Parental alienation occurs when one parent negatively influences a child’s attitude towards the other parent. Unfortunately, this is a common issue in many divorce proceedings. However, there are steps you can take to help identify the signs and to address the problems of parental alienation.
What does parental alienation look like?
Divorce is an emotional time for both you and your children. Sometimes, it can be hard to differentiate between your child’s natural emotions and those brought about by an alienating parent. Some typical signs of parental alienation that you should pay close attention to include:
- Emotional withdrawal from you, but not the other parent
- Overly protective behavior toward the other parent
- A child repeating negative comments made by the other parent
- A child refusing to visit with you
Sometimes, alienating parents are so blatant that they may engage in the offending behavior right in front of you. If this occurs, it’s essential that you remain level-headed and refrain from sinking to the other parent’s level in front of your child.
What can you do?
There are some steps you can take to help minimize the harm caused by parental alienation, including:
- Addressing the issues with your child: There is a fine line to walk when addressing the offending behavior. You have to be careful that you don’t cross the line into making disparaging comments about your ex. Also, you don’t need to address issues in great detail. Let your children know that you’re sorry that they heard something untrue about you. Let them know that you and mommy or daddy are dealing with grown-up problems. Tell your children those problems have nothing to do with them and that you will always love them.
- Let your children know that you’re there for them: Encourage your children to come to you with any questions they may have. Don’t go fishing for negative comments made by your ex. But let your children know that you’re there to help them with their concerns.
- Maintain contact: If you don’t have primary custody, maintain contact in your children’s lives. Send them cards or messages on their birthdays or for special occasions. Attend school events, if possible. Maintaining a presence in your children’s lives may not pay off immediately, but they are more likely to have a relationship with you as they grow and mature.
If things become really bad or you are concerned that the alienating parent is doing permanent damage, there may be legal options available. You should discuss your case with a skilled legal professional.