It is hard to believe that parents can do this to their children, but it happens frequently. Behaviors indicative of alienation by a parent are that the parent:
1. Believes that the child does not need to be parented by the other parent;
2. Allows the child to make independent decisions related to the parenting plan schedule:
3. Depicts the other parent as dangerous and not healthy for the child;
4. Makes denigrating remarks about the other parent;
5. Exaggerates the weaknesses of the other parent;
6. Hinders face-to-face and/or phone contact by interfering with the schedule and creating obtacles to phone calls or other communication;
7. Makes excessive contact with the child when the child is staying with the other parent;
8. Involves the child in discussing adult issues such as the causes for the divorce, divorce agreements, and finances;
9. Interrogates the child after the child stays with the other parent;
10. Encourages the child's criticisms of the other parent and sympathizes with the child's negative viewpoint.
The actions of the alienated child include that he or she:
1. Openly expresses hatred and dislike of the targeted parent;
2. Presents unrealistic, exaggerated reasons;
3. Refuses to speak to or visit the targeted parent;
4. Shows little or no evidence of guilt or upset over behavior;
5. Gives reasons that are seemingly rehearsed and repetitious;
6. Evidences extremely upsetting behavior if forced to visit or talk with the targeted parent;
7. Allies with the alienating parent to the point where the child repeats the words of that parent, mimicking their thoughts and arguments;
8. Has access to and repeats inappropriate information that should only be available to adults;
9. Plays the role of spy for the alienating parent;
10. The child describes things in a very restricted and black and white manner, thus creating a schism between the parents.
If you see these conditions occuring in your children, the other parent, or yourself, there could be a very serious situation and you should seek the help of a counselor well-versed in Parental Alienation.
Our job as parents is to help and nurture our children through the life-altering event of divorce, not to embroil them to the point that they have long-reaching emotional problems.
* By Elizabeth Thayer, Ph.D. and Jeffery Zimmerman, Ph.D.