Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is the unwarranted or illogical rejection of a parent, by a child, where there was previously a normal, warm, loving relationship.  It most often occurs in highly traumatic relationship break-ups. There is no one definitive set of behaviours that constitute parental alienation but research with both parents and children has revealed a core set of alienation strategies, including criticising the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child, fo rinstance, forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent, forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent.

This can be immensely traumatic for the alienated parent trying to contain the hurt and the loss, and can be a nightmare that brings many to the edge and sometimes beyond.

For those children who are victims of this – who are explicitly alienated by one parent against the other, who are lied to, manipulated and physically prevented from contact - this is nothing short of abuse. Those children are forced to supress or deny their love and affection, and hide their thoughts and emotions. They are prohibited from speaking to, communicating or being with someone they love. They secretly acknowledge the risk of losing a second parent if they do not comply with the alienating tactics.  Children come to learn the upside of compliance in the alienation – the delivery of conditional love, or a more peaceful homelife.  

Life too for the alienating parent may offer little of the hoped for revenge – whether the parent is conscious of their actions or not.  They too struggle to contain the shame and damage and the hate that they may hold for their former partner.  How they may believe that this person is so hateful, that they need to protect their child at all costs. 

Counselling can help all three affected parties in this tangle - the child, the alienating and the alienated parent.

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