Parental alienation syndrome occurs when one parent systematically influences a child to reject the other parent. This phenomenon may arise in the context of a high-conflict divorce or separation.
Understanding the signs of parental alienation can help protect your relationship with your children.
Common symptoms of parental alienation
When one parent espouses hostile and negative views about the other parent, it creates a campaign of denigration. As a result, the child may also express unfounded and exaggerated criticism about the targeted parent. Often, the custodial parent consistently encourages these feelings.
Children affected by PAS may have difficulty justifying their negative feelings toward the targeted parent. They lack a rational explanation for their beliefs. The child unconditionally supports the alienating parent, adopting their perspective without critical evaluation.
Children influenced by PAS typically display a lack of guilt or ambivalence about their behavior. They display singular allegiance to the alienating parent.
Eventually, the alienating parent may actively involve the child in alienation scenarios. For example, they may sabotage visitation or otherwise undermine the parent-child relationship.
Steps to take as the targeted parent
Despite challenges, maintaining open communication with the child is critical. Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts freely. Foster an environment where they feel supported and heard. Focus on building a strong, healthy relationship based on love, support and shared experiences.
Keep detailed records of instances where parental alienation occurs. Document conversations, actions and behaviors that may contribute to the child’s negative perception.
Engage with mental health professionals who specialize in family dynamics and child psychology. Seek therapy for your child and yourself. If necessary, involve a neutral third party to facilitate communication between parents.
Research published by Psychiatric Times indicates that up to 15% of divorces involve parental alienation. In up to 25% of those cases, the behavior continues up to six years after divorce. Knowing the signs of parental alienation syndrome allows the targeted parent to take action right away.