not manipulative, that's not abusive, verbally abusive, because they're not panicking anymore.

They have a tool. They feel like they have some hope when they're sitting in the room with me in conjoint therapy, which is what we call it in our area. So it's reunification or court involved family therapy, um, just to help work out what is going on between these two. What happened? How can we, how can we repair that?

So yes, I've seen it happen, and it's really cool when it does. And I hear the word narcissistic, narcissism thrown around on almost every single one of my cases. And maybe on occasion it really fits, but I haven't seen too many cases where it fully fits. It's just a term [00:21:00] we like to use now. Just like parental alienation.

Billie Tarascio: Right, which is so controversial in and of itself. Um, okay, so are there cases where something is referred to you for reunification therapy and reunification is a terrible idea. Someone is a terrible parent. 

Cathy Himlin: Yeah, I wouldn't call them a terrible parent 'cause I don't do that with parents. I think as parents, it's okay.

It's okay, it's okay because I have to learn and I have, don't even need to learn anymore. But I've learned how to be compassionate with both sides no matter what a parent is doing. I mean, remember I came from dependency court and I had to be compassionate sitting across from people who had really done heinous things to their kids.

But because of the law, I had to find ways to do everything I could. to help them get their kids back. So I've learned, I, I get, I'm compassionate to them because I know they're not doing this because they're bad people. They're not [00:22:00] doing this because they're terrible parents. They're doing it because they learned it from their own parents or something happened to them to make them act like this.

So that's how I'm able to see it. But yes, I do get these cases, coming back to your question. Um, I get cases and I'm very, I wouldn't say quick. I do have a checkbox of things that I do with a parent who I call a peripheral parent because they're on the outskirts of the child's life or on the periphery.

When I'm working with them to reunify, um, or to repair with their child, I actually don't just throw the child and the parent in the room together on purpose. I meet with the child alone, and I meet with the parent alone, peripheral parent alone, and I try to figure things out. So I try to find out from the child's point of view.

What's going on? Like, why are you not wanting to see your mom or dad? What, what, what's happening in your family? What is it that you're needing differently? Something more, something less of, and that's what I do with the kiddos, and so I try to understand their perspective, and then I [00:23:00] translate that over to the parent.

And in the time that I'm spending with this parent, it's sort of like a test, though I don't say that to them, but it's not, you know, it's a test and it's not a test. I'm trying to see if they can grab on to the concept of we've got to get inside that child's emotional world. We've got to understand their perspective right now, and it doesn't matter if every word they're saying coming out of their mouth sounds like your co parent.

It doesn't matter that what they're saying is not true. What matters is their experience is true, and even if they're parroting and being told to say certain things, if we don't reach them in their emotions, we have no door. That is the door in. So I teach them how to Get to the child from an emotional standpoint and validation and understanding through active listening skills.

Um, and I teach script them with a methodology I use from EFFT, which is Emotion Focused Family Therapy, Emotion Coaching. And I use a script [00:24:00] format because it's easy for them. It's very concrete. And then we teach, I teach attachment and we role play. In that, um, period of time, which usually is like around five sessions, before we even put them together in a room, I'm seeing if they can handle it.

If they can role play with me, and they really start to have things click, and that wall comes down a bit where they're not so angry. I can't put an angry parent in the room with a child. It doesn't, what's it going to do? It's going to solidify why this child doesn't want to see that parent, and now you've got like a, Now, I'm like the glue of that as a therapist, a professional in the room.

If a parent does that to a child in front of me, that's the last conjoint session pretty much. I don't recover from those. No. So I do everything I can to make that first conjoint session successful. And if they can't get to where I think they should be, then you're right, I stop. So there is some conjoint cases, or excuse me, court [00:25:00] involved family cases.

It's, it's what we say in our area. Um. that I have to say, I'm sorry, but I think that the peripheral parent needs to go to some individual counseling first. And here's the things, and I will put together a treatment plan for them, for the therapist. Here's what you need to do, and a lot of it is have insight as to where that anger is coming from.

Understand the needs of your child emotionally, and how it's damaging to your child if you're acting out your anger towards your co parent at your child. Things like that will go into the treatment summary. So I can speak the language of a therapist and hopefully that'll happen. The majority of my cases, the cases just fall flat.

Court just either takes the child away temporarily, and then it just sort of goes off and hangs out there in the air and no one does anything. What I would hope for these parents is they get help because if they understood and they could manage their anger. about the situation and differentiate or take away the child away from [00:26:00] their co parent and their feelings towards their co parent, they might have a chance of repairing this.

It's a lot, but that's, that's, yes, that's what I do. And if they don't pass that test, They don't get to move on with me. Okay. 

Billie Tarascio: So, um, it was, it was a lot. It was, it was great. It was great. I hope people like go back and watch it a couple times because we spent, you know, earlier in the podcast really kind of coming down on the protective parent for understandable but damaging behavior.

And now we're on the other side talking about how the alienated or peripheral or angry or ousted parent. Um, has a whole 

Cathy Himlin: lot of work to do, 

Billie Tarascio: even if what they hear coming out of their child's mouth is exactly what they've heard their ex tell them for years. That's 

Cathy Himlin: triggering! Yes. But it's their, it's their superpower.

That they, cause I see these parents and they're [00:27:00] feeling so helpless, like they've had this thing done to them by the courts, by their attorneys maybe even, they complain about them, they complain about their co parent, they complain about the kid. And now I found some tools they can use to flip that around if it's possible.

So I understand it's triggering, but there's hope. Well, and can 

Billie Tarascio: you explain, like, how? What, what are, let's pretend I'm now the, you know, peripheral parent. And I am hearing out of my kids mouths the things that my ex has been telling me for years and years and years. And I'm like, that's not true. You don't think that.

You heard that from your dad. Your dad tells me it all the time. What am I supposed to do instead? 

Cathy Himlin: Well, instead what we do is we want to understand how they're feeling. I mean, it's that simple. And to reflect back how they're feeling and to validate their feelings. And in some situations, like false sexual abuse allegations, which I've been on, I've been on cases that are true, that are found to be true, and I've been on cases where they weren't true.

[00:28:00] Those we handle a little differently, but the average ones, you know, you just sort of sidestep the facts. And talk only through emotion. So, you know, I get why you're upset at me for not showing up to your ballgame and it must have really hurt that I wasn't there. Instead of going, hey, I was there, like, for the last whole three months of your ballgames and I missed one and you're going to not come over to see me because of that?

We don't do that. Because what does that do? That pushes them away. We want to invite them and make it So for some reason they don't think it's safe or they're hurt, right? So maybe that hurts you, and I'm so sorry, buddy, that hurts you, and I, and I hope, you know, you understand that I wanted to be there, and here's why I wasn't.

But I love you so much, and I, I'm gonna be there for the majority of your games, and then, then you can say something, do you remember all the other games I was at? Just curious. You could say something like that, and try to reality check them gently. Gently. But you've got [00:29:00] to get into the emotions first.

You've got to understand, you know, and this could be completely coming from the other side or It could be just internal to that child, and it could look like it's from the other side. Because kids do their own thing. They're not, they're not just pawns in this. In a way, you know, they're, they're caught in the middle of an adult conflict.

Yes, in that way they're pawns in, in, in a divorce and conflict, um, high conflicts, custody dispute. But they do have their own feelings and their own interpretations. They even have the kids they meet on the blacktop that have their own experiences with divorce that, um, impact them. So there's things going on internally to that child.

And that's part of why I get in, try to get into what's going on with them. I'll find things that have nothing to do with either parent that they're coming up with on their own. Like kids think they have to choose a parent. Why do kids think they have to choose a parent? Well, in certain stages of their development, things are black and white.

You're either [00:30:00] right or you're wrong. So if something big's happening and my parents are splitting up and they're fighting a lot, somebody's wrong. And so they pick a side. They could pick a side that's the not the loudest or the whatever. What, 

Billie Tarascio: what age, um, are children very prone to that black and white 

Cathy Himlin: thinking?

I've actually seen it all the way through early teens. It really depends on the kid, but especially younger kiddos. They don't, they don't understand. They're just, that's just the way the world is. I have two questions. Um, 

Billie Tarascio: one, I want to talk about reunification camps. Do you have any experience with reunification camps?

Cathy Himlin: I don't. I've heard about them. I've read about them. I've had a few cases where I was starting That was trying to use them. I don't have a big opinion on them just because I don't know much, but I could say one thing if you want me to. [00:31:00] Sure. The thing that I'm concerned about them is that when you take, when you, when you, when you shift a child's life so drastically and take them away from someone for some of them are like 90 days.

to, you know, break contact off from the one parent that they are being accused of alienating. It just feels like a drastic shift. I know that's the point, but is it in that particular child's best interest? I don't know what the outcome studies are with these camps right now. I know it's very controversial.

I heard there was a huge controversy in the state of California about them. Um, Anything, in my opinion, that is going to jar the system of the child is probably not going to work as well as they think. I mean, logically, on paper, sure, cut out the problem, the person who's saying things to the kid to influence them, and that'll make the kid see how good this parent is.

Will it? Or will it build more resentment and fear and anxiety and all that in this child because they can't see this [00:32:00] I don't know, and I'm not criticizing the camps, it's just, it feels drastic and I wish there's a softer way to go about it. There's no magical cure to this issue. We've got to find other solutions.

Billie Tarascio: Right. And every family is different, right? I mean, we might see dynamics that, that reoccur, but every single family is made up of all these humans. 

Cathy Himlin: Right. And I'm, I'm concerned about them in one way, is that what if a judge makes a mistake? What if they rule in a situation where that wasn't happening?

Parental alienation wasn't happening and there really is no cause. to take that child away for 90 days, for instance. Now what have we done? We've just drastically changed this child's life and put them in a state of distress and possibly put them in a state of trauma. So it just doesn't feel, as much as it sounds child centered, it doesn't [00:33:00] feel child centered.

Like, we're not taking into account their developmental age, the context of the family, the situation. Are we really, is our evaluation that accurate that we can tell exactly What's going on? Because I've seen people accused of doing parental alienation when it was really the other parent. So I, how do we know?

I mean, we've got to be pretty accurate, you know, before we upside, you know, pull their lives upside down and change it completely. I don't know. I'm, I'm low red on that one. It just feels extreme. Yeah. For a child, developmentally. 

Billie Tarascio: Do you ever work as an expert witness? 

Cathy Himlin: I've been asked to. Um, technically when we're, uh, court involved therapists, we're technically experts on the stand.

Um, I just haven't pursued it. Simply because the lawsuit rate is so high, I heard, and I'm like, I'm happy trying to help families right now. So I [00:34:00] purposely chosen to stay in this lane. 

Billie Tarascio: How long does it typically take for a family with a resist reviews dynamic to get healthy, and what are the best chances You know, what are the best tips if this is starting to happen to your family, what should you 

Cathy Himlin: do?

I think find a good family therapist that's court informed. If you find a therapist who doesn't understand how court works and how it works in families that are high conflict divorce, not that they're all high conflict divorce, but understands those dynamics so they can look out for red flags. It'll be hard, but find a therapist and get working right away.

Because the longer you wait to get help, the longer that narrative that that child's developing about this other parent or the situation gets stronger and stronger and it turns into the truth in their head. Like, you have to [00:35:00] catch it early so you can challenge the reality and work on whatever it is. So, whatever the conflict is, waiting, waiting is not your friend.

Mm hmm. I get cases like, they've been around two years, five years. These kids are so stuck in the way they think, it's almost impossible for me to help them out. And there's been so much damage done over that period of time. to the relationship. It's very difficult to get out of one of those situations.

And for 

Billie Tarascio: those parents, because I, I talk to those parents sometimes they'll come to me and they'll, you know, they were, usually it's the nice guy who doesn't like conflict, who just didn't enforce parenting time and maybe his kids just, they didn't want to see him. And so he was like, you know, I'll leave it up to you.

And here we are, you know, several years later and They come to me and they're like, what do we do? How do you [00:36:00] help a family in that situation? 

Cathy Himlin: Well, I think that that parent if they're like conflict avoiding is what you're describing Someone who likes to avoid conflict and sort of lets things happen the way people are gonna let things happen They need some therapy to help support them.

I think they need to have individual therapy I know I'm a therapist and I'm sitting here talking about therapy but if they don't understand why they're being like that and how So, that's come back and sort of affected now they don't see their kids maybe, they're not going to be able to do the work they need to with the children if it isn't already too late in that developmental stage that they're in.


Billie Tarascio: Because the conflicts just got up. 

Cathy Himlin: Yeah. Right. Right. So conflicts just keeps getting worse and it's, it's in their nature to avoid all of it. So, and having, again, family therapy and trying to, to address it, trying to understand why are the children or the child rejecting. This parent that's just passive and hasn't really done anything, but [00:37:00] that's the point.

The kids in these situations that I've seen, it's more of my parent doesn't care. My parent walked away. My parent hasn't checked in with me. Yet when the parent checks in with them, they reject them. But, but so, and so this parent just sort of like, okay, I, I won't do this anymore. But what the kid's really needing is that parent to show up more.

And there needs to be a breakthrough through that, and the way to do that is usually through some therapy. It's really difficult for these parents to do this on their own, or they would have done it already. Right. You know, so they need some help, they need some tools. Um, and kids get hurt, and I've seen cases where, I saw a case like this.

The, a dad gave away a home, gave away Thousands, tens of thousands of dollars allowed everyone to stay in the family home. They moved out. They moved out, so the kids assumed that he abandoned them. Right. And it's just a part of what happens in a divorce. Generally, divorced [00:38:00] people don't live in the same home after a certain period of time.

Right. The kids internalize it as I've been abandoned, this parent was passive and conflict avoidant, so I'm not checking in with my kids because I don't want to bother them, I want them to have a happy life, I'm trying to give them, I'll just work really, really hard and help them maintain this home, and they'll do that all well, you know, intending, and then this happens, and the kids get the message that they're not important, they're not loved, and they've been abandoned.

Billie Tarascio: This is so hard. It is so hard to be a good divorced 

Cathy Himlin: parent. Yes, it is very hard. It's, this is not an easy, there's, there's books. I was going to say there's no book out there for this type of parenting. There is books, but. Well, and 

Billie Tarascio: speaking of which, you've got one coming up, right? Yes, yes. All right, tell us 

Cathy Himlin: about your book.

And I've just started it, so it's going to be a little bit, but it's Reconnecting with Your Child, and it's basically, [00:39:00] um, Talking about how it begins with shifting your focus into their emotional, psychological, and developmental perspective and world in order to be able to build relationships back, and it's written directly for those parents that get rejected, because I feel for them, they don't, they get, they don't have the tools.

They have their child seemingly taken away from them and they're just like, I don't know what to do. So they're either really angry, they go and retreat, you know, they may get really frustrated. They may try to have all kinds of fighting in the court because they're trying to fight. It's not, well, nothing's working.

So from my experience, I'm finding that again, we can access our kiddos to their emotions. You have a higher chance of rebuilding that relationship and it helps them have something to do because if they're just frustrated and angry all the time, that's all the kid sees and they think that they're frustrated, angry at the child and the [00:40:00] child is like, I'm done.

So it's like they sort of sabotage themselves by accident. But understandably. Right. So I have a book about 

Billie Tarascio: that. Love it. Love it. Um, Cathy, thank you so much for coming on today. I have really enjoyed this episode. I know our listeners are really going to enjoy it. If you have liked this episode, make sure to download it, send it to your friends, leave a review, rank it.

Um, and Cathy, thanks so much. Have a great 

Cathy Himlin: day. Thank you. I appreciate you inviting me. 

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