Parental alienation refers to the behaviour of one parent that can undermine the other parent’s time and/or relationship with the children. There is a broad range of behaviours and severity.
Minor symptoms with low severity include inconveniencing the other parent with schedule changes, limited sharing of information, and expressing some consternation or bad feelings about the other parent with the child.
Moderate symptoms with greater severity include the occasional withholding of parenting time, placing the child in the middle by using him or her to convey information, and more intense expressions of frustration or negativity about the other parent.
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More serious symptoms of parental alienation include making false allegations of poor character or parenting about the other parent, drawing in other people and/or services to undermine the parenting time or relationship, and outright maligning the parent to the child. In the most severe forms of parenting alienation, the child may eventually take on the issues of the alienating parent as their own.
In all cases, it is important for the parent being alienated to remain calm and not act in any manner so as to give credibility or ammunition to the alienating parent. In the event that a child seeks to inform the targeted parent of the views and opinions of the alienating parent, it is vital to remain calm and not draw the child deeper into the conversation, and to refrain from lashing back by providing an alternate point of view or even necessarily defending oneself.
A simple statement of sadness that the child must hear such things, and then redirection to other tasks at hand, is often sufficient. The objective here is to demonstrate behaviour inconsistent with what was said by calmly and nicely going on to whatever the plan is at the moment. The goal is to ensure the child has positive experiences with you in a way that is inconsistent with what was said about you. Let your loving and reasonable behaviour speak for you always.
If concern for alienating behaviour persists, sometimes just meeting with the other parent, again calmly and respectfully, can go far. The alienating behaviour may be the result of unresolved anger or grief over the changes to the intimate relationship, or to the loss of being a full-time parent. Sensitivity, compassion and empathy are often better tools than blame, anger, admonishment or retaliation. Instead of opening a conversation by blaming, just inform the other parent of what the child is saying or doing, while expressing concern that the child may be adjusting to changes too.
If it continues or concerns persist, consider inviting the other parent to counselling to further express and resolve concerns. And if the other parent is still unwilling to change his or her behaviour after this, consider seeking legal remedy.