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Parental Alienation – Things to Watch

Over the recent month I have written about parental alienation in a couple of articles.  It is one of those painful situations for both the parents and the children and it’s something that does not have to happen at all.  Often the process begins slowly and builds over time.  Although it may seem to the parent that the child just “suddenly” changed and stopped behaving the same, it rarely happens that way.  Parental alienation usually begins as a slow and steady process.  It may be purposeful by the other parent, their family and friends. It may be comments that are carelessly stated out of hurt and anger.  Either way, result is likely to be the same.  The child is caught in the middle and will often trust the “commenting” parent without question.  Whether the situation is one of carelessness or an outright attempt to destroy the other parent’s relationship with the child, there are steps that can be taken if it’s caught early enough. 

Recognize the signs

Dedicate time to your parent-child relationship.  When you spend time with your child, notice little changes.  First, make sure that if you only have your child on weekends, spend time with your child on those weekends.  Make him or her a priority in your plans.  That does not mean you need to necessarily include them in the decision making of the plans but if you have your child one weekend out of the month, dedicate that weekend to spending quality time with your child.  This will help you recognize if things between you begin to change. 

Open Dialogue

Keep an open dialogue with your kids: the hints above will help you stay close enough to the child.  That will let you speak with him openly and ask him or her honestly if something is bothering him/her.   A child’s ability to trust in conversation with his/her parent is vital in this situation  If the child is afraid of your reaction, he may not want to tell you what is happening at the other parent’s home.

Think!

Think about what you say in front of the kids/think about what NOT to say in front of your kids: When you are around your former spouse, be aware of little comments that are made in front of your child.  Attacks toward one another will make a situation worse.  Here are some examples:

  • Mom is scheduled to drop her daughter off with her ex.  He is late and that is often the case.  She comments outloud “your father is never on time.  Bet he was at his girlfriends again”.  The child says “Dad doesn’t have a girlfriend!” and Mom comments “Yeah ok.” Now, what has just happened is that Mom has planted a seed in the daughter’s mind that maybe Dad hasn’t been honest with her. 
  • Dad shows up 10 minutes late and says to Mom, “I am sorry I was late.  Traffic was awful.”  He looks at daughter and smiles and says “Ready to go honey? We got a great weekend planned!”  Daughter doesn’t smile like usual.  Mom says “We know you weren’t stuck in traffic.  You don’t need to lie to us anymore.”  See the shift – Mom just brought the daughter into her “fight” against Dad.  Daughter has no choice but to stand beside Mom or upset her.  

Dad’s best move at the moment would be to completely ignore Mom’s comments and keep his focus on the daughter.  Any issues he had about a girlfriend and the Mom’s feelings about it are between him and the Mom.  This is not the time to air it out.  If a conversation happens, it should happen with the mother at another time when the daughter is not present. 

Have you experienced a situation like this?  Do you see other signs of parental alienation? There are legal options to help you stop it before the damage is done to the relationship with your child.  Contact Me and we will discuss your options.  

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After Divorce: Why is my Child So Angry?

Part of my practice in family law deals in working with parents after the divorce and the adjustment of the...

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