News & Insights

My Ex-Husband Emotionally Abuses Our Children—What Should I Do?

Source: Newsweek

Dear Newsweek, My name is Alicia and I am the mother of five amazing minor children and two adult sons. I divorced my husband 3 years ago, and due to Covid, things took much longer and we actually separated long before our divorce was finalized.

Anyway, while married I was a stay-at-home mom and home-schooled my kiddos. My ex-husband worked full-time and was generally uninvolved in day-to-day life. 

However, as time went on, I realized my ex-husband was causing a lot of damage to our children and myself. I realized that he was financially, emotionally, and spiritually abusing us, so I left.

He then made it his mission to punish me for leaving. He went on a smear campaign and isolated me from all of my friends and family. “Making things as difficult as he could so I would come crawling back to him”—his exact words.

Part of his revenge was to seek 50/50 custody, which he was awarded because at the time I was still afraid of him and easily intimidated so I was not able to fully advocate for myself or my children. Since then, it has been a battle.

All of the abusive behaviors that were present when we were married are still present now, but because he doesn’t abuse our children physically the court has done absolutely nothing to protect our children.

Despite him having [court] involvement four separate times for throwing our youngest daughter down the stairs, dragging our oldest daughter down the stairs and through the house by her arms, break-checking our youngest daughter so hard she had a bruised and swollen face for two weeks, and leaving our children in a whole other state with a woman he just met and that they knew for a few days.

His abuse is to the extent that his new wife left him after only being married to him for two months because she feared for her children’s safety.

Even still, the judge in our small town will do nothing to protect our children, or even order him to attend real therapy or parenting classes.

One of the most troubling behaviors that he regularly engages in is bullying our LGBTQIA+ daughter. He tells her that being a homosexual is as bad as being a pedophile. He tells her that she is evil and against God—he has even worked with his pastor to arrange very hateful anti LGBTQIA+ sermons. He treats her like a maid and cook when she is with him and makes sure to let her know that she disgusts and disappoints him because she identifies as LGBTQIA+ and listens to the band Ghost. All of this continues to wear on my daughter’s mental health and yet still no one will do anything.

He is treated as if he is a model father and the family court continues to turn a blind eye to everything he does. He uses his religion as a reason to get away with his abuse, stating that he has not only a right, but an obligation, to tell our daughter the things he does because she has turned her back on the Lord.

No one seems to want to hold him accountable and help out our children. He has blocked me from putting them in therapy, receiving immunizations, attending doctor visits, and taking medication. All because it’s against his beliefs and western medicine is witchcraft.

I hired a Guardian Ad Litem who found he was abusive and that it was in the kids’ best interest to be with me full-time and limit his involvement until he completed therapy and parenting classes, but the court also ignored that. I have spent THOUSANDS on attorneys and have only landed in the same spot every single time.

So now, I am hopeful that if I make it public how badly the County Court is failing our children, maybe something might be done for them.

As a healthy parent, he would deserve 50/50 time with our kids, but until then I don’t think he should get it just because it’s his “right.” 

Alicia, Unknown

Newsweek‘s “What Should I Do?” offers expert advice to readers. If you have a personal dilemma, let us know via We can ask experts for advice on relationships, family, friends, money and work and your story could be featured on WSID at Newsweek.

‘Abusive Relationships Impact Self-Confidence…You Need To Protect Yourself and Children’

Lisa Pion-Berlin, Ph.D., is a licensed hypnotherapist and CEO of Parents Anonymous.

You are a very courageous woman to speak out about your family situation to expose the injustice and harm to your family. Do not minimize what that takes. Stop blaming yourself for not advocating harder because you felt so insecure.

Physically and psychologically abusive relationships impact our self-confidence and wear us down so we cannot fight back. Twenty-five years of research into “battered woman” or “battered person” syndrome shows this.

It is understandable that you and your children are in a very difficult and abusive situation. Your focus needs to be on going forward by continuously and relentlessly protecting yourself and your children.

First of all, insults, threats or bodily harm needs to be reported and documented with the police, schools and your own doctors. Clear and complete documentation cannot be overemphasized—print out and save every email, text and voicemail regarding any threats or evidence of abuse.

Also, make copies of all medical records and other entities for your file. Take photographs of the physical damage your children have endured. Make sure you take them to the doctor, as they take pictures and continue to make CPS reports.

It is brave you are making this public. So many parents are afraid when the courts and systems are not helping or protecting children. Make sure you have support for yourself. You cannot stay strong without seeking counseling and surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family.

Also, seek counseling for your children so they can deal with their underlying feelings related to these traumas. Therapists and counselors are mandated reporters. Prejudice and discrimination exist in all institutions sworn to help you protect your children from abuse and neglect.

Even though you have paid for lawyers, if you feel they haven’t helped, you can seek free legal counsel. You may also want to contact your newly elected congressperson or U.S. senators. Senator Stabenow has district staff to help constituents and she is a dedicated social worker and advocate herself.

Local politics are tough to deal with, but the safety, health and well-being of your entire family is at stake. Continue to reach out because asking for help is a sign of strength. You can also call the National Parent Helpline 855-427-2736, operated by Parents Anonymous® (

‘The Safety Of You and Your Children Is The Number One Priority’

Dr. Faisal Tai, MD, is a psychiatrist and the CEO of PsychPlus. 

I’m very sorry to hear about your serious dilemma with your ex-husband. As the mother of five minor children, I am sure that you have your hands more than full and that this conflict only makes taking care of your family—and yourself—10 times harder.

When I hear about all the legal steps you’ve taken to try and improve your situation through the courts and government agencies, it is disheartening that you have not been able to make more progress.

As a psychiatrist, I also would strongly encourage you to seek professional assistance to safeguard the emotional well-being of you and your children. It will be fundamental to your health and well-being, and your quality of life, in the years ahead.

I would recommend that you contact the Child Welfare Medical and Behavioral Health unit for your local county.

Amongst many other resources, they will have a comprehensive list of support services across the state that might be of great assistance.

I wish you the best of luck as you continue to advocate for yourself and your children.

Date: February 11, 2023

Dr. Lisa and Congresswoman Torres discuss the importance of the National Parent & Youth Helpline

In this episode of Breaking The Stigma, Dr. Lisa is joined by Congresswoman Norma Torres (CA-35), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who is sponsoring the National Parent and Youth Helpline Act of 2024 (H.R. 7812) to expand resources for American families.

Congresswoman Torres and Dr. Lisa discuss how the Helpline is a vital resource for those that need someone to reach out to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Congresswoman Torres talks about the importance of advocacy, and the legacy of Parents Anonymous and the National Parent & Youth Helpline that is working in our communities and why she sponsored this bill. She believes “we shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help or show our humanity. The more we talk about issues the better we are at addressing them.” Congresswoman Torres shares how she found support during difficult times in her life and how when something happens in our community, it is our responsibility as a community to support each other.

Meet Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin | President & CEO at Parents Anonymous

We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dr. Lisa, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The critical factor behind our success is that we are committed to keeping our promise to be there for parents and youth, no matter what. Through our 24/7 National Parent and Youth Helpline™ and through the Evidence-Based Weekly Parents Anonymous® groups and all our different programs offered, we are here to support. We make a promise not to blame or shame people, but instead offer to help in their personal empowerment journey.

Read more

Helpline makes strong debut during National Parent Leadership Month

During February, which is National Parent Leadership Month, the nonprofit Parents Anonymous is celebrating the successful launch of the new National Parent and Youth Helpline.

The Helpline has received more than 19,000 calls in its first few months. On Saturday, the group cut the ribbon on its new headquarters in Pasadena.

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., spoke at the event, saying National Parent Leadership Month is the perfect time to reassure families they are not alone.

“It is a time for them to learn that there are resources available,” Chu noted. “You can change your life around and feel better yourself, but also help your children live better lives.”

Parents Anonymous created National Parent Leadership Month 30 years ago. The nation’s 174 million parents and young people who need emotional support can call or text 855-427-2736 or live-chat 24/7 on the website.

Read more

What Your Child Needs to Know by 5, 10 and 15, According to Experts

Tricky conversations with kids are par for the course when you become a parent. But while many know they have to introduce the idea of stranger danger or eventually explain the birds and the bees, plenty of other topics need to be understood by children by certain age milestones.

Children learn something new every day, and parents work hard to get them ready for adulthood. Sixty-three percent of parents who participated in the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health in 2019 said they are doing enough to prepare their teenagers for adulthood. While raising children is all about pointing them in the right direction, 52 percent of the 2,032 parents surveyed said it’s critical that teenagers have the opportunity to make mistakes.

Read more

Non-Profit Receives $10M Grant to Offer Free Mental Health Resources to Parents & Youth

Parents Anonymous, Inc., a national non-profit organization, announced news this week of a $10M grant they received from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to offer free mental health resources for both parents and youth. This 5-year grant will provide essential resources for the Helpline’s services to over 174 million parents and youth seeking life-changing support in the U.S.

Read more

Parents Anonymous Now Offers A Free National Parent & Youth Helpline 24/7

Thanks to a $10 million federal grant, Parents Anonymous, Inc. has expanded its ability to help parents and youth dealing with emotional and mental challenges. The organization’s National Parent & Youth Helpline is now offering immediate emotional support through calls, texts and chats answered by trained and caring staff 24 hours a day and seven days a week to parents, caregivers and youth up to 25 years old.

The expanded services are supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10 million, with 100 percent funded by ACF/HHS.

Read more

KTAL NEWS Mental- Health Expert Gives Tips

Do you have the tools to help if your child is being bullied?

(KTAL/KMSS) – During the month of October, experts and specialists are educating schools and communities to raise awareness for bullying prevention.

Mental health experts want to share resources with parents and guardians to help people understand the impacts of bullying and the signs of suicidal ideation.

Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin is the CEO of Parents Anonymous an organization that provides free mental health services through support groups and a multilingual helpline.

Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin bringing awareness to mental health, parenting and free available resources.

Watch the full interview here: Do you have the tools to help if your child is being bullied?

FORBES – To Break Generational Trauma We Have To Heal And Help Parents

It is well known that chronic stress has negative effects on both your mental and physical well-being. Chances of developing hypertension, memory loss, diabetes, depression and anxiety all increase the more stress we carry with us. But did you know it can be inherited by your children?

Prolonged stress and trauma significantly impact the fundamental components of the brain, to the extent that it can alter genes. According to Henry Ford Health, genes that have been modified can be inherited by children, making them more susceptible to and impacted by stress. Consequently, dysfunction can persist in families across generations, creating cycles of trauma. Read More…

Alarming rise in teen suicide rates sheds light on mental health crisis in Tennessee


A new report is shedding light on the state mental health across the country.

And while it is suicide prevention month, a recent rise in death rates is drawing attention to youth here in Tennessee.

According to the Sycamore Institute Study, in 2021, nearly 1 in 4 Tennessee high schoolers seriously considered attempting suicide, more than 1 in 10 tried, and 39 adolescents 12-17 died from suicide.

13% of Tennessee high schoolers reported attempting suicide in 2021. That’s slightly higher than the national rate of 10%.

“I’m speaking as a mom. I have twin 11 year olds, and they have experienced this with their peers, they’ve come home saying, ‘Mommy, so and so was talking about suicide,'” says Eve Nite, Executive Director of CIT Connect.

“That’s a scary thing for anybody, child or adult, to even think about. Because when people have suicidal thoughts, they don’t even know why they have them,” says Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin, CEO of Parents Anonymous.

But as shocking as those numbers may sound. Eve Nite with Chattanooga non-profit CIT Connect says the data is not completely accurate.

“Our mental health data is inherently sexist and racist. And so when you look at this data, I hope that you take it with a grain of salt, realizing that the true problem is far greater than our data is even suggesting,” says Nite.

Nite says it is resources for teens that make all the difference.

The Sycamore Institute found that access to school-based mental health personnel varies county to county in Tennessee, with Hamilton County far from the lead.

CIT Connect does training for law enforcement, first responders, and community agencies who might interact with someone who might be in a mental health crisis.

But it’s also about providing tools to parents who may not have all of the answers.

“We need to ask parents, ‘what do you need?’ ‘What do you want?’ ‘How can we help?’ Instead of deciding that for other people. Parents feel so blamed and shamed,” says Dr. Pion-Berlin.

Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin is the CEO of Parents Anonymous, a nonprofit that provides free mental health services through support groups and its national multilingual helpline.

“Nationwide, we don’t have enough licensed clinicians, you’re gonna have to fight for your child,” says Nite.

If you’re struggling, remember you are NOT alone.

The national suicide and crisis lifeline is available by calling or texting 988.

There is also an online chatroom at

Unraveling the Myths: Dr. Lisa on Challenging Conceptions of Parenting

In an age where mental health discussions have gradually shifted from hushed whispers to open dialogues, the intricate relationship between mental well-being and parenting remains shrouded in layers of stigma, misinformation, and regulatory challenges. Within this complex framework, I sat down with Dr. Lisa, a luminary in the field and a tireless advocate for parents navigating the intersection of mental health and child-rearing. A conversation and a deep exploration into the heart of societal perceptions, the urgent need for change, and the transformative power of understanding and support ensued.

A First Step: Understanding Capacity, Regulation, and Law

As we initiated our dialogue, my attention pivoted to the intricate nexus of capacity, regulation, and legal stances on conception, parenting, child custody, and the overall influence of mental health. Drawing from her vast reservoir of experience and her pioneering mission with Parents Anonymous, Inc., Dr. Lisa provided insights that bridged the theoretical with the real, painting a comprehensive picture of many parents’ challenges.

I was particularly keen on deciphering Dr. Lisa’s proactive measures to reshape and reevaluate the current regulatory paradigm. Instead of an antagonistic stance against the establishment, she champions a perspective shift – fostering a holistic understanding of parenting in the backdrop of mental health adversities. This approach, rooted in authentic parents’ narratives, is instrumental in subtly yet profoundly altering the perceptions that shape regulatory decisions.

Support: A Concept in Need of Evolution

As our conversation progressed, the theme of “support” frequently surfaced. Dr. Lisa’s perspective on this was clear: genuine support isn’t just a buzzword. It demands a multi-dimensional approach — recognizing the need, conceptualizing it aptly, and reinforcing the support structures to ensure they are effective, responsive, and meaningful. And most critically, the entire system should be anchored in clinical efficacy. Real-world support mechanisms must be robust, evidence-backed, and tailored to empower parents with the necessary tools and resources.

However, recognizing the problem and discussing it is merely the beginning. Concrete steps are crucial. Advocacy takes center stage here. A powerful catalyst for change, advocacy can spotlight issues, mobilize collective action, and drive regulatory reform. With New York and California’s dense population centers and cultural influence, mobilizing advocates from these states could create a ripple effect, prompting other regions to introspect and adapt.

Dr. Lisa and I discussed the importance of grassroots movements, where individuals, especially those directly affected, come forward to share their narratives, challenge prevailing norms, and push for more empathetic regulations. The goal is to create a domino effect – as more people understand and empathize, the collective consciousness shifts, leading to more substantial, effective changes at the regulatory level.

Central to all these discussions is the omnipresent specter of stigma. Regulations and societal perceptions are often not just informed by clinical or logical standpoints but are tainted by stigma. This bias, sometimes overt but often covert, dictates how society perceives mental health, especially in the context of parenting.

One of Dr. Lisa’s foremost missions, closely aligned with her podcast “Breaking the Stigma,” is to directly confront and debunk these misconceptions. Stigma is not just a mental barrier; it has real-world implications. Parents might hesitate to seek help, fearing judgment or regulatory actions that might separate them from their children. By confronting stigma, we’re not just changing minds; we’re altering life trajectories, ensuring parents get the help they need and families stay together.

Through the collaboration of community movements and experts like Dr. Lisa, there is immense potential to dismantle long-standing biases gradually. This powerful synergy can transform ignorance into knowledge, indifference into empathy, and fear into unwavering support.

By joining forces, community movements, and experts can leverage their strengths to challenge and break down deep-rooted biases that have persisted for generations. Dr. Lisa and similar experts possess a wealth of knowledge and understanding about the causes and effects of biases, which can significantly contribute to creating awareness and fostering empathy within communities.

On the other hand, community movements possess the passion and dedication needed to instigate change at a grassroots level. They can reach a broad audience through organized initiatives and engage with people who may have previously been indifferent or unaware of the issues. By sharing personal stories and experiences, community movements can humanize the effects of biases, making them relatable and encouraging empathy among individuals.

Experts such as Dr. Lisa are critical in advocating for their expertise within their communities and beyond. They create opportunities for experts to share knowledge through workshops, panel discussions, and awareness campaigns. This helps bridge the gap between academic research and practical application, making valuable knowledge accessible and actionable for many individuals.

Ignorance can be transformed into knowledge. By presenting facts and evidence and creating spaces for open dialogue and discussion, communities can learn about the complexities of biases and their far-reaching implications. This increased knowledge and understanding can empower individuals to challenge their biases and make informed decisions that promote equality and inclusivity.

Apathy can be converted into compassion. Through sharing personal anecdotes and firsthand experiences, community initiatives can invoke sentiments and cultivate a collective sense of humanity among individuals. This emotional bond dismantles obstacles and cultivates a sincere aspiration to comprehend and uplift marginalized communities. The insights provided by Dr. Lisa can enrich these accounts, ensuring their alignment with factual data and maximizing their effectiveness in nurturing empathy.

Fear can be effectively countered and transformed into unwavering support through the collaboration of experts and community movements. Addressing the deep-seated prejudices and misconceptions that contribute to fear toward marginalized communities is crucial. By dispelling myths and promoting education, individuals can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the issues and realize the significance of solidarity with these groups. This unwavering support has the potential to bring about policy changes, bolster advocacy efforts, and ultimately reshape societal norms.

Collaboration between community movements and experts like Dr. Lisa presents an immense potential to dismantle long-standing biases. They can gradually replace ignorance with knowledge, indifference with empathy, and fear with unwavering support through their combined efforts. This powerful synergy can create lasting change and pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable society.

After our discussion, it became apparent that the path forward is clear and challenging. Dr. Lisa’s unwavering commitment to understanding and uplifting those in need, with deep knowledge and passionate enthusiasm, exemplifies the transformative potential of dedicated individuals. The shared vision between Dr. Lisa and Mental Health Affairs for a world that fully recognizes, empathizes with, and supports mental health resonates strongly with this writer. While challenges persist, we are poised to usher in an era where mental well-being is not a barrier to parenting but a facet of the broader human experience that is embraced, understood, and supported. The winds of change are upon us, and a brighter horizon awaits with continued dialogue and action.

Key Takeaways from Our Conversation with Dr. Lisa:

  1. The Multifaceted Nature of Mental Health: Mental health isn’t a standalone issue; it intersects deeply with parenting, societal norms, and regulatory frameworks. Understanding this complexity is the first step toward addressing it.
  2. Support Needs Substance: Genuine support goes beyond mere words. It requires a clinical and societal system tailored to understand, empathize with, and empower individuals navigating mental health challenges, particularly in parenting.
  3. Stigma Remains a Barrier: Despite advancements in mental health discourse, stigma casts a long shadow, often hindering individuals from seeking help or being open about their experiences.
  4. Advocacy is Power: Grassroots movements, sharing personal narratives, and engaging in open dialogues are potent tools for challenging established norms and catalyzing change.
  5. The Role of Regulation: While regulatory systems aim to protect, they often lack the nuance and understanding required to address the diverse challenges faced by parents with mental health conditions. A reevaluation and restructuring of these systems, rooted in empathy and clinical understanding, is imperative.

A Call-to-Action for Our Readers:

The dialogue around mental health, especially in the context of parenting, requires not just passive acknowledgment but active participation. Each one of us holds the potential to make a difference. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Educate Yourself: Dive deep into resources, attend workshops, and listen to experts and real-life stories to understand the nuances of mental health.
  • Speak Up: Challenge and confront stigmatizing comments or beliefs in casual conversations or on public platforms. Every conversation matters.
  • Support Local Initiatives: Whether it’s a community support group, a mental health awareness event, or a workshop on parenting with mental health challenges, your participation can amplify its impact.
  • Advocate: Use your voice, whether online or offline, to push for regulatory changes recognizing and respecting the complexities of mental health in parenting.
  • Donate: No matter how small, financial contributions can greatly aid organizations working on the frontline of mental health support and advocacy.

“Understanding and support can change trajectories.” Let’s unite to ensure that mental health is not a whispered stigma but a shared journey toward a more compassionate and informed society.Dr. Lisa (Breaking the Stigma)