Smithfield, RI Weather
By Paul Lonardo
Len Meyers of Cumberland has written a first novel, which he describes as a “psychological drama” based on true events. As the book’s press materials explain, Tears in the Rain is a “story of a broken mother’s desperate attempt to survive and save her child…” She is aided in her quest by a psychologist, the police, and a shadowy group that “work along the edges of the law to protect the child from both herself and the repeated abuse of her predatory father.”
Within his debut novel, Len explores some heady concepts, chief among them is clinically known as parental alienation, a widely misunderstood, yet very familiar form of child abuse.
Len holds degrees from Colorado State University, Northeastern University and an MBA from Boston College. He worked his whole life in the high-tech field and did some teaching himself at BC in education psychology. Until it touched his own life he was not familiar with the term parental alienation. This social dysfunction is defined as the long-term process of psychological manipulation of a child by one parent who essentially is consumed by revenge against the other parent.
The “offending” parent can employ various means to influence a child to hate and completely reject the “targeted” parent, and Len believes that in this dynamic, which arises almost exclusively in the context of child-custody disputes, the parent seeking vengeance may be suffering from one or more serious mental disorders, such as narcissistic or borderline personality disorder. The reason why it becomes abuse is because the child assumes the beliefs of the offending parent, becoming completely dependent on this parent, which deprives the child’s rights of freedom and free will. “The intended target is never the child,” Len stresses, “but they become unwitting puppets in one parent’s vicious campaign for revenge against the other. What’s truly horrifying to learn is that studies of adult victims who were affected by parent alienation as children have shown that child victims tend to suffer a lifelong pattern of assorted social and emotional disabilities.”
The plot of Tears in the Rain deals with just that dynamic, revealing what happens when the bond between mother and child is manipulated and intentionally severed by the child’s own father. The author poses “What happens when a child caught in a toxic divorce is used as a weapon to destroy her own mother? “While it is not unusual for adolescent children to exhibit extreme mood and behavioral changes, as well as disdain for a new step-parent, when anger is extended toward others outside the family, this could be the sign of a something more troubling. Patterns of depression, withdrawing from friends and social activities may have other root causes, but when affected by parental alienation, a child may exhibit these kinds of extreme behaviors, which are often very much outside the norm of the child’s established personality.
“With young teens, especially ones whose parents are divorced, there is so much to worry about,” Len says, “whether it is substance abuse or some kind of physical abuse, you always have to be on the lookout.”
There are other signs to look for which may be a giveaway that one parent is manipulating a child against the other parent. Showering a teen with an overabundance of presents, including very expensive gifts for no reason, is one sign. There is a term for this that Len discovered, called love-bombing, which in common enough when trying to win the affection of someone, including children of a divorced parent, but it eventually becomes very extreme.
“There is usually an “a-ha” moment,” Len says, “when you realize that your child and your family is caught up in something exceedingly complex. When parental alienation is identified, an important point here is to realize that this is never about the offending parent wanting to do what was best for the child so much as it about wanting to get revenge against the ex-spouse, who had divorced him, or abandoned him. And with the child under their control, whatever told to the child about the other parent being “bad,” that child will believe it.”
This dynamic is something that Len is familiar with, having gone through it himself.
“People get angry in divorces,” Len says. “That’s one thing. However, most adults who get divorced don’t want to sacrifice their children in the process, but that’s just what’s happening in these situations.”
While trying to downplay such ten-dollar terms as parental alienation, narcissistic relationship, or pathogenic parenting, Len says there is contention in the psychological and psychiatric communities about how to not only label this condition but how to diagnose it. “The big problem is that the courts struggle with it mightily,” he says. “As do mental health professionals, because it is a process that takes place typically over a long period of time, and the child doesn’t even know or recognize what’s going on.”
Such confusing terminology aside, the problem by any name is a real one, and it tears many families apart. It destroys not only the family unit but the individuals themselves, especially the children who are caught in the middle.
Len felt so strongly about raising awareness about the problem that he wrote a fictional book detailing what happens to families – and to a child – being victimized by parental alienation. Tears in the Rain is now available for purchase on Amazon. Len wants others going through this to know that they are not alone and that there is a way out. For more information about these issues, visit: