In some families, divorce may be coupled with a child having an extreme and seemingly inexplicable rejection of a parent. Your child may be experiencing parental alienation.
In the abstract for a recent article in the Journal of Forensic Science, the difference between parental alienation and realistic estrangement is defined this way: Parental alienation is the rejection of a parent without legitimate justification and realistic estrangement is the rejection of a parent for a good reason.
Signs of possible parental alienation.
What are signs that your child is the victim of parental alienation? And what is the legal recourse if you believe your co-parent is trying to alienate your child against you?
- There is a stark reaction to each parent: In other words, one parent is perceived as “good” and the other as “bad.” This lack of nuance in the interpretation of a parent’s behaviors can be indicative that the other parent is painting the alienated parent as “bad” to the child.
- Using the other parent’s language: In this case, the child uses the alienating parent’s language or key phrases verbatim to describe the other parent’s behavior, personality, etc.
- Lack of rationale: If the child is asked why s/he is uncomfortable with the other parent, they are unable to give examples of behavior or provide reasons that do not make sense, such as the child complaining about his or her bedroom when they never had shown concern about this issue before.
- Sudden change in relationship: Sometimes a parent will start to speak ill of the other parent in the context of a certain event that is real or contrived. This could manifest in a change in the relationship with the alienated parent, seemingly overnight.
- Lack of ability to reason with the alienated parent: In every situation, the child “sides” with the alienating parent, despite logic.
For more guidance on how to respond to your child’s behavior as you work through custody and co-parenting, read my full article in Psychology Today.