How to Avoid Unintentionally Alienating Your Children From Their Other Parent

Couples who are divorcing strive to make decisions in the best interest of the children. However, co-parenting after a divorce is challenging and parents are people too: sometimes they make bad decisions when it comes to their children which they later come to regret. You can avoid causing your child the anxiety and pain of parental alienation by avoiding these specific actions.

1. Do not speak negatively about the other parent or his or her family.
It’s likely that your list of grievances with your ex-spouse and ex-in-laws will be long and complicated, but your child does not need to know that.  This is true even if there was physical or emotional abuse in your relationship that the child witnessed first-hand. A therapist who understands child development can help you determine exactly how you should talk to your child about what he or she witnessed based on your family’s unique circumstances.

2. Do not share all the details of your divorce with your child.
Your child is your child, not your best friend and confidant. He or she should not be privy to all the pain and difficulties you may experience during your divorce.

3. Do not pressure your child to choose.
Children can love both parents and are capable of loving both parents differently. Children should not be forced to choose between their parents. Children with a healthy relationship with both parents are more likely to become better parents. As adults, they will recognize and understand the actions that divorced parents took to maintain a healthy family relationship and use that as a model in their own families.

4. Actions speak louder than words. 
If your ex-spouse is trying to alienate you from your children, demonstrate your good qualities by your actions and don’t turn the table and speak negatively about the other parent. If your child has questions about what they are hearing from the other parent, answer them as honestly as possible: but remember that being honest doesn’t give you license to tell your child every detail if you know it will cause them distress.   

5. Encourage your child to have a positive relationship with the other parent.
You don’t have to love your ex-spouse but you should do your best to model respect for him or her.  If your child is speaking negatively about the other parent, find out what has happened to cause the child to feel that way and do your best to respond in a way that can help heal any rift that has developed, as opposed to making it worse.

Parental alienation played out in the headlines in celebrity cases is sure to generate social media clicks, but alienating a child from a parent is painful for the child and can permanently destroy his or her relationship with one or both parents.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss the decisions you need to make around your divorce. 

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