The devastating effects of parental alienation syndrome: Part I

When a couple is headed for divorce or is in the midst of one, it is understandable that the two spouses will be prone to heated arguments, accusations and unkind words. Couples with children usually try to shield their kids from witnessing these arguments because they don’t want to put their children through the emotional and psychological trauma that parental conflict can create.

Sadly, some parents not only expose their kids to parental conflict, they force them to participate in it. The term “parental alienation” has been around for at least two decades, but has only recently become widely known and understood. This week’s posts will focus on educating readers about parental alienation, including its severe psychological and emotional consequences on children and targeted parents.

Parental alienation, sometimes called parental alienation syndrome, is a psychological condition in which a child’s relationship with one parent is essentially destroyed through programming and brainwashing by the other parent. In short, one of the child’s parents launches an aggressive campaign to denigrate the other and to convince the child to also adopt this viewpoint.

To be clear, PAS is not simply anger and disagreement between a parent and their child. Nor is a parent engaging in an alienation campaign by accidentally badmouthing the other parent within earshot of the children.

Rather, parental alienation is often a conscious, focused and long-term strategy perpetrated by one parent to marginalize the other and turn children against the targeted parent. Common parental alienation strategies include:

  • Frequently badmouthing the other parent to the children
  • Forbidding children from speaking to the other parent on the phone
  • Forbidding kids from keeping pictures and other memorabilia reminding them of the other parent
  • Suggesting, stating or implying that the other parent is dangerous and shouldn’t be trusted
  • Blaming any and all problems on the other parent, including the divorce
  • Threatening to withdraw affection and love from the child if he or she doesn’t side with the alienating parent
  • Limiting or eliminating contact with the targeted parent’s family members

If any of these behaviors sound familiar, you may have had some experience with parental alienation syndrome as either the targeted parent or the programmed child. Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion.

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