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Hope after the storm: healing from parental alienation

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2024 | Child Custody & Parenting Time, Co-Parenting After Divorce, Divorce & Legal Separation, Gray Divorce, Same-sex Divorce |

Parental alienation is not a new concept, yet in recent years, psychology has shed light on this phenomenon and courts now understand more about what it means in the context of divorce, child custody and how it works.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is a situation where one parent turns their child or children against the other parent, successfully alienating them and creating emotional and often physical distance between the child or children and the alienated parent.

It is unfortunately very common in child custody cases, and it is a painful situation for both the alienated parent and the children, even though they may not be conscious of the harm they are experiencing at the time they are going through it. Most times, the child or children truly believe what the alienating parent says, which leads to successful alienation.

There is hope

Even in the worst of cases, there is hope after parental alienation. While it takes time to rebuild the alienated parent’s relationship with their child, it is possible to accomplish this by exercising patience, understanding the phenomenon and knowing what to expect, so the alienated parent can take the right steps toward rebuilding a relationship with their child or children.

The importance of time

They say time heals all wounds, and in these situations, that seems to be true. Children grow and mature with age and as time goes by, they might recognize that something about the family dynamic makes little sense.

It is then that a child may question themselves or others about why the other parent is away and why there is a distance between them. They might also question what the alienating parent says about the other parent, which may be false.

The role of communication

If the alienated parent can communicate with their child or children, it is important to take it easy and ask superficial questions at first to avoid overwhelming the child.

Remember that a strained relationship hurts or even destroys the intimacy that the people within the relationship once had, so be patient and show interest in their life, but in their own terms.

What to ask your kids

Ask the child questions about their activities and the things that bring them day-to-day joy. This is not the time to sit down and have a talk about parental alienation.

At first, try to establish a bond by expressing interest and avoiding stressful situations for your child when they are with you or communicating with you.

Safety and love

Never underestimate the importance of children needing to feel safe and loved by their parents. There is absolutely no substitute for this, and even if the child is resistant at first, tell them that you love them and that you will always be there for them.

Leaving the past where it belongs

It might be difficult to do this, but to get back on track with your child or children, it is important that you do not do the same thing the alienating parent did.

Try not to speak ill of them or talk about what they did. Focus on the relationship with your child or children and make that the priority.

Parental alienation is a real thing, and it is one of the most painful experiences a parent can go through in their lifetimes. Children suffer from it as well, and it is critical to know what to do if this happens. Focusing on working toward forgiveness and healing can be difficult, but it is necessary to get through the storm.

There will be good days and bad days, and the healing process will look more like a journey as opposed to a destination. Seek counseling if you need help to cope with the pain of losing your child or children to parental alienation, so you can be strong and able to get through the process of rebuilding trust and intimacy with your child or children.

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