By: Amy J. L. Baker
Has your loving and affectionate child suddenly become unrecognizable to you? Does your child make you feel like you are the worst parent in the world?
If so, your former spouse may be turning your child against you. Known as parental alienation or parental alienation syndrome, simply put it means your ex is manipulating and pressuring your kid to reject you.
Part 2 of this series will give you the tools to recapture your healthy relationship with your child. But first you need to arm yourself with knowledge. How does parental alienation work and how to do you spot it?
Typically, your child’s pattern of rejection results when your ex engages in destructive acts such as:
- Speaking poorly of you
- Limiting contact with you
- Interfering with communication between you and your child
- Emotionally punishing your child for expressing anything positive about you
- Telling your child that you do not love him or her
Parental alienation occurs often, but not always, in the context of divorce and custody battles. No one knows how many children are exposed to parental alienation or show signs of the parental alienation syndrome, but we do know that it can happen to mothers as well as fathers, to custodial parents as well as non-custodial parents and to kids as young as toddlers or as old as teens. It is marked by sudden changes in your child’s interactions with you and you’ll see new personality traits begin to emerge.
Here are some attitudes and behaviors to watch for:
Leave me alone. Your child is filled with animosity toward you. When confronted and reminded of the good times you two once shared, she insists you two NEVER had a good relationship — although you know that is not true. Suddenly, your once-loving and affectionate child seems to fear and, in some cases, despise you. He may even be reluctant to share a meal with you as though merely being in your presence is unbearable. When you question this, your child gives you frivolous and absurd reasons for this newfound negativity.
It’s all your fault.Your child acts as if the other parent can do no wrong. Everything the other parent does is perfect in his eyes — something your child never seemed to feel about your ex during the marriage. Your child seems to forgive your ex — even the most inexcusable behavior — while ridiculing you for minor flaws and infractions.
Yeah, what he said.Your child consistently sides with your ex. And it seems she is following a script when she is talking about you, using some of the same labels your ex has used to describe you. He will repeat the same words and phrases, as if he is relying on words that are not his own and may have been rehearsed beforehand.
Family ties no longer bind.Your child shows no guilt about her shabby treatment of you. And she not only rejects you, but by extension, your family as well. Formerly beloved aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are now shunned. And your child doesn’t want to attend important family events such as weddings, reunions, even funerals.
Influence? What influence?Your child vehemently denies being influenced by your ex. When you note that he is using words and phrases that appear to parrot the other parent, your child dismisses you. In fact, he scoffs at the idea of being coached by anyone.