In the wake of a divorce, it’s not uncommon for parent-child relationships to take a hit. You may not see your child as often and you may not be a part of their day-to-day lives. This is tough, but it’s even worse in cases where parental alienation rears its ugly head.
Parents who experience this face many challenges. It can be overwhelming and uncertain. This makes it difficult to maintain your relationship with your kids.
But what is parental alienation and what can you do to cope?
What is Parental Alienation?
“[T]he process and the result of psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent, relative, or others”
Basically, it’s when one parent wages an intentional campaign, turning a child against the other. There are many signs, and, as the definition states, it can also focus on other people.
It can even reach extended family members, though parents are the most common targets.
How To Fight Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation can irreparably damage your relationship with your child. It can also harm them in many other ways. That’s why it’s important to know how to push against it and fight back.
Have a Plan
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to create a detailed parenting plan. This outlines your rights and obligations and provides the framework for enforcing those rights.
It’s imperative that this document includes significant visitation. The more present you are in the child’s life, the more difficult it is to turn them against you.
Vague parenting plans invite opportunities for manipulation. If it doesn’t include specifics and details, your ex may be able to undermine how much time you spend with your child and do long-term damage to your bond.
Related Reading: Child Custody: The Best Interests of the Child
Good Rules Mean Nothing if Not Enforced
While it’s important to have a detailed parenting plan, it only protects your rights if you enforce them. This document only helps if you use it.
Many parents let little things slide to be amicable and accommodating. But all too often, these small transgressions add up and become big problems.
This isn’t to say you need to run to your divorce lawyer every time your ex drops your child off half an hour late. That also adds up in a different way. But be wary of developing patterns and nip them in the bud. Don’t let your ex deny your court-ordered visitation. It’s much easier to deal with issues when they’re minor. Don’t let them become major.
That said, simply complaining about violations of the parenting plan isn’t enough. You have to pay attention and take active steps to secure your parental rights.
Related Reading: Enforcing a Parenting Plan
Contempt can Lead to Custody Changes
Enforcing your parenting plan with the court has several significant effects.
First, it establishes your commitment to remain a consistent, involved part of your child’s life.
Second, it creates an official record of parenting plan violations.
A parenting plan is a court order. It’s a legally binding document. Violations, especially continued ones, can be construed as contempt. Multiple infractions carry consequences, including the court demanding changes to the original schedule.
Family Counseling May Be Needed
Sometimes you can do everything right and parental alienation still strikes. It can get to the point where even modifying the parenting plan isn’t enough.
If you’ve become estranged from your child, you may have to take more drastic steps to repair the damage. Family counseling is one tool to use to combat this phenomenon.
Parental alienation can be devastating. It can also be difficult to prove. So it’s best not to let it get to that point if it can be avoided.
Take steps to remain an active part of your child’s life, keep an eye out for potentially damaging patterns, and, if necessary, consult a mental health professional or your divorce attorney and ask for help.
Related Reading: Custody in Oregon: Parenting Evaluations
I’m the Moth & I’m facing this.I’ve seen this done to Father’s & it’s awful. It’s just as awful as the Mom & Abused wife.
I suffered a textbook alienation from my kids, been 3 years since I have been fortunate enough to talk to, much less see them. I have had to accept that it will be easier on everyone for me to move on…. very difficult.
That’s a difficult situation, Jeffrey. Sorry you have to deal with that!