One of the most painful byproducts of a high conflict divorce is watching your ex manipulate your children into believing that you’re a bad parent. Parent-child relationships that were strong before the divorce can be damaged almost overnight when an alienating parent lures a child into the Cult of the Bad Mom/Dad. Brainwashing tactics include bad-mouthing, lies, manipulation of events, and a constant barrage of negatives about the other parent…similar to a political smear campaign.
Treating parental alienation in a family or joint parent therapy setting is challenging because it is unlikely that the alienator will agree to go to therapy or that you will be able to agree on a therapist. Judges can mandate family therapy or parenting classes, but unfortunately, they can’t make an alienator listen to what the therapist has to say.
Some good news? You don’t necessarily need a judge or mental health professional in order to take action and give your child a more balanced picture of you and your relationship. Here are three strategies you can put into action right now to help stop parental alienation and protect your relationship with your kids.
Strategies To Combat Parental Alienation
Maintain contact with your children. Alienators often try to thwart visitation and phone communication. It’s easy to feel hopeless when you’re consistently denied access to your children or, worse, when they refuse to see you because they’ve been told you’re dangerous or that you don’t care about them. If your ex interferes with visitation, or your kids are afraid to go, file a complaint with the court that she’s in violation of the child visitation plan. In the meantime, try to keep in contact with your kids: keep calling, texting, e-mailing, and attend school events. They may not respond, but they will know that you care. And continue to show up for visitation — even if they refuse to see you. Many adult children of parental alienation say they interpreted their parents’ absence as proof that that parent didn’t love them. When that happens, the alienating parent has won.
Address the other parent’s lies. According to conventional divorce wisdom, you should turn the other cheek when you’re being badmouthed. The logic behind this advice is that kids are emotionally burdened when parents share their personal problems. That’s true, but the fact is, they are already being hurt by the alienator’s lies. NOT addressing your ex’s hi-jinks is like pretending there’s no elephant in the room and can even make your children doubt reality. Present your side of the story calmly and factually: you do love them and that’s why you show up for every soccer game and piano recital; you do have fun together and here are photos of your camping trip to prove it; you do send text messages to contact them and here’s a record on your phone. The more you challenge the alienator’s false statements, the greater the chance your children will also.
Teach Your Children How To Be Independent Thinkers. Parental alienation is emotional abuse of children. Alienators give children the tacit message that it is not okay to have their own thoughts and feelings. Their tactics are similar to cult leaders who destroy their followers’ ability to think for themselves and make their own choices. So how do you combat your ex’s mind games? Teach your kids about critical thinking. If they’re still in the bedtime story phase, ask them why they think Cinderella’s stepsisters are so mean to her. If they tell you history class is boring, ask them why learning about civil rights is important. If your child says he doesn’t know, or asks you to explain things, say you will but you want to hear what he thinks first. Talk about the difference between opinion and fact. For instance: one person can love tomatoes and the other person can hate them. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with tomatoes, it’s just a person’s preference of point of view. As your child develops the ability to think for himself, he will be better able to put the alienator’s skewed narrative in perspective.
Are you experiencing parental alienation in your relationships with your children? Our attorneys can help guide you and your kids to a better place. Please contact us today to schedule your initial confidential attorney consultation.