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Parental Alienation: Who Does it Really Hurt?

Divorce is a difficult time for everyone in the family. Depending on the circumstances, there is usually alot of anger and resentment flying around. All to often, children either become targets of this anger and resentment or are used as pawns against the other parent. When the latter occurs, the typical goal is to undermine and interfere with the child's relationship with the other parent, either through turning the child against the other parent or forbidding (or limiting) contact. Of course, in cases of suspected abuse, its best to protect the child from the abuser, however, exaggerating concerns and mis-respresenting them as abuse serves only to hurt the other parent, not protect the child. Some ways parents try to alienate the other parent are:

· Bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the child.

· Limiting the child’s contact with the other parent.

· Removing memoirs of the other parent from the home environment.

· Manipulating the child into rejecting the other parent.

· Creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous.

· Forcing the child to choose between the parents.

· Belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent.

Our job as parents, is to provide love, support and stability for our children. This doesn't change just because two parents decide they can no longer live together. Divorce is hard on kids and disrupts their world as they have come to know it. They need stabiliy and security more than ever. Some ways parents can provide a healthy environment for their child are:

  • Expresing love and support for your child.

  • Reassuring your child of your desire to maintain a close relationship.

  • Encouraging the child to have a respectful, positive relationship with both parents.

  • Teaching your child how to express feelings respectfully.

  • Proving the opportunity for your child to express feelings with an impartial party, such as a pastor or professional counselor.

Children need the oppportunity to continue relationships with both parents. Alienating a parent from their child, without just cause, can lead to low self-esteem, self-doubt, anger problems, trust issues and numerous behavioral problems. While the other parent may feel "punished" the real victim is the child. If you find yourself engaging in parent-alienating behaviors, seek help from a trusted friend, pastor or professional counselor.

by David Carter, PhD, LIMHP

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