While it would be ideal for all parents to realize how important it is to put their children first and keep them out of the separation or divorce, that is often not the reality. Whether it’s from anger, hurt, jealousy, sadness, or another strong emotion, sometimes one parent will try and manipulate their children to alienate the other parent. In this article, we will take a look at this very real part of a divorce known as parental alienation, how to avoid it, and what to do if you are experiencing it.
Understanding Parental Alienation
First, it is imperative to understand what parental alienation is and what it isn’t. The Association of Parental Alienation defines parental alienation as:
“The programming of a child by one parent to denigrate the other targeted parent in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with that parent. It is often a sign of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple conflict and focus on the needs of the child. Such denigration results in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, and the loss of a capable and loving parent from the life of the child.”
Parental alienation can take place in many forms and can even be carried out unwittingly. More often than not, however, it is a tool used by one of the parties to drive a wedge between the children and the other parent.
Studies have shown that parental alienation takes place in 11-15% of all divorces in the United States.
The Damage Created by Parental Alienation
There are 3 distinct ideas that are common when parental alienation tactics are being used by a parent. These include the following:
- That only they love the child and without them, the child will have no self-esteem or self-worth.
- Not only is the other parent not available to help the child feel good about themselves but they are also dangerous for the child to be around.
- If the child wants to attempt to pursue a relationship with the alienated parent, the relationship with the alienator will be put at significant risk – in other words, it’s either him/her or me!
Parental Alienation Syndrome
These ideas can have a significant impact on children. They may start to show a number of behaviors which form parental alienation syndrome. These include the following:
- They begin to exhibit a hatred for the other parent.
- The hate is enforced by ridiculous rationalizations that the parent doesn’t like them either.
- When it comes to the parent instigating the alienation, the child has a lack of ambivalence towards them, instead showing automatic support on an idealized level.
- The child thinks that rejection of the other parent is their own idea.
- The child has no guilt whatsoever towards the way the alienated parent is treated.
- The child begins to use borrowed scenarios from the alienating parent as a way to increase accusations.
- The alienation and hatred for the other parent will begin to creep into their extended family as well. This can include siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
If these behaviors are exhibited, the parental alienation has already taken significant hold and much damage has been done. As a parent going through a divorce, it is important to be on the lookout for any of these signs.
While you may feel helpless if you are the victim of parental alienation this holiday season, here are some steps you can take to prevent the situation from getting worse.
1. Be the best parent you can be
No matter how much your kids try to hurt you, never fight back. Continue to be the best parent you can be at all times. They too are a victim just like you are. Never lash at them through anger, no matter how difficult it might be, especially when they are lashing out at you. Always try to reinforce your love for them, even though they might not reciprocate. And always be there for them in the times that they might need you.
2. Never stop trying to get into contact with them
At some point, you may be denied total contact with your children. Don’t give up, be it sending gifts, trying to phone, or even visiting them. If you do stop trying, it will give the other parent an opportunity to paint you in a worse light, perhaps even suggesting that you do not care about your children. Always make an effort to stay in contact with them.
3. Don’t blame your kids
Parental alienation is a difficult situation. At no point should you blame your children for what is happening. They are being manipulated.
4. Don’t retaliate by alienating your spouse
If you start to notice your ex-spouse manipulating your children against you, do not reciprocate with your own manipulation. This creates even more turmoil for your children and may leave them feeling abandoned. Never ask them to take sides. This is between you and your ex-spouse, not you and your children.
5. Seek legal help when needed
Without a doubt, in certain parental alienation circumstances, legal counsel can certainly be a great help. This is especially true if you are denied access or visitation rights that were already granted through a court order. In this regard, it is imperative for you to keep accurate records of when visitations were denied.
Need Support with a Parental Alienation Issue?
Parental alienation is both an unfortunate and potentially damaging situation. If you are going through a divorce, or perhaps have been denied the right to visit your children, you need legal support.
Contact Planta Satin Law today. We will answer any questions or concerns you have about custody and visitation and can help you take the needed legal action if necessary.