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How parental alienation can harm your children

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2024 | Family Law

Protecting your children can be hard when you and their other parent don’t get along. While seeking a custody modification may be necessary to shield them from exposure to issues like parental substance abuse and domestic violence, your children’s other parent might also cause them psychological damage by engaging in parental alienation.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is a manipulation tactic in which one parent skews a child’s perceptions in hopes of damaging their relationship with the other parent. By doing so, the child may come to despise the alienated parent, even going so far as to disparage them in-person and on a constant basis.

The effects of parental alienation can be wide-reaching and severe. They include:

  • Trouble developing healthy relationships: Children who have been alienated from a parent have been conditioned to shun people when they feel threatened, and their perceptions of risk and threat are oftentimes unrealistic. This means that they can find themselves consistently isolated, which can lead to other mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
  • Issues with people of authority: Parental alienation teaches your child how to sidestep and even disrespect someone in a position of authority. A long-term issue, this lack of respect for positions of authority can create problems with schooling, employment, and even the law.
  • A desire to be rewarded for anger: In situations where a child is being alienated, they’re rewarded for exhibiting anger, hostility, and even rage toward the alienated parent. The child might then grow to expect reward for exhibiting this problematic behavior. As a result, your child might develop aggressive behavior and struggle with accepting consequences for poor behavior. Again, if parental alienation goes unchecked, this could be an issue that your child exhibits into adulthood.
  • Substance abuse and eating disorder risks: Parental alienation causes a child to lose a parent. In turn, the child may grieve that loss. If they’re unequipped to cope with that loss and its resulting trauma, then they might turn to other coping mechanisms, which could include substance abuse or restricted food intake that eventually turns into an eating disorder.
  • Low self-esteem: Parental alienation can confuse your child. Since they may be manipulated into believing that you don’t care about them, they might think that something is wrong with them. They’ll search out flaws in their own personality, behavior, and appearance, and they might be left feeling like they can never make themselves good enough. This is dangerous, creating low self-esteem that restricts their potential to fulfill the life they deserve.

What can you do about parental alienation?

Although the effects of parental alienation are stressful to think about, you can act to stop them. To be successful, you’ll probably need to file a child custody modification. Persuasive evidence will be necessary to succeed on one of these motions. So, you should do the following in preparation:

  • Retain all written communications with the other parent and your child.
  • Talk to those who have witnessed alienating behaviors or your bond with your child.
  • Gather your child’s medical records.
  • Consider having your child assessed by a mental health professional.
  • Think about whether a child custody evaluation would be beneficial.
  • Talk to experts who may be able to help you educate the court on parental alienation.

If you can do these things, then you could be successful in modifying custody in a way that protects your child. Don’t delay, though, as time is of the essence when it comes to safeguarding your child’s safety and well-being.