Coping with Parental Alienation of Your Children

If you have felt the effects of this or seen it in your children’s faces, body language, behavior or heard things from them that seemed like they were trying to push you away, you have experienced the impact of “alienation” tactics.

This summary is focused strictly on coping skills and not on description or legalities.  It is something to try to prevent and to take seriously, but for now let’s talk about how you can manage better in a way that helps you, your children and your relationship with them.

Not everyone realizes they are doing things in a way to cause alienation, while others’ efforts are intentional.  But whatever the motivation or awareness level is, the result is still the same.  It drives a wedge between children and parents – when the children really need for both parents to be calm, positive and connected – and increases the conflict between parents while reducing the chances for cooperation and teamwork.   This phenomenon takes away from children who need to be receiving emotionally and physically all they can get from each parent.  So, yes, it is a big deal and the effects are deeper and longer lasting than you might imagine.

I miss you... can be said without words, by a father, a mother, and children.

I miss you… can be said without words, by a father, a mother, and children.

 

If you are the parent having to defend against these tactics by the other parent, it means unfortunately you have a little extra work to do.   Understand the issue and how it works.  Be prepared, and work on controlling and diffusing your own emotions.   Don’t counter-attack, but rather mediate and diffuse the situation.  Surrounding yourself with positive information, people and experiences will help turn this around.   There are excellent professionals – both psychological and legal – we can refer you to for help, but first do some reading, journaling of the issues and look yourself in the mirror to see your strengths; see what you are capable of before resorting to spending money trying to correct this.  You might find that you have more power and influence than you’ve been led to believe.

What your children see and hear from you will have a chance to offset and change what is happening, if you stay resolved, calm and upbeat about it.  Hopefully  you took some acting classes earlier in life…so this is where any performing or sales ability will help you!

 

 

Here are some other things you need to have and work on:

  • A basic understanding of what Parental Alienation is and is not; do not try to be an expert or focus more than a few minutes on this.  Once you get it, let that part go.
  • A mindset of playing offense rather than defense; put yourself in control rather than in victim mode.  Note that “being on offense” is quite different from being “offensive.”  Offending the other parent is not helpful!
  • A mature mind and heart.  Your reactive and retaliatory nature needs to stay in the journal you keep where you vent your frustrations, complaints, sadness, bitterness or even fear.  Reveal the best of your mind and heart to your children, and…yes, even to the other parent causing the alienation.
  • A great deal of patience, and an outlet for handling the stress when patience fails you;  do not keep it bottled in, so use counseling, exercise, good books and family support as needed.  Your friends will not understand, so keep from sharing what is happening as much as possible – think offensive line.  Eye on the goal line, rather than on a potential loss.
  • A sense of humor; if you are going to sell it to your kids and community that you are not a victim to feel sorry for (no one wants to hang with victims) then find the humor and the bright side.  This attracts your children to a different way of thinking and sets an amazing example.
  • An exciting and productive something going on in your life, besides what you do with and for your kids.
  • Forget Plan A, and have enough back up plans that one or two disappointments – like not being able to host your child’s birthday party – do not cause major setbacks.  Move on quickly to the next “best” option for being involved and having the joy of your child’s pleasure and gratitude.
  • A healthy ego.  Sometimes not being the center of attention allows you to learn more and be a better coach and example for your child than if all the focus is on you.  When it is obvious that one parent is trying to control or get credit for something, kids notice and they appreciate that your ego is balanced, and that you are okay just being a part of something that is good for them.
  • A sense of timing.  Kids have a way of getting what they need from you WHEN they need it.  So keep planting seeds that you are available and willing, but that they can get what they need when they are ready.
  • A sensitivity for things you might not see or hear; kids are often working pretty hard to not let on what they are experiencing and how it is affecting them.  They do not want to burden anyone or draw attention to something negative, and this takes a lot of their energy.  This touches on why alienation tactics relate to abuse and neglect – it causes them stress and affects their joy, focus and sleep.  Your main job is to not add to this while trying to protect your relationship with them, and it is easier said than done.
  • A decision to meet in the middle, rather than to have a “winner” or a “loser” – this is not about the battle which is what the person doing the alienating wants you to think.  This is about the effects on your children and the example you want to set for them around having good boundaries and the skills they need to resolve conflict in their lifetime.  Change what you can change, enjoy what you can enjoy – that is your choice and it IS within your intelligent and ability to do.
  • A list of things you can do to take the high road and set a more positive example, like saving a seat for the other parent if you arrive early to an event where your child is performing or competing.   Waiting with an open and encouraging stance before leaving with your child after an event so that they have extra time to visit with and debrief with their other parent.   Turning toward the other parent & looking at them when speaking, as if you expect something positive to happen.  When you order something, like school pictures, order extra and have your child take the extras to the other parent.  Plant seeds.  And ask for what you need and want with a smile and positive expectations.

These are things that will help, even if they aren’t easy to keep in mind and act on consistently, but the more you develop and call on your strengths, the more wisdom and peace you insert into this environment, the better chance you have of turning it around.

You’ll be amazed at how your children will respond over time.