What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome And The Effects On Children
By: Jessica Anderson
Updated September 18, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Kristina Ellen
Divorce rates are rising in our society today, and children are being affected more than ever before. These relationship strains are extremely difficult for all parties involved, but for our children's sake, there are some actions we need to take to keep them healthy throughout the process. If children are around too many negative conversations regarding the divorce, they may experience something called Parental Alienation Syndrome. In the article below, we will look into this syndrome, its symptoms, its causes, and how it can be prevented.
Parental Alienation Syndrome And Its Effects On Children
Parental Alienation Syndrome occurs when a child displays irrational fear or anger towards one parent. These feelings are usually planted by the opposite parent, in an attempt to keep their child away from the other parent. This is a form of psychological manipulation, and it is detrimental to the child and their family relationships. It coerces a child to feel negative emotions toward a loving caregiver for no justifiable reason. It can be either purposeful or accidental, but in either case, it needs to be taken seriously and prevented as soon as it is noticed.
Parental Alienation Syndrome can have lasting effects on the children involved. They are trying to listen and trust two adults in their lives that love them very much when one parent begins to convince them that the other is "bad." This causes confusion, among many other negative emotions. Children who experience Parental Alienation Syndrome can even experience anxiety and depression. It can cause children to behave in a negative or inappropriate manner at school or cause them to feel isolated and alone. They can have difficulty trusting others and could even bring parental alienation into their future children's lives. Among all of these hardships, they may grow up without proper family relationships at no fault of their own.
If you have experienced Parental Alienation Syndrome or know someone who has, you understand how difficult it can be. If you're going through a divorce or have gone through one in the past, you know how challenging it can be to stay positive in front of your children. Luckily, there is help available. Many have gone before you and found hope, as well as pathways to healthy relationships in the future. Below, we will look into how to recognize, prevent, and repair relationships affected by Parental Alienation Syndrome.
How To Recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome
It is important to know that Parental Alienation Syndrome is quite common. Divorce happens at an alarmingly high rate, and in the heat of the moment, negative words and deeds occur. These happenings are never healthy, but when children are present, they can bring about even more negative consequences.
When attempting to recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome, you may notice some of the following symptoms:
- One parent is blaming the other for financial issues, or for the child not being able to do a certain activity. You might hear something similar to, "Well, you can't be taking swimming lessons any longer. Since your father left us, we have no money to spare."
- The child is arguing with one parent, and the other encourages the argument or does not help them solve the disagreement.
- One parent is refusing to share medical or educational records with the other parent. Both parents have the right to receive information about their child's health and educational well-being.
- When the child has a mark or a bruise, one parent jumps to the conclusion that the other parent was physically abusive without any evidence or reason behind the assumption.
- One parent keeps secrets or speaks in a special language with the child, and no one is able to understand. This separates the child further from the other parent.
- One parent is asking the child to choose between their two parents and to state which one is better. They may say, "Tell me the truth, which house do you like staying at better?" Or, "Who is more fun, Mommy or Daddy?"
- The children are given too much information surrounding the divorce, specifically negative information about the other parent.
How To Prevent Parental Alienation Syndrome
Parental Alienation Syndrome can be prevented by the parents working together and staying positive in front of their children, no matter the emotions they truly feel inside for each other. It is important that the two parents put their differing opinions aside and come together for the sake of the children.
It is essential that both parties acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions. If they had said things that were hurtful or not true, it helps if they apologize. Both parties need to rebuild trust and honesty with one another, and these respectful actions can take place in front of the children.
It is normal to want to say negative things about your ex-partner, but if you do catch yourself doing this in front of your children, do your best to stop. Remember that they love and look up to this parent, so try to treat them with the same respect. This will be difficult when the feelings you are showing may not actually represent how you feel inside. If you do accidentally say something negative in front of your children, take the time to apologize and bring up some good qualities of the other parent to steer the conversation back into a positive direction.
Therapy is a strong tool for any couple that is experiencing trouble within their relationship. It is needed even more when divorce, children, and Parental Alienation Syndrome are involved. If the facts shared in this article seem to relate to your life, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist for help.
If you have a busy schedule with your children and career, you may want to consider an online option like BetterHelp. BetterHelp counselors are available to help you from the comfort and privacy of your own home. They can help you bring your relationship with your ex-partner back to a healthy place for the sake of your children. They can help you bring positivity to your children as well. Even though Parental Alienation Syndrome is difficult to endure for all parties involved, it is common, and BetterHelp counselors can help. You can see reviews of BetterHelp counselors below, from people experiencing similar issues.
"When I signed up for BetterHelp, I was in the midst of a major life crisis. I was seeking a compassionate, experienced counselor like Jillian to help me cope with the initial pain, anger, and anxiety. Also, I chose Jillian because, in her self description, she states, "I'm a big believer in seeing life challenges, especially the most painful ones, as a catalyst for self-discovery, personal growth, and positive change." This really resonated with me. I knew that I wanted my experience to be an opportunity for personal growth. I am incredibly grateful that Jillian indeed helped me grieve and work through the challenges of divorce and early motherhood. She helped me learn about myself and transform my life in a positive way. She offered practical, specific tools to incorporate into my daily routine. She helped me to reconnect with myself and clarify and move towards my life goals. She offered constructive advice for interacting with my ex-husband and maintaining boundaries. Through working with her, I was able to care for myself so that I could be a mindful, present mama, and really soak in the precious moments with my newborn daughter. My sessions with Jillian made a huge difference as I navigated this time in my life. I could not recommend her more highly."
"I am THRILLED with Rachel and with BetterHelp! It is affordable, I am a single mom with 4 kids on a tight budget and a LOT of stress, and this format makes it easy to get help. I LOVE that I can write my feelings to her whenever I am having them, not have to wait a week for the next session. She is very insightful, and I am thankful!"
Parental Alienation is a difficult topic, but it is something that can be prevented. Even if it is hard, do your best to speak kindly about your ex-partner when your children are near. If you say something negative, apologize, and bring up some positive facts to help the situation turn positive again. Remember the signs of Parental Alienation Syndrome, and seek help from a therapist if you see multiple signs. Even though Parental Alienation is hard to deal with, it can be solved with the help from a therapist, and you can move forward to have a healthy relationship with your children. Have hope and take the steps you need to give your children (and yourself) a happy and healthy family life. Take the first step today.