Healthy and strong relationships are important to maintain. For children especially, a stable connection with their parent or guardian is paramount to their growth. During a divorce, children become vulnerable to the conflicts around them. Their well-being is extremely significant to you. If you notice your bond seems to be deteriorating, many things could be the culprit.
How can you tell if parental alienation has come into play?
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is a form of psychological manipulation that a spouse sometimes uses in a contested divorce. It is a distinctive form of abuse and results in a child showing fear or hostility towards a parent or family member. This type of treatment undermines the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a legal document that represents core principles for all nations.
Dangers of parental alienation
Parents who use this tactic share a common goal: Exclude another parent from the life of a child. This is harmful to all family members involved, particularly the child-parent relationship. Manipulation of a child's mind is considered abuse and leads to toxic situations. It can negatively affect their childhood memories and increase the risk of mental and physical illness down the road.
How to identify parental alienation in a divorce
The divorce process is arguably the hardest when children are involved. Often both parents desire custody, and these cases are not black and white. In many situations, each partner believes they deserve custody.
A spouse may take unethical measures to turn their child against the other parent by saying deceitful things, such as "He doesn't want to see you" or "She doesn't love you." These are prime examples of parental alienation.
If you are concerned that parental alienation is present in your divorce, here are some early warning signs:
- Exclusion. The child requests something out-of-character, such as not wanting you to attend their concert, sporting event or teacher conference.
- Explosive behavior. The child's behavior drastically changes. They may argue, fight and provoke you in an extreme manner.
- Entitlement. The child acts arrogant and holds a new sense of entitlement. They expect more from you now than before the divorce process started.
- Experiences. The child "forgets" any positive past experiences you had together, and denies any bond.
What to do if your child is a victim of parental alienation
Typically, a child who is being manipulated by another parent will not admit it. You could confront them about behavioral changes, and they will likely claim responsibility for the rejection.
This is a hurtful and frustrating situation for any parent in a divorce. Whether parental alienation is intentional or unintentional, it still negatively affects a child's relationship with one or both parents. Courts are beginning to acknowledge this pressing issue, and they do offer options to prove parental alienation is present.
In addition, it is wise to keep a journal and save any messages between the other parent, so you have documented proof. Though it's not easy, it is important to stay persistent and seek counseling if needed.