After a divorce, angry, vengeful or mentally unwell parents may try to turn their child against their other parent unfairly. This is a hallmark of parental alienation.
As we have discussed in a previous post, there are ways parents can attempt to repair the damage of parental alienation. However, preventing these situations from arising in the first place is something that you should seriously consider. Here are some tips for what you can do to perhaps prevent or at least ameliorate the worst effects of parental alienation.
1. Secure a shared parenting arrangement. Spending time with your child in the wake of a divorce or separation is critical in preventing efforts to turn a child against you. This can require persistent efforts to secure arrangements that allow you to spend as much time as possible with your child and have the right to participate in decisions for them. A lawyer can help you whether you negotiate an agreement in mediation or fight for your children’s rights in court. It is simply wrong to say give the kids time to get over the alienation/refusal to see you. Maintaining a regular parenting time schedule is crucial.
2. Comply with your parenting plan. Once a court approves a parenting plan, complying with it is vital. If you violate the terms by missing parenting time exchanges or keeping your child from your ex or even acquiesce to persistent parenting time denials, not only do you face enforcement efforts, but you also make it easier for the other parent to self justify themselves and make allegations against you. In short, stick to the parenting plan. Ensure your kids get to enjoy their scheduled time with you.
3. Talk to the professionals. Parenting (custody) specialists, legal advocates and mental health professionals can all help protect your child’s well-being. They can also help you understand and watch out for early signs of manipulative or toxic behaviours by the other parent.
4. Talk to your child. Combatting misinformation can be as straightforward as talking to your child yourself. Let them ask questions. You can provide age-appropriate responses but be sure to avoid casting blame on the other parent or bad mouthing the other parent in any way. Further, know that it can be natural for a child to be angry with one or both parents. Make sure they know you love them and will always be there for them.
5. Don’t expect perfection. Separation/Divorce is difficult for families, and people often say things they don’t really mean and do things they might later regret. Rather than focus only on the missteps along the way, stay dedicated to the higher priorities of taking care of your child and defending your child’s right to enjoy a decent relationship with both parents.
These measures can hopefully help you to prevent parental alienation and make life after separation/divorce easier for you and your children.