When Kids Need to Know Bad Things About a Parent
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Alienation Busters™

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Books
Films and Television

Books

The following books speak to children about lessons that are central to working through unreasonable alienation from a parent. Please click on title on lists below to see details. Each of the books can be purchased by clicking on the image of the book. You will be taken to amazon.com where you can purchase the book for an amazingly reasonable price.

The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

This marvelous book was a New York Times Book of the Year. Shows how things look very different depending on our perspective: an important lesson for alienated children. In addition to alienated parents, therapists should consider using this book in their work with alienated children. From amazon.com's review: "There has obviously been some kind of mistake," writes Alexander T. Wolf from the pig penitentiary where he's doing time for his alleged crimes of 10 years ago. Here is the "real" story of the three little pigs whose houses are huffed and puffed to smithereens... from the wolf's perspective. This poor, much maligned wolf has gotten a bad rap. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with a sneezy cold, innocently trying to borrow a cup of sugar to make his granny a cake. Is it his fault those ham dinners--rather, pigs--build such flimsy homes? Sheesh.

Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna (yes, that Madonna).

In Divorce Poison I tell the Hasidic tale of the man who learns about the damage caused by malicious speech. Madonna retells this tale in language that is perfect for children. Lovingly illustrated. From amazon.com's review: "Set in a tiny American town, Madonna's story features the big-hearted and much beloved Mr. Peabody, an elementary school teacher and Little League coach who dedicates his summer Saturdays to the local losing team. The kindly teacher seems to savor life the way he savors his weekly apple--taking pleasure in the little things. One weekend after the game, Tommy Tittlebottom watches Mr. Peabody take his apple without paying for it. The following weekend Tommy calls in reinforcements to witness Mr. Peabody's transgression. By the next Saturday, Mr. Peabody's apparent theft has become grist for the Happville rumor mill and no one comes to Little League practice. These moments truly highlight Long's talents as an illustrator--the handsome Mr. Peabody (part Harry Connick Jr., part Robert Redford) comes to life on the page, his disappointment as palpable as that of Billy Little, the young boy who idolizes him. A simple explanation puts the rumors to rest, but as Mr. Peabody points out in a poignant demonstration, small talk can often lead to big trouble for everyone."

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Films and Television

Stories, fairy tales, and fables are the age-old ways of communicating life's important lessons to children. Movies and television shows are two modern ways. Fortunately, both the big screen and the little screen have produced shows that relate directly to many of the ideas that alienated children need to learn. Watching such shows with your children is an entertaining, low-anxiety strategy for introducing important themes. Certain shows will allow you to introduce the topics of mind control, hypnosis, brainwashing, parent-child relationships, even difficult divorces, in a relaxed atmosphere. The same children who would immediately shut down if you attempted to discuss their alienation will actively take part in a conversation about a hypnotized child or a brainwashed assassin.

Following is a brief list of shows to give some idea of the wide range of possibilities, and the potential of this strategy to help open communication between you and your children. We encourage visitors to email with their suggestions for this list. These shows can have value merely if your children watch them. (If you watch them together, at least you and they are sharing an enjoyable activity.)

But the shows will have their biggest payoff if you can initiate a conversation about them and successfully engage your children in the discussion. The principles of indirect communication and graduated exposure, discussed in detail in Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing are applicable here.

Don't be too quick to relate the movie to your child's own situation. You do not want to arouse your child's resistance. Learning about related situations lays a foundation that you can draw on in future conversations. The temptation will be to move too quickly. Given the frustration of rejected parents, this is understandable. Try to resist the temptation. Opening a closed mind is a delicate operation. Take your time and you will more likely meet with success.

Here are some shows to get you started (links are for DVD unless otherwise indicated):

Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) Live Action Movie

Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007 Live Action Movie). Recommended by an alienated mother. In the process of exploiting the chipmunks for personal gain, record mogul Ian tells lies about Dave to get the chipmunks to turn against him. If young children hear you being bad-mouthed, you might watch this with them and then ask if they think anyone could ever trick them into not loving you. You could role-play with them how they will react if someone tries to turn them against you. If they already are alienated, you might simply comment aloud that you hope the chipmunks get smart enough to understand that they are being tricked, otherwise it is so sad that they will not be able to get along well with Dave.

A Grandpa for Christmas (2008)

A Grandpa for Christmas (2008). Recommended by an alienated mother. A young girl comes to know a grandfather she had never known before because her mother had been alienated from him.

Everybody Loves Raymond: Whose Side Are You On?

Everybody Loves Raymond: Whose Side Are You On? After realizing that Debra places bets with the kids on his questionable behavior traits, Ray is disgusted that his own children now think he's a "doof." When reflecting upon his own childhood, Ray remembers that Marie used to complain about Frank in front of him all the time – making him think his dad was a loser. Concerned that his own kids will think of him the same way as Frank, Ray contemplates how to get the kids back on his side.

The Honeymooners

"The Hypnotist" and "The Sleepwalker," episodes in which Ralph Cramden and Ed Norton are hypnotized

Hook

... for its clear portrayal of Captain Hook enticing a boy to renounce his father.

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

This movie can stimulate a discussion of people acting without volitional control.

Jack Frost

A movie about a boy whose father dies and comes back to life as a snowman. The film speaks volumes about the importance of a father to a child.

Leave It To Beaver: The Haunted House

(Original Air Date: March 5, 1959). June lines up a dog-walking job for Beaver unaware that he and his friends believe that the owner of the dog is a witch who lives in a haunted house. Dialogue excerpt:

Beaver: "How come people sometimes think people are things that they aren't?"
Father: "Well, Beaver, sometimes we don't take time to figure things out for ourselves. We make up our minds on the basis of rumors and first impressions. If they happen to be wrong, then we're wrong too."

The Lion King 2

The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride. Recommended by Andrew: Shows how an exiled lioness influences her son against Simba, the pride leader. When the son returns to the pride to kill the Lion King, the son comes to realize that the leader is good. A good film to spark critical thinking.

The Magic Flute

Ingmar Bergman's enchanting 1975 production of Mozart's beloved opera (in Swedish, with English subtitles) depicts the coming-of-age of Princess Pamina. Her estranged father kidnaps her from her adored mother, who immediately hires a young rescuer, Tamino. But Pamina's world turns upside-down, as she and Tamino discover together that her rescue has already taken place--and that they must prove themselves brave enough to carry forth a message of love.

The Manchurian Candidate

... for older children, a gripping film illustrating the frightening extent to which a person can be brainwashed. (The DVD link is the original film, not the 2004 theatrical release.)

Mrs. Doubtfire

Portrays the pain of a parent being kept apart from his children.

Real Steel

A heart-warming story about a father who abandoned his son, and when the mother subsequently died, essentially sold the boy to the mother's sister and her husband, the obvious candidates for custody. The boy wants to to know his father and the action proceeds from there. This heart-warming film teaches lessons about redemption, seeing the good in a parent who has been seen only in a one-dimensional "bad" light, and finding positives in a flawed parent with which a child can profitably identify. One Amazon reviewer compares the heart in the film to a mix of Rocky and Paper Moon. Adults and children alike will enjoy this drama.

Star Trek: And the Children Shall Lead

And the Children Shall Lead Episode 60, Original Star Trek Series An evil spirit turns young children against their parents to gain power.

Star Trek: Dagger of the Mind

Episode 11, Original Star Trek Series An evil psychiatrist uses a mechanical hypnotizing device to control and ruin minds, including Captain Kirk's.

Star Trek: Memorial

Episode 614: Captain Janeway is alarmed when crew members begin suffering horrific memories of participating in wartime slaughter. The memories are implanted but seem so real that the victims are sure their memories are accurate. One person asks, "Won't you even consider the po ssibility that the memories are not real?"

Star Trek: Return of the Archons

Episode 22, Original Star Trek Series A despot named Landru controls the minds of a whole society and ensnares Enterprise crew members.

The Stepford Wives

A classic portrayal of women whose husbands have stripped them of their own will. (The DVD link is the original film, not the 2004 theatrical release. It is also available in a silver anniversary edition.)

Table for Five

Shows that even a parent with many flaws occupies a unique space in the hearts of his children (link below is for vhs)

Terms of Endearment

... shows the importance of a mother to her daughter despite conflicts in their relationship.

Tangled

This Disney movie includes a powerful scene where the mother warns Rapunzel about the dangers of the outside world to convince her to stay in the tower. This can be used to discuss how a parent's anxiety could fuel manipulation and control through fear to keep a child from connecting with others.

Twilight Zone: The Eye of the Beholder

Janet's disfigured face makes her an outcast. She undergoes treatment aimed at making her appear more normal, but worries about her fate if the treatment fails. This classic episode has an O'Henry-like twist ending that leaves a lasting impression about the importance of seeing things from more than one perspective.

Twilight Zone: The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street

Fear and prejudice turn neighbor against neighbor. Without preaching, this show illustrates the power and destructiveness of mob psychology. Can be used to encourage children to recognize the influence of others on their attitudes, and the importance of exercising critical thinking.

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