Divorce is a difficult process for families. For the parents, the relationship has changed and it may involve negative feelings against your ex-partner. However, it’s important for you to realize that your children also suffer directly from the breakup. You see, when parents get a divorce their arguments can take on a new face. The face can be a brutal one, that includes all types of devious behaviors including sabotaging your ex, berating them or even using your children as a way of alienating your ex-partner.
The concept of parental alienation is nothing new and in fact, psychologists have known about this type of trickle down for years. The “trickle down” that can happen to children in families during a divorce can include harsh words spoken against your ex in attempts to alienate the other parent all trickling down into the mind of your child. This type of manipulation can also include lying to children about your ex’s behavior, delivering negative news that children simply don’t need to know or deliberately sabotaging your ex’s image in front of the children by saying things that are or are not true to tear them down.
Parental Alienation in The Eyes of Your Children
It is so important to remember that the relationship you had with your ex-spouse does not concern your children. However, because they are part of your family they do care about what is happening to their family. But as a parent suffering with the aches and growing pains of a divorce you must remember not to divulge all of the painful details of the arguments between you and your ex in front of or directly to your children.
It can be extremely difficult for you not to talk to your children about what’s going on. And that’s ok! You and your children should have conversations about what is going on between you and your ex. However, you may feel tempted to just open up to them candidly, explaining all of the details about a fight with them. Realize that while your children do want to know all of the juicy gossip about your breakup, they need to be protected against parental alienation.
How Parental Alienation Happens at Home
When you go through a divorce, your children may need to adjust to new environments, situations and even a new home when you split up. While the process takes time, you can help them ease into their new life by avoiding discussing anything negative about your ex while they are at home.
Here are just a few more tips to avoid parental alienation at home:
- Avoid talking about arguments
- Never badmouth your ex
- Talk about good things your ex did
- Support time sharing
- Ask your child to talk about happy times with your ex
- Promote school parent/teacher meetings
Signs of Parental Alienation
If your children are displaying behaviors like these, it could be the sign of parental alienation:
- Requests from your children not to attend events or activities they are involved in
- Defiance from your children or other oppositional behavior
- Getting shut out by your children
- Being told not to talk to their teachers or check in at school
- Being challenged in an argument or other combative behavior by your child
- Failure to identify positive qualities in your ex-partner
- Taking responsibility for negative talk or actions against your ex
Talking to a Family Counselor About Parental Alienation
A divorce can cause all types of emotions. Between you and your ex-partner arguments can erupt for days, weeks and even years before the divorce becomes final and you actually split up for good. The amount of time leading up to your split can cause you to share information with your children that they don’t need to hear. They may include the details of your arguments, negative statements or sabotaging the image of your ex in the eyes of your children. This is what’s known as parental alienation and it can happen without you even noticing. Aim to avoid these behaviors at home that can cause parental alienation and aim to participate in family meditation with a trained counselor.
During these sessions you may decide to make visits alone or with another family member. The sessions can include a variety of family meditation therapies including breathing exercises, mindful practices and even mind/body exercises. Talk therapy sessions are also very common after divorce to help restore parental coordination.
You may feel a sense of freedom when you get divorced from your spouse. However, it is so important that you remember your children are not able to handle the situation in the same way. They may hang on every word you say when you talk about your ex but you don’t want them to hear too many negative ideas about your ex-partner that may diminish them in the eyes of your children. This is a form of child abuse known as parental alienation that can be very damaging to the relationship between your child and their other parent, as well as their mental health. So, talking to a family counselor that specializes in divorce as well as parental coordination may help.