Signs of parental alienation, what is that? Divorce can often sow the seeds of animosity between parents, and sometimes that hostility results in one parent leveraging their child or children against the other. Parental alienation is a damaging form of manipulation coined by child psychologist Robert Gardner back in 1985; it entails driving an emotional wedge between a child and its parent.
If you are worried that your former partner is manipulating your child against you, it’s essential to identify the indicators. Here are 11 signs of parental alienation which have been recognized as criteria for a kid experiencing Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is the process of one parent trying to disrupt or interfere with the relationship between their child and the other parent in an effort to undermine it. It usually occurs following a separation or divorce when one parent attempts to turn their children against the other by speaking negatively about them, denying access to them, preventing communication, or encouraging children to express negative feelings towards them.
It’s important to be aware of signs that may indicate parental alienation is occurring, so you can address it appropriately for your family’s well-being. Here are some signs of parental alienation that parents should look out for:
3 Types of Parental Alienation You Should Know
According to psychologists, there are three distinct degrees of parental alienation that can be identified.
Mild parental alienation
Kids may refuse to see their other parent, yet find themselves actually looking forward to these visits when they’re eventually with both of their parents and separate from the estranged one.
Moderate parental alienation
These kids display their reluctance to spend time with the alienated parent, which often results in a bitter atmosphere during visits.
Severe parental alienation
When children are severely alienated, they not only avoid the other parent but also attempt to flee or display fear in order to stay away.
- An orchestrated campaign of malicious slander targeting the parent
- The child’s lack of remorse for disregarding the target parent
- When questioned, the child offers illogical and trivial explanations for their disdain of the targeted parent.
- The child paints an unfair portrait of their parents — one is seen as almost perfect and the other viewed with disdain for every decision made.
- Being defensive about everything related to the parent you favor can be a knee-jerk reaction.
- A child who mimics the preferred parent’s language, sometimes using terms or phrases of an adult to portray their disliked parent in a bad light, and citing scenarios that were most likely heard from the favored parent rather than experienced themselves.
- The child’s animosity towards the target parent is not limited to them; it extends to their extended family and friends as well.
- A child displaying signs of parental alienation commonly insists that they are the ones who made their own decision – not influenced by anyone else. For example, a kid might call up their father saying “I don’t want to visit you anymore and mom had nothing to do with it – I chose this all on my own!” The alienating parent will likely reinforce the child’s notion of autonomy in order to secure its mission.
- When children are in private with the targeted parent, they often show signs of warmth and adoration. However, their attitude drastically changes when expressing themselves to others – including the alienating parent – as they tend to make disparaging remarks about said parent.
What are The Toxic Signs of Parental Alienation?
A toxic parenting style may involve alienating and manipulative behaviors that engender a sense of insecurity and fear in the child regarding their relationship with the targeted parent. This often includes exaggerations or fabrications about existing issues, as well as verbal and non-verbal communication tactics designed to convey an impression of unlovingness, danger, or emotional unavailability.
2. Limiting contact
The alienating parent disregards the pre-agreed parenting plan, taking advantage of any gaps or grey areas to extend their time with the child. This allows them to spread damaging and toxic messages about the targeted parent without consequence, which can have a severe impact on the bond between them. As a result, children become accustomed to spending less time with this individual.
3. Interfering with communication
The alienating parent shows favoritism by requesting unrestricted access to the child when they are together, yet remains unresponsive and unreachable in return. They frequently ignore phone calls, emails or messages sent from the targeted parent; this leaves them without any chance of participating in their child’s everyday life or bearing witness to all those little moments that comprise childhood.
4. Withdrawal of love
Alienating parents make their approval of paramount importance to the child; so much so that the child would do anything to avoid the loss of love that is experienced when the child has disappointed or angered that parent. Typically what angers and hurts the alienating parent most is the child’s love and affection for the targeted parent.
Thus, in order to secure the love of one parent, the child must relinquish the love of the other. Although this is not something likely to be explicit to the child, it will be apparent to the targeted parent that the child lives in fear of losing the alienating parent’s love and approval.
5. Forcing the child to choose
The alienating parent will exploit any unclear aspects of the parenting plan, creating toxic opportunities to lure/force a child away from their targeted parent. This might include scheduling activities that are in opposition with each other or offering rewards such as items and privileges.
Even if both parents attend an event together, the child is likely to favor the alienating one while being dismissive or rude towards the targeted parent.
6. Confiding in the child
The alienating parent tends to pull the child into conversations about legal matters, and share private information regarding the targeted parent that is not pertinent for a child to know. Subsequently, this parent will often portray themselves as being victimized by the other – thus inspiring empathy from their youngster while instilling resentment towards the targeted one.
And if you want to know about parental alienation against mother, explore what exactly parental alienation against mother involves and how best to tackle such situations if they arise.
7. Making the child to spy on the targeted parent
A malicious parent could hint to a child or even directly state that the targeted parent is concealing important information such as pay stubs, invoices, legal records, medical reports and more. They may believe this data exists in the target’s files, desk drawer or computer.
The alienating parent will likely manipulate the child by connecting information to their desires (for example, if we found out whether Daddy got a raise then we could get more money and buy you a new dog). When children spy on parents, this can lead to feelings of guilt and awkwardness when around them; furthering the alienation.
8. Excluding targeted parents from suppressing medical, academic and other pertinent information
Forms pertaining to the child’s education, athletics, and religious instruction are often filled with inquiries regarding both parents; however, an abusive parent will take advantage of this by either leaving out information about the targeted parent or supplying inaccurate data. In doing so, they can attempt to further their control over the other guardian in a malicious way.
9. Changing the name of the child to remove association with targeted parent
After divorce, mothers may opt to revert to using their maiden name or the surname of a new partner they remarry. Either way, she will usually extend this practice of changing surnames and start making use of either her old-or new- family name for her children too.
When the alienating parent is a father, they may create a new nickname for their child to make them believe that it’s been their name all along. In this way, they construct an entirely fresh identity in which the alienating parent plays first fiddle.
10. Cultivating dependency/undermining the authority of the targeted parent
Alienating children tend to idolize the alienating parent, speaking of them as if they are infallible and beyond reproach. Additionally, these same children often act dependent on this person in a manner that is far too extreme for their purposeful life experience or age.
Alienating parents have a tendency to cultivate dependency in their children instead of encouraging them to become self-reliant, think independently and act autonomously—as non-alienating parents typically do. At the same time, these alienators will deliberately weaken the authority of the other parent so that they can guarantee their child’s loyalty only towards them.
Tactics like enforcing rules that the child must abide to when with the targeted parent, and belittling or overruling of parental regulations are prime examples.
11. Child’s polarized views of their parents
Alienated children often struggle to remember anything positive regarding the parent they have rejected, while overlooking any negative experiences with their favored one. Consequently, their recollections of the estranged relationship become distorted and disproportionately focused on bad memories. This can lead them to deny or even erase any pleasant moments that may have occurred in past interactions with this parent.
Check out for more examples of parental alienation to be aware of.
Is parental alienation considered a crime?
Yes, parental alienation is considered a form of emotional abuse and can have legal consequences. Depending on the severity of the case, it may be classified as a misdemeanor or felony in some jurisdictions. In addition, if parental alienation is severe enough that it negatively impacts the child’s health and safety, it could result in charges for neglect or abuse.
Can signs of parental alienation change over time?
Yes, signs of parental alienation can change over time depending on the circumstances. If both parents are committed to reconciling their differences and working together co-parenting the child, signs of alienation may gradually diminish. On the other hand, signs of parental alienation can become more serious over time if one parent continues to try to alienate the other parent. In this situation, it is important to seek professional help in order to ensure the best outcome for the child.
What are the 4 stages of alienation?
Marx identified four facets of alienation, including isolation from: (1) the product of labor, (2) the process of labor, (3) others, and (4) self.
Signs of parental alienation can have a serious impact on the emotional and physical well-being of a child. It is essential that parents recognize signs of parental alienation as soon as possible so they can take steps to protect their children from further harm.
If signs of parental alienation are present, it is important to seek professional help in order to develop an effective plan for addressing the issue. With patience and understanding, parents can work together to create a healthier home environment and improve the overall quality of life for their children.