Why Study Estranged Parents' Forums?
Estranged parents claim that parental estrangement is an epidemic, and that record numbers of adult children are cutting all contact with their good, loving, nonabusive parents for no good reason. While some estranged parents have lost contact with their children because of their children's addiction or serious mental illness, the focus of the parental estrangement movement is on cases where the adult child has no such "excuse," and has become estranged simply because they are making a power play, establishing their independence in an immature way, under the thrall of the estranged parent's abusive ex-spouse or their own abusive spouse, or otherwise unwilling to have a relationship for reasons unrelated to the estranged parent's own actions and personality. Estranged parents claim that they are normal, and their children are pathological.
But is it true?
The members of estranged parents' forums may or may not be a representative selection of parents whose adult children have cut them off. (They claim to be representative.) However, analysis of their members' posts and comments reveals a pervasive pattern of behavior that sheds light on the phenomenon of parental estrangement. In short, members of estranged parents' forums tend to be classic enablers and abusers.
Abusive Behaviors and Beliefs That Are Common on Estranged Parents' Forums
Members of estranged parents' forums frequently do these things, or encourage others to do these things:
- Joke and fantasize about spanking, slapping, beating, publicly shaming, and euthanizing their adult children
- Stalk their adult children after requests for no contact by:
- Going to their children's and their children's spouses' homes or workplaces
- Going to their grandchildren's schools, concerts, and games
- Using Facebook accounts belonging to other family members to see their children's Facebook accounts
- Creating false Facebook accounts to trick their children into friending them
- Enlisting others to contact or photograph adult children who live too far away for the parents to stalk them directly
- Hiring private investigators to find adult children who moved without leaving contact information
- Deny that the adult child has a right to set terms to the relationship, because children are permanently subordinate to parents
- Feel betrayed if family members have a relationship with the estranged adult child
- Demand that family members and mutual friends choose sides
- Express a belief that God agrees with them and will punish their adult children for cutting them off. Less religious members substitute "karma" for "God"
- Fantasize about the punishments God or karma will inflict on their children
- Act as gatekeepers of their adult children's maturity. No matter how old or accomplished an adult child is, he or she is "immature" unless he or she reestablishes a relationship on the parent's terms
The more disturbed members can be observed lying, contradicting themselves, and rewriting history. One member documented a months-long process of following her estranged son around town, cornering him at work, reporting him to CPS (without effect), and putting him and his wife "in their place" with threats to go to court if they didn't let her visit their child. She sent him insulting messages, which she copied to the forum. Once she was faced with an actual court date, she claimed she never spoke to her son any other way except except politely and restrainedly, on the very few occasions when she absolutely had to. Another member's son stated in court that she had posted enough personal information online to identify himself and his entire family. The member went into a whirlwind of panic, declaring that she had never mentioned any personal names online—in the process reawakening a thread where a few months before she had named all of her children and many of their spouses and children.
Sometimes the distortion is even more severe. The member who took her son to court sent him these two texts:
Her son replied, "I'm tired of fighting I do love you, but we are very angry you called [CPS] over nothing. This has to stop are lives are busy growing and we don't want this nonsense arguing and negativity."
The member told the forum, "I think he feels remorse, or he wouldn't have replied he 'loves' me." Later she advised another member not to be "nicey-nice" to his daughter, because she had sent her son a "truthful" message and her son replied that he loved her.
The value of these distortions is threefold. First, it confirms that a larger-than-average proportion of the membership of estranged parents' forums is composed of profoundly disturbed people. Second, the typically enabling reaction of the membership confirms that the majority of the members hold abusive beliefs and/or condone abusive beliefs in others. And third, it provides dramatic proof of lying and history-rewriting for people who find it hard to believe such things happen.
So why study members of estranged parents' forums? For a deeper understanding of how abusers think. To learn how abusers present themselves as non-abusive, and how to tell when they're distorting their stories. Because the face the estranged parent movement presents to the world is false, and good-hearted people are being convinced to aid in the very abuse they want to prevent.
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The analyses on this page are my own opinions and should not be construed as medical advice or statements of absolute fact.