Parental alienation is when one parent attempts to damage or sever the relationship between a child and the other parent. They may do this through emotional manipulation, false accusations, lies and slander.
Children exposed to it often develop a negative attitude towards the alienated parent. They may become resentful, disrespectful and downright antagonistic, mimicking the other parent’s verbiage and blaming the targeted parent randomly and without reason. While it can be difficult and hurtful to deal with such behavior, it is important for parents to avoid certain reactions to it.
Responding emotionally to the alienating behaviors can escalate the conflict. Parents need to avoid lashing out at their children or the other spouse in response. By continuing to show love and support to their children and behaving in a calm, and rational manner, they show their children and the courts that they are not the problem. They also need to avoid speaking ill of the other parent, as that only compounds the issue.
Withdrawing emotionally and mentally from people attacking them is a common defense mechanism for many individuals. However, parents cannot do so with their children. Alienated children need to know that the targeted parent still cares for and will not give up on them.
While it may seem easier on both the children and the targeted parent to “give them space,” it is important to adhere to the custody schedule. Allowing children to miss their time with them, even if the children say that is what they want, only hurts alienated parents more, offering “proof” that they do not really care about their children, even if that is not the truth. Similarly, denying children their lawful time with the alienating parent can cause problems. It gives the alienating parent legal grounds to fight with them.
The National Center for State Courts considers parental alienation to be possible emotional abuse. It is a serious issue with serious consequences for children and parents. While the pain of having their children turn against them can be intense, parents need to remember that the children are pawns hurting from the abuse as well and act accordingly. By remaining open and loving, while documenting evidence of the parental alienation to present to court, they can help their children get to a healing point.