Parental Alienation, which is described as the heartbreaking social dynamic in which a child feels and expresses a very strong dislike (and sometimes even hatred) for one of their parents. It’s an issue that usually develops during or after a high conflict divorce, because of parental bullying and manipulation. And according to the stats, it’s a growing trend here in Michigan and throughout the US.
The understanding of how it happens is changing.
Initially it was believed that parental alienation happened as a result of one or two scenarios. With the exception of situations where there’s child abuse or violence against the child, which results in understandable rejection of the abusive parent, parental alienation was thought to be caused by the ‘other parent’. More recent research is showing that the actions of both parents, and even extended family members can all contribute to parental alienation.
How does a parent cause a child to alienate their other parent?
Parental alienation often happens because of the actions of a toxic co-parent. In this scenario, the toxic parent manipulates the child, convincing them that the rejected parent is a “bad” person who isn’t worthy of their love or respect. Toxic parenting is sometimes referred to as ‘Hostile Aggressive Parenting.’
These are the most common ways that a parent can make a child turn against their other parent:
- Offering the child a choice about visitation, when the court has clearly ruled that it’s not optional.
- Telling the child intimate details of the marriage, including hurtful things the other parent may have said or done. This causes the child to feel protective of the wounded parent, and pits them against the “bad” or “mean” parent.
- Telling the child that the rejected parent is to blame for money problems, or for the “broken” state of the family.
- Claiming that the other parent is the reason why the child has to go without certain things they need or want.
- Using the child to “spy” or “gather intelligence” on the other parent. This sends a message to the child that the victimized parent isn’t trustworthy.
- When the parent acts as if the child needs protection from the other parent. This reinforces the idea that the other parent poses a threat, or is dangerous.
The damages it causes is serious, and can be permanent!
Regardless of the cause, and who’s behind the changes in a child’s feelings towards one of their parents, the result is tragic! Relationships can be permanently ruined if steps aren’t taken soon enough to address the problem.
Therapy or some kind of emotional counseling is one of the more standard ways to help children deal with parental alienation. Being able to address their feelings, talk about why they feel this way, and discuss coping strategies in a safe space are very important. But tharapy isn’t enough. The family court needs to be aware of the problem as well, so they can be a part of the solution.
The Court recognizes that this is a very real issue for families today
Ten years ago mentioning the term “parental alienation’ in court would have earned you a confused stare from the Judge. Now, however, it’s a widely recognized problem, and the family courts in Michigan are taking steps to make sure that this issue doesn’t go unnoticed during divorce proceedings.
If you’re in the middle of a messy divorce, and your soon-to-be-ex is turning your children against you, contact us immediately at (248) 479-6200 at any time of day or night. Our office is conveniently located in Farmington Hills, and we’re here for you at any time, night or day. Come in and talk to one of our skilled family law attorneys, and let us help you save your relationship with your children.