No marriage is perfect, and marriages regularly end in divorce. Disagreements and anger about the end of a marriage can cause a spouse to lash out at their former partner in whatever ways they can. Divorces with an adversarial nature often seriously impact the lives of the spouses and any children involved. Occasionally, a parent may take the anger and resentment even further than normal and cause their child or children to experience parental alienation syndrome.
What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Parental alienation syndrome is a term created in the 1980s by the child psychiatrist Dr. Richard Gardner. Gardner used this term to describe what happens when a parent tries to make their children dislike the other parent. The parent who is attempting to alienate the child is often not happy about the divorce and wants their children to be on their side in order to influence child custody decisions. The alienation is accomplished by making negative comments about the other parent, constantly putting them down, blaming them for everything, and even making false accusations. It is also common to see a parent attempt to keep the children to themselves as much as possible and limit the other parent’s parenting time with the children.
Addressing Parental Alienation
Parents who believe their significant other has alienated their children against them may wonder what they can do to stop the alienation and have a good relationship with their children again. One of the keys to helping your child come back from the alienation is to start talking to them about similarities and differences between family members. Discuss non-emotional topics such as favorite colors, music, and hobbies and how the child is alike or different from each parent. Then, once that has been established, move on to discussions of the emotions the child is feeling, such as anger. Discuss what makes the child angry and how that is the same or different from what makes the parents angry. Doing this exercise will encourage the child to think about individualized emotions and help them realize that they do not have to feel the same emotions as others. For example, they do not have to be angry at one parent just because the other parent is angry.