If you are part of a divorce involving children, you may have heard of something known as “parental alienation.” This is something that could directly impact children negatively when one parent chooses to “program” a child against a targeted parent in an effort to undermine and interfere with that parent’s relationship with said child. The child will usually reject the parent that is being alienated against because they hear terrible things being said about them or get told lies, thinking that the other parent doesn’t love them. There are also many situations that get ‘deemed’ parental alienation by one party and are actually not.
For instance, what if you make one negative remark under your breath when you are upset? What if your child has questions and you do not want to lie to them? What if the other party is an alcoholic and you do not want your child to be unsupervised around them? What if you miss a phone call that the other party was making to your child? In these cases, that is not parental alienation. However, there are many other significant events that qualify. What are some of the most common examples of parental alienation and how can they be combatted?
Common Types of Alienation
Limiting Contact With the Other Parent: There are many ways in which this can be done. Maybe one parent does not encourage frequent phone calls, rejects your scheduled visitation, or picks up your child even 20 minutes early. If the other parent seems to be cutting your time short, you could always take your child to the park and then head back home at the scheduled time. There are many ways to combat this without making your child feel guilty.
Withdrawal of Love: The parent who is alienating may punish the child for having good feelings about the other parent. They may feel anxious, hoping to gain the alienating parent’s approval. You may want to speak to your child about how they are not disappointing either of you.
Forcing the Child to Choose Between Parents: This is self-explanatory and relates to making the child feel guilty about seeing the other parent. You should never make your child feel guilty but to help them understand the consequences of actions and that the parents must work together instead of apart.
There are many other types of alienation, such as telling the child that the other parent is dangerous, asking the child to spy on the other parent, and asking the child to keep secrets from the other parent. Parental alienation can be difficult, but usually ends in severe consequences when the child figures things out or the other parent becomes involved.
How Does it Impact the Children?
Children deserve love from both of their parents, and when a child feels that one parent doesn’t love them, they could have negative mixed feelings about it. Even as an adult, you may feel sadness realizing that somebody doesn’t care about you. You never want to carry the conflict of divorce into your relationship with your child. This will only make the child feel low self-esteem and an inability to trust their parents. Just because you don’t get along with the child’s mother or father, this doesn’t mean that you should make your child feel lesser by limiting phone calls and visits and withholding visits from the parent. Nobody is the perfect parent; however, you can start by watching your tongues and actions to help your children adapt to this already-difficult time.
Parental alienation can have extremely negative effects on children as well as the party being alienated against. Both parties should refrain from alienation at all costs. However, if you believe it is part of your divorce, you may want to speak with an experienced attorney today. We are there for you in your time of need.