During or following a divorce, parents often worry about maintaining a bond with their child, especially now that they share custody or visitation with the other parent. Parental alienation also becomes a concern for divorced parents. This abusive practice is when one parent tries to come between the other parent and their child through harmful practices. Here are the 10 warning signs of parental alienation you need to know:
1. Making False Allegations of Domestic Violence
When one parent makes up details or exaggerate events to make the other parent out to the bad one, they might use false allegations of domestic violence. This tactic teaches the child that the other parent is someone to fear and may lead to the child believing that they should “side” with the “victim” parent.
2. Telling Children Details of Divorce
While parents should openly communicate with their child about the divorce overall as a means of reassuring them that nothing has to change between the child and their parents, some parents use talking about the divorce as another form of parental alienation. They may share intimate details with children far too young to understand which could lead to trauma. They may also tell the child only your faults in contributing to the divorce while omitting their own misdeeds.
3. Using Negative Body Language
Body language, even when subtle, can influence children and how they see the people around them, including their parents. If one parent is constantly using negative body language, such as rolling eyes, sighing loudly, crossing their arms, or making angry facial expressions, when communicating with the other parent, it may influence how the child sees the other parent. The child may start mimicking the same body language when dealing with their parent as a result.
4. Speaking Badly in Front of Children
Speaking badly about one parent in front of the child is a common red flag of parent alienation. The parent may be complaining about the other one or placing blame on one parent as a way to sway the child. For example, telling a child “we can’t spend your birthday together because your mother wants you all to herself” or similar sentiments.
5. Children are Angry at You
When children are suddenly angry with you after spending time with their other parent, it may be a sign of parental alienation. The other parent may be using the other tactics to make the child angry at you, such as telling the child about alleged domestic violence or other negative claims. The child may also be mirroring what they see their other parent expressing about you.
6. Prying about Your Private Life
If the other parent is asking the child constantly about your private life, this is parental alienation in an attempt to turn your child against you. Constantly asking the child about the other parents dating life, personal life, or financial decisions. They may be doing this to get information they can “use” against you, which puts your child in a tense place of feeling like they need to report information to the parent asking the questions.
7. Keeping Children Away from You
A parent keeping the other parent from seeing their child is parental alienation and breaks the terms of the custody order. This may be done in sneaky ways, such as signing the child up for an activity or event on the day the child is scheduled to spend with you.
8. Giving Children Choices about Visits
The parent using parental alienation may ask children if they want to see their other parent. This is harmful since the visitation or custody is ordered through the court as part of the child custody agreement and the child has no choice. This tactic creates a sense of blame in that it feels like the child is being forced to see you.
9. Making Children Choose a Parent
A parent may ask the child to choose between the two parents, which is definitely an abusive and harmful tactic of parental alienation. They may ask the child which parent they love more or other similar questions that are impossible (and unfair) for a child.
10. Children Made to Feel Guilty after Spending Time with You
If children are made to feel guilty for spending time with you or enjoying their time with you, that is a sign of parental alienation. The other parent may be making them feel guilty by telling them manipulative things like how alone they were while the child was away having fun with you.