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Three warning signs of parental alienation

On Behalf of | Jul 16, 2019 | Child Custody

Getting a divorce can strain a parent’s relationship with their child. It can seem even more strained if one parent has less parenting time or visitation. Divorcing families experience a high level of stress and anxiety which are both made worse if one parent attempts to alienate another parent from their children. 

How common is parental alienation?

No one wants to think that parental alienation could happen in their family, but it is more common than many might think. According to Psychology Today, nearly 11% of divorces involve incidents of parental alienation.

However, there is a range of parental alienation. In some cases, one parent might badmouth the other parent to their children. In extreme cases, the alienation can develop into a form of mental or psychological abuse.

Here are some of the most common warning signs that an ex-spouse could be manipulating the child and alienating the other parent:

1. The child starts excluding the parent

One clear sign of parental alienation in children is when the child starts avoiding or excluding the parent. This could involve:

  • Telling the parent not to attend events, such as sports games or activities
  • Keeping the parent out of the loop regarding academics or other information
  • Challenging the parent’s authority and disregarding them

2. The child exhibits a fierce loyalty to the other parent

Children often try to keep the peace between their divorced parents, so it is common for them to become defensive of the manipulative parent. However, children suffering from parental alienation will often perceive conflict between their parents in black and white with one parent being wrong and one parent being right.

For example, they often believe that the manipulative parent can do no wrong. At the same time they think the other parent is always at fault.

3. The child starts repeating what the other parent says

Many sources often refer to parental alienation as “programming,” or even “brainwashing.” They use these terms because the other parent manipulates the child to believe only them. 

It is common for children suffering from programming or brainwashing to start sounding like the manipulative parent. They might repeat complaints or even insults that the parent commonly heard during the marriage from their ex-spouse. Hearing the manipulative parent’s words from the child might trigger the other parent, but it is important that they realize that if they respond in anger towards the child that they may damage the relationship with the child in the long run. 

Maintaining healthy co-parenting relationships after divorce can be difficult. Parents should not have to deal with the devastating stress of parental alienation. The experienced attorneys at Bowen Ten Long & Bal, PC, can help Virginians protect their children as well as their parental rights.