What do I if I suspect my children are being alienated against me?
Parental alienation is when one parent attempts to turn the child against the other parent. Parental alienation involves a series of deliberate steps aimed at sabotaging the child’s relationship with the other parent. This can be accomplished by speaking negatively about the other parent and preventing the child from spending quality time with the other parent.
If your child is being turned against you, be the good parent that your child deserves.
If your child mentions allegations from the other parent, do not react negatively. Do not retaliate against the other parent and avoid defending yourself to your child. Your child does not need to know your side of the story. Establish firm boundaries of what is an appropriate conversation for kids and what should be discussed between parents only.
When appropriate, acknowledge to your child that you are not perfect and that everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledge your child’s feelings. If your child feels hurt by something you did or said, apologize. You do not get to chose how your child should actually be feeling. Your priority should be on reducing harm to your child even if your pride is hurt by something that was brought up.
Equally as important, respect your child’s boundaries. If your child tells you that they do not want you to hug them; give your child space. If your child does not like a nickname; do not call them that name. If your child does not want to see you for a visit; offer to meet with the child at another time when they’re comfortable with it. If your child does not want to do an activity you are offering, ask your child what they would like to do instead. Show your child that you respect them and will do whatever it takes to make your child comfortable spending time with you.
It might be beneficial to reach out to your child using other methods. Send your child a letter in the mail letting them know you’re thinking about them. Send a text message or video call. Drop a treat off at their school with a cute note. Take steps to show that you care and you are trying to improve the relationship. If you fail to do anything, it may be viewed as “proof” that you do not actually care.
It is also helpful to involve professionals as soon as possible. Your child will benefit from meeting with a psychologist or some other trained mental health specialist. At the very least, it gives your child a neutral person to confide in. Mental health workers can help your child navigate the uncomfortable position that the other parent may have created for the child. Speak with a social worker and lawyer regarding your options to keep your child safe.
Finally, it is important that you also take care of yourself during this stressful time. You will struggle to meet your child’s needs if you are failing to take care of your own. Try not to be to hard on yourself and do not be afraid to ask for help. Building a healthy support system will benefit you and your child endlessly.