Parental Alienation is a Troubling Family and Social Occurrence That Must Be Prevented and Halted

Parental alienation is an alarming social phenomenon, usually exhibited by children whose parents have separated, are fighting, or going through a bitter divorce. It is characterized by a strong dislike or hatred of a child to a parent for any number of reasons. It has become a subject of much debate because it is so closely linked to legal and psychological matters, and has many implications that can further aggravate an already incendiary or fragile situation as far as parent-child relations are concerned.

That parental alienation must be stopped and prevented at all costs comes as no question. Its consequences can affect the child, his parents, and people around them, and echo well into adulthood if left unchecked. Preventing parental alienation from wreaking havoc on so many lives necessitates a keen eye on its symptoms and knowing how to put the brakes on it from disrupting what is supposed to be a loving relationship between parents and children.

Though this is by no means an exhaustive checklist, parental alienation has become the target study of mental health and legal professionals because of the potential harm it can bring. Most of its earlier signs are borne out of close observation from such professionals and can hopefully guide parents and guardians into spotting them as soon as they are manifested.

Parental alienation #1:

In a divorce, separation, or embittered fight, a parent can cut off some or all forms of communication of the other parent with their child.

What can be done about it:

Check yourself for signs if you are the alienating parent. Ask yourself if you have ever denied to your child that his other parent has called, sent a letter, email or message, or intercepted a gift or any form of communication sent to him. Even just a few incidences of these is a form of parental alienation, albeit a milder one compared to the more severe and damaging alienating behavior of other parents or guardians. If you suspect that it is the other parent doing the alienating as far as communication is concerned, sit your child down and calmly ask him if this is so without maligning his other parent. Ask if he is aware of specific phone calls, messages, or gifts sent and if they got to him in time. If the answer is in the negative, seek an audience with your former spouse or partner along with your respective lawyers for discussions on proper and fair child custody.

Parental alienation #2:

The child lies to or betrays the trust of the one parent in favor one the other

What can be done about it:

Again, check yourself if you are guilty of doing precisely this. Having a child lie on your behalf is a devious device to control his affections towards the other parent, even if the lie seems inconsequential. Explaining a divorce or separation and all its implications to a young child requires delicate handling but never lies and half-truths. Even if it’s difficult especially if the separation is still fresh and some resentment lingers, try your best to speak honestly to your child and answer any questions he may have about the divorce. Do not be afraid to tell your child I don’t know, but that you will hopefully find answers for currently painful or difficult questions in the near future. If your child tells you something about you meant that is meant to insult, and which was obviously fed by his other parent to paint a bad picture of you, set things right by speaking in a calm manner to your child and setting things straight. Do not retaliate by maligning the other parent in turn. Your child should never be used as a tool or leverage for personal vendetta.

Parental alienation #3:

The child is constantly sick, away, or unavailable and there always seems to be a reason for him not to see you during appointed times

What can be done about it:

This is perhaps one of the more alarming early signs of parental alienation since it involves physical absence, bringing with it a lot of anxiety causing scenarios. A child can be brainwashed by an alienating parent into choosing certain activities over being with the other parent. These can come in the form of bribes such as trips to theme parks, games, toy stores, or material things that guarantee instant gratification and win the child over as to who the fun parent is. It is important to have a written and witnessed agreement between the separated parents as to the arranged schedule of which parent the child spends a certain time with. Deviation from the agreed on arrangement can have legal consequences, so do your best to stick to it. Prolonged absence, even with illness as reason, must be closely investigated so no parental alienation, intended or otherwise, can occur.

These are just some of the most common early signs of parental alienation that a child can exhibit. Nipping them in the bud involves open communication between the estranged parents and their child, without the child acting as conduit, messenger, spy, or leverage for anyone. Acting in a civil and mature manner can do wonders to keep parental alienation at bay, and helping your child nurture healthy relationships with both parents despite the separation.

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