Have you wondered why your child does not want to spend time with you, or seems to have a started to take a dislike to you?
While there are numerous reasons for this, a more common but unknown cause is parental alienation
What is parental alienation?
Parental Alienation unfortunately has no fixed or single definition but it is commonly considered to be where a child expresses unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards one of their parents and commonly that parent is with whom they do not live following the separation of their parents.
When this happens, the child may resist or refuse to spend time with that parent and commonly a child’s feelings are often influenced by the parent with whom they live, who subconsciously or consciously alienates and/or manipulates the child to behaviour out of character against their other parent, through blatant or more subtle behaviour.
A young child will not understand or appreciate that it is in their best interests to have a relationship with both their parents and sometimes the parents become so angered by the other following separation that it is possible for a child to become involved in the breakdown and reasons for such that they can be influenced by the parent they spend the majority of their time with and to mirror that parent’s negative views and take them as their own.
Examples of Parent Alienation are:-
- Badmouthing the other parent
- Limiting reducing or ceasing contact with the other parent
- Interfering with communications between child and other parent, i.e. letters, phone calls, emails
- Interfering with symbolic communication child and other parent, i.e. photos of targeted parent in child’s home
- Withdrawal of love towards the child
- Telling the child that the other parent does not love him or her
- Forcing the child to choose between parents
- Creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous or no good
- Confiding in the child regarding the other parent and their breakdown and that parent’s own feeling about such
- Forcing the child to reject the other parent
- Asking the child to spy on the other parent or questioning the child when they return from spending time with the other parent as to what the child and other parent did and who was with the other parent etc.
- Asking the child to keep secrets from the other parent
- Referring to the other parent by their first name
- Referring to the stepparent as “Mum” or “Dad” and encouraging the child to do the same
- Withholding medical, academic, and other important information from the other parent
- Keeping other parent’s name off of medical, academic and other relevant documents
- Changing the child’s name to remove any association with the other parent
- Cultivating dependency on the part of the child
A parent’s conscious or subconscious behaviours can negatively impact upon the child’s relationship with the other parent and/or the wider family and regardless of whether parental alienation is found or accepted by the court there are options available to address such behaviours and the impact upon the child.
Possible effects of parental alienation on a child
- The child is unlikely to enjoy a healthy and meaningful relationship with both parents.
- The child is likely to suffer significant social and emotional harm.
- The child’s ability to form meaningful and positive relationships is likely to be impeded.
- The child may suffer depression in later life.
- The child may suffer from poor self-esteem.
- The child is likely to have identity difficulties.
- The child is likely to suffer adverse consequences during their formative years and throughout their life.
If you suspect parental alienation, we recommend that you seek legal advice without delay.
If the other parent of your child refuses to promote a healthy and loving relationship between you and your child then we may advise you to apply to the family court for a Child Arrangements Order or discuss alternative approaches depending on the specific issues.