Parental alienation is extremely common in divorces, especially if there is conflict between the parents. It happens when one parent convinces their child not to engage with the other parent. This tends to happen when the parent talks against the other parent, refuses to allow the other parent to see the child or if they are allowed to see the child, the parent would not be happy to see them go with the other parent. An example of this would be, as well, when the child comes home from being with the other parent, the alienating parent would seem upset, or disappointment. This would lead the child to feel negative feelings, such as guilt, which might make the child not want to keep seeing their other parent.
The issue with parental alienation is that not a lot of people are made aware that it exists. Thus, the signs are difficult to recognize and to help stop. The following are some signs that there is parental alienation happening within a family;
- Rather than having a parent-child relationship, the parent would treat the child as an equal. This means that they would start to use the child as a person they can emotional confide in. This is unfair on a child because, at times, they are too young to be made aware of certain adult issues happening within families.
- Giving the child more privileges than is necessary is another sign. The alienating parent would allow the child more freedom, such as, sleeping later or staying out late. After a privilege is given to a child, they would then make it a point to note how they are not given such privileges when with the other parent. This would make the other parent begin to seem less desirable.
- Using the child to spy on the other parent and report back about how the other parent is doing. 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 also want to remain loyal to the other parent.
- Sometimes the alienating parent might even monitor the phone calls and text messages going on between the child and parent. 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.
- In more extreme cases, the alienating parent might refuse to allow the child to visit their other parent. The alienating parent would not allow the child to have any say in the matter. Thus, not visiting the other parent, would end up not allowing the parent and child to develop a bond.
It is important for people to become aware of the existence of parental alienation because it creates emotional, psychological and even physical issues on both the child and alienated 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 think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Mandy Brincat is a Gestalt psychotherapist who enjoys working therapeutically with adults on various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing. She also has experience working with anxiety, victims of domestic violence and eating disorders.
- Lowrance, M. F. (2017). Parental Alienation – A Corrosive Legacy. Retrieved from https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/parental-alienation-a-corrosive-legacy
- Fernandez, S. (2019). What does Parental Alienation Syndrome mean? Retrieved from https://www.divorcemag.com/blog/what-is-parental-alienation-syndrome