It’s not uncommon for a divorced parent to find themselves the target of parental alienation. While it’s perfectly normal to be angry with an ex-spouse at one time or another, it’s important to stop and think about what you say in front of your child.
What is Parental Alienation?
When you or your ex-spouse tries to brainwash your child or turn your child against their other parent, that is parental alienation. Bringing up allegations of parental alienation in your divorce or custody case is an extremely serious matter.
It’s important to understand that parental alienation goes way beyond you or your ex-spouse attempting to interfere with your visitation rights. It includes attempting to manipulate your child to alter their feelings about their other parent. Proving parental alienation in court is difficult because some judges don’t acknowledge parental alienation as a legitimate problem.
What are the Signs of Parental Alienation?
Some of the most common tactics used by the alienating parent against the target parent include, but aren’t limited to:
- Verbally badmouthing the other parent in front of your child
- Making your child feel guilty about wanting to see the other parent
- Making your child feel guilty about loving the other parent
- Making your child feel as if they have to choose one parent over the other
- Refusing your child contact with the other parent
- Telling your child that the target parent doesn’t want to see them
- Asking your child to spy on the other parent
- Telling your child that the target parent can be dangerous
- Requesting that your child keep secrets from the target parent
- Telling your child that the target parent only wants them for the child support
- Encouraging your child to be defiant against the target parent
- Demanding that your child pick a parent if there is a custody battle
- Interfering with visitation, phone calls, etc.
- Keeping important medical, school, and other information away from the target parent
- Telling your child’s school that the target parent is dangerous
- Calling a step-parent Mom or Dad and encouraging your child to do the same
- Scheduling your child for sporting or other events when the target parent is supposed to have visitation
- Changing the child’s cell phone number and not giving it to the target parent
- Telling your child that the target parent doesn’t love them
- Drawing your child into the drama of the divorce and/or custody battle
8 Ways to Fight Parental Alienation
- Stay in touch with your child. Use every opportunity available to see and talk to your child. Remind them that you love them and want to be with them always.
- Document: Keep track of how many times you were refused contact with your child. Save any mail that was returned and keep a personal log of every phone call you’ve made to your child – even the ones that were refused. The more you can show the other parent intended to keep you away from your child, the better. This includes all mail, email, etc.
- Take the Pressure Off Your Child: Relieve your child from the pressure they may be feeling about having to choose you over your ex-spouse. Remind them that they are free to choose who they love and like. Don’t be judgmental when your child shares something with you.
- Involve the Courts or Law Enforcement: Don’t hesitate to get the courts or law enforcement involved if you need to. The police don’t necessarily get involved in family issues, but if you think you need a witness to the parenting exchanges, then do so. The courts can be used to enforce your custody and/or visitation agreement. Back up any of your claims with all the documentation you’ve collected.
- Take the High Road: Don’t let your child witness you being angry or upset about the other parent’s attempt to alienate you from them. Instead, you need to make your child’s visitations peaceful and civil. Let your ex-spouse be the one who stoops to a low level and exhibits anger, bitterness, and vindictiveness.
- Prove Your Ex’s Allegations Wrong: However your ex-spouse is portraying you to your child, whether they are telling your child you are a deadbeat, dangerous, etc., show your child your best qualities. Kids are smart and eventually they will put the pieces together.
- Stay Calm: Your ex-spouse may be waging a campaign of anger against you to your child. This makes it very important that you remain calm and behave extremely well. In other words, don’t add fuel to the fire. There’s nothing you can do to prevent your ex’s extreme tactics, so just do your best to ensure your child has one parent who is stable – and that should be you.
- Don’t Give Up: It’s unfortunate, but sometimes the alienating parent is successful in keeping the target parent away from their child. Eventually, your child will see the truth and seek to reunite with you. Don’t give up, no matter what.
In conclusion, it’s important to keep in mind that when your child hears bad things about you or your ex-spouse, it hurts them at a deep level because they are a part of both of you. If your ex-spouse is attempting to alienate you from your child and puts you in a negative light, or attacks you with insults and criticism, it does send a message to your child that they are also a bad person.
By using the ways listed above to combat parental alienation, your child will eventually see that the alienating parent has been lying to them.
Keep in mind that if you have your family law attorney go to the courts to try to change custody from the alienating parent to you, it may be necessary that both you and your child enter family and/or individual therapy to repair the damage the alienating parent has caused. Therapy may bring you and your child back together again.
Children who are victims of parental alienation sometimes turn to drugs and/or alcohol to ease the stress. They may also suffer from low self-esteem and have problems forming close relationships as adults. It’s up to you, as their parent, to tend to your child’s mental health and get them any necessary therapy to help them heal.