When relationships break down between parents, and there exist bad feelings, it can be very easy to use children as weapons. This can be to alienate a child from the other parent and often takes the form of seemingly harmless comments or actions to influence how the child views the other parent. It can also be more obvious. For example, when accusations are made about the other parent, or when one parent interferes with the relationship between the child and the other parent.
As the saying goes “Love your child(ren) more than you hate each other”. Indeed, parental alienation is a selfish and short-sighted thing to do to a child because it creates estrangement between a child and parent. The child may refuse to spend time with the parent, or even stop speaking to them altogether. This may seem like a victory for the parent who instigates it, but it’s likely to have a very negative, long-term impact on the child’s relationship with the alienated parent, other relationships, mood, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
It must be stated, however, that sometimes children refuse to spend time with a parent for their reasons (for example, neglect, or abuse) and not because of parental alienation. But if there is no legitimate reason for the child’s refusal, parental alienation may be happening.
When children show aggression or hostility towards a parent for no reason (that is, the parent has not done anything to warrant such a response).
When children begin to criticise or denigrate a parent and use phrases or language that are unusual for them, or more adult-like/beyond their normal vocabulary or understanding.
When a child refuses to take part in activities and events and does not spend any time with one of their parents, alienation may be occurring. This is particularly likely when court-ordered time has been granted, and the child still refuses.
When children appear cold and feel no guilt or remorse toward the alienated parent, and their treatment of them.
When one parent (the alienated one) is viewed as “all bad” with no consideration of their positive qualities, and the one who instigates the alienating is seen as “all good”.
When children favour and take the side of one parent and justify their behaviour, even when it’s unreasonable.
Even though there may be no truth to accusations or stories about a parent, when children state them as if they are true, they may be repeating what they have heard from the alienating parent.
Usually, there is no single cause of parental alienation. The reasons why a parent might alienate their child(ren) can be complex and multifaceted. Some common contributory factors include:
Psychotherapy can be helpful in addressing parental alienation, both for the parent who is engaging in alienating behaviours and for the child(ren) involved. At Phinity we will work with you to help you recognise the harmful impact of alienating behaviour, and together develop strategies to aid behaviour change. For example, you may want to learn how to manage difficult emotions, or improve communication skills, and build a more collaborative co-parenting relationship.
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