Parental alienation, also called parental alignment, is considered a form of abuse. Although you won’t see physical wounds or scars on a child, children suffering from the effects of parental alienation can be scarred both emotionally and psychologically for life. While Parental Alienation Syndrome is a relatively new term that’s not wholly embraced by the psychiatric profession, the negative impacts of parental alienation often seen on a child’s life are very real, a sentiment echoed by many child custody lawyers.
Most children whose parents are separated want nothing more than a good relationship with both parents. Yet, following a bitter divorce and/or custody battle, your children may be manipulated into alienating you.
What Is Parental Alienation?
By psychiatric standards, parental alienation is a relationship dysfunction between a child and a parent. Alienation takes place when one parent tries to “brainwash” children into thinking the other parent is bad and that they shouldn’t want to spend time with them anymore. The set of abusive behaviors involved can be very harmful to children’s emotional health and often include psychological manipulation and/or bullying of a child to choose between their two parents. According to the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, parental alienation is domestic violence via psychological maltreatment.
As a father, you may notice signs of unwarranted disrespect, hostility, or even fear from your child. Parental alienation is subtle and slow. Children often aren’t even aware they’re being mistreated and you may not realize what’s occurring before the relationship with your children is severely damaged.
Tactics of the Abuser
There are many tactics or techniques a parent might use when trying to alienate her children from their father. This could include:
- Not allowing children to talk about you or even mention your name
- Encouraging children to pretend you no longer exist
- Trying to replace you with another man she insists they call “dad”
- Attacking your character or lifestyle
- Emphasizing your flaws
- Encouraging your children to spy on you to gather more ammunition
- Suggesting you never really cared for your children
In extreme cases, she may make your children believe there’s a reason to fear you or even lie about how you treat your children with false accusations of child abuse.
Early Warning Signs
Mothers who engage in alienation tactics often get away with it, because nobody realizes alienation is occurring. Plus, it doesn’t always stop with your children’s mother. It can extend to stepparents, grandparents, other family members, and family friends who contribute to the alienation. In court during a custody hearing, this alienation may just look like your children’s passionate preference to be with their mother, which is often the main purpose of the alienation. If you previously had a good relationship with your children and now they’re rejecting you, they could be suffering from parental alienation abuse. Severe alienation includes behavioral, emotional and cognitive impairments and early signs of alienation could include:
- Changes in personality
- Signs of hostility, disobedience, defiance and withdrawal
- Resistance or refusal of contact
- Weak, flimsy or untruthful excuses to not see you
- Antisocial behavior
- Undermining authority
- New, unaccustomed behavioral problems
Effects of Parental Alienation Abuse
When parents use their children as pawns against each, the effects can be devastating for the kids. Parental alienation is an emotional abuse that not only damages the child’s self-esteem, it can also cause life-long damage. Psychological maltreatment of children during parental alienation can include degrading, rejecting, terrorizing, ignoring, neglecting, isolating, exploiting and corrupting the child. These forms of abuse can cause psychological distress, especially in younger children, that might make them moody and regress in learning or social situations. This distress can manifest later in your child’s life as psychological damage that follows them throughout adulthood. Low self-esteem and guilt over their “betrayal” of you, along with the emotional abuse can cause long-term effects, such as:
- Trust issues
- Lower levels of achievement
- Diminished self-sufficiency
- Identity problems or personality disorders
- Elevated risks of depression and substance abuse
- A cycle of alienation with their kids when they become parents
Turn the Odds to Your Favor: Hire a Top Child Custody Attorney
Parental alienation deprives children of love from both parents. Virginia custody laws assure children of continuing contact with both parents. Keeping your children away from you hurts everyone involved and can be considered abusive. Any deliberate behaviors that potentially result in significant psychological harm to a child is psychological abuse. If you feel the mother of your children is alienating them towards you, know your rights. The Firm For Men is dedicated to protecting father’s rights, including defending you against false accusations of domestic violence or child abuse and fighting for fair visitation and custody. Call today at 757-383-9184 and schedule a consultation with our experienced child custody attorneys.