Many of us have heard the old adage that divorce is hardest on the children. Now counselors and psychologists have a new name for the phenomenon – they have coined the phrase “parental alienation” (also sometimes referred to as “alienation of the child”). The term refers specifically to one parent going out of his or her way to turn the children against the other parent and can include telling children inappropriate information, lying, denying court mandated visitation, and even parental abduction. Experts are careful to note that this goes far beyond relatively normal behavior of speaking out occasionally in front of the children in anger or frustration; parental alienation is marked by parents putting their own selfish feelings above the welfare of their children.
When parents put themselves and their anger ahead of their children, they draw their children into conflict, making the children confused and anxious as they try to work through issues of parental loyalty. Ongoing effects on children can include depression, behavioral problems and learning disorders. Counselors recommend using mediation and collaborative family law to resolve these types of issues within families. They believe that the best way to help children is through early intervention with parents. Most importantly, children need to get the message that it is okay to love both parents during and after a divorce. Read more about this phenomenon at Children torn by divorce.
True parental alienation is a complex emotional issue that likely will involve legal action if one parent is denying court-ordered visitation. A parent in this situation should seek legal counseling and advice from a qualified family law attorney. If you believe you are the victim of parental alienation, please contact our firm for help.