During a divorce, lifestyle shifts can impact a child’s sense of balance and wellbeing. He or she may push away one parent or another as they struggle with trust issues. If this behavior is persistent, it is called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). As a parent, it is important that you recognize common parental alienation syndrome symptoms and know what to do when they arise.
Common Signs of Parental Alienation Syndrome
- Attributing all good things to one parent and bad things to the other
- Adopting the behaviors of one parent but insisting they are acting on their own volition
- Rejecting one parent’s extended family
- Refusing to communicate, even through indirect means like texting
- Justifying their withdrawal with frivolous rationalizations
- Breaking simple promises
- Mood swings, like angry outbursts or bouts of depression
Research indicates that there is no set family lifestyle, experience, or personality that can indicate whether or not your child is at risk to Parental Alienation Syndrome. Even though it is common for children to exhibit signs of parental alienation during and after a divorce, children in all different forms of familial contexts can experience this syndrome.
Outside Influence on Your Child
For every PAS symptom that originates from your child, there may be sources coming from someone else, specifically your ex-spouse. If your ex is bad-mouthing you when you are not around, or if they are making your responsibilities as a parent difficult intentionally, they could be promoting your child’s parental alienation syndrome. What can be done to curb this behavior?
Speak with Your Ex about Your Child
Presenting a united front with your child’s parent is incredibly important, especially for children that have experienced the divorce process. If you are a parent who feels like you are being alienated by your child, having support from your ex is vital. Share your feelings and concerns with your ex and work as a team to resolve these issues. Because Parental Alienation Syndrome glorifies one parent and vilifies the other, the favored parent should try to lead by example and continue to include and respect the alienated party. Demonstrating a team dynamic for your child can help reduce the risk of Parental Alienation Syndrome. Even if you and your ex can’t be friends after your split, deciding to remain co-parents is just as impactful.
When Talking Isn’t an Option
Studies have shown that many parents that encourage parental alienation in their children often also exhibit narcissistic, antisocial, or borderline personality disorder. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to cooperate with your ex or provide a united front. If you are unable to work together, there are still steps you can take to help your child and yourself through the effects of Parental Alienation.
- Take the High Road: This can be difficult, especially when your ex is talking poorly about you. However, if you try to bad-mouth your ex in front of your child, it could only further alienate them and damage your relationship. Resist the urge to try and even the playing field or correct any lies that your ex might have shared.
- Talk to Your Child: If your child is alienating you and rejecting everything you do, it might be tempting to back off and give them space. Instead of backing off, recognize when your child is exhibiting symptoms of parental alienation and react calmly and supportively. Talk with them about their feelings and insist that you care and want to help the situation.
- Take Action with a Family Law Attorney: Parental Alienation Syndrome, if left unchecked, can dramatically affect custody and visitation arrangements. When talking to your child or ex does not seem to be an option, you can consider coming to a family law specialist for help.
At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, our Riverside County divorce attorneys are ready and willing to help you through this trying time, even if it means legal intervention is necessary to correct your ex’s potentially toxic behavior. In fact, Attorney Danica Hanich is Board Certified in Family Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization, one of about 30 in Riverside County, and has more than a decade of family law experience she can put to use in your case.
Call 951.687.6003 for a free consultation with our team today.