By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Children can easily and subtly be influenced by both parents during and after divorce. Sometimes the influence is intentional. Other times parents may not be aware of how they are manipulating their children’s affection and allegiance toward themselves and away from their other parent.
Either way, the damage for children can be significant, especially in regards to maintaining a loving connection with both parents when the divorce is over.
Here’s some sound advice for parents who feel targeted for alienation and want to re-establish or keep a healthy parent-child relationship:
• Keep in contact with your children in every possible way. Use video, texts, email and other technology to stay in touch, even on the most basic level.
• Maintain your personal power regarding scheduling activities and contact with the children. Don’t passively enable your kids or your ex to dictate terms and conditions.
• Create fun times worth repeating. Don’t waste time trying to explain your side, convince the kids you’ve been abused or changing their minds about circumstances. Let their positive experiences with you speak for itself.
• Never dismiss or discount your children’s feelings, even if they are expressing anger or fear of you. There’s complex programming behind this that won’t disappear through conflict. Instead, listen, be understanding and start to create new levels of trust and communication on which to build your relationship.
• Be assertive about visits. Waiting until the kids feel like seeing you can be counter-productive. Make specific agreements, arrangements and plans. Keep them – and expect the same from them – or the right time will never take place.
• Regardless of how frustrated you are with your ex and/or your child, don’t express it by losing your temper or acting out with aggression, criticism or punishment. That just feeds and justifies the alienation.
• Resist any form of retaliation. Never get back at your children through rejection. Implying you won’t see them if they don’t want to see you is immature and self-destructive.
• Tempting as it may be, don’t accuse your children of favoring, being intimidated by or protecting their other parent. Most children will deny this, feel misunderstood and even attacked by these accusations.
• Don’t make your children your messengers. Asking them to share your opinion about issues with their other parent weighs them down with pressure, stress and guilt. It’s not their place to speak on your behalf.
• Never say anything that’s disrespectful of your child’s other parent. Bad-mouthing your ex adds fuel to the alienation flames and will back-fire for you faster than you ever imagined.
The process of reclaiming a relationship with your children or strengthen the parent-child bond following a divorce is a slow one. Don’t be impatient or have unrealistic expectations. On the other hand, persistence and consistency are vital to your success. Being a warm, welcoming, loving parent every time you see your children, keeping your tone upbeat and making your time together a positive experience will go a long way toward re-building a trusting bond.
If your alienation circumstances are severe, be sure to seek out professional assistance. If you’re dealing with some of the more subtle levels of confusion in your children, be the role model you know they need and build on every interaction and connection with sincere love.
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Rosalind Sedacca is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! To learn more about the ebook, visit http://www.howdoitellthekids.com. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, free ezine, coaching services and other valuable resources for parents, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.