Parental Alienation

Father and daughter

What is Parental Alienation?

The vast majority of parents do not want to hurt their children during the separation or divorce process, nor after the divorce, but they end up behaving in ways that negatively affect the child’s brain, emotional, and psychological development. When a child rejects a parent in the absence of legitimate, verified reasons, parental alienation needs to be considered as it is a factor in some separation and divorce situations.

Alienating behaviors include such things as one parent: bad mouthing the other parent to the child, presenting the other parent as dangerous or incompetent to the child, restricting or denying parenting time, telling the child that the other parent doesn’t really care, creating a situation in which the child has to choose one parent over the other, or interfering/restricting communication with the other parent.

How does Alienating behavior affect children?

When a parent engages in alienating behaviors, it can have profound and long-lasting negative effects on a child. Children experience anxiety, sadness, confusion, and acting out behaviors in response to alienation. These reactions are a result of the child’s inability to resolve the “loyalty conflict” created by the child’s internal struggle to choose one parent over the other parent when all the child wants to do is love and spend time with both parents.

An Educational Approach

Research has shown that traditional therapy or counseling is ineffective in resolving the child’s loyalty conflict. An alternative approach is an educational model to address both the parental behavior and the child’s reactions to alienating behaviors. The parent on the receiving end of alienating behavior learns how to much better respond to both the other parent and the child who resists contact. The parent who is engaging in behaviors that are considered alienating learns how to interact and react differently to the other parent and the child. The child learns how to re-engage critical thinking skills necessary to deal with alienating actions from one parent. These cognitive skills will also help protect the child from future parental behavior that negatively affects the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Resetting the Family has utilized the research and science to date concerning parental alienation and has developed a series of educational programs to address that most common parental alienation tactics in mild and moderate cases.


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