Parental alienation happens when one child refuses to have a relationship with one parent because they have been manipulated by the other parent. This tends to happen when the parents are going through a separation or custody battle. However, it can also happen in families who are intact. Thus, it is important to recognize the signs of parental alienation.

The following are 6 signs of parental alienation; 

  1. Using toxic verbal and non-verbal forms of communicating with the child which conveys that the targeted parent doesn’t care about them, doesn’t love them and isn’t there for them. They will use body language to show that they dislike the other parent by, for example, rolling their eyes. Children are smart and pick up on these negative cues which then influences their way of thinking about the other parent.  
  2. Treating the child as an equal rather than having a parent-child relationship with healthy boundaries. This means that the parent will see the child as someone they can confide in about the ongoing conflict between the parents. 
  3. Using the child to spy on the other parent and report back to them on anything they find out. The fact that the child would be constantly questioned about the personal life of the other parent, would leave them experiencing a moral dilemma. On one hand, they want to make the alienating parent happy by answering all of their questions. However, on the other hand, they will feel guilty about what they have done which leaves them feeling uncomfortable with the alienated parent. 
  4. The alienating parent might even attempt to limit the contact between the parent and child. They will violate the parenting agreement by changing them last minute and ensuring that they spend more time with the child. Thus, the child would end up spending less time with the targeted parent and hindering the ability for them to develop a strong bond. 
  5. The alienating parent might interfere with the communication between the targeted parent and the child. This happens when the alienating parent would constantly demand access to the child while the child is not with them, through calls and text messages. Thus, not allowing the targeted parent and child to have one on one time together. They might also monitor the text messages between the targeted parent and child. This leaves the child not able to fully express themselves with the other parent, out of fear that they will say something to upset the alienating parent. 
  6. The alienating parent will manipulate the child by withdrawing their love if the child does not do what the alienating parent says. Hence, the child would then do anything to avoid this withdrawal of love when the child has upset the alienating parent. This tends to occur when the child shows any form of affection towards the targeted parent. Thus, to maintain the love of the alienating parent, the child must give up their love for the targeted parent. 

It is important for people to become aware of the existence of parental alienation because it creates emotional and psychological issues on both the child and the targeted parent. If you see any of the above signs, seek the help of a social worker or therapist to work with both the parents and child to ensure that they are able to co-parent the child in the most effective way. 

If you’re struggling with a similar issue and would like to speak to a professional, you can book an appointment here.

Mandy Brincat is a Gestalt psychotherapist who enjoys working therapeutically with adults on various issues, such as general mental health and wellbeing. She also has experience working with children with anxiety and day to day stressful problems, and on relational issues with couples.


  1. Johnson, E. (2022, November 16). What is parental alienation? Recognize the 18 signs.
  2. Meyer, C. (2007, April 16). Parental Alienation: Do You Know These 6 Signs? LiveAbout.