Unfortunately, children oftentimes find themselves in the middle of highly contentious divorces. This means that their parents often fight over child custody and visitation issues without shielding them from the conflict, but in other circumstances children are used as pawns for manipulative parents to get what they want. This isn’t fair to the children or the children’s other parent, and it can be enormously harmful to the child who is being manipulated.
If you feel like your child has suddenly turned against you without justification, then you might want to carefully consider whether your child is being subjected to parental alienation. If he or she is, then you need to know what you can do to protect your child in both the short and the long-term.
What is parental alienation?
In its most basic terms, parental alienation is the process whereby one parent manipulates a child in an effort to create distance between the child and his or her other parent. Parental alienation can occur in more than one way, too, which can make it difficult to identify. However, if you see any of the following characteristics, then you need to investigate further and consider taking legal action:
- Your child begins to criticize you unrelentingly without justification
- The criticism extends to members of your family
- Your child shows unwavering support for the manipulating parent and that parent’s family
- Your child recites facts that are only known by the other parent
- Your child uses language that is too advanced for his or her age
- Your child falsely accuses you of abuse or neglect
If you see any of the above signs of alienation, then you might want to look for these manipulative behaviors on the part of your child’s other parent:
- Sharing intimate details of your marriage with your child
- Scheduling fun activities for your child when you’re supposed to have visitation
- Falsely telling your child that you don’t love him or her
- Failing to keep you up-to-date on your child’s medical appointments and extracurricular activities
- Failing to allow you to communicate with your child
- Falsely claiming that your child is sick during your scheduled visitation times
Don’t let parental alienation harm your child
Parental alienation can be harmful to your relationship with your child, but it can also cause an extensive amount of damage to your child. Your child may develop a profound and deep sense of mistrust, and he or she may be at a greater risk of substance abuse, anxiety, and depression well into the future. The child’s self-esteem can be negatively impacted, his or her school performance can be diminished, and his or her impulse control can be disrupted. This is why some mental health experts consider parental alienation to be a form of emotional abuse.
Take the action needed to protect your child
If your child is being subjected to parental alienation, then now is the time to take action. To protect your child, you’ll probably need to pursue a child custody modification, which means that you’ll have to show that there has been a material and continual change in circumstances that warrants a modification. Then, you’ll have to demonstrate how your proposed child custody arrangement supports the child’s best interests.
To achieve these goals, you’ll need evidence. That’s why it’s imperative to document every instance of questionable behavior on the part of your child and your child’s other parent. Track conversations with the other parent, noting when the conversation occurred and what was said. You might also want to try to have your child see a mental health professional who can probe the matter further. This individual could be a strong witness for you when you go to court to argue your motion.
There’s simply too much at stake in these cases to give anything less than your best effort. Therefore, consider putting in the work that’s needed to prove parental alienation, even if it seems a little daunting at this point. After all, that may be the only way to protect your child and your relationship with him or her.