No matter how the relationship ended, a divorce can quickly become mired in heated emotions and long-standing disputes. Once things like child custody, parenting time, and the division of assets and debts have been completed, both parties must go about creating their own independent futures.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for anger or resentment to cloud one parent’s interactions with the other after a divorce. When those interactions begin influencing the children, however, you might be facing parental alienation.
Parental alienation occurs when one parent puts his or her own needs and emotions above the best interest of the child. This can happen both verbally and non-verbally as well as through direct or indirect communication.
- Verbal communication: Specifically discussing with the child financial matters and blaming the father for money shortages.
- Non-verbal communication: The mother rolls her eyes and sighs while talking to the father on the telephone – in full view of the child.
- Direct communication: Specifically commenting to the child that the father is probably late to pick the child up because he has another date with his special friend.
- Indirect communication: The mother makes disparaging comments about the father while on a phone conversation with a friend. The child is in earshot of the discussion.
In general, the alienating parent is the custodial parent due to the simple fact that they spend more time with the child. Historically, mothers have been awarded custody more often than fathers, so men represent the larger group of non-custodial parents – putting them disproportionately in harm’s way for parental alienation.
This type of alienation can quickly turn a child against their own father. Constant beratement and a stilted perspective on all parental matters can have a strong impact. Children have the right to grow and mature with strong relationships with both parents.