What is parental alienation?
You may get different definitions of parent alienation depending on who you ask. Parent alienation occurs when a child refuses to have a relationship with a parent due to extreme characteristics of the parent such as narcissism, personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.
There are many instances in which parent alienation becomes a major problem for children who have been manipulated and gaslit by their parents. This kind of situation often arises during a divorce or custody battle but can occur just as quickly in intact families. Let’s dive into the details and some signs of parental alienation.
What is Parent Alienation?
By definition, parent alienation is where one parent intentionally displays unjust negativity toward the child, aimed at the other parent. The purpose of this is to damage the relationship the child has with the other parent. In other words, it is a form of child abuse.
Alienation is the act of isolating, so naturally, the steps to ensure the child alienates from the other parent are malicious and calculated. These types of parents will often use words, conduct, and manipulation to create division and hostility toward the other parent and child. The parents with the biggest risk of being an alienator are the ones who have personality disorders, such as narcissism and bipolar disorder, and deny treatment.
Signs of Parent Alienation
There are many ways a parent can alienate their child from another parent. Severely restricting the time the child can spend with the other parent is a big sign of parent alienation, especially if it defies court orders. Continuously badmouthing one parent, or undermining the relationship the child has with the other parent is another example. A severe sign is when the alienator withholds affection from the child when they speak positively about the other parent. Keep in mind, every situation of parental alienation is different, but these are the main themes to look out for.
Parent Alienation and the Effects on the Child
Parental alienation is extremely upsetting to the childing in the middle. They feel sad, lonely, and confused about this loss, and will often opt not to deal with either parent at all. They feel they cannot fully grieve the divorce because the estrangement is uncertain.
Children who are alienated from one parent also experience increased anger, have heightened feelings of neglect, and learn destructive patterns that they use on others. They take on a skewed perspective of reality and become prone to lying and manipulating others. Their lack of empathy turns situations into “you vs them” situations, and they see all things as black and white, when in reality, situations are never as simple as that.
Healing from Parental Alienation
Parent alienation is deeply upsetting and hard to heal from. Alienated parents should turn to friends, family, and professional support to receive help and heal properly. In regards to the children, alienated parents should also express nothing but kindness and compassion for their child, even though it may be hard. As the child grows, they may come to see through the tactics of the alienator and choose to repair their relationship with the alienated parent.
Sources: Psychology Today (2022) Parental Alienation
Sources: B. Robert Farzad (2022) What is Parental Alienation?
Source: Patricia Fersch (2021) Parental Alienation: Who Does This?