How to Determine if Your Ex-Spouse is Attempting to Turn Your Child Against You

father with crying boy

So, How Can You Circumvent It?

Divorce is scary enough for children.  Throw in Parental Alienation and children become victims of a situation that they did not ask for to begin with.  There is an ever-growing body of information that has emerged over the past few years about Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) which continues to stir controversy amongst the mental health and legal communities.  No matter how you slice it and dice it, Parental Alienation Syndrome is real.  If one has a shred of doubt about its occurrence and impact it has on children, speak with those who have been caught in the crossfire of their parent’s war and used to hurt one of their parents.  PAS is very real and there is an incredible amount of documentation to support the existence.

What are some of the signs that your ex-spouse may be attempting to turn your child against you?

The term Parental Alienation Syndrome was first defined by Dr. Richard Gardner in his 1985 article, Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation. Dr. Gardner had a long-time history of working with child custody cases.  While very basic in his early assessment, he observed children denigrating one parent while aligning themselves with another one.  His study led him to further observe eight characteristics or symptoms that appear in a consistent manner.  Since his study, clinicians have used these characteristics as benchmarks for alienation.  Your child may exhibit one or all of these eight characteristics.

I have coined terms arrow and target for the parents involved in PAS.  The arrow is the one who creates the alienation and the target is the recipient of the alienation.

  1. The child no longer wants to be with or around the target and for no apparent or realistic reasons.
  2. The child makes frivolous and/or absurd remarks and claims about the Target.
  3. The child feels no remorse in their feelings against the Target.
  4. The child insists that their rejection of the Target is of their own volition and no one has encouraged them to feel the way they do.
  5. The child is completely aligned with the Arrow and that Arrow has the complete support of the child’s decision.
  6. The child feels justified to be disrespectful to Target.
  7. The child speaks in ways completely inappropriate for their age.
  8. The alienation extends beyond the Target to include once loved extended family members of the Target.

I have added a ninth characteristic and that is that the child makes severe accusations of physical, emotional or sexual abuse against the Target.

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Arrows don’t need to possess a plethora of savvy tactics in order to set the stage for PAS to occur.

All they need is access to the child and a willingness of the child to participate. Please keep in mind that the child is a victim in the scenario and is only doing what they believe they should do. Arrows are very talented in using an arsenal of weaponry in order to keep their little pawns as active participants. These can range from toys, vacations, money or privileges not customary of that given by the Target. Once the Arrow has the child brainwashed to believe that one parent is good – the Arrow and the other is bad – The Target, the alienation has taken its grip. Depending on how long the alienation has been in place and the nature of the relationship between the child and the Target has much to do with the ability to circumvent the process.

If you suspect your ex-spouse is alienating your child from you and you still have a realization with your child, there are some things you can do to buffer the alienation.

  1. Do not speak badly of the Arrow to your child.
  2. Stay true to who you are and do not use enticements to lure your child away from the Arrow.
  3. Let your child know that you love them unconditionally.
  4. Remember that your child is a victim of the Arrow’s actions and should never be blamed for PAS.
  5. Reminisce with your child about the good experiences the two of you have shared.
  6. Be vigilant with your time with your child and avoid being late for visits and don’t cancel any time with them unless under extreme necessary circumstances.
  7. Keep your attorney informed of all alienation actions that you are experiencing for guidance on how to legally intervene.

Throughout this journey, remember that your child needs and is entitled to have a relationship with you. Your former spouse is not the gatekeeper or decider whether or not you and your child should be together. The emotional issues necessary for alienation to take place lie within the individual who uses their innocent child as a tool to hurt their ex-spouse. As horrible as PAS is and how disruptive and damaging it is to a family and children, it is not the child’s fault – ever. The tentacles of PAS extend way beyond the childhood years so guidance from your attorney, the legal system and a qualified family therapist with a specialty in alienation are necessary for the successful intervention of alienation.

Parental Alienation Is Complex

As someone who has defied Parental Alienation, I know that there is a lot to understand and consider if you’re dealing with it.  As a Parental Alienation Specialist:

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