Don’t Be An Alienating Parent
Are you allowing your unresolved divorce issues to turn you into an alienating parent? While you wouldn’t do anything to directly harm your children, your behavior regarding the other parent can be detrimental to your children. The following article sheds some light on the subtle ways in which one parent can undermine the other parent’s position after a divorce.
Are You An Alienating Parent?
Written by: Jeff Opperman
What do you think would happen if comedian Jeff Foxworthy stopped telling redneck jokes and started talking about Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?
For example, instead of, “If you’ve ever cut your grass and found a car, you might be a redneck,” we’d hear,
“If you’ve ever disconnected the phone so you child’s other parent couldn’t get through, you might be an alienating parent.”
And in place of, “If someone asks to see your ID and you show them your belt buckle, you might be a redneck,” he’d tell us,
“If you’ve ever intercepted the other parent’s birthday present to the child and told the child ‘your mother/father didn’t send a gift,’ you might be an alienating parent.”
If Foxworthy goes from “you might be a redneck” to “you might be an alienating parent,” he might not be a comedian much longer. There is nothing funny about Parental Alienation Syndrome.
The late Dr. Richard A. Gardner, a New York psychiatrist and author of “The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide of Legal and Mental Health Professionals,” coined the term parental alienation approximately 20 years ago to characterize the breakdown of previously normal, healthy parent/child relationships during divorce and child custody cases.
What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
In PAS, one parent deliberately damages, and in some cases destroys, the normal, loving relationship between his or her child and the child’s other parent. In severe PAS cases, the alienating parent and child work together to successfully eliminate the previously loved Mom or Dad from the child’s life.
An alienating parent’s behavior stems from the parent’s unresolved emotional issues. The parent uses the child to fill his or her unhealthy emotional needs at the expense of the other parent.
PAS experts have identified three levels of alienating behavior – mild, moderate and severe. In reality, these levels are nothing more than points along a continuum of behavior. The alienating parent may bounce between levels depending on his or her emotional state. And the parent’s emotions are based on a variety of factors – including how well the parent is dealing with those unresolved issues; and how well the child is meeting his or her new responsibilities to the parent.
Are you an alienating parent?
We won’t repeat our variation on Foxworthy’s familiar “… you might be a redneck” refrain after each of the following examples, but we will say it once. You might be an alienating parent if you:
- Allow the child to talk negatively or disrespectfully about the other parent.
- Set up tempting alternatives that would interfere with the other parent’s time with the child.
- Give the child decision-making power about spending time with the other parent when no choice exists.
- Act hurt and betrayed if the child shows any positive feelings towards the other parent…
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