I’m Experiencing Parental Alienation, What Can I Do?
You’re going through a contentious divorce and find yourself caught up in a custody battle. Suddenly it feels as if the relationship with one or more of your children has changed overnight. Your child is angry at you and blaming you for the divorce. Your child is saying things that they normally wouldn’t say. You feel hurt, shocked, and betrayed. What is going on?
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation occurs when one parent psychologically manipulates a child resulting in that child refusing to have a relationship with the other parent. This phenomenon often occurs when one parent exhibits narcissistic or emotionally abusive traits. The narcissistic parent may convince their child that the other parent hates them, has said bad things about them, or is to blame for conflict happening in the family. Additionally, the narcissistic parent may punish the child for choosing to have a relationship with the other parent or make it difficult for the other parent to communicate with the child. Although parental alienation often occurs during a divorce and custody battle, it can take place within intact families as well.
The Impact on Children
Parental alienation can be emotionally damaging to a child, resulting in the child feeling confused, hurt, lonely, and guilty. A child may start to blame him or herself for wanting to pursue a relationship with one parent causing them to feel anxious, insecure, and scared. Additionally, parental alienation can lower a child’s self-esteem and impair their relationships with others.
What Can I Do If My Child is Being Alienated From Me?
- Although it is valid to feel incredibly hurt, try not to be angry with your child. Remember that your child is experiencing emotional and psychological manipulation by a parent who is supposed be a source of unconditional support, love, and guidance.
- Don’t blame yourself! It can be hard not to feel responsible when your child is repeating words your partner or ex-partner has instilled in them. Remember that this is a manipulation tactic by your partner and not truth or fact.
- Be patient. If your spouse has legal rights to parenting the child, then you have limited control over the impact they have on your child during their assigned visitation periods. Make sure to document any evidence of abuse perpetrated by your spouse/ex on your child and report to CPS as necessary.
- Continue to be the steady, nurturing parent. Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse for a child and causes psychological distress. On some level, your child can sense that a parent may withhold love and affection if they disagree with them. You can counter this distress by being loving, consistent, and unconditionally accepting of your child, even when they are angry with you.
- Continue to set limits. It is possible one parent may let the child get away with negative behaviors to win the child’s favor and further estrange them from the other parent. Remember that your child needs and deserves good parenting which includes rules, boundaries, and consistency!
- Seek help through counseling. A therapist who specializes in narcissistic or emotional abuse can be a helpful support and resource during this emotionally stressful time.
I offer therapy for men and women experiencing parental alienation from a narcissistic or emotionally abusive co-parent. Services are offered online in Brentwood, Tennessee – Nashville, Tennessee- Augusta, Georgia.