Parental Alienation: Is Your Ex Turning Your Kids Against You?
Parental Alienation is every divorced parent’s nightmare. Could your ex be successful in turning your kids against you? And what would you do if this worse case scenario actually happens? While you can’t control what your ex (or anyone else) does, you can be proactive by addressing the problem directly, and minimizing the damage. Here’s how:
Understand how parental alienation works. In order to understand how to counteract parental alienation, you have to know how the process of turning your kids against you works. Parental alienation (PA) is a systematic brainwashing process similar to cult methods. Your ex acts like a “cult reader” who positions himself as your children’s savior, protecting them from you, the bad, scary parent. The Alienating Parent (AP) feeds kids propaganda and discourages independent thought. After hearing the same “script” repeatedly, and being afraid to question the AP’s perspective, many children start to believe this distorted interpretation of reality – to the point where they parrot back the AP’s words as if they’re their own.
Don’t try to reason with your ex. When you character is maligned, it’s natural to try to set the record straight by trying to “talk sense” into the AP. Remember, though, that your ex has a black-and-white worldview that’s impervious to reason. Telling your former partner how much PA hurts the kids is pointless because your ex believes that they have the kids’ best interest at heart by trying to protect them from you. Accept that your ex is not a well person and redirect your energy towards helping your kids.
Teach your kids critical thinking skills. The key to counteracting PA is to teach your children how to form their own opinions. One way to do this is to explain how two people can experience the same situation differently. If possible, use an example from your child’s own life when they felt misunderstood: did the fact that someone got the wrong impression about them mean that they’re a bad person? Or was it because this friend didn’t have all the information? Or maybe your child and the other child simply don’t have enough in common to be good friends? Helping your child to analyze a situation instead of accept it at face value will teach them value critical thinking skills that they can begin to apply to the AP’s propaganda.
Don’t react emotionally. Try not to let your ex see that you’re upset; this will just make them gloat. And if you get frustrated with your kids for believing your ex, you may just “prove” that everything they’ve heard is true: you’re acting like the crazy, angry person the AP says you are! Save your hurt feelings for your therapist and focus on being strategic.
Being a Targeted Parent can be extremely painful, so try to take the long view. Just because your kids are on the AP’s “side” today, doesn’t mean they’ll still be there in the future. When your child matures and becomes his own person, he may recognize your ex’s manipulative behavior for what it is and resent being used as a pawn. Remember: you can’t turn your ex into a reasonable co-parent so concentrate on the steps you can take to manage parental alienation.
Understanding Signs of Parental Alienation
Kids, Parents, and Manipulation: 3 Strategies for Overcoming Parental Alienation
High-Conflict Divorce: When Co-Parenting Doesn’t Work, Try Parallel Parenting
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