Parental Alienation – when one or both divorcing parents attempts to negatively influence their children about the other parent — is one of the most terrible outcomes of a divorce gone bad. It’s a difficult and complex subject, but the outcome is always the same. Children who are emotionally scarred.
When you mix two egos with dramatically differing perspectives, you’re bound to get an entanglement of emotions compounded by allegations, defensiveness and self-righteousness. Unfortunately, no one wins when parental alienation runs its course during and after a divorce. But it’s the children in particular who lose in a big way. Many of them are affected for life.
Behind parental alimentation are parents who feel totally justified in hating, resenting or otherwise distancing themselves from their former spouse. They fail to take into account how this might psychologically play out in an innocent child who naturally loves both parents. Backed by the strength of their convictions, these parents feel validated in negatively influencing their children’s attitude toward the other parent. Whether its overt put-downs, disparaging comments or more subtle nuances of distain, they make it clear that they do not like, respect or trust the other parent. The message to the children creates confusion mixed with anxiety, insecurity, guilt and fear.
What’s a child to do when one of their parents says the other parent, who is genetically a part of them, is bad, wrong, hateful, or not worthy of their love? How should a child handle the burden of learning “truths” about their other parent that only an adult can comprehend? Who can a child turn to when Mom is putting down Dad (or vice versa) and it makes them angry, frightened or resentful?
Parents need to think before they act. They need to look ahead to the consequences before they share secrets that no child should have to know – before they take the innocence of childhood from children who are totally powerless to fix their adult problems. They need seek the counsel of professionals who can dispassionately help them make the right decision on their children’s behalf. Then they need to work on healing themselves.
Psychotherapist, JoAnn Simmons, MA, LMHC, and a contributor to my new book, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love!, offers some sound advice in her new book, Stop Looking … And Let True Love Find YOU! “There’s nothing that hurts more than a broken heart,” she notes. “Romantic love relationships are the toughest to release, especially if you feel wronged by your partner. A rocky romance often results in blaming the other person. Some people hold grudges for years. These grudges block the energy around your heart and tend to constrict giving and receiving love.”
This not only hurts your children, it hampers your ability to move on with your life in a healthy, productive way – and keeps you from attracting a happier, more successful new relationship into your life. “The longer we hold onto the past, the longer we stay stuck in negative feelings related to the past. You must let go of old resentments,” says Simmons.
The essential point here is that you don’t let go of those resentments in order to benefit your former spouse – or to let them off the hook. You let go so you can make a space for a better future for yourself. That better future will inevitably be better for your children, as well. So everyone wins.
Parental alienation is a sure way to risk alienating your children from you – if not today, in the years and decades ahead. When making decisions about your divorce, child custody issues, visitations, holiday celebrations and all the day-to-day activities that fill our busy lives, remember to be a parent first. Put aside your personal feelings about your former spouse. Stop – and see that other parent from your child’s perspective – as the Mom or Dad they deeply love.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is the author of the new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For more information, free articles on child-centered divorce and her free ezine, go to: //www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca 2007 All rights reserved.