A divorce can have many ramifications for a family. One potential risk is distance coming between you and your child – both physically and emotionally – if you do not have primary custody. Sadly, your ex-spouse may make things worse by badmouthing you in front of your child or spreading hurtful lies when you’re not there to defend yourself. These intentional actions to separate you and your child is known as parental alienation.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation occurs most often after a divorce, but it can begin when the two parents are still married. It describes one parent interfering with the child’s relationship with the other parent by speaking ill of the targeted parent. One parent planting seeds against the other during or after a marriage could come between the second parent’s relationship with the child. Both the targeted parent and the child can suffer negative consequences from parental alienation.
The Long-term Impacts of Parental Alienation
It has long been established by health and wellness experts that the best scenario for a child’s mental, emotional and psychological wellbeing after a divorce or separation is shared parenting. Continuing contact with both parents after a divorce is the healthiest arrangement for a child. When parental alienation ruins one parent’s relationship with the child, it is the child who suffers the most.
In the long term, parental alienation can significantly affect a child’s mental health. It can force the child to think negative or bad thoughts about the other parent, possibly leading to the hatred of the targeted parent and/or extended family members related to that parent. It could also impact the child’s understanding of love and self-worth, which could interfere with self-esteem, intimacy and relationships later in life. The degradation of a child’s relationship with one parent can lead to issues such as depression, anger issues, outbursts, problems in school and substance abuse.
Tips for Stopping Parental Alienation
If you notice the early signs of parental alienation, such as your child distancing him or herself from you, you can do things to stop your co-parent from driving a wedge further between you and your child. You can take steps on your own to forge a deeper bond or relationship with your child in spite of what your co-parent may be saying about you. If this does not work, you can contact a family attorney to discuss possible legal actions available to you.
Remind your ex that he or she is hurting the child, not just you, with parental alienation.
Do not retaliate against your ex-spouse by also badmouthing him or her.
Make your main priority rebuilding your relationship with your child.
Reach out to your child in writing in your own words, using letters or email.
Call your child to talk as often as possible.
Keep up with what’s going on in your child’s life.
Attend your child’s shows or exhibitions, even if you sit in the back.
Request more visits, even if they are shorter in duration.
Keep documentation of how your ex-spouse is alienating you.
Ask to see your child in writing if your ex is withholding visits.
Remain persistent in rebuilding your relationship with your child.
Try therapy and look for professional support during this tough time.
Parental alienation can become a form of child abuse in severe cases. If parental alienation is risking your child’s mental health and personal wellbeing, you can ask a judge to intervene. Connect with a family attorney for assistance with your case. A lawyer can help you if your ex-spouse is intentionally trying to destroy your relationship with your child. A lawyer can submit a custody modification request, for example, to give you more than partial custody if your child is in danger. Speak to a lawyer today for more information about your legal options.