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Parental Alienation

View profile for Lucy Phipps
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Parental Alienation

For separated parents there can often be a worry that as a result of living apart from your child, your parent-child relationship may start to suffer.

In extreme cases, children can become estranged from one parent as a consequence of the other parent’s feelings towards them. This behaviour has been labelled ‘parental alienation’ and it is the process of psychological and emotional manipulation of the child (often not deliberately inflicted) by one parent who holds anger or hostility towards the other parent. The child will, over time, start to become more aligned to that parent and start to share their views towards the other.

The ways to spot alienation:

  • The child is reluctant to come for contact with you
  • The child asks to return to the other parent
  • The child makes comments suggesting that they have been told, or have overheard negative comments about you from the other parent such as: ‘mummy says this about you’ or ‘daddy told me that you did this’
  • The other parent denigrates you in the presence of the child
  • The other parent tries to unreasonably limit your contact with the client

If you start to notice some or all of the above, happening on a reasonable regular basis you should act quickly.  It takes a long time to reverse the process of alienation and it will often depend upon the age and emotional maturity of the child concerned. Our advice is that you should not wait for the behaviour to become deep rooted and that you try to speak to the other parent about what is happening.   However, if the behaviour continues you should discuss your options with a specialist family layer. 

It is important to remember that it is not the child’s fault and that they will be coping with internal conflicts of their own and reliance on their parents to reassure and support them.  The more you can do to counteract the behaviour and make as much of the time you together the better. 

If you are facing a possible parental alienation from your child, you should surround yourself with expert support at an early stage because it is a complicated problem that must be managed carefully for the child.