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Divorce law blog

What is Parental Alienation, and how can I avoid it?

28/04/2017   By: Camilla Highmoor

What is parental alienation?

The psychological and emotional manipulation of a child by one parent against the other, parental alienation has recently been described by Anthony Douglas, chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) as “a form of neglect”.  In extreme, but sadly not unusual circumstances, this form of psychological abuse leads to the long-term, or even permanent, estrangement of a child from one parent and/or other family members.  Research shows that parental alienation can also increase the risk of the child developing mental and physical illnesses and the likelihood of substance abuse and addiction in later years.

How can I prevent this happening?

Although there is no easy-fix solution, whether you are the parent being alienated or whether you are, however inadvertently, the parent alienating the other, the best way to avoid parental alienation is to strive for successful co-parenting from that outset.  Read some of our other articles about putting your children first and listening to your children for more information

Here are our some of our top tips for successful co-parenting.

  • Breathe – it is easy to let your emotions get the better of you.  Try to breathe and count to ten before making that cutting remark about the other parent and maybe you will be able to let it go unsaid.
  • Always use positive language – and  that’s not just about when you talk to your children about your ex.   For example, instead of saying “I miss you”, which could make your children feel guilty when they go to stay with your ex, try saying “I’m looking forward to seeing you again!”.  And if you really can’t say anything nice about your ex, remember that old gem and don’t say anything at all.
  • Do not become an alienator – in  the face of alienation by your ex, it is easy to become defensive and angry but do not fall into this trap.  Many separated parents find professional help from counsellors or family therapists invaluable.
  • Never make your children choose between you and your ex, especially while they are still young. This will make them feel guilty and push them further away. 
  • Create a parenting plan – sit down with you ex and set out the rules and routines you both plan to follow.  To help keep track of pickups, appointments and school events, take advantage of technology and use web-based programs or apps such as Our Family Wizard and Google Calendar so that everyone is clear about the arrangements. 

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