Parental alienation is a disturbing phenomenon that occurs when one parent attempts to manipulate a child’s perception of the other parent, often following a separation or divorce. This harmful behavior can have long-lasting negative effects on children and the relationships they have with both of their parents.
Adults involved in a child’s life need to recognize the signs of alienation and take steps to prevent or address it.
How parental alienation impacts children
Parental alienation can cause significant emotional distress in children. When children believe false or exaggerated negative information about a parent, it can lead to feelings of confusion, guilt and anxiety.
Children subjected to parental alienation may also develop low self-esteem. They may internalize the negative messages they receive about the targeted parent and feel unworthy of love and support as a result.
Alienated children may also struggle with their sense of identity. They may feel torn between their loyalty to one parent and their desire to have a relationship with the other, creating a profound internal conflict.
How parental alienation impacts parent-child relationships
Parental alienation tactics often lead to the estrangement of a child from the targeted parent. The child may become emotionally distant or refuse to see the targeted parent altogether. Alienation may, too, erode trust between the child and the targeted parent.
The damage to parent-child relationships caused by parental alienation can be long-lasting. It can persist well into adulthood, affecting not only the child’s relationship with the targeted parent but also his or er own ability to form healthy relationships in the future.
Parental alienation is a widespread issue, with Science Direct noting that about 30% of American parents say the other parent is working to alienate a shared child against them. Recognizing the signs of parental alienation is the first step in addressing it, and mediation and counseling can be valuable tools for both parents and children affected by it.