Something that needs to be made clear is that it’s easy to understand the tendency of a parent to alienate their ex-partner. There manifests a need to validate one’s past choices, a need to have an ally, and especially a need to take solace in knowing that the child doesn’t take anything against the parent they live with.
It’s unfortunate that more often than not, the alienated parent is helplessly left out of the equation of getting the child to understand the situation. Sometimes the parent deserves it, and sometimes they don’t. What is sure, however, is that the child grows up and learns more about themselves as life goes along.
Parental alienation can occur without explicitly saying the words and it also happens in defensive or in-denial parents. John M. Grohol, Psy.D. explains, “Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It is caused by a combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent”. Whether you’re this parent or know someone who is, here’s what to watch out for:
It’s good to be close to your child in the sense that you’re open and honest when speaking to them, but it has its limits. There’s a danger in overexpressing when you tend to overemphasize on how the situation with the ex-partner has hurt you.
You most likely have good intentions when expressing yourself with things like, “I was not happy” or “It was the most hurt I’ve ever felt,” but this extends to making your emotional weight felt deeply by the child. You influence strongly how the child will always keep in the back of their mind how much pain was caused by their other parent.
If you’ve ever heard someone express to his or her child how “nice it would be to have a family like that,” it wouldn’t immediately come across as parental alienation. However, with time, and with constant emphasis, the way you present longing for an ideal situation further emphasizes that lack of it in your life.
Edward Kruk Ph.D. says that, “Alienating parents use their children to meet their own needs, violating boundaries and seriously compromising and damaging the child’s healthy development.” The child has a natural tendency to dwell on what they don’t have and could develop jealousy or resentment for people enjoying the things he or she is aware they don’t have. It’s important to be cautious when letting go of words like, “look how happy they are” or “I wish we had that.”
Teaching Them To Take Sides
Some of the most common habits of parents who tend to alienate are influencing the child to take aside. Especially for those in denial, the way they do this will not be as explicit as saying who the child should love more, or whom the child should like better. “The sad reality is that parents who damage their children’s natural affection for the other parent are doing serious—and even abusive—damage,” Susan Heitler Ph.D. points out.
This will manifest in saying things like, “You’ll always love me right?” and expressing things using the words, “even if.” Parents should avoid influencing the child to take sides at all costs, and it surely is a conscious effort. Though it might be hard, learn to tell your child more positive things about your ex-partner and encourage them to be as positive and loving as possible.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that when the child grows up and understands what they’ve been through, you want to have made sure that the child was treated with as much fairness and lovingness as they deserve so that they learn to have these kinds of relationships in the future.
It’s hard to tell how the child will process the situation in the future, and so it’s essential to maintain a positive environment as much as possible in their early years. Love for the child should always weigh more than the anger for anyone else.