Ideally, parents and children have a bond that is incomparable to any other relationship. As it starts with the birth of the child, a healthy relationship grows over time. However, such is not the case for many. Unfortunately, there are many cases of abusive or negligent parents, and now, a relatively new term has made waves in many child custody cases.
What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Parental alienation syndrome happens when a person, typically one of the parents, manipulates a child into mistreating the other parent. Such can be shown through mistrust, verbal opposition, and even fear of the alienated parent. Meanwhile, the child grows a stronger attachment towards the alienating parent or individual. “Severe cases of alienation are differentiated from mild and moderate cases by the extent of the child’s rejection and degree of negativity in the attitudes and behavior toward the targeted parent,” says Susan Heitler, Ph.D. She adds, “Severely alienated children have little if anything positive to say about the targeted parent and often rewrite the history of their relationship with the targeted parent.”
Who Typically Experiences This?
This issue often manifests in child custody cases where parents of the children have separated or divorced. Some individuals purposely influence their kids to gain sole guardianship over them, ultimately taking the other parent out of the picture. “Custodial status, however, is a strong predictor of who is likely to alienate a child from a parent,” explains Edwark Kruk, Ph.D., associate professor of Social Work at the University of British Columbia. “Custody and legal possession of a child are fertile ground for abusive parents to act at will against the target parent, and witnessing such acts of violence by children constitute a serious form of emotional child abuse.”
How Do We Re-Establish A Good Relationship With The Kids?
“The alienation cannot fully take hold in the absence of the failure of the legal and mental health communities to inadvertently support and enable the alienating parent,” wrote Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D. “The combination of a compelling (yet untrue) message delivered through a persuasive alienating parent in the context of not being held accountable by friends, family, and the court, can readily tip alienation from moderate to severe.” If your spouse or partner has become alienated from their children from previous relationships, there are still steps you can make to rebuild a good connection with them. Here are some things you can consider to help your significant other:
Gradually Build Trust
In some cases of parental alienation, the alienated individual can still interact with and may even have partial custody of the child. It gives them an opportunity to try to rebuild trust and rapport with their kids.
The key to this is to be patient and to work on things gradually. Remind your partner that trust cannot be established or gained overnight. Encourage them to be involved in the child’s life and interests. Even small things such as being genuinely interested in their latest hobby or TV show can show the child that you mean well and wish to connect with them again.
Seek A Professional
For many alienated parents, trying to reconnect with the child may be difficult. However, there are trained professionals who can aid you and your partner in dealing with this challenge. Therapists, mental health professionals, psychologists, and psychiatrists will be able to determine if parental alienation is taking place truly. It is done through a series of tests and observing the relationship between the child and both parents.
After their evaluation, these professionals can make recommendations as to how to rectify the situation. They may give counsel to both the alienated and alienating parents. They may even be able to make breakthroughs with the children.
Turn To Legal Action
In severe cases, the alienating parent may have gained full custody of their kids. In this situation, you also have to encourage your partner to seek legal aid as well. Even if the children start to show affection and interest in staying with the alienated parent, a court ruling that grants rights cannot be easily changed.
This instance will mean that parental alienation will have to be proven in court. It is where seeking help from professionals mentioned earlier will become of great importance. With recommendations from these individuals, you and your partner may be able to overrule the previous decision.
Speak With the Alienating Parent
However, before anything else, the first thing you and your partner can try to do is to speak with the alienating parent. In mild cases of parental alienation, they may not be aware of their actions and what their effects are on the child. Some people are open to correcting their behavior.
In the end, it all comes down to being patient and compassionate with the alienated child. However, it’s also important to be firm in dealing with severe cases where you know your partner and their ex may not be able to work things out so efficiently.
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