The devastating idea of your ex turning your child against you is sure to cause feelings of anger and helplessness, but there are things you can do to stop parental alienation and to repair any damage the other parent has caused.
Signs and examples of parental alienation
Generally speaking, parental alienation involves manipulating a child to unjustly resent, distrust, or even hate the other parent. This can happen when parents have a contentious or antagonistic relationship, or when a parent is abusive or suffers from mental health disorders.
Some of the common signs that your child’s other parent is attempting to alienate you include:
- Relentlessly admonishing you in front of your child;
- Lying about you; and
- Blaming you unfairly for events like the divorce.
Further, your child may display the following signs:
- Failing to see any good in you;
- Refusing to see you without any reason;
- Repeating the same language and accusations your ex has made;
- Having irrational beliefs about you;
- Forming their opinions on you based on what your ex says, rather than their own experiences with you; and
- Showing no guilt for mistreating you.
If you notice these efforts from your ex, or these signs in your child, parental alienation could be cause for concern. In extreme cases, parental alienation could be abuse, as it deprives your child of what would be a fulfilling, safe and healthy relationship with you.
But understand that not all expressions of negativity reflect true alienation. For instance, if a child has their own, individually-formed reasons for disliking a parent, alienation is likely not a factor.
So, what can you do?
Perhaps the most important way to prevent and counter parental alienation efforts is to consistently show up for your child and comply with your custody agreement.
If you notice changes in your child, talk to your attorney about modifying custody, requesting an examination of your ex’s mental health, or taking parenting classes.
If alienation has already occurred, seeking help from professionally trained counselors, or pursuing reunification therapy can help rebuild relationships.
Parental alienation has the potential to cause a great deal of harm. Knowing what it looks like and what you can do about it can help you protect your child and your relationship with them.