Marital breakdown is always a loss to be mourned and grieved over. The idea spawned in New York socialite circles of throwing lavish divorce parties is distasteful and makes a mockery of marriage; a sacred institution founded on a lifelong commitment to one another.

Even the termination of an abusive marriage is sad. Not that anyone should be forced to stay and tolerate a life of misery and soul destruction, but the disappointment and sense of loss over the heady expectations that failed to materialize are still palpable.

When children are involved, it is all the more tragic. Most sensible parents are able to recognise that even if they cannot live together, the child should not have to pay the heavy price of losing either parent from his/her life. Most husbands who no longer love their wives still understand that she is the mother of his children and that the children love her and need her. The same applies vice versa. Divorce should never force children to choose between one parent or another.

But in high-conflict divorce cases, when one parent opts to use children in a tug of war to punish and avenge their spouse, the consequences are devastating for everyone. Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a major mistake that parents can make. Motivated by anger, jealousy, hurt, betrayal, fear or insecurity, their self-serving actions totally fail to take into account the child’s feelings or welfare.

Case studies prove that denial of contact and the poisoning of children against the targeted parent screws kids up for life, affecting their ability to form relationships long into their adult years. It can also spectacularly backfire. Manipulation breeds resentment. The child may grow up hating the alienating parent for cutting them off from a major source of love and comfort in their formative years.

What the perpetrator fails to understand in their relentless struggle for supremacy is the deep loss, insecurity, fear, confusion, sadness, hopelessness and despair experienced by the biggest victims; the children. They selfishly disregard their child’s strong need to love and be loved by the other parent. All children need love and stability. Children of divorced parents are all the more vulnerable and need that love and security even more from as many different sources as possible.

Forcibly separating a child from a parent he/she dearly loves and depends upon for their needs to be met is especially cruel and destructive because it is a battle which an innocent child, especially a young one, cannot win or defend themselves against. It is a hardship that makes them even more disadvantaged and bewildered than they already are as the stigmatized product of divorced parents.

Experts even consider PAS to be a form of child abuse. Aligning children against a parent robs them of the security and bond they once shared. It may also embed falsehoods about the targeted parent in their mind, e.g feelings of abandonment or not being loved by the alienated parent.

We only get one childhood. A parent who really loves their child, regardless of their bitter feelings towards their ex, puts aside their differences and ensures their child still gets the best possible start in life.