For those interested in divorce and child custody issues, you have likely heard the term “parental alienation.” The term is used to describe how a parent can manipulate their child into having negative feelings for the other parent, or even cut that parent off entirely. It is a real problem, and it can qualify as child abuse.
One of the key hallmarks of parental alienation is a disruption of the child’s normal parental attachment system through suppression or manipulation. A role-reversal relationship is also a common issue, where one parent uses the child to meet their own psychological and emotional needs.
When one parent engages in parental alienation, it is not always easy to spot because the parents are usually not in the same house. They do not see the other parent using the child as a psychological crutch or the methodologies the other parent is using to manipulate the child. After all, these behaviors are, by their design, hidden. However, there are signs that should put you on notice.
If you notice a drastic change in how your child interacts with you, that may be a sign of parental alienation. If they start to blame you for the divorce or for the other parent’s issues, or begin to cut you off entirely, something is not right. And, symptoms of parental alienation may not always present as negativity towards you. Indeed, some children internalize the negativity and parental manipulation and become depressed or change how they interact with everyone.
What do I do if I see these signs?
You should consider making two phone calls immediately. First, call your insurance to get your child mental health treatment. A mental health provider experienced with parental alienation can help determine if that is the issue, or if your child is having a mental health crisis.
Second, consider contacting your State College, Pennsylvania, divorce attorney. If it is found that your ex-spouse has engaged in parental alienation that has negatively affected your child, you may need to modify your child custody order. The attorney will need to work with you, the mental health provider and the court to help your child.