Tragically, children are often used as pawns or weapons during and after the divorce process. Often, this manifests itself in the form of parental alienation.
By definition, parental alienation is the “programming of a child by one parent to denigrate the other targeted parent, in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with that parent, and is often a sign of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple conflict and focus on the needs of the child. Such denigration results in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, and the loss of a capable and loving parent from the life of the child.”
There are many forms of parental alienation. It could be one parent denying access to the targeted parent. Or it could be one parent constantly badmouthing their ex to try to turn their children against the other.
It’s unclear how common parental alienation is, but it is apparent that it is a serious issue. One study estimates that parental alienation occurs in 11-15% of divorces involving children.
This is heartbreaking on a number of levels. One parent sees his or her relationship with their children destroyed. Parental alienation is also a form of child abuse that can cause numerous harmful effects on children, including anger, educational problems, eating disorders and depression. Considering having access to both parents has been proven time and again as the healthiest post-divorce arrangement for kids, this should come as no surprise.
While parental alienation is common post-divorce, its roots often trace to when parents are still together.
“It’s the kind of thing that you see where sometimes one child and one parent are the main unit,” said Dr. Samantha Rodman, who is a licensed psychologist and expert on parental alienation. “… This sort of behavior is called triangulation where it’s the kid and the parent against another parent and that can be really toxic for the children, because they don’t learn to respect both parents equally.”
It is crucial to know the symptoms of parental alienation syndrome, because it is much easier to prevent rather than fix after the fact.
Here are 5 ways to combat parental alienation when you notice your ex trying to turn your children against you.
Don’t try alienating your ex
When you notice your ex trying to turn your kids against you, it is human nature to want to fight fire with fire by engaging in the same type of behavior.
Resist this temptation.
Look into all the health risks and emotional turmoil parental alienation poses for children. The last thing they need is for their parents to use them as pawns . It puts them in a no-win situation where they’re forced to pick a side, which leads to intense feelings of guilt.
Put you children’s interests first, no matter what.
Stay positive and avoid blaming your kids
If your ex is able to turn your kids against you, you’re likely going to hear a lot of hurtful and disrespectful things not only from her, but also your children.
Remember that they’re victims just like you. They’ve been brainwashed and their sentiments are misguided. Lashing back at them with anger is only going to compound the problem.
Do whatever you can to remain positive. Let them vent to you and reinforce how much you love them whenever you can.
If denied contact, don’t stop trying to get in touch
It’s extremely discouraging when your ex starts denying you contact with your kids. It all seems pointless when she starts blocking your calls, intercepting the cards and gifts you send and denying visitation.
You can’t give up. Once you do that, your ex can say, “See, your dad just doesn’t care about you.”
Have faith that the truth will come out eventually.
Seek a legal remedy if possible
If you are being denied court-ordered parenting time or visitation, then you have legal options to ensure that order is enforced.
If you can prove an intentional violation of a court order, your ex could be held in contempt. And if there is a pattern of parenting time interference, courts could use the denial as a basis to grant a modification of a child custody order.
Keep detailed records of every time you are denied contact and consult with a family law attorney in your area to make sure you understand all your options.
Prove your ex wrong
Possibly the best weapon of all against PAS is simply being the best parent you can possibly be.
Actions speak much louder than words. Your ex’s portrayal of you as a mean, uncaring, insensitive monster isn’t going to hold up if you’re always doing everything you can to be the best dad possible for your kids.
This can be tough when you’re unable to spend much time with them, but make the most of your opportunities. You don’t need to be a “Disneyland dad.”
Take the time to listen to your children about what’s going on in their lives. Give advice on how to handle their problems. Help them with their homework. Just let them know you care.
Trust that they’re eventually going to see how much you love them. And if you’ve managed to take the high road, despite constant abuse from your ex, they’re going to respect you even more.