Parental Alienation can be a real problem for parents involved in high conflict disputes. This is especially true where the dispute centres around the parenting of children following separation. This can happen where the bond is strained or broken between a parent and child. In many cases, this occurs through the systematic efforts of a high-conflict parent (or other guardian).
Essentially, an adversarial parent can manipulate the children into distancing themselves or ending their familial relationship. This can happen even if the child themselves has no reason to terminate their relationship with the parent. They can subsequently be coached and taught to alienate the other parent.
Whilst not an all-inclusive list, evidence that parental alienation is occurring includes when a parent:
- Regularly interferes with communication between the children and the other parent;
- Makes false allegations of abuse against the other parent and involves the children in these allegation;
- Regularly engineers situations so that the children are ‘unavailable’ to spend time with the other parent;
- Creates and intense fear by the children of spending time with the other parent when no previous fear existed.
If this family law matter is happening to you, or somebody you know, we recently read some great tips to help you (or them) combat parental alienation and we wanted to share these tips with you.
Don’t get defensive
This is the most important tip. When you’re experiencing parental alienation, you will have a natural tendency to act defensively and always explain yourself to the children. Worse, you may want to counter the negative behavior and talk about what horrible things your ex has done with your children or in their presence. This is alienation, too! Don’t fall into the trap by following your natural desire to defend yourself against false accusations.’
Affirm your love
When you do manage to gain contact with your children, regardless of the method, tell them that you love and care for them and that they are often in your thoughts and heart. Let them know they are special to you.
Use positive language
It is very important to avoid using negative language. It’s simple and it’s subtle; sometimes we’ll call it “think like the child.” Examples of using positive language include:
- Instead of, “I miss you…”, which can put the child in a position to feel guilt or upset use, “I look forward to the next time I see you!” this is more upbeat and positive.
- Instead of, “I wish I could have seen that…”, which conveys a lost opportunity or a regret use, “Wow, that’s great to hear and must have been very exciting!” as this conveys excitement, support, and positive reinforcement regarding whatever experience is the topic of conversation
Keep up the contact
Even if you know that your cards, letters, gifts, emails, voice-mails, etc. are being intercepted or are otherwise never delivered – don’t give up trying. Keep a diary or journal of your efforts to contact your children as well as writing to your children as if they were going to read it – someday. This will prove helpful both for you and, hopefully your children, if they have the opportunity to find out the truth at some time in the future.
Be rational and reasonable
Manage your emotions. It is vital that you follow your court orders and agreements and avoid giving your high-conflict ex-partner any reason to vilify you to the children more than they already have.
Don’t play the blame game
Try to remember that the children are also victims in this mess. Although difficult, it is often that when parental alienation is occurring, your children may spy on you, talk about every move you make, every purchase you do, report on who you talk to or spend time with, and if you don’t remember that this is a part of the alienator’s strategy, you could become frustrated at the children and blame them for fuelling the ex partner’s behavior. Don’t let this happen.
Act as you always have and do, in the children’s best interests. This will ensure that as much as possible, the children will not see you as you are being portrayed by your ex-partner. Don’t overdo this though – there is no need to be “extra special” to counter your ex’s false allegations. Just be your usual loving, caring, nurturing self. Always remember that your actions will forever speak louder than your ex-partner’s words, particularly as your children mature.
Don’t break promises
If you have made special plans or arrangements with your children do not change your plans just because you fear that your ex-partner will not permit the children to spend time you as previously arranged or ordered. If you are late or fail to show one time, it may be twisted by your ex-partner into “proof” of your lack of caring for the children and give them the power to further alienate the children from you.
Build the relationship
We do not mean becoming the Disney Land Parent however, a nice vacation, having a catch with the ball, sharing a professional sporting event, or for younger children reading a book together, movie watching etc can be special moments you can share with your children and help build a strong relationship and bond between you and your children.
Have a great team
Legal professionals, mental health professionals, and therapists are all invaluable tools to assist you with decreasing parental alienation. Be sure that whatever processional you use is knowledgeable and experienced. This advice may not come cheap but will be worth it.
Parental alienation of children, no matter how severe, can deeply affect children and their emotional and mental health. Further, this kind of trauma can extend well into adulthood. It’s vital to not get caught up in the conflict and lose sight of what matters most – your kids. It is in their best interests that love for both parents is respected and encouraged.
Tips adapted from the article “10 Top Ways to Fight Parental Alienation” (Mr. Custody Coach).
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