Sometimes in the aftermath of separation and divorce, a child’s attitude toward a parent may change; the child may reject a parent she previously loved. The behavior may even be unconscious on the part of the child. Fear of losing custody of a child, anger and bitterness often play a role when one parent tries to alienate a child from the other parent. Often an alienating parent is unaware of her behavior. Although children react differently, some children eventually re-establish a relationship with the alienated parent.
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Seek support from a counselor, social worker or family service agency in your area. A professional can offer guidance and information about parental alienation. Knowing how to recognize the behaviors associated with parental alienation can help a parent determine if this truly is the problem or if something else is wrong with the parent/child relationship.
Resist the temptation to retaliate and cause problems for the other parent. Dr. Douglas Darnall, author of “Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children From Parental Alienation,” suggests that instead of getting mad and defensive, use your efforts to strengthen your relationship with your child. Let your child know that you want to be with him.
Work with the other parent to resolve your conflicts, whether they concern visitation or some other matter. Your child will fare better if the two of you can work together. The goal is to love your child more than you dislike or distrust your former spouse. Co-parenting following divorce can be difficult; therefore, for it to be successful, parents must be able to amicably resolve any conflicts that arise over time. Dr. Sam Margulies, an attorney who specializes in mediation and conflict resolution training, recommends including a mediation clause in the separation agreement. That way, parents can seek help from a mediator if an issue comes up concerning their child that they are unable to settle between them.
Petition the court to order the alienating parent into therapy. Continue your visitations while the other parent gets help resolving his personal issues. This may be an extreme case; however, the sooner you intervene, the better it will be for the child. Not all alienating parents attempt to create a rift intentionally. It may be a case of losing self-control when the parent is consumed with feelings of anger and betrayal.
Talk to someone who understands parental alienation syndrome. The person may be able to help you accept that you and your ex-partner are going to be actively involved in your child’s life despite separation or divorce. Find a way to get along with each other for your child’s sake. Treat each other with respect so that your child learns to respect both of you.