Disputes between divorcing parents are a common occurrence, especially in high-tension situations. These issues can escalate when parents are trying to settle critical problems like child custody during a divorce. Unfortunately, in some cases, these conflicts can lead to parental alienation. This occurs when one parent intentionally belittles or badmouths the other. They do so to cause the child to unjustifiably refuse contact with the targeted parent.
There are steps that parents can take to address this situation, particularly if the divorcing spouses are using an alternative dispute resolution method like collaborative divorce.
How to recognize parental alienation
Children experiencing parental alienation often exhibit these common signs:
- Repeating negative comments: The child might start echoing the negative comments or accusations made by the alienating parent about the targeted parent. This can result from the alienating parent repeatedly speaking ill of the other in front of the child.
- Negative attitude toward the other parent: The child might show consistent disrespect or rejection of the other parent.
- Viewing the other parent in a negative light: The child focuses only on the faults of the targeted parent while idealizing the alienating parent.
Parental alienation doesn’t just harm the targeted parent. It also significantly affects the child’s mental and emotional health. Research suggests that during the ages of 9 to 13, a child’s perception of a parent’s absence due to parental alienation can become a permanent part of their life. This can lead to erasing positive memories with the rejected parent and reinforce a distorted, negative view of that parent.
How a child specialist can help
When the possibility of alienation arises during a collaborative divorce, a child specialist can help address the issue early on. This specialist will aim to protect the child’s interests and guide parents in co-parenting. Their collaborative approach benefits everyone involved and sets the stage for effective co-parenting and positive outcomes. This can help families build healthier dynamics and stronger parent-child bonds even in the face of parental alienation.