Divorces are emotionally tumultuous and stressful for everyone involved, and that especially includes children. This is an extremely vulnerable time in a child's life, particularly a younger child who may not have experienced strain quite like this before. What's worse is that sometimes parents themselves contribute to this stress by attempting to influence their child throughout the process. When this influence causes one child to experience negative emotion, resentment, or strong dislike regarding the other parent, the child may be experiencing “parental alienation syndrome.”
Parental alienation can happen in a number of ways. The most obvious way is when one parent attempts to sabotage the other's relationship with their children by bad-mouthing or attempting to negatively impact their perception of the other parent, creating these negative emotions. There are many reasons for this, including dissatisfaction with decisions that have been made by the court or even just plain old spite for an ex they now harbor their own resentment for.
However, this isn't always intentional, either. Parents may not necessarily mean to negatively influence their child's relationship with the other parent, but children are sensitive to emotions and the attitude their parent takes. A child who sees that one parent is constantly stressed during a divorce may associate this emotional pain with the other parent, and assume the other parent has been causing this stress intentionally. This alone can foster parental alienation, even without direct influence from either parent.
Spotting Parental Alienation
Attempting to negatively influence a child's relationship with the other parent is both against the law and highly frowned-upon by family law courts. This is because it both not only makes a divorce unfairly biased in one direction in regards to a child's best interests, but it also causes a lifetime of psychological harm to a child. As a child grows, their future relationships with both parents as well as others they interact with are all heavily impacted by this alienation, even into adulthood.
Therefore, spotting and alerting the courts and your attorney to any suspected acts that encourage or foster parental alienation as soon as possible is extremely important. You not only want to stop this problem from growing as soon as possible, but you want to make sure your child's emotional health remains intact.
Some signs of possible parental alienation include:
- A sudden, dramatic change in attitude, usually for the worse, when a child is around one parent.
- Children suddenly start mentioning finer details of your divorce case, including things you did not know they were aware of, and demonstrate an understanding of what they mean
- Children give statements that sound guided or “coached” to anyone who asks about the divorce case
- A sudden drop in academic performance or interest in previously enjoyed activities
- A child expressing a strong desire not to spend time with one parent
- Allowing a non-parent (such as one parent's new significant other) to take on new parental roles, including the child referring to them as “mom” or “dad.”
- A child believing that their “new parent” loves them more than their original, biological parent
There are numerous other signs as well, and as a parent you should constantly be aware of your child's conduct throughout your case. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that your children have as much of an emotional investment in your case as you do, if not even more so, and that their best interests hinge on your conduct now more than ever.
Throughout your divorce case, it's important to make sure you're there for your kids, you're honest with them, and that they never forget that both you and their other parent love them and will care for them, no matter what happens. The complications of your divorce case may weigh heavily on your mind, but you absolutely need to make time to be a parent and make sure your children are loved, supported, and cared for throughout the process. And finally, under absolutely no circumstance should you ever attempt to alienate your children from the other parent—not only does this do immense emotional damage to them, but it could come back to harm you and your case during your divorce.
If you are suspected of contributing to parental alienation or feel as though you might be suffering the effects of it, contact the Cleburne divorce attorney at The Law Office of Robert E. Luttrell III. Call (817) 645-6600 today to schedule a case evaluation and let us help you resolve your issue.