What is parental alienation – and how do I protect my children from it?

By Kate Banerjee – Head of Children Department

A disturbing disorder called parental alienation – which affects some children to such a degree that that they terminate all contact with one parent – urgently needs addressing.  

It is the view of our specialist team at Jones Myers that children are not suddenly affected with this disorder, which was identified in 1987 by an American child psychiatrist – but that parental behaviour leads to a gradual corrosion of the relationship between the child and their other parent.

Children in custody battles can be affected as a result of one parent’s all-consuming campaign to brainwash their children over a prolonged period – using them as a weapon against their estranged spouse. In extreme cases it is reported that youngsters have made up allegations, including abuse allegations, against their estranged parent.

I fully support a development which sees a group of QCs, leading psychiatrists and psychotherapists set up a working party to draw up new guidelines for the management of parental alienation cases through the courts.

These cases are extremely complex and the current judicial system – where courts often do not intervene – requires an overhaul and a more holistic approach to tackle this issue.

In the adage that prevention is better than cure, we would urge parents who are guilty of instigating such vitriolic situations to stop manipulating their offspring – and follow the steps below to ensure they always put their children’s interests first.

  • Think carefully about the impact your behaviour is having on your children – don’t criticise your ex in front of them and avoid asking them directly or indirectly to take sides – no matter how resentful and bitter you feel about your ex-spouse.
  • Always bear in mind that children need to feel loved by both parents as they struggle to come to terms with the breakdown of family life as they know it.
  • Remember that children of all ages, particularly teenagers, are vulnerable to emotional manipulation – and consider the long-term impact on their health and wellbeing.
  • Encourage your children to see their other parent and show a genuine interest in what they do during their time with your former spouse.
  • If you, your children or your ex aren’t coping then do seek external help and support.  At Jones Myers we take a holistic approach to separation and divorce, referring clients to appropriate professionals such as counsellors or therapists who are experienced in helping families and individuals deal with the fallout of a broken relationship.

If you have any comments, queries or concerns on divorce related issues, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce

 

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