The hardest part of a separation for most people is the way it affects their children. I have seen the whole spectrum when it comes to child custody. Some couples work well when the children are involved, even though they fight like cats and dogs about everything else. However, most parents become protective over their child and begin to put their child in a position that forces them to pick sides.
Recognition and Avoidance
Unfortunately it is extremely common to begin alienating your child during your separation. You are obviously hurting, and that hurt is bound to spill over onto your children. These feeling will die down and hopefully you will better facilitate your ex’s involvement with your child. Recognize when you make negative comments in front of the children, or when you question the other parents parenting ability. If there are legitimate concerns they should be brought to a parenting coordinator, not your children. Do not put your children in the role of a therapist. It is harmful to the child and looks terrible in front of a Judge.
The Actively Alienating Parent
While most people will overcome the natural urge to alienate their children, many parents get worse and worse. These parents actively alienate their children consistently and constantly. It is rare that you will actually catch them doing it because the nature of this pathology makes the child look responsible. The alienating parent will claim that they are doing nothing to influence the child’s behavior. They will claim the child has a natural and unaffected hatred of the other parent. The child is ultimately where the symptoms of parental alienation are going to show. Look for these behaviors:
- The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior.
- The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger.
- The child is sure of himself or herself and doesn’t demonstrate ambivalence, i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate.
- The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The “independent-thinker” phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this.
- The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent.
- The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent.
- The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced.
- Animosity spreads to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.
What can you do?
Parental alienation is a covert process, and it is extremely difficult to convince a Judge to take action without definitive proof. A Judge understands that there can be many reasons for a child to alienate a parent. There are natural reasons like rebellious teenagers. There are legitimate reasons such as drug use by the parent. It often requires the testimony of a forensic physiological evaluator to convince a Judge that a parent should be sanctioned for parental alienation. Here are some tactics for you to keep in mind and to practice in the meantime:
- Be proactive; do not believe this problem will just go away on its own. It will most likely get worse.
- Realize that there is not much you can do about the alienating parent. You can only change yourself. Take a good look at your own behaviors and modify where necessary.
- Be a strong parent. Do not roll over easily no matter how angry your children may be with you.
- Find ways to attach with your children every day. Even if they don’t want you to. Call them, text them, talk to them, touch them; do whatever you can to connect to your children.
- Be solid. Be direct. Be firm. Be consistent. Be stable. Even if you don’t feel those things, act as if you do.
- Do not grovel, beg, or allow your children to see that you are threatened by their behavior. Stand strong.
- If the alienating parent encourages your children to disobey you, hold your ground and make sure your children do what you request; starting with “no disrespectful behavior in the home.” Period.
- Join a support group so you can get help as you deal with this battle for your children.
If you are ready to take action against an alienating parent, contact Keithley Law, PLLC, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office with one of our attorneys. We can walk you through the steps to get the most out of your case.