Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a psychological condition often seen in children that have been traumatized by high conflict divorce. One of the main signs seen in children that are experiencing PAS is an unfounded hatred toward a parent for no logical reason. This article is an overview on how to identify and deal with parental alienation.
Parental Alienation – the Unseen Destroyer of the Parental Relationship
Parental alienation slowly creeps in and is not always obvious. The custodial parent will often act with subtle behavior and repeat negative comments in front of the child. Alienating parents learn how to manipulate and use their children to hurt the non-custodial parent on purpose. They typically do this by making negative comments in front of the children. These comments are made with the intent to make the other parent look bad. As parental alienation continues over time, the child is emotionally manipulated to take sides with the custodial parent on various family issues. Often the alienating parent tries to get the child to feel shame for connecting to the “bad” parent. This is a very effective alienation tool used by parents involved in various forms of emotional abuse. Unfortunately children are extraordinarily vulnerable to this type of manipulation.
There are several obvious signs of parental alienation. Take note if a custodial parent is acting in any of the following ways.
- Makes a child take sides in a dispute
- Makes the child feel insecure or unsafe in the other parent’s presence
- Criticizes the non-custodial parent in the child’s presence
- Sabotages the non-custodial parent’s good intentions
- Encourages the child to not follow the other parent’s rules
- Prevents the child to display affection towards the other parent
- Intentionally acts in a manner to destroythe relationship between the child and non-custodial parent
Research shows that children who experience parental alienation often develop behavioral problems. Furthermore, Parental Alienation Syndrome directly impacts a child’s mental and emotional health.
Parental alienation, when allowed to continue, is like a virus. As the child gets older, if left to fester, there simply may be no cure and it may become “too late to fix.”
Coping with Parental Alienation
Unfortunately, divorced fathers often are the ones to experience parental alienation. Alienated parents should remember to put their children first and not retaliate against the toxic custodial parent. Secondly, non-custodial parents should hold themselves to the highest standards of parenting. Lastly, the non-custodial parent should never act out of anger or frustration on his/her child. The custodial parent may be using his/her child to attack the non-resident parent emotionally. The non-custodial parent should take every measure to not engage with the child or custodial parent about the alienation.
The parent who is being alienated should document all sources of concern. This includes specific dates, times, and events in which attacks or actions by the custodial parent have negatively affected the parent/child relationship. This information may be needed in court if a custody or visitation dispute arises. The information can also be used to track the custodial parent’s alienation strategy.
How to Stop Parental Alienation
First, there is no easy way to stop parental alienation. You can start by being firm and proactive in attempting to change the other parent’s attitude and behavior. Here are tips that have proven to have positive effects in combating parental alienation.
- Continue to call or show up to pick up your child, even if you know they will not be there.
- Focus on enjoying your child when you have them and never talk about your case.
- Complete a parental training course that will give you knowledge, better skills and methods of being a good parent.
- Remain even-tempered and logical, keeping your emotions under control.
- Never give up and don’t be a victim.
- Be proactive in seeking a resolution.
- Keep a detailed diary or journal of events to document the alienation.
- Don’t violate current court orders and pay any ordered child support on time.
If custody is in dispute, you may want to file a motion to address the issue and tell the court about the other parent’s actions. Your declaration should bring to the court’s attention that your child’s life, mental and emotional health are being affected by the other parent’s behavior. No matter how tough your situation becomes, however, do not stop communicating with your child! Doing so can make it seem that you are not interested in having a relationship with your child and appear like parental abandonment. This, obviously, could impact your custody order.
Therapy and Counseling
Without anyone to stop parental alienation from continuing, a child will become progressively estranged from the alienated parent. Keep in mind, the longer parental alienation goes on, the harder it will be to unwind the damage. This means it will be more difficult to restore a positive relationship between the child and the alienated parent. Without intervention, the relationship usually ends up permanently severed. Unfortunately, the child grows up never truly understanding what exactly happened.
Be aware, typical therapeutic measures of standard counseling are often unsuccessful. It takes a sophisticated mental health professional to confirm that parental alienation is occurring. Therefore, you should ask the court to intervene and require individual and parent/child counseling. In this regard, you should seek out an experienced forensic evaluator such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist at the Ph.D. level that specializes in these types of situations.
If you need help modifying your child custody order or bring a motion to fight back against parental alienation, contact A People’s Choice. Remember, the longer the alienation goes on without taking action, the harder it will be to restore the parental/child relationship. Call us today at 800-747-2780.
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