Monday, March 15, 2010

Divorce and Parental Alienation

Parental alienation occurs after divorce when when one parent attempts, either subtly or overtly, to influence the child's attitude and perception regarding the other parent. This can happen in often simple ways when a parent makes a critical remark about the other one in front of the children.

The parent may not be aware that they are doing anything wrong. They may be just innocently griping about something regarding the other, such as "your mother is not putting enough clothes in your bag before you come-that's stupid."

Many parents make up lies about the other to win the acceptance of their children, or just to simply "get back" at the other parent. Or, he or she may say something about the other parent's character that is out of bounds. The parental alienation behavior could be blatant or overt, mild, moderate or severe. However it happens, it is damaging to the child and is considered a form of abuse.

Children have a need to love and be loved by both parents, and this need is seriously compromised by parental alienation, and by attempts to convince a child that the other one is the cause of problems with visitation. Some parents who do this are deeply insecure in their relationship with the child, or still have issues with their former spouse. They may be holding on to anger or pain in connection with the other parent that they are not aware of.

There is also a high probability that the marriage and divorce was high conflict, hence the lingering anger that seeps over into their relationship with the children. Sometimes parental alienation occurs when the custodial parent remarries and moves away, preventing the children from seeing the other parent. In some cases, the non-custodial parent remarries and has a second family, losing contact with the child by choice.

This scenario results in feelings of abandonment and low self esteem for children. They can feel that they are somehow the cause of it.Quite often children will exhibit a reluctance to go with the other parent, but if the parent stands firm he/she will eventually quiet down and relax to enjoy their visit.

If this is the case for you as a parent, it is important to keep in mind that the child feels pulled in both directions, and may be trying to smooth things out by their reluctance or even outright refusal to go with you. The most important thing you can do in this situation is to avoid talking about the possible reasons for the other parent's behavior. Talk about positive things, ask the child about their activities, talk about what plans you may have for the time you are with them.

When you take the child back to the other parent, assuming that this was a visit, encourage them to call you between visits, or promise to call them at a specific time and date. A word of warning here: BE CERTAIN YOU FOLLOW THROUGH. Make a note of the date and time. Failure to follow through will only damage the child further. He or she will have intense feelings of abandonment as a result.

As a divorced parent it is critical to remember that the way you handle your relationship with the child and the other spouse will affect your child for years to come, and in the case of parental alienation, can adversely affect his or her ability to develop successful love relationships and happy marriages later in life.

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