By Nancy Kay
When Esther shared her experience with parental alienation and how her ex used religion against her, I commented that I could see how she would be puzzled by her children’s behavior, wondering if it was real, wondering what exactly she had done to warrant the rejection, wondering what her ex and others had said to have such an impact. Sometimes parental alienation can start off quite benign but the seeds are planted and the indoctrination grows. By the time it’s clear what’s happened it’s often very difficult to counteract. My guest blogger today is divorce coach Nancy Kay and she says there are five signs of parental alienation. Here’s Nancy:
Parental alienation is a problem that most often arises when parents engage in bitter and extended child custody litigation. Although intense feelings of anger and mistrust are common when parents are beginning to transition from the tidal wave of emotions surrounding divorce into a co-parenting relationship, most parents experience less anger and anxiety over time as they make efforts to co-parent in a way that is healthier and more productive for the children.
“Parent alienation occurs when a child is influenced by one parent (often called the alienator) to completely reject their other parent (often known as the target.) In severe cases, parent alienation results in the child’s complete rejection of the target parent. Typically, the reasons for the child’s rejection are frivolous or unjustified,” explains parent educator and author Christina McGhee in her book, Parenting Apart.
Due to the intensity of emotions that erupt during the often lengthy process of separation and divorce, many parents experience strain and frustration within the parent-child relationship. Some parents engage in harmful or destructive behaviors that lead to the natural consequence of the child distancing themselves from that parent.
In contrast, true parental alienation takes place when one parent unduly influences the child to respond to the other parent in a consistently negative manner despite there not being evidence of abusive, destructive or harmful parenting behaviors.
There are five common signs that a child is being affected by true parental alienation.
- The child views the alienating parent as the good and honest parent and expresses only negative feelings toward the target parent who is seen as all bad. This black-and-white thinking is consistently reinforced by the alienating parent until the child expresses hatred, contempt and fear regarding the target parent while not showing any guilt or remorse.
- The child denies being coached or influenced by one parent. “Mimics accusations and opinions of the alienating parent yet insists they have formulated ideas about the target parent on their own,” explains McGhee.
- The child’s negativity extends to the targeted parent’s extended family. The child begins to refuse visits or contact with relatives of the target parent, even if they had a warm and interactive relationship prior to the alienation.
- The child’s contempt, hatred and rejection toward the target parent are based on frivolous and unwarranted reasons. The rejection is not based on personal experiences that are justified by abusive, harmful or destructive behaviors.
- The child consistently rejects one parent and refuses to have contact with them. “Many parents describe having a formerly loving and close relationship with their children only to become completely leveled by the fact that their children no longer want to have any contact with them,” explains McGhee.
Are you looking for resources on parenting after divorce? Download my free What You Need To Know About Parenting And Divorce audio program to learn what harms children of divorce the most. My affordable, self-paced, online divorce coaching program, My Divorce Pal also includes a complete track devoted to parenting after divorce. Got more questions? Contact Mandy for a free 30-minute consult.