Parental alienation is the process of turning a child against a parent through manipulation. Rightfully, psychologists are calling it “divorce poison.” It can potentially cause long-term effects on the child, the rejected family member, and their relationship with one another. It can cause the two to be estranged and put them at risk of developing a mental disorder.
Thankfully, there is still hope for those who experience parental alienation. There are specific measures you can take to reconnect with your child. Here are five things you can try.
Sort Things Out With The Other Parent
Before anything else, you might want to try sorting things out with the other parent. Sometimes, people don’t realize that specific actions of theirs contribute to alienation. Although you may have separated, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep things civil between you two. Bring up the problem with them and see if there’s something you can work out together so that you don’t become estranged from your kids. “Parenting in a divorce situation is hard enough without all of the drama that comes with parental alienation. Keep the drama in your household to a minimum so your child can rest, heal, and recoup before they return to the hostile environment,” Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC advised.
Encourage Direct Communication
It’s likely that the reason your child is losing warmth towards you is that the alienating parent is feeding them twisted information about you. This manipulation causes them to see you differently and believe in an inaccurate image of you. They could convince your kids to think that you don’t love them anymore; the separation was their fault or other similar lies.
To avoid having this problem, ask your child to talk to you directly about any questions or concerns they may have. This way, you can address any incorrect ideas they may have about you tactfully. Always correct any inaccurate information they may have so that the problem doesn’t grow into something bigger and harder to manage. Encouraging direct communication also helps them develop critical-thinking skills, as they have to discern who to believe and what the truth is. Talking to one another also allows you to give your side of the story. “When the proposed interaction is properly managed, and not allowed to escalate into insults or argument — then contact between opposing parties should reduce tension,” Molly S. Castelloe Ph.D. furthers.
Show Them The Same Love You Did Before
If things were going well between you and your child before alienation took place, remind them of how things were before. Be mindful of showing them the same love and concern you’ve always had for them. If there were activities you enjoyed that you did often, continue doing those. Having weekly picnics, watching baseball games together, or going to their school play will show them that you’re still present.
Get them to remember how well you connected before the separation happened. This way, they can see that you’re still the same parent that they loved in the past. Chances are, they’ll think twice when the alienating parent paints you in a negative light.
Practice Self-Care And Self-Love
Trying to reconnect with your child is a very trying time. During this period, it’s crucial that you also take care of yourself. Self-blame and self-hatred are easy traps to fall into. However, remember not to be so hard on yourself. This problem is not your fault as the targeted parent. Be strong and don’t let the alienating parent make you believe that you are not worthy of your children’s time and affection. Your self-esteem and confidence in yourself will serve as a strong foundation. If you don’t believe that you are a good parent, neither will your child.
Similarly, your emotional stability can also affect how you reconnect with your kids. If you’re are all over the place, they may not want to be around you. Being emotionally unstable or unavailable during this time will have lasting consequences. For instance, it’ll be much easier for the alienating parent to convince your child that you’re someone to be feared if you’re angry all the time. Don’t give them more reasons to distrust you.
Give It Time But Keep Reaching Out
Even if your child may not take to maintaining a relationship with you, don’t lose hope. It can take some time before you sort out your issues and overcome the manipulation that they went through. You’ll have to be patient and understanding of your kids.
And while you want to give it time, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be around. If your kids show that they don’t want you around, allow them space but don’t alienate yourself either. Show up on significant occasions—birthdays, graduation, and other events. Your presence will show them that they’re important enough for you to want to remain in their life.
The primary way to battle parental alienation is through genuine love and concern for your child. Don’t fight hate with more negativity. Try to work things out with the alienating parent first. If that doesn’t work, focus on your relationship with your kids. Be present, provide guidance and love. We hope that your kids grow up to be smart adults who know that you want to be in their lives. “If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to seek counseling for your individual circumstances with a qualified mental health professional.” Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD notes.