While we’ve posted numerous entries about the importance of taking the high road during and after divorce, the sad truth is that sometimes one parent has so much hatred for their former spouse or partner, it outweighs the love for their children.
When that happens, toxic conditions can occur – including parental alienation.
In this issue, the San Diego divorce attorneys with the Men’s Legal Center will explain parental alienation, the harm it causes, and signs for recognizing it.
What Is Parental Alienation?
A term first used in the 1980s, parental alienation is quite simple: it’s when one parent tries to turn their child against the other parent.
It can be done through either negative words or actions, and parents of either gender can be the targeted parent.
Regardless of what caused the divorce, a child benefits the most when both parents are on the same page and act as a united front – especially in terms of the child’s safety, welfare and education. Once the bond and feelings of respect are broken between a child and either parent, the results can be tragic.
A study confirmed that the effects for children who are victims of parental alienation include low self-esteem, distress and frustration, fears and phobias, substance abuse, and sleeping and eating disorders.
As the child matures into an adult, the effects of parental alienation can worsen, and lead to alienation from their children, divorce, problems with their identity, and feelings of anger and bitterness over time they have lost with the alienated parent.
How Does Parental Alienation Happen?
A report from Psychology Today said that in most cases of parental alienation, the parent who is causing the alienation is usually the less emotionally healthy parent. Interestingly, that parent is also usually wealthier than the other and is in a better position to financially to withstand legal challenges.
The parent causing the alienation will also typically exhibit narcissistic behaviors – often focusing on what they want rather than what is best for the child.
Perhaps ironically, that parent will claim to be protecting the child from the other parent, but by causing such a disruption, they are working in the direct opposite of what’s in child’s best interests.
Studies show that the child benefits the most when both parents are involved in their lives. On the other hand, the child can experience long-term harm when one parent is seemingly constantly portrayed negatively.
What are the Warning Signs of Parental Alienation?
In order to prevent parental alienation or begin to take action against it, you need to be able to recognize it. Here are a few signs that your former spouse or partner may be trying to alienate you from your children.
- Needlessly telling the child everything about the reasons for the divorce.
- Blaming you for the breakup of the family.
- Not being flexible with the established visitation schedule or limiting contact in spite of the needs of the child.
- Letting the child make decisions about visitation – in spite of the fact that the child has no choice without your consent.
- Setting up temptation that conflicts with your visitation time with your child.
- Eavesdropping on your phone conversations with your child.
- You not having access to information about your child’s school and medical records, and information about their extracurricular activities.
Again, these are just a few signs of possible parental alienation. If what you’re experiencing makes you uncomfortable but it’s not on the above list, your divorce lawyer will be able to provide guidance.
What Can I Do About Parental Alienation?
The first question to ask is what do you want the outcome to be? Once you have the desired outcome in mind, you should speak with an experienced child custody attorney about your situation.
Other steps to take include:
- Documenting everything – especially dates, events, and your level of concern
- Staying above the fray; taking the high road no matter how tempted you may become to retaliate directly against the other parent
- Refraining from long conversations about the situation with your child; instead, make sure they always see your best self and know that you love them
- Ask in writing through text or email to see the child; this is evidence that can be very beneficial if you want to seek legal action.
If You Feel You’re a Victim of Parental Alienation, Get in Touch With the Divorce Attorneys At The Men’s Legal Center.
The bond between a parent and their child is something that should not fall victim to the divorce. At the end of the day, a family is everything, and all steps should be taken to keep that family bond in place.