Your ex-spouse is bad-mouthing you to your children, perhaps even trying to turn them against you. If you handle the situation ineffectively, you could lose your children's respect, their affections -- even, in extreme cases, contact with them.

The conventional advice is to do nothing for fear that any response could result in greater injury to the children. But with twenty-five years of helping families, Dr. Richard Warshak is convinced that a passive approach just leaves parents feeling helpless. And the damage to children is considerable, particularly when warring parents enlist children as allies in the battle. The problems range from tainted parent-child relationships in which children are disrespectful or reluctant to show their affection, to disturbances in which children virtually disown one of their parents and all their relatives on that side of the family.

Divorce Poison offers specific advice for parents whose children are caught in the middle. In it, you will learn how to:
  • react if your children refuse to see you
  • respond to rude and hateful behavior
  • minimize damage from bad-mouthing
  • identify and correct your own contributions to parent-child conflicts
  • defend against false accusations of brainwashing
  • choose the best therapist and lawyer
Dr. Warshak reveals the typical signs of alienation, how and why parents manipulate their children, seven rules for responding effectively to bad-mouthing without succumbing to the impulse to retaliate in kind, and how the controversial diagnosis parental alienation syndrome is used in court to take children away from parents or to regain contact with alienated children.

This groundbreaking work gives parents powerful strategies to preserve and rebuild loving relationships with their children -- and provides practical advice from legal and mental-health professionals to help their clients and safeguard the welfare of children. Whether they are perpetrators of divorce poison, victims of it, or both, parents who heed Dr. Warshak's advice will enable their children to maintain love and respect for two parents who no longer love, and may not respect, each other.

[from the inside covers]

Warshak, Divorce Poison

About the Author

Dr. Richard A. Warshak is a clinical, research, and consulting psychologist in private practice and a clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is an internationally recognized authority on divorce, and his studies are cited often in courtrooms and legislatures. His work has been featured in worldwide media including Today, CNN, USA Today, the Washington Post, the London Sunday Telegraph, and Time. The author of the critically acclaimed The Custody Revolution, he lives and works with his wife in Dallas, Texas.

[from the inside cover]

Table of Contents





The United Front - When Silence Is Not Golden - How to Distinguish Between Helpful and Harmful Criticism



Bad-mouthing - Bashing - Brainwashing - Parental Alienation Syndrome - Children Who Resist Divorce Poison



The Hate Campaign - Trivial Explanations for the Hatred - False Abuse Accusations - Polarizing Parents: Saints and Sinners - Parroting Adults - Declaration of Independence - Hatred by Association - Alienation Without Divorce Poison - Justifed Alienation - Child-Driven Alienation - Understanding the Roots of Alienation - Is It Alienation or Not? - False Accusations of Parental Alienation Syndrome



Poor Boundaries - Revenge - Narcissism - Guilt - Insecurity - Seeking Validation - Holding On with Hatred - Paranoia - Reenactments - Hostility Toward the Children - Custody Litigation - Preventing Alienation During Custody Litigation - Remarriage



Isolation - Relocation - Kidnapping - Stripping - Fear



The Name Game - Repetition - Selective Attention - Judging Behavior Out of Context - Exaggeration - Lies - Revisionist History - The Total Change Theory - Suggestions and Innuendos - Exploitation - Projection - Rationalization - Holier Than Thou - With God on Our Side - "The Truth" - Overindulgence - Encroachment - Cloak and Dagger - Cognitive Dissonance - Conspiracy - Tamper-Resistant Packaging



Empathy - The Power of Indirect Communication - Fly on the Wall - Two Steps Removed - Using Third Parties - Strike While the Iron Is Cold - Creating Bridges - Healing Experiences - Memorializing the Positive - The Way We Were - Sowing Seeds in the Psyche - Vacations - Divide and Conquer: The Value of Separating Siblings - Contagion Control: Helping Children Stay Neutral - With God on Our Side--Revisited - Agree to Disagree - No One's Perfect - Think for Yourself - Brainwashing 101 - Films and Television - Become a Better Parent - Avoid Common Errors - Damage Control - Ann Lander's Reconciliation Day



When to Call the Therapist - How Therapy Can Help - How You Can Help Your Therapist - Selecting Therapists - Conditions of Treatment - Child Custody Evaluations - Phasing In Versus Moving In - Moving Out of the One Home Without Moving into the Other - Hiring an Attorney



When to Let Go - How to Let Go - Staying in Touch after Letting Go - New Bridges - Alienated Children as Adults - Coping with the Loss - Hope for the Future






[from the hardbound edition]


"This book deals with the deep and disturbing issues of divorce: bad-mouthing, bashing, and brainwashing, violence and vengeance, retaliation and revenge, parental alienation, false allegations of abuse. Easy to read and understand cases reveal the seamy side of post-divorce relations and amply illustrate the damage parents can inflict on their children. Specific rules and recommendations, based on the author's extensive clinical experience and warm wisdom provide guidance for how parents can avoid such divorce poison. This book should be required reading for every parent, the week after they leave divorce court. It will help them protect their children's interests from their own retaliatory impulses or their ex-spouse's vengeful behavior."

--Alison Clarke-Stewart, Ph.D., associate dean for research,
School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine,
and author of Daycare

"In this engaging book, Richard Warshak skillfully draws attention to the devastating consequences of a poorly recognized form of child abuse: parental alienation. He has filled Divorce Poison with clear, poignant, concrete, and well-reasoned advice for parents who must confront the malignant effects of parental alienation on relationships with their children and on the children themselves. Every divorcing parent should read Divorce Poison closely, examine their own behavior critically, and take steps to minimize alienation and its effects."

--Michael E. Lamb, Ph.D.,
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

"Family courts struggle daily to address the needs of children who reject a parent after divorce or separation, but there are few resources to help parents deal with day-to-day situations. Dr. Warshak provides skillful coaching to parents who are the targets of divorce poison on how to protect their relationships with their children. His book will prove equally valuable to those who advise parents, including family lawyers, therapists, mediators, and parent educators. Dr. Warshak also helps parents distinguish divorce poison from other relationship difficulties and advises parents who are falsely accused of alienating their children from the other parent."

--Leslie Ellen Shear, J.D., certified family law specialist,
State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization

"A great book for both parents and professionals on a previously neglected topic by an outstanding clinician/researcher."

--Henry Biller, Ph.D., professor of psychology,
University of Rhode Island, and
author of The Father Factor

"Always painful, divorce can turn lethal when one parent attempts to poison the children against an ex-spouse. In this balanced, compassionate book, Richard Warshak offers vital advice to those caught in the emotional maelstrom of a bitter divorce."

--Mark Pendergrast,
author of Victims of Memory

"Divorce Poison is long overdue. The mere fact of a divorce does not have to damage children; however, an all-out war between the parents has a very good chance of wreaking havoc. This book recognizes the critical importance of every child's having a relationship with both parents."

--Karen DeCrow, attorney and past president,
National Organization for Women

"This incredible book extends our understanding of parental alienation in a meaningful way. Every parent -- even if not separated or divorced -- will see himself or herself in this book and learn from it. This powerful book will influence parents, professionals, courts, and legislatures for years to come."

--David L. Levy, J.D., president,
Children's Rights Council

"Just about every parent who's been through a divorce knows how tempting it is to say something nasty to the kids about the other parent. But blinded by their anger, too few of these parents realize the damage they're doing to their children. Divorce Poison is an absolute must-read for any parent going through a divorce. In it, Warshak lays bare the evils of parental alienation and give readers the knowledge they need to defend themselves -- and their children -- against it."

--Armin Brott,
author of The Expectant Father and The Single Father

"This book is a testament to Dr. Warshak's vast experience, erudition, and deep commitment to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the various categories of alienated children."

--Richard A. Gardner, M.D., clinical professor of child psychiatry,
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

"This book fills a need for those concerned with divorce in our culture, particularly divorces that have resulted in extreme hostility, which is so harmful to children and others involved. It is a much-needed wake-up call for neglectful parents and a supportive resource for parents who are striving to meet their children's needs."

--Emily B. Visher, Ph.D., and John S. Visher, M.D.,
cofounders of Stepfamily Association of America and
authors of How to Win as a Stepfamily

"Richard Warshak's Divorce Poison is a must-read for every parent involved in a hostile divorce. He clearly spells out the problems and the devastating effects vindictiveness can have on the child, then provides a wealth of information to help parents change for the better."

--Dr. John W. Santrock, professor of psychology,
University of Texas at Dallas

"Divorce can be ugly, and in the ugliest divorces, one parent destroys children's relationships with their mother or father. Divorce Poison offers clear, practical, and even-handed advice on this incredibly difficult problem. The first step? Look inward. Protect your children by finding an antidote for your own poison and by swallowing a little more from your ex."

--Robert E. Emery, Ph.D.,
Director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law,
University of Virginia,
and author of Renegotiating Family Relationships

[from the hardbound edition]

Read more reviews of this book on the
Amazon.com website:
Divorce Poison

Divorce Poison on Amazon.com


Bashing becomes more destructive when it continues unchecked, it is repetitive, and the children are programmed, through a variety of techniques, to join in the vilification of a parent, grandparent, or other relative. At this point it becomes brainwashing.

You might think that brainwashing is too strong a term to apply to your own family's situation. But if your children are turning against you with the support and encouragement of their other parent -- if they are withdrawing or expressing fear or hatred that is unjustified by anything you have done -- the term brainwashing aptly describes what is happening to them. As we will see, the conditions that foster children's estrangement, and the techniques that parents use to poison their children's relationships, have much in common with the type of mind control that we usually think of in regard to brainwashed prisoners of war and members of cults. Parents who are the target of brainwashing can easily describe the changes in their children's responses to them. It is as if the children have become different people.

Every brainwashed child once expressed love and affection for the target of brainwashing; once felt safe with, looked forward to seeing, even craved attention from the target. Every such child had a history of gratifying memories that bound the child to the target. All of that is gone -- disconnected from the child's thought, feelings, and behavior. In its place is a child who spouts only fear and hatred for the formerly loved adult; a child who recalls few of the good times, defensively dismisses those that are recalled with some version of "I was just pretending to enjoy myself with you."

The story of how this egregious transformation takes place is told later in the book. In chapters 5 and 6 we see how bad-mouthing and bashing, in concert with certain critical conditions and tactics, if not understood and stopped, will likely result in relationships that are at best tainted, and at worst totally lost. We describe these damaged relationships as alienated.

But here we must proceed with caution. For not everything that looks like alienation is alienation. And alienation is not always the result of bad-mouthing, bashing, and brainwashing. If you have accused your ex of fostering alienation in your children, or you have been accused of this yourself, these distinctions become crucial to your case.

Divorce Poison
pages 30-31

To protect against false charges of divorce poison made by a narcissistic ex, keep a list of your ex-spouse's behavior that creates problems in his or her relationship with the children. Include behaviors such as repeated broken promises, bad-mouthing you to the children, and ignoring the children's legitimate needs.

Continue to support your children's love and respect for your ex. Help them appreciate his or her positive qualities in addition to empathizing with their dislike of the narcissistic behavior. If you are accused of alienating the children, it is important to demonstrate that: (1) although the children have a strong preference for you, they have a balanced view of their other parent and are not alienated, (2) their difficulties with the other parent are a direct and realistic reaction to the treatment they have received from that parent, and (3) rather than exploit their complaints to turn the children against your ex, you have done the opposite by encouraging the continuation of the relationship. In most cases, even when a parent has significant psychological problems, children are better off maintaining ties in some form. In the long run your children will be grateful that you helped them achieve this.

Divorce Poison
page 92

If you are the victim of a hate campaign, expect your past deficiencies as a parent to be taken out of context, attended to selectively, and exaggerated. Though these past errors do not justify your children's total rejection, the sensible response is to do everything possible to improve your skills as a parent. For example, you may have been relatively uninvolved, or frequently delegated responsibility for your children's care to baby-sitters, or treated your children with little interest or patience. Correct these deficiencies. When the children are finally reunited with you, let them experience you not as you were before, but better. Why? The more your behavior differs from what the children have been programmed to expect, the easier it will be for them to recognize that they have judged your wrongly. Also, by using unfair and harsh criticism as a stimulus to self-improvement, you remove yourself from the passive victim role and are less likely to feel despondent. Your self-respect and your confidence as a parent will grow and you will find that any such improvements will make you more effective in your other relationships.

Divorce Poison
page 167

[from the hardbound edition]

Read more about this book on the
Amazon.com website:
Divorce Poison

Divorce Poison on Amazon.com

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