Children should not be forced or manipulated into taking sides in a divorce or custody matter. But that can happen when they are the focus of emotional blackmail by one or both parents. The parent attempts to make their child a player instead of an interested bystander in the family break-up drama. If you live in Montgomery or Bucks County, PA, we will work with the court to stop parental alienation.
What is Parental Alienation?
A parent may seek vengeance against their ex-spouse by poisoning their relationship with the child. They may also leverage their child’s feelings for them to control them to the point they break off or limit the relationship with the other parent. They may offer emotional and material incentives to the child to do so or force them to pick sides by telling them they can only love one parent, so they must choose which one.
Alienation need not be intentional. A parent may not plan an alienation strategy and carry it out. The child may just witness one parent frequently and openly criticizing and degrading the other parent to the point that the child draws the conclusion that they do not want to be with them.
What Harm Can Parental Alienation Do?
The manipulating parent does not have the child’s best interests in mind. These actions can backfire if the child understands what is happening and realizes a parent is trying to manipulate them. The child may also suffer long-term emotional problems as a result. If severe enough, parental alienation could be considered a form of child abuse.
What are the Indications of Parental Alienation?
Some signs that one parent is alienating a child from the other parent, include the fact that the child:
- Is aware of divorce details only an adult should know
- Blames a parent for the divorce or end of the relationship
- Asks the targeted parent not to attend events like sports games or school events
- Becomes belligerent, defiant, or combative
- Is negative about the parent’s gifts or efforts, expressing a preference for the alienating parent’s gifts or time with them
- Repeats the alienating parent’s opinions
- Falsely accuses the parent of abuse or neglect
- Rejects or fears the parent
- Refuses to spend time or interact with the parent
- Shows a sudden change of attitude, preferring or rejecting a parent
- Shows no guilt or empathy when a parent suffers emotionally
Depending on the child’s relationship with a parent and their ability to process what is going on, it may not take much effort for one parent to turn a child against the other.
What Should I Do If My Child Starts Turning Against Me?
There is a danger of falsely accusing a parent of alienating a child, who may be going through emotional problems because their parents’ relationship is breaking apart. The parents are the foundation of their safe and supportive environment, and they fear that is ending.
If the issue is severe enough, your child should get counseling to work out their fears and feelings and help determine if the other parent is emotionally pulling your child away from you. You should also document your child’s words and behavior to see if there is a pattern (an apparent connection to visits or conversations with the other parent) and if the situation is getting better or worse.