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What do you do if you believe your children are being alienated and how do you combat it?

Parental Alienation - little girl holds stuffed animal while parents sit on either side of the couch

It is common during or following a divorce, custody, or other family law matter for parents to experience various effects of alienation from their children. Often this occurs because one or both parents have unresolved feelings and emotions and this results in a parent expressing or processing their anger, vengeance, or mental concerns toward the other parent unfairly. When the parent’s vengeance toward the other parent is displayed and acted out through their children, often this creates a situation of parental alienation.

Ways to Repair & Prevent Parental Alienation

There are some ways that parents can attempt to repair the damage that has already occurred from parental alienation, however, proactive prevention of parental alienation is always the best way (preventing a problem before one develops). The following are five constructive steps you can take to attempt to proactively head off concerns about parental alienation.

  1. Fight for a shared parenting arrangement. One of the best ways to prevent your child or children from becoming alienated from you involves ensuring that you are able to continue spending significant meaningful time with your children. Not only do your children likely need you to be physically and emotionally present as they process the change in their family dynamics and other new things occurring in their life (for some children this means a change of school, extracurricular activities, home, neighborhood or other significant life changes), but they need reassurance that their parents love them and will remain present in their life. In some situations, fighting for a shared parenting time arrangement takes significant ongoing efforts to allow you have meaningful time in your children’s lives. Be assured that this is important for your children! An experienced family law attorney can help you decide and weigh your options in terms of coming to a settlement versus standing your ground to attend a trial or hearing where you request the court award you as much time as is reasonable. Regular, consistent parenting time with your children is crucial to preventing potential alienation..
  2. Follow your parenting plan. When the court determines and orders a parenting plan, it is crucial that you follow it. If you fail to follow the parenting plan by missing parenting time, failing to appear at exchanges or withhold your child from the other parent, you are likely to experience many difficulties. One such difficulty is a likely enforcement effort from the other parent. Beyond court litigation, often these kinds of behaviors pit the parents against one another and begin a never-ending cycle of blame and anger toward one another. Finally, when you create a hostile parenting environment with your co-parent, they are more likely to react negatively and your children are more likely to see or experience some of the other parent’s excessive emotional reactions. Simply work to follow the court order issued.
  3. Enlist the assistance of professionals if needed. There are a variety of mental health experts, lawyers, co-parenting therapists, mediators and other people who can assist with issues as they arise. Obtain valuable and trusted advice to deal with smaller problems when they arise rather than allowing a toxic environment with the other parent to fester. Having professionals involved when needed will also allow them to monitor and find early signs or toxic or manipulative behavior that could lead to concerns of parental alienation.
  4. Communicate with your child. Taking time to talk with your children can be one of the very best things you can do to combat efforts at alienation. If you build an open relationship you’re your children, if things are expressed or communicated to your children, they are more likely to come and ask you questions. Of course, your goal is not to respond to negative comments by the other parent with negative responsive information. However, giving them parent-neutral explanations and responses to concerns will prevent them from wondering and not being able to have their concerns addressed. All children feel upset at their parents at various times,you’re your ability to respond with kindness, love and consistency will go a long way in combatting efforts toward parental alienation.
  5. Don’t plan for perfection! Separation, divorce and changing dynamics is difficult for all families. Most, if not all of the members of the family will something that they don’t mean at some point. Rather than focus on mistakes or high emotions, focus on consistency and supporting your child’s relationship with both parents. Your child will remember your ability to rise above the emotions and the chaos! Encourage your children to have a great relationship Don’t expect perfection. Separation/Divorce is difficult for families, and people often say things they don’t really mean and do things they might later regret. Rather than focus only on the missteps along the way, stay dedicated to the higher priorities of taking care of your child and defending your child’s right to enjoy a decent relationship with both parents.

How Do You Prove Parental Alienation?

If you are a victim of parental alienation, it is important to have strong evidence in order to demonstrate the situation to the court. Evidence typically involves a range of documents, including emails or text messages. It can also include witness testimony of a close friend or family member.

Here are some signs that the court can use:

  • Disparaging statements made by one parent about the other in front of the child
  • Interference with the ability of one parent by the other to contact or visit the child
  • Falsely diminishing the love of one parent by the other to the child

What if I'm already experiencing parental alienation?

Hopefully, with some intentional foresight and planning, you can combat future concerns for parental alienation. If you are dealing with the effects or concerns of parental alienation, schedule your consultation with Pingel Family Law today to discuss your options and plan additional strategies to deal with these and other issues. Call us at (816) 208-8130!