Parental alienation may occur when a child is influenced by one parent (Parent A) to reject the other parent (Parent B). For example, Parent A may tell the child that Parent B doesn't want to visit, when in reality, Parent B is working. Or, Parent A may say that Parent B doesn't really love the child, or want to support the child, or say other negative things about Parent B that may harm the parent-child relationship. In severe cases, the negative influence results in the child refusing to see or speak with the alienated parent.
The following are signs of parental alienation:
- Telling the child details about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce is alienating. The parent usually argues that they "just want to be honest" with their children. This practice is destructive and painful for the child. The alienating parent's motive is for the child to think less of the other parent.
- Denying that the child has property, and demanding that the child's possessions be moved between homes
- Denying the other parent access to school or medical records and schedules of activities
- Blaming the other parent for money problems, splitting up the family, or having a new romantic partner
- Refusing to be flexible with the visitation schedule, or over-scheduling the child with activities, so the other parent isn't given time to visit
- Asking the child to choose one parent over the other
- Encouraging the child's anger toward the other parent
- Having a stepparent adopt the child and suggesting a name change
- Using a child to spy or secretly gather information for the parent's own use
- Arranging temptations that interfere with the other parent's visitation
- Reacting with hurt or sadness to a child having a good time with the other parent
- Asking the child about the other parent's personal life
- Making demands on the other parent that are contrary to court orders
- Listening in on the child's phone calls with the other parent
The alienating parent may use a variety of techniques, such as:
- Encouraging the child to pretend the other parent doesn't exist. Not allowing the child to mention the other parent's name or refusing to acknowledge the child has fun with the other parent
- Attacking the other parent's character or lifestyle, such as job, living arrangements, activities, and friends
- Putting the child in the middle by encouraging the child to spy on the other parent or deliver messages
- Emphasizing the other parent's flaws, such as being unprepared for the child's activities.
- Discussing the parents' court battles with the child and encouraging the child to take sides
- Making the child think there's a reason to fear the other parent
- Lying about how the other parent treats the child
- Suggesting the other parent never cared for the child
Dealing with Alienation
The best thing you could do if you are a victim of parental alienation is to avoid reciprocating that behavior toward your ex, since it will only make matters worse. Instead of blaming your child or the other parent, offer your child extra support. If it is possible, get counseling for your child, or even go to counseling yourself to see how you can react and counteract the problem in a proper manner.