Relief may follow the end of a high-conflict divorce. However, this may prove short-lived if the children start misbehaving or become distant.
This may feel like a normal side effect of divorce. While there is an adjustment for children after divorce, if their behavior worsens or they pull further away, it may point to something else. Parental alienation occurs when one parent manipulates the children to hurt the other. The consequences of parental alienation are far-reaching.
First signs of parental alienation
Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse and may begin with few signs. A sudden shift in the way children express themselves may provide a clue. For example, if they once shared details of their day and now they do not, it may mean they feel pressured into remaining silent. On the other end of the spectrum, if children start acting out, it may mean that they are under emotional pressure.
Methods of parental alienation
Control and manipulation are the hallmarks of parental alienation. To do this, the dominant parent may try and turn the children against the other. The campaign may start with comments about hardships caused by the other parent’s lifestyle. This may include things such as:
- Talking about how much more money the other parent has
- Badmouthing a new relationship
- Reminding the children the other parent left them
The goal of parental alienation is to wear away the bond between children and the other parent. This allows the dominant parent to “win” the love and affection of the children.
Since family court revolves around what is in the children’s best interests, a parent who commits parental alienation may face penalties, including a loss of custody. In the wake of divorce, it is essential to recognize and document suspicions of emotional abuse and get children the help needed.