What children of divorce need more than anything else is a healthy and strong relationship with both parents.  Often times, children will feel responsible for a divorce.  They often fear they behaved badly, or fought too much, or asked for too many goodies.  After a divorce, children can go through months or even years of guilt.  It’s then they need the love and support of both parents, but many often don’t get that.

Many times after a divorce, one parent will begin to denigrate the other parent in front of their children.  They may tell stories that should remain between the two parents, or even bring the children into discussions that should be kept between them, “Well, the child support is late again.”  These sometimes subtle and not-so-subtle acts are called “Parental Alienation and Hostile Aggressive Parenting.”

Forms of Parental Alienation

While not as well-known or easily recognized as what we traditionally think of as negligence, parent alienation is a form of child abuse. And although the guilty party is usually a parent, it can also be another family member or even a family friend who has taken sides.  And it might be more common than originally thought.  In 2010, Fidler and Bala reported that parental alienation occurred in between “11-15% of divorces involving children.”

The reasons behind it are many, anger at a spouse, the fear or feeling the other parent is doing the same thing-so it becomes a defense mechanism, or the parent is trying to build a coalition against the other parent.  The child or children, then find themselves in a confused state; wondering if the “other” parent is that bad, then maybe “I shouldn’t love him or her.”

These feelings can leave permanent scars.  Even adult children of divorce report that, such tactics are, “tantamount to extreme psychological maltreatment of children, including spurning, terrorizing, corrupting, of exploiting and denying emotional responsiveness.”  In extreme cases, the children can get the impression the alienated parent is “dangerous and untrustworthy.”

Parental Alienation Resources

And that attitude may follow them into adulthood, and even other relationships. But now organizations such as Parental Alienation Awareness Organizations have formed that offers advice for parents, friends and children of divorce, no matter what age.

Sources: Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO) www.paawareness.org and www.psychologytoday.com.

Have you dealt with Parental Alienation? What affects does/did it have on your kids?

Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.