Letter: Is this Parental Alienation?

Letters From Readers

My husband and I are separated, soon to be divorced. He says really bad things about me to my children, when he has them on the weekends. His live-in girlfriend makes nasty comments about my cooking and housekeeping. Is this considered parental alienation? Am I right to be concerned?

Thanks,

Sharon


Hi Sharon,

I hear this question all the time and my answer to it is YES.  Although this kind of parental alienation is relatively common it is still alienation nonetheless.   Remember, in a healthy situation the parents honor the children’s need to have a relationship with both parents. Saying “nasty” things about the other parent is only done to plant a seed of doubt about the targeted parent in the children’s minds.
The question becomes when is it SERIOUS  alienation. My answer is it is always serious.  These comments made about you are your husband’s  way of venting his issues with you through the children.  Your children may love your cooking and how you maintain the house.  In time, the alienation could cause them to make uncomplimentary comments about your cooking and your housekeeping to accusations that you never cook and the house is completely inhabitable.
Parental Alienation is a method of having innocent children turn against the targeted parent.  You husband has some kind of vendetta against you and it is HIS vendetta, not the children’s. Since his scope of attacking you is narrowed, the children become the ultimate weapon. What better way to hurt you than to have your kids turn against you?
So what can you do about it?  There is nothing you can do about how your husband behaves.  The only person you can control is you. Continue to love your children and be a support for them.  If you think the alienation becomes so overt that your children no longer will eat what you cook for them or refuse to come home because they claim you don’t keep the house clean enough (and you know you do), then you want to have a candid conversation about why they feel the way they do.  Have them see how their father’s comments conflict with the reality.  Let them make their minds up that what he tells them is false versus the truth of the reality.   When they are able to do that, other such comments by your husband, will be diffused by them quickly.
Children are smart. They do figure it out.  Your job is to lead them to their own epiphany.
-Susan