Dr. Vincent Marmara who is a Statistician and Researcher recently carried out a study where 600 people were questioned about the meaning of Parental Alienation. The results showed that 80% didn’t know what the term parental alienation is. In fact, only 3.4% knew that Parental Alienation is when one parent manipulates his/her child to reject the other parent. This can be done in many forms such as; psychologically manipulating the child or limiting contact with the parent.
Children’s Stance in Parental Alienation
The truth is that the child/children also suffer in cases of parental alienation and not just the parent who is alienated. It is against the right of the child to be alienated from his/her parent, unless this was ordered by court on the basis that the parent is being a threat to the child’s well-being. Parental alienation is another sort of ‘emotional abuse’ and can highly damage a child. When the parents decide to live their life separately or choose to end their relationship, it doesn’t mean that the child has to suffer due to this decision.
The parents need to be responsible and still communicate about their child’s well-being. A behaviour where the parent blames or does bad-mouthing about the other parent to the child in order to instigate coldness towards the other or even hatred in some cases, is unacceptable. In 1985, the child psychologist Richard Gardner had spoken about the Parental Alienation syndrome (PAS) and the effects that it has on the child-parent relationship.
How does it Manifest?
It is very important that parents avoid such hatred acts and comments towards the other parent. However, as a therapist who works with children who go through such circumstances, there’s a lot of work to do which also needs to involve both parents. When it comes to children, it can manifest in school’s performance or maybe academic problems. A child can also opt to either act out or even act in at school. Then when children are asked about their family situation they may refer to the alienated parent as the ‘absent parent’ or the one not present.
Sometimes, the alienator approaches school to manoeuvre the situation by stating that the alienated parent is lacking interest and hence, the parent withholds information from the other parent and also requires school to remove the alienated parent from the school’s records so that s/he do not receive information about the child. Furthermore, whoever is not aware or not familiar with the parental alienation syndrome is missing out on how a parent can poison a child’s relationship with the parent being alienated in absence of just cause.
The Therapist’s Perspective
Being a therapist, I meet clients who may enter the therapy room exhibiting anxiety or relationship problems and sometimes even depression and when they talk about their relationship with one parent they reveal that they have been cut off from their life by the other parent.
Being unaware of the meaning of the lost relationship with their parent and also not knowing the effect that this had on their development and even on their present mental health sometimes, they will not be aware that this is also affecting their present relationships, even if with other people. Also, therapists argue that sometimes, the alienated child insists that the choice to reject such a parent was theirs, taking full responsibility of the other parent’s influence on them.
When dealing with cases of Parental Alienation it is very important to target these behaviours as these are an act of emotional violence targeted to the other party, that is the other parent but wounding the innocent child psychologically.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Rachel Osmond is a Family Therapist with Willingness who works with individuals, couples and families. She also has experience with children and adolescents.
Said, M. (2022). The hidden scourge of Parental Alienation. The Malta Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2022-01-02/newspaper-opinions/The-hidden-scourge-of-parental-alienation-6736239441 on 26th April, 2022. Statistics retrieved on the 26th April, 2022 from https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/what-does-parental-alienation-mean-many-have-no-idea.914583#:~:text=Parental%20alienation%20is%20when%20one,or%20psychologically%20manipulating%20the%20child.