Inside the Mind of an Alienated Child: Dana Laquidara’s Story of Parental Alienation
Parental alienation is a highly destructive form of undue influence where one parent systematically manipulates a child to reject the other parent. This damaging form of child psychological abuse disrupts family dynamics and can leave lasting emotional scars on the child, potentially impacting their development, mental health, and future relationships. Often, children are not only alienated from their mother or father but the entire side of the family, traumatizing all who are related. The BITE Model of Authoritarian Control can be used to analyze any case.
Over the last 47 years that I have spent working with former cult members, I have seen first-hand how destructive groups like the Moonies, Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, and others manipulate parental bonds to exert control. If a parent decides to leave the group, the remaining parent is often instructed to instill fear, anger, and disgust in their children towards the departing parent. This insidious form of alienation is widespread in cults, but it’s also a global issue impacting millions of children and parents, typically following marriage breakdowns. I have previously done multiple blogs on parental alienation with experts, including Dr. Amy Baker and Dr. Nick Child.
To provide a deeper understanding of this issue, I invited Dana Laquidara, a professional author and writer who brings a unique perspective as an adult survivor of parental alienation, which she also shares on her website, danalaquidara.com. We previously did a blog about her journey of estrangement from her mother, and now she has published a book titled YOU-KNOW-WHO: An Alienated Daughter’s Memoir. Through this memoir, she seeks to raise awareness and support parents and children ensnared in this devastating form of mind control and abuse.
Dana’s Story: A Child Alienated from Her Mother
Dana’s ordeal began at age four following her parents’ tumultuous divorce. Within just a few months of their separation, Dana’s mother and all maternal family members were abruptly erased from her life. A smear campaign led by her father painted her mother as unfit and unworthy, implying that she had abandoned her children when, in reality, she was escaping an abusive marriage. Meanwhile, her father concealed gifts and letters from their mother, effectively obstructing any attempts at contact.
Dana’s alienation from her mother had been sudden, thorough, and devastating. As a young child, Dana was helpless and unable to properly understand, grieve, or speak about her mother’s departure from her life. Fearful of upsetting and angering her father, Dana complied with his narrative, gradually suppressing positive memories of her mother. Her childhood and teenage years were shadowed by her mom’s absence and were further complicated by her father’s remarriage to a woman Dana was told to call ‘mother’ even though she was her stepmother.
Despite the narrative of abandonment, Dana’s memories of her mother were only ones of love and affection, causing her to eventually question the story she had been told. Over time, Dana began to unravel the truth about her father’s actions, but she struggled with guilt about not having spoken up or demanding to see her mother. But once Dana learned about undue influence and mind control, she recognized it was not her fault, nor due to any weakness. Instead, it resulted from the manipulative environment she had been subjected to.
Dana eventually made the brave decision to reestablish contact with her mother, seeking to mend the severed ties and introduce her children to a grandmother they had never met. However, the process was fraught with challenges as years of conditioning left Dana battling doubts about her mother. She was also fearful about revealing her reconnection with her mother to her father and sister, and she dreaded the possibility of being exiled from her family.
Parental Alienation as a Form of Undue Influence
Parental alienation is a damaging process in which a child is manipulated or coerced by one parent (the alienating parent) to unjustifiably reject the other parent (the targeted parent). This manipulation typically involves the alienating parent employing various tactics such as spreading negative and false stories about the targeted parent and limiting the child’s contact with the other parent. The child, caught in this destructive crossfire, begins to internalize the negative image of the targeted parent, leading to strained or wholly severed ties.
Parental alienation is a manifestation of undue influence and control, which leads to profound changes in the child’s behavior, beliefs, or feelings towards the targeted parent. In a healthy parent-child relationship, the child’s interests are prioritized. Still, when parental alienation is the case, the unhealthy parent typically puts their own needs and feelings above the child’s well-being, using the child as a tool to hurt the other parent.
The Problem with Parental Alienation in the Legal System
Countless parents have expressed their profound frustration over the difficulty of proving parental alienation in court. These parents often find themselves embroiled in exhaustive legal battles, causing significant emotional and financial strain, frequently with little to no success.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding in the legal system about how to assess undue influence. That’s why I focused my doctoral dissertation on a framework for evaluating the differences between ethical and unethical influence. Such a model would enhance the handling of parental alienation cases in court and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
Building Bridges: Reconnecting with Alienated Family Members
Dana is a voice for alienated children and fervently believes that adult survivors must face the truth, figure out how to recover, and, when they are ready, reach out to their alienated parent. Learning about mind control, undue influence, and parental alienation as a form of psychological abuse can help alienated parents and children understand what has happened to them and begin to heal.
As a mental health professional, I advise people to maintain their authenticity, prioritize safety, and strategically explore options without jeopardizing their well-being. If you are an adult survivor of parental alienation considering reconnection with a family member, I recommend working yourself first with a counselor who understands this phenomenon. Then consider utilizing a professional third-party, such as a mediator or therapist, to reach out first. Remember, no one lives forever. So waiting might rob everyone of the potential for healing and or closure. Concentrating on the present and moving to a healthier future instead of dwelling on past grievances is advised. Expressions of love and a willingness to reconnect are potent tools in repairing relationships damaged by parental alienation.
Alienated Parent Rock star Lita Ford – Mother (official video)
Alex Jones vs. Kelly Jones Parental Alienation Harms Children by Using Undue Influence
FOM’s page on Parental Alienation