Guilt is a common emotion for parents going through divorce. That guilt can seep into relationships and become toxic to everyone involved. It is common for issues to surface before, during, and after the divorce; and the extent of those issues can jeopardize the ability of both parent and child to move forward. In some situations, the parent-child relationship can become regressive and lead to Parental Alienation.
Parents hold an immense amount of influence over their child(ren). Like Uncle Ben (from the Spiderman) once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Parents’ influence is powerful, but can be dangerous if used for nefarious purposes.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation (or Hostile Aggressive Parenting) can be defined as: “ a group of behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent. These behaviors most often accompany high conflict marriages, separation or divorce.”
Being exposed to derogatory remarks directed towards the other parent can contribute to feelings of animosity for that parent; thus resulting in damage to the parent-child relationship.
These hostile behaviors are most often seen post-divorce, but are not uncommon in other cases involving separation. Children normally begin to feel anger, resentment, and aversion towards the targeted parent that can result in a broken relationship. These repercussions include the child expressing hateful feelings towards the parent, avoiding any form of contact, and/or refusing to associate with the parent.
The assertion of influence by the alienating parent toward the targeted parent can cause significant and long lasting damage to the child-parent relationship. The loss of affection can directly harm the parent and child emotionally and mentally. Sherrie Bennett, one of our attorneys here at Goldberg Jones, touches on this delicate subject in an article she wrote about Parental Alienation. She uncovers the causes for alienation, the guilt the child feels, and offers ways to cope with and resolve alienating behavior.
The last thing a parent wants is to be emotionally detached from their child. A child’s mind continues to grow by what it observes, or in this case; is manipulated to believe. Parents: it is advised that this is approached carefully and under the guidance of the appropriate professionals. This is not a challenge easily resolved—it will take patience and diligence. The child-parent relationship is what is at stake; “Try not to argue with or be defensive with your child. Talk openly about what your child is actually seeing and feeling, as opposed to what the child has been told to be the truth”(Lawyers.com).
The long journey to ending the divorce/separation process can take on more challenges than expected. Your emotional level and strength to push towards a better tomorrow will be tested. We advise you to keep the child’s and your relationship in mind. In the event where you feel overwhelmed and are needing legal advice to plan your next move; consult an attorney and understand your rights as a parent. It is a long journey to a new normal, but keep your eye on the prize; you will get there.