Parental Alienation is a growing concern for many parents due to protracted custody disputes and their attendant cost. However, these situations can sometimes be avoided by simple self-reflection. Behavior by a parent is often mirrored and acted out by their children and, thus, when a child shows disrespect or vilifies the targeted parent, it’s possible that behavior was first seen by the child in the custodial parent.
While there are many behaviors that can contribute to parental alienation, below is a list of the most common. After reading the following list, don’t get discouraged if you notice that some of your own behavior may be responsible for the problem. This is normal for the best of parents. Rather, learn from the list to help sensitize yourself to things you might be doing to make a bad situation worse.
1. Allowing a child to decide for themselves regarding visits when a court order says there is no choice.
2. Telling the child “everything” about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce. The parent usually argues they “just want to be honest” with their children. This practice is destructive and painful for a child. More often than not, the alienating parent’s motive is to demean the other parent.
3. Refusing to acknowledge that children have property and want to transport their possessions between residences.
4. Resisting or refusing to cooperate by not allowing the other parent access to school or medical records and schedules of extracurricular activities.
5. Blaming the other parent for breaking up the family.
6. Refusing to be flexible with the visitation schedule in order to facilitate to a child’s needs.
7. Asking the child to favor one parent over the other. Typically, children do not want to reject a parent or be in the middle of a dispute but instead want to avoid the issue.
8. Using a child to spy or covertly gather information for the other parent’s use.
9. One way to cause your own alienation is making a habit of breaking promises to your children. The short-term disappointment often morphs into larger issues of trust or resentment.
10. Scheduling children in so many activities the other parent is never given time to visit. Of course, when the targeted parent protests, they are described as not caring or selfish.
If you recognize this behavior in yourself or the other parent, you need to take action. Seek the guidance of a professional to discuss the emotional stress you are under or the frustration you feel when co-parenting, but do not continue alienating the other parent. The involvement of a third party can help children navigate the difficult burdens life places upon all of us and can assist parents in identifying and sidestepping certain damaging behaviors. For parents who find themselves exhibiting any type of alienating behavior, the best you can do for your children is stop.
Remember, it is children who pay the price for parental alienation.