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What are signs of parental alienation syndrome?

On Behalf of | Feb 25, 2021 | Child Custody & Parenting Time |

If your child resists or outright refuses to have any contact with you despite the fact that you are a kind, loving and supportive parent, you may be the victim of parental alienation syndrome. Dr. Richard Gardner coined the concept of parental alienation back in 1985 and, since then, the courts look for signs of it when dealing with contentious custody cases.

Per WebMD, parental alienation occurs when the child strongly identifies with the feelings of one parent — typically the custodial parent. Unfortunately, the feelings are generally ones of hatred and rejection toward the target parent, and a child usually takes them on after much pressure from the alienating parent. The alienating parent programs in the child a sense of fear, hatred and disgust toward the target parent and attempts to interfere with the parent-child relationship whenever possible.

Consequences of parental alienation

Parental alienation does not just hurt the target parent — though, it does a great deal of emotional damage to him or her as well. Children suffer the most when one parent drives a wedge between the child and the other parent. In fact, psychologists compare the loss of an alienated parent to that of the premature death of a parent. In many cases, children feel angry and neglected by the target parent, and they often take on the traits of the alienating parent, such as critical thinking and lack of empathy.

Signs of parental alienation

Parental alienation can be hurtful to the target parent, and it can range from mild to severe. Unfortunately, it develops gradually, so many parents are unlikely to notice that anything is amiss until the condition has progressed to the point where the child strongly resists contact or visitation. For this reason, it is imperative that you recognize the signs of parental alienation so you can take steps to correct it before it causes irreparable damage to your and your child’s relationship.

One of the first signs of parental alienation is unjust criticism. While it is normal for children to become irritated or angry with their parents, alienated children will criticize the target parent harshly, repetitively and without cause. You may notice that your child rarely has anything good to say about you, and that he or she is afraid to admit to having fun in your custody.

Another sign of parental alienation is lack of empathy. After criticizing you, your child may not feel any remorse, and he or she will not apologize for his or her mistreatment of you.

Finally, an alienated child may demonstrate unwavering support or approval of the other parent. You may notice that, per your child, your ex can do no wrong. Everything you do is bad, and everything he or she does is good. In your child’s mind, there are no shades of gray.