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Parental alienation: What it is, what parents can do about it

A parent's greatest fear in the wake of a divorce can be losing time and a quality relationship with their children. And unfortunately, divorce can adversely impact a parent-child relationship, especially if one parent engages in parental alienation.

Parental alienation involves behaviors by one parent to create or foster an unjustifiable rejection by a child of one of his or her parent. It is a highly divisive and complex matter. However, in this post we will briefly explain what it can look like and what you can do if you believe the other parent of your child has engaged in these harmful behaviors.

What attempts to alienate look like

As this article notes, a parent can engage in many different behaviors to turn a child against the other parent. He or she may:

  • Make deprecating comments about the other parent
  • Falsely accuse the other parent of abuse or neglect
  • Blame the other parent for things like a divorce or the alienating parent's unhappiness
  • Keep the kids away from the other parent in violation of a custody or visitation order
  • Interfere with the communication between a child and the other parent
  • Prohibit a child from having pictures of or talking about the other parent
  • Only refer to the other parent by first name, rather than Mom or Dad

These and similar behaviors are examples of efforts to manipulate a child and make them reject the other parent unjustifiably.

This can be a form of child abuse, as it can rob a child of happiness, emotional health and a meaningful relationship with a loving parent.

What to if you feel you are an alienated parent

Again, parental alienation is highly nuanced. A single behavior mentioned above is likely not going to support claims of parental alienation. And remember that children may have justifiable reasons for rejecting a parent. 

That said, if you fear the other parent is poisoning your child against you without reason, it can be crucial that you act sooner, rather than later. This can mean consulting a psychologist or therapist as well as a legal professional. These parties can advise you on how to proceed and hopefully put a stop to any harmful behaviors affecting your child.

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