Parental Alienation - what is it and how can we avoid it?
Parental alienation is not defined in one single way, but CAFCASS recognise it as the below:
Parental alienation is when a child's resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.
Parental alienation is becoming an increasing problem for children of parents that are not together anymore - and not just because it’s on the increase…it’s also more known about and discussed.
And parental alienation can go beyond the parent…it extends to family and friends, and even new partners.
Whilst we can probably all read the above and feel pretty convinced that this is not the case for us and our children, how many of us can be completely honest and say that we never do any of the below as a parent who is separated or divorced from our child/children’s father (or about other members of the ex’s family, or friends of theirs)?
Badmouth the ex (either in front of our child/children, or to a friend/family member when the kids are asleep upstairs - they are not always asleep!)
Belittle the ex (again, as per above)
Argue with the ex on the phone when the kids are in bed (or even when they are up and in the same room as you) - presuming that they probably can’t hear
Pull negative faces if our children reference the other parent
Limit contact for children with their other parent - even on one off occasions. Coronavirus is also a great example of this happening a lot - it was used as a reason for children being kept away from the other parent, which we may believe was the right thing to do…but was it really?
Ban conversation about the other parent whilst a child is with us as a parent
Create the impression that the ex doesn’t like the child
Create the impression that the ex does not prioritise the child
Talk to our children about the situation as we feel that they “deserve” to know - know what? What we as the parent think? That’s not what they need to think….
All of the above are perfectly real scenarios that we see a lot of in the case of separated families. It’s absolutely ok and expected that we do all of these things, but NOT when your children can hear or see it.
It’s not fair on them, or the other parent.
And though many feel that they don’t care about the other parent, or that the other parent deserves it….we all care about our children. And, as I say in a lot of my articles, our children need to be free to love both of their parents, and actively encouraged to do so (obviously there are extreme exceptions e.g abuse and addiction cases).
No-one sets out to do something that physically harms their child/children…and this is no different...it’s just less visible, and more prolonged.
So how do you avoid doing it?
There are loads of ways, and I try to encourage all my clients to find what works for them, with as little impact on any children involved as possible.
We talk about different ways of letting the emotion out - through talking with friends or family, exercising, working, eating, drinking, sleeping, talking to a counsellor, learning/studying….
You have to do what works best for you.
And the reason - Parental Alienation and your child’s Mental Health.
I have absolutely no doubt that we are all doing our best as parents and none of us want anything negative to impact on our children, but there are so many people that don’t realise the damage that they can be doing on the inside.
But you don’t have to listen to me…..below are some cuttings from the CAFCASS separated parenting information programme - which I encourage any separated parent to go on.
Straight from children’s mouths:
And what they really want:
If you are finding it difficult to find a way of dealing with the emotion of divorce or separation and would like some support in letting it out without impacting on your children, then please call Emily on 07814009408. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.