In the absence of domestic violence, what children of divorce need more than anything is to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both parents, and to be shielded from their parents' marital and post-marital conflicts.
Unfortunately, some parents expect their children to choose sides. In extreme situations – and this happens more than it should – they encourage their children's rejection of the other parent.
In this situation, children can be manipulated by one parent to hate the other, despite the child's natural desire to love and be loved by both of their parents.
Programming for "Hate"
Parental alienation involves the "programming" of a child by one parent to dislike or hate the target parent. This is a divorced parent's last ditch effort to undermine and interfere with the child's relationship with their other parent.
It is a sign of a parent's inability to let go of the couple's conflict and focus on the best interests of the child. Parental alienation can be very powerful, and sadly, the child ends up emotionally rejecting the target parent, and they lose a loving parent from their life – often permanently.
The concept of parental alienation syndrome was developed over 20 years ago by Psychiatrist Richard Gardner, who defined it as a disorder that primarily arises out of the context of child custody disputes.
The child's views of the target parent are almost exclusively negative, to the point where the parent is seen as evil. Parental alienation often involves:
- Badmouthing the other parent
- Limiting contact with that parent
- Erasing the other parent from the child's life and mind
- Forcing the child to reject the target parent
In many cases, when noncustodial parents are disengaged in their children's lives, it's involuntary and a result of parental alienation. According to Psychology Today, the effects of parental alienation upon children are well-documented, and include: low self-esteem, substance abuse, depression, and other forms of addiction.
Contact our Los Angeles child custody attorneys if you're a victim of parental alienation syndrome.