Too often, divorcing spouses let their emotions about each other cloud their judgment as parents. In this environment, some parents resort to actions that can cause significant damage to a child. One example of this is parental alienation.
Parental alienation involves a parent’s attempts to turn a child against the other parent unfairly. This manipulation – which some people call brainwashing – can take a devastating toll on a child and their relationship with the alienated parent.
How alienation hurts children
Numerous studies into parental alienation show that it can cause serious problems for a child and may rise to the level of abuse. Studies suggest that a child victim of an alienating parent can experience:
- Low self-esteem
- Substance abuse
- Compromised ability to give and accept love
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
These consequences of alienation do not just affect children when the denigration is actively happening. They can follow a child indefinitely, influencing their health, lifestyle and future relationships.
Further, turning a child against a loving, capable parent robs that child of the benefits of having a meaningful relationship with a mother or father.
Protecting your child from alienation
You need not wait until the other parent shows signs of manipulating your child to act. There are ways you can protect your child from alienation in the first place.
First, you can fight for a fair custody agreement that allows you to play an active role in your child’s life. And during your time with your child – whatever that may be – keep your focus on being present, supportive and compassionate to counter any vilification from the other parent.
It can also be crucial that you keep your own actions and statements in check. Lashing out at the other parent or putting your child in an unfair position can be similar to what an ex is doing and will not help the situation. In other words, do not sink to the other person’s level.
If you do suspect that the other parent is attempting to turn your child against you, talk to your lawyer right away. With legal support, you could pursue custody modification or other interventions that preserve your rights and protect your child’s welfare.