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.
3 Types of Parental Alienation You Should Know
According to psychologists, there are three distinct degrees of parental alienation that can be identified.
1. 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.
2. Moderate parental alienation
These kids display their reluctance to spend time with the alienated parent, which often results in a bitter atmosphere during visits.
3. 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.
- When a child parrots the language of their preferred parent, oftentimes using adult terminology to disparage their disliked parent by citing scenarios they heard from said favored parent rather than those which were actually experienced directly.
- The child’s animosity towards the target parent is not limited to them; it extends to their extended family and friends as well.
- Children exhibiting signs of parental alienation are inclined to assert that their choice is completely autonomous and not in any way guided by another person. For instance, a child might claim “I made the decision to no longer visit Dad without mom’s input – it was my own call!” The alienating parent will likely encourage this narrative of autonomy in order to fulfill its purpose.
- Children are often very affectionate when alone with the targeted parent, yet appear to take an entirely different attitude toward that same person in public. This can be evidenced by their hurtful comments about the alienating parent even though this behavior does not reflect their true feelings towards them.
What are The Toxic Signs of Parental Alienation?
Toxic parenting relies on a range of damaging behaviors that create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity surrounding the child’s relationship with their parent. This includes distortion or invention of issues to control the child, coupled with verbal and non-verbal communication tactics intended to give off an aura of neglect, peril, or emotional disconnection.
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 demonstrates favoritism by always demanding to be connected with their child when they are together, but is then unresponsive and unreachable in return. For the targeted parent, this means rejecting phone calls, emails or messages sent from them on regular basis; hence prohibiting any chance of engaging in their own kid’s day-to-day life or observing all those small moments that make up a childhood.
4. Withdrawal of love
When a parent is alienating, the child becomes incredibly dependent on their approval; motivated by the fear of losing love when they fail to meet expectations. What hurts and angers this type of parent most is seeing the child feel genuine affection for their 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. Keep on reading for signs of parental alienation.
6. Confiding in the child
The alienating parent often encourages their child to become involved in legal matters, disclosing intimate and confidential information about the targeted parent that is not suitable for a young person. They may also present themselves as victims of their target – encouraging sympathy from their kid while igniting ill-will toward the other party.
7. Making the child to spy on the targeted parent
An unscrupulous parent could hint or even directly imply to their child that the other parent is deliberately hiding crucial information, such as invoices, legal documents, medical reports and more. They may falsely believe this data can be found in the other parent’s desk drawers or computer files.
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 related to their child’s schooling, sports activities, and spiritual upbringing often require information about both parents. Unfortunately, an abusive parent could exploit this situation by omitting any mention of the victim-parent or supplying incorrect information. This can be used as a means to further manipulate and exercise control over the other guardian with malicious intent.
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.
How can parental alienation affect a child?
Parental alienation can have a profoundly damaging effect on children. It can cause children to feel emotionally disconnected from the alienated parent, fearful of them or even hostile towards them, resulting in long-term psychological damage.
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.
What effects of parental alienation tactics can have on children?
Yes. Children who experience parental alienation can suffer from a wide range of short and long-term psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues. These may include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, social isolation, substance abuse problems, difficulty in forming healthy relationships with others.
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.
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