How do you respond to parental alienation?
Parental alienation is the demonization of a parent. It occurs when a child is manipulated into believing that a parent is mean, hostile, abusive, scary, or neglectful when none of these adjectives accurately portray the parent being accused of such.
Examples of parental alienating behaviors include badmouthing a parent in front of the child, making fake plans for the child to see the other parent, or punishing any love for the other parent.
Some would say that parental alienation is a form of child abuse, and I would agree. Although parental alienation is not currently in the DSM-5, Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress (CAPRD) is. I’ll touch on CAPRD another time.
Because parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is not listed in the DSM-5, it may be hard to have professionals listen to your concerns depending on who you talk to. Some believe it is a false claim that parents come up with when they don’t get their way in a custody battle. While this may be true for some, I believe that PAS is definitely a concern that needs to be taken seriously.
I have seen PAS given a lot of attention online showing what it is, but most don’t show how to best prevent it from having lasting detriments to your child. So, I spoke with a few doctoral level psychologists about how to respond to parental alienation.
First and foremost is don’t copy the actions of the alienator. If you acknowledge that parental alienation is harmful for your child, then why would you do it yourself?
Engaging in alienating behaviors makes you no better than the original alienator. It will only serve to harm your child even more than what they are already being harmed. Because you’re a great parent, I know that harming your child is the last thing that you want to do.
Your child doesn’t deserve to be put in a place where loving his/her parents is a crime in the eyes of the other.
Show your child empathy for what he/she is going through. What they’re being presented with is not their fault.
It cannot be easy to have one half of your world demonized. You need to show them that you care about what they’re going through.
By continually doing this, they will see that you’re not abusive, mean, or scary. They’ll see that you actually care about them regardless of what the alienator may say. From this, they will begin to see who truly does not have their best interests at heart.
Tell your child the truth about yourself. Again, make sure that you do not break and begin to badmouth the alienator here. Make sure not to reciprocate their actions.
Simply acknowledge what is being said about you as a parent in a positive way for your child. Tell them that you love them very much, and that you would never intentionally harm them.
Speak on yourself, not the alienator. If your child asks why the alienator is saying such things, simply tell them that you’re not sure, but if he/she ever has any questions or worries to come ask you.
This will open up a channel of communication with your child when the alienator makes false claims. You can help diminish the alienation that the alienator manipulates onto the child through this channel of communication.
If your child falls victim to the manipulation of an alienator, then there is a good chance that your child may side with the alienator at some point.
As hard as this will be, you will need to rise above it. You will need to show your child that you love them, even if they hate you.
Again, this opens up a channel of communication between your child and yourself. It shows them that you’re going to be there for them. No matter what.
You’ll be there if they hate your guts, if they refuse to talk to you, or if they haven’t seen you in months. None of these things will stop you from loving your child.
As your child gets older, they will take notice. I know, because this is what happened to my father. As a result, I’ve only met my grandmother (the alienator) twice in my life, while I see my grandfather multiple times a year. They’ll catch on as to who truly loves them quickly as they grow older.
Document all attempts at alienation. If you think that someone is trying to alienate you from your child, then start immediately.
If you can show what the alienator is doing, then it may give you a leg to stand on legally.
At worst, you will have the documents to show your child, once they’re older, what actually happened. You will be able to show them how they were manipulated into believing something false. Though, you can only do this if you follow all of the previous steps.
If you don’t follow the other steps, then it will be easy for the child to question if what you show them is made up.
Do not let your alienator’s actions dictate yours. This is the most important piece of advice I can give you.
You have the power to control your behavior and you should not give that power to anyone else. If you give it to anyone, it most definitely should not be the alienator.
Do not let their actions bring you down to their level. You must hold your head high and continue being the best parent and person you can be. Do not get involved with the fighting and the arguments.
Keep looking toward the future that you want to build for yourself and your child.
Watching someone try to alienate you from your child is a terrible thing. If you’re someone going through this, then you have my deepest sympathies. I hope that something I have said in the post may make the experience easier for you. I know it won’t be an easy path to get your relationship with your child back on track, but I’m here supporting you.