How parental alienation harms a child

Most divorced or separated parents would likely admit to experiencing difficulties when attempting to sort out child custody matters with an ex. Child custody issues are often highly emotional and can quickly escalate if parents aren't able to communicate effectively. In these types of cases, a child is the ultimate loser and he or she may be negatively impacted in a number of ways.

Parental alienation occurs when one parent's actions, comments or behaviors serve to effectively alienate and turn a child against the other parent. Examples of alienating behaviors include sharing inappropriate details of a divorce or split with a child, blaming an ex for one's financial problems, questioning a child about his or her relationship with an ex and refusing to be flexible with visitation schedules or to allow an ex to see a child.

In cases where a child subsequently develops parental alienation syndrome, he or she may express "hatred towards the targeted parent." This may result in a child not wanting to see or have anything to do with the targeted parent.

Parents who alienate a child from a mother or father may do so intentionally or, in some cases, unintentionally. In any case, it's a child who ultimately suffers as he or she loses out on the ability to form a close, loving and lasting bond with both parents.

For parents who have been the targets of parental alienation, it's normal to feel angry, sad and frustrated. It's important to always keep in mind that it's not a child's fault and, regardless of what a child says or does, not to give up on a son or daughter. For example, it's extremely important to continue to show up for scheduled visits and make attempts to see and connect with a child.

In some cases, a parent may enlist the assistance of an attorney who can help ensure that a custody and visitation agreement order is enforced. Additionally, an attorney can provide advice and help a parent find the appropriate resources to foster a healthy relationship with a child.

Source:, "Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome," June 5, 2015

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