April 18, 2024

Parental alienation is toxic: how to spot the signs   

By Kate Banerjee, Head of Jones Myers Children’s Department

Parental alienation is a particular family dynamic that can emerge when parents separate, in which the child becomes hostile and rejects the other parent.

It can occur when one parent or carer expresses freely and persistently unreasonable negative feelings or beliefs such as anger or fear towards the other parent.

Such behaviour is often disruptive to the child’s actual experience with that parent and can cause widespread, long-lasting damage to relationships between children and parents.

Parental alienation is a contentious term, many in the legal world are reluctant to use the term parental alienation because of its contentious background. Whatever the view of this contentious pattern of behaviour, parental alienation by its ordinary meaning is often an accurate description of the action of a parent either consciously or unconsciously.

Our nationally and internationally renowned Children’s Department – which always puts children’s best interests first – has witnessed the detrimental effects of this damaging pattern of behaviour on children and parents who are at the receiving end.  

Parental Alienation Day on April 25 raises global awareness of the issue which affects millions of parents and children worldwide and can lead to a gradual corrosion of relationships.  

What are the signs of parental alienation? 

  1. When a parent forbids or tries to restrict their children from seeing the estranged parent 
  2. When a parent tries to convince their children that they would be better off not seeing the estranged parent 
  3. When a parent prevents their children from talking about their estranged parent 
  4. When a parent constantly criticises the estranged parent in front of their children
  5. When a parent makes up and relays negative actions/stories about the estranged parent to their children
  6. When a parent implies to their children that the estranged parent does not care for them

Time and opportunity are often lost and further damage can be  done to a relationship between the parent and a child if action isn’t taken.

How parents can manage and try to avoid alienating behaviour

We urge parents everywhere to set aside their frustrations and resentment to always make their children’s wellbeing a priority – no matter how acrimonious their relationship breakdown has been.   

They can do this in the following ways:

  1. Think before you act about how your behaviour is affecting your children
  2. Make your children’s present and future emotional and physical a priority at all times  
  3. Always remember that children of all ages, particularly teenagers, are vulnerable to emotional manipulation
  4. Avoid criticising your ex-partner in front of them and tell them how much both parents love them
  5. Never encourage your children to take your side against your ex-partner 
  6. Take an interest in what your children do with your ex-partner
  7. Set up a parenting plan with your ex-partner to ensure effective communication and planning  

If you, your ex-partner or your children are struggling with the separation, we advise seeking expert advice, in some cases fast action is necessary to avoid seriously harmful outcomes for children.

At Jones Myers our integrated approach to separation and divorce includes us referring our clients to appropriate professionals like counsellors or therapists who can help you deal with the fallout of a broken relationship.

For queries on parental alienation, children law or family law, call us at 0113 246 0055 (Leeds), 01423 276104 (Harrogate), 01904 202550 (York). www.jonesmyers.co.uk, info@jonesmyers.co.uk or tweet us @helpwithdivorce

Jones Myers blog is ranked among the UK’s Best 25 family law blogs and websites to follow in 2024.

Image by Ben White, Unsplash.