Parental alienation is a growing problem that can have a devastating impact on both parents and children. It is a tactic that is often deployed by narcissists as they seek to assert total control over their former partners and children.
Alienated parents often experience extreme pain and loneliness, as they are cut off from their children. The children of alienated parents also suffer, as they lose out on an important relationships with one of parents.
In this blog post, I will discuss the weapons used to destroy a child’s relationship with a parent. I will also address the destructive impact of parental alienation on both the alienated parent and their children.
How does parental alienation happen
Parental alienation occurs when one parent unscrupulously manipulates their child to believe that their other parent does not love them.
This can be done in various ways:
The parent may tell their child that the other parent does not love them, or that they are dangerous. In some cases they will even concoct stories about abuse that never happened, convincing the child that their parent hurt them. This tactic is particularly effective with young children, who are not yet able to think critically or question the parent’s authority.
Denying adequate contact time
The alienating parent will change plans for visitation at the last minute, or insist on picking up the child early. They will also manipulate their child to say that they do not want to spend time with the alienated parent.
In cases where visitation proceeds as per the custody agreement, the alienating parent will make it a point to intrude. They could do this by messaging or calling their child constantly, or texting the alienated parent to pick a fight.
The alienating parent will fill the child’s head with negative messages about the other parent. With time, the child will start to believe them and accept them as fact.
Recruiting the child to act as a spy
In some cases the alienating parent will ask the child to report back on the other parent’s activities and conversations. This is a particularly insidious form of manipulation. It not only destroys the child’s relationship with the other parent, but also erodes their trust and sense of safety.
Excluding the other parent from important events in the child’s life
The alienated parent will be deliberately excluded from birthdays, school events and other important milestones. This is designed to send the message to the child that the other parent is not important, and does not care about them.
This is even more damaging if there is a new partner on the scene, since they will be attending these events, further diminishing the status of the alienated parent in their child’s life.
What are the signs of parental alienation?
Parental alienation also has a significant impact on the children involved.
In many cases, the child will start to believe the lies that their other parent is telling them about the alienated parent. They may start to view the alienated parent in a negative light and end up disliking or even hating them.
This can cause immense emotional damage to the child and can lead to problems in their future relationships.
The following are some of the signs that indicate that a child may be struggling with the impact of parental alienation:
The child may express anger towards the alienated parent, often without any justification. In the child’s mind the alienated parent does not love them and does not want to spend time with them, or even that they are abusive.
Obviously these are difficult thoughts and emotions for a child to process, and they are often overwhelmed by the negativity. In the long term it can cause problems with their ability to regulate their own emotions and may lead to them acting out in destructive ways.
Lack of self-esteem
When the child believes that one of their parents does not care about them, it destroys their self-esteem. It leads to them thinking that they are not loveable. This is obviously very damaging, since it can lead to a lifetime of insecurity and self-doubt.
The child may start to experience anxiety, particularly around contact with the alienated parent. This often appears in the form of separation anxiety, with the child causing a scene every time they have to leave the alienating parent to stay with their other parent.
In extreme cases this fear of abandonment can extend beyond visitation, with the child becoming excessively and unhealthily clingy with their alienating parent. This can impact them when they go to school, or even as they develop friendships, since they will refuse to be left alone at parties or at other activities such as sleepovers.
The child often withdraws from activities that they used to enjoy, and may start to isolate themselves from their friends. They is because they feel that nobody else understands what they are going through. It could also be because they are embarrassed about the situation with their parents.
It can also be a form of self-protection, since they may feel that if they keep to themselves then they will not be hurt by the situation. However, this isolation can lead to problems in the future, since it can make it difficult for the child to form and maintain relationships.
The child will not understand why the alienation is happening, and will feel caught in the middle of the conflict. They become caught in a cycle of rumination that impacts their peace of mind. In particularly bad cases they could also have problems sleeping, as their mind races with anxious thoughts about the situation.
The child may become depressed, and may even start to self-harm or engage in other risky behaviours. Some children try to attain a measure of control over their environment by restricting their eating. In severe cases, the child may turn to substance abuse, or even start to contemplate or attempt suicide.
It is important to remember that not all children will show all of these signs. In fact, some children may not display any obvious signs of distress. However, if you are concerned about your child’s mental health then it is important to seek professional help.
What can you do if you think your child is being alienated from you?
If you think that your child is being alienated from you, it is important to seek professional help. Parental alienation is a complex issue, and it can be difficult to navigate on your own.
A professional will be able to assess the situation and provide guidance on how to best protect your relationship with your child.
It is also very important that you document and keep proof of what is happening, since you might have to resort to the courts to maintain access to your child. Keep a journal, recording any changes in your child’s behaviour, and any incidents that you think are relevant.
Make it a point to note every time the other parent turned up late or reduced access to your child. Also take note of strange comments made by your child that lead you to think that they are being manipulated or brainwashed against you.
You should also try to stay calm and level-headed, since it can be easy to get caught up in the emotion of the situation. Try to remember that your child is caught in the middle, and that they need your support.
What is most important, however, is that you communicate with your child as frequently as possible. Make it a point to constantly reassure them and remind them that you love them. They need to know how important they are to you, and that you will always be there for them.
Final thoughts on parental alienation
Do not give up hope and keep fighting for your relationship with your child. Parental alienation is a difficult situation, but it is not impossible to overcome. With time, patience and professional help, you and your child can heal the wounds caused by this toxic form of parental conflict.
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