Separation and divorce are often contentious events, and despite people’s best efforts, kids are often in the middle of disputes. What can become incredibly problematic and can significantly lengthen a family law dispute is when a parent uses their children as emotional weapons in their battle against the other parent. Some parents will use their kids as leverage to get what they want, while others will try to poison their kids against the other parent which can result in the deterioration of the parent-child relationship. The latter is often known as parental alienation and it can be a serious problem.

Signs of Parental Alienation

While there are some obvious signs of parental alienation, which include intentional acts or words, parents may also alienate the other parent unintentionally.

Signs of parental alienation include the alienating parent doing one or more of the following things:

  • Bad-mouthing or speaking ill of the other parent or their family or new partner in front of the child;
  • Creating resentment in the child for the other parent;
  • Erasing the other parent from the child’s life;
  • Allowing the child (especially when they are young) to make decisions regarding contact with the other parent;
  • Asking the child to keep secrets from the other parent;
  • Using the child as a messenger to the other parent;
  • Discouraging the child from showing positive feelings towards the other parent;
  • Being the “relaxed” parent to gain favour;
  • Telling the child that the other parent is not important;
  • Not disciplining the child for poor behaviour towards the other parent;
  • Limiting contact with the other parent;
  • Forcing the child to choose between the parents; and
  • Withdrawing affection to emotionally bribe the child to shun the other parent.

There are some extreme cases where the alienating parent will make up an allegation of abuse and will make efforts to convince the child that they are being abused. This will cause the child to withdraw from the other parent out of fear. Ultimately, at the end of the day, parental alienation is the result of misconduct by the other parent.

The Impact of Parental Alienation

Children are vulnerable and are developing mentally and physically, which means that what happens in their young lives will affect them in adulthood. The effects of parental alienation on children are long-lasting and very negative.

Psychologists have found that severe alienation is considered abusive to children and is overlooked as a form of child abuse. For children, parental alienation is a serious mental condition as it is based on a false belief that the alienated parent is dangerous, untrustworthy, and not fit to be their parent.

Children often experience serious mental health issues as a result of parental alienation, including:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of trust;
  • Depression;
  • Substance abuse and other forms of addiction;
  • Guilt;
  • Poor interpersonal skills and relationships;
  • Self-doubt;
  • Self-hatred;
  • Post-traumatic Stress; and
  • A distorted view of reality.

Many children who have dealt with parental alienation often experience distant or difficult relationships with the parent who did the alienating. These individuals are also at a higher risk of being alienated from their own children as well.

What to Do If Your Former Partner is Alienating Your Children Against You

If you are concerned that your former partner may be trying to interfere with your relationship with your child, you can take some steps to stop the interference:

  • Consult with a family lawyer to start court proceedings. The courts place a high value on parent-child relationships and will intervene to undo and prevent alienation;
  • Try to keep in contact with your child as much as possible, and keep it positive. Do not attack or speak ill of your child’s other parent as that may make things work;
  • If there has been damage done and your relationship with your child has changed, consider contacting a psychologist or child counselor who deals with parental alienation. They can try to help start repairing the damage done to your relationship.

Parental alienation is a serious problem that can have life-long consequences. Children have a right to a healthy and positive relationship with each of their parents, regardless of the parents’ relationship. If you think that your children are being alienated from you by their other parent, contact Borden Family Law today. We regularly assist clients with the troubling and distressing issues relating to parental alienation. Our focused area of practice means our clients benefit from our in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of the family law system, the technical legal rules governing family law matters, and trial strategy. We serve clients in Oshawa, Brooklin, and the surrounding areas. To see how we can help you resolve your issue, call us at 905-597-6090, or contact us online. Ask about our bundled services and flat fees.