Parental alienation is a sad reality that, unfortunately, is very common in our society. This term is used to describe a situation where one parent attempts to negatively influence their children against another parent, known as the targeted parent. Despite the number of remedies offered by the state that strive to keep the situation at bay, children are still suffering considerably. Moreover, at times, it is inadvertently made worse by the court itself as it fails to address the situation in an effective and timely manner. The situation can be so grievous that, on some occasions, one parent might forbid their children from meeting the other parent and having a healthy relationship with him/her. Usually, they do this by blocking contact or psychologically manipulating the child. Eventually, children might end up rejecting the parent they are not allowed to meet and refuse to have a relationship with them.
According to research, the following four factors need to be present for a situation to be classified as a case of parental alienation:
- The child previously enjoyed a positive relationship with the targeted parent.
- The absence of child safety concerns, such as abuse and/or neglect on the part of the targeted parent.
- The use of recognised alienating behaviours by the alienating parent.
- The exhibition of alienation behaviour by the child.
Other descriptors of parental alienation include the following:
- Children express a relentless hatred for the targeted parent.
- Children’s language parrots that of the alienating parent.
- Children’s beliefs are enmeshed with the alienating parent, are delusional, and frequently irrational.
- Children’s reasons are a result of what has been told to him/her by others not from direct experiences.
Parental alienation can be classified as a form of emotional child abuse, especially since the potential impact of it on a child’s life can be devastating, as indicated by some of the effects listed below:
- Establishment and maintenance of future relationships is impaired,
- Child’s self-image is lowered,
- Self-respect is lost,
- Children’s role in destroying their relationship with a previously loved parent brings about guilt, anxiety, and depression,
- Impulse control is lacking and aggression can escalate to delinquent behaviour,
- Substance abuse, and
- Educational problems.
Early intervention is crucial when there are suspects of parental alienation and the parent concerned needs to be very cautious and contact a lawyer. Although the Court could order supervised parenting time, this might not be a long-term solution. Unfortunately, the damage done can persevere until the child possibly realizes what is going on. In severe alienation cases, therapy is recommended as it enables the child to work through his/her feelings in a healthy way and, eventually, might repair the relationship in the future.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Johanna Cutajar is a Master in Counselling graduate from the University of Malta. She works with children and adolescents as a counsellor within the education sector on a variety of issues including relationship issues, trauma, bereavement, transitions, and general mental health.
Berger, S. (2020). Parental alienation is a silent but common phenomenon often made worse by the court – lawyer. Retrieved from https://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2020-08-03/local-news/Parental-alienation-is-a-silent-but-common-phenomenon-made-worse-by-the-court-lawyer-6736225756
Cilia, J. (2021). Parental Alienation is a Modern Reality Harming Children – and Families – In Malta. Retrieved from https://lovinmalta.com/news/parental-alienation-is-a-modern-reality-harming-children-and-families-in-malta/