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A Harmful Effect of Divorce: Parental Alienation

A Harmful Effect of Divorce: Parental Alienation

June 22, 20243 min read
Christina McKinnon

By: Christina McKinnon

Children have a right to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents and to maintain frequent and continuing contact with both mother and father.  It goes without saying that they need to be shielded from their parents’ conflicts. Most parents would not intentionally harm their children, but your behavior toward the other parent can be just as detrimental.

We have all experienced anger toward a loved one, and it is easy to speak out negatively in our aggravation. Parental alienation can be subtle, moderate, or intense. If it is subtle, you may not even realize you are attempting to distance the child from the other parent. Disparaging another parent is harmful to your child. The effects of parental alienation on children can be quite severe, including low self-esteem, self-hatred, a lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse.

The child comes to view the other parent in a negative light, to the point that they are seen as bad or evil, which often leads to an irreparable breakdown in the relationship. Disgust is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child; rather, it has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to loathe or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child.

Creating an expectation that the children choose sides, which results in parental alienation, is never in the child’s best interests. Parental alienation is the psychological manipulation of a child by one parent into showing unwarranted insolence, fear, disrespect, disregard, or hostility towards the other parent. The primary cause is a parent wishing to exclude another parent from the life of their child. These behaviors can block the parent-child relationship. The alienation usually extends to the other parent’s family and friends.

Alienation often starts while the parents are still together. Either parent can be a victim of parental alienation. It often starts with one parent harboring contempt against the other parent, who, either obviously or quite subtly, begins making derogatory comments about the other parent.

Some things to keep in mind:

Do not speak negatively about the other parent in front of your child. Do not make your child feel guilty for wanting to spend time with the other parent. Do not make your child feel like they need to choose sides. Do not say or do things to turn your child against the other child. Do not interfere with communication between your child and the other parent. Think before you vent. Remember who is listening and watching. Do not allow your children to talk negatively or disrespectfully about the other parent. Do not use the child as a courier, messenger, or spy. Do not share the details of the divorce with your child. Statements like “Your father doesn’t give me enough money to...” are not okay. Do not ask your children to lie to the other parent or betray their trust. Do not give your child decision-making power about spending time with the other parent when no choice exists.

Regardless of how we feel, as hard as it may be, we should show respect to our ex and remember that this person is a part of our child as well. We must remember to put our children and their needs first. Loving our children is always more important than trying to hurt the other parent.

For more information on parental alienation or any other domestic relations or family matters, visit https://mckinnon-legal.com

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