When one parent negatively influences a child’s view of the other parent, it’s parental alienation. Unfortunately, this issue is all too common in divorce cases. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs of parental alienation and to take the steps you can to help address this problem.
Identifying situations involving parental alienation
Divorce can be emotionally overwhelming, not only for you but also for your children. This can make it hard to recognize whether your child is just moody or if their attitude is the result of actions taken by an alienating parent. Some of the more common signs of parental alienation include:
- Emotional withdrawal, but only from you, not the other parent
- Behavior that appears overly protective of the other parent
- Your child repeating negative comments made about you by the other parent
- A child who does not want to visit with you
Sometimes, an alienating parent may engage in troubling behaviors to your face. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential to remain calm. Don’t take the bait and get drawn into an argument with your ex. Above all, don’t return the offensive behavior in front of your child.
What should you do?
Other than not sinking to your ex’s level, some additional steps you can take to help reduce the harm caused by parental alienation include:
- Talking to your child: It can be challenging to talk about the comments your ex has made about you. You don’t want to cross the line into unwittingly disparaging your ex. It’s best to avoid going into great detail about the accusations made about you. Let your children know that they’re sorry they’ve heard these things about you. Tell them that grown-ups sometimes see things differently and, no matter what, you will always love them.
- Maintaining a presence in your children’s lives: If you don’t have primary custody, keep in contact with your children. Send them cards or call them on their birthdays or other special occasions. Attend sporting events or other extracurricular activities, if possible. Getting your child to come around can take a significant amount of time. However, a constant presence can be help ease the establishment of a relationship as your children get older.
If you are concerned that an alienating parent is causing permanent harm to your relationship with your child, you may wish to consider your legal options. A skilled legal professional can let you know which paths forward may be available to you.