What is Parental Alienation?

Many separations are high-conflict and unfortunately the children’s relationship with their parents can be affected. There are cases where families become estranged over time; the relationship between a parent and child deteriorates over time. This generally occurs for justifiable reasons resulting in ambivalence between the child and parent.

However, parental alienation is the term used to describe when one parent deliberately damages the relationship between the other parent and their child. Unlike estrangement, children in these circumstances often leave the child angry and negative towards the alienated parent for unjustified or even false reasons, due to the manipulation of the other parent.

5 Signs of Parental Alienation

  1. From love to hate

Parents who were once loved can become detested and feared overnight. Alienated children can become consumed with hatred of the targeted parent. They deny any positive past relationship or experiences and shut down all communication. When questioned about the reasons for their intense hostility, reasons provided would not normally lead to a child rejecting a parent. Reasons may range from wildly untrue to what appears to be minor or unrelated, like the parent’s appearance or food they cook.

  1. Beauty and the beast

Alienated children often perceive the alienating parent as perfect, while the other parent is completely flawed and can do no right. If an alienated child is asked to identify just one negative aspect of the alienating parent, they will probably draw a complete blank. In all cases, the alienated child will side with the alienating parent, regardless of how absurd or baseless that parent’s position may be. This contrasts to the fact that most children have mixed feelings about even the best of parents and can usually talk about each parent as having both good and bad qualities.

  1. The “Independent Thinker”

Even though alienated children may appear to be improperly influenced by the alienating parent, they will adamantly insist that the decision to reject the targeted parent is theirs alone. They deny that their feelings about the targeted parent are in any way influenced by the alienating parent and often rely on concepts of free will and their own maturity to describe their decision. This may be despite the use of words or ideas that the child does not appear to understand and have been adopted from the alienating parent.

  1. Zero Guilt

Alienated children typically appear rude, ungrateful, spiteful, and cold toward the targeted parent, and they appear feel no guilt in relation to their treatment of this parent. Gratitude for gifts, support, or generous actions by the targeted parent is non-existent. In extreme cases alienated children may try to get whatever they can from that parent, declaring that it is owed to them, or required for them to communicate with that parent.

  1. The tainted tribe

Finally, the hatred and behaviour directed at the targeted parent spreads to his or her extended family. Not only is the targeted parent denigrated, despised, and avoided but so are his or her extended family. Formerly beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are suddenly and completely avoided and rejected.

The effects of parental alienation

Besides the obvious destruction of the parent/child relationship, both the child and targeted parent are more likely to suffer depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide ideation. The child may also stop performing as well at school and the targeted parent’s work productivity may decline.

The costs of parental alienation can be extremely high; emotionally and financially since it is likely that such matters result in court proceedings.  The court will base their decisions on findings of fact, and therefore it is important to have strong evidence of alienating behaviour. This can be presented in affidavits.

Each case will be decided based on its own individual circumstances. Ultimately, the judge makes orders that they feel best promotes the child’s best interests, balancing the child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents and any risks that may be apparent.

If you feel that parental alienation may be occurring in your situation, it is important to act quickly, with both legal and therapeutic tools to minimise the extent of the attempted alienation as much as possible.  If you wish to discuss your concerns, do not hesitate to get in touch with The Separation Planner.

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