Divorce is hard, but it’s much more challenging when the spouses are constantly at war before, during and after the divorce process. As a general rule, when we hear about children of divorce who are traumatized by the experience it’s because their parents did not split amicably.
Unfortunately, contentious divorces can have long-lasting effects and some of the most devastating are those that affect the couple’s children and their relationship with one or both parents. In the presence of parental alienation, children of divorce can be completely alienated from one of their parents, causing them to lose the participation of a loving parent in their life.
This can mean the alienated parent is never spoken to again. They’re never invited to the child’s wedding, nor are they introduced to their grandchildren. What’s heartbreaking is that the child has been so brainwashed that they believe the alienation is justified.
What is Parental Alienation?
In Psychology Today, Susan Heitler Ph.D. says that parental alienation syndrome “occurs when one parent attempts to turn the couple’s children against the other parent.” Heitler continues, “A parent who is angry at the spouse or ex-spouse accomplishes this estrangement by painting a negative picture of the other parent in depreciating comments, blame and false accusations shared with the children.”
If you’re having difficulty getting along with your spouse, we urge you to treat them with dignity and respect for the sake of your divorce and your children’s future. We know that it can be very challenging to adopt a healthy co-parenting relationship with one’s soon-to-be-ex spouse, especially when there’s been adultery, but parents must refrain from parental alienation at all costs.
In the absence of domestic abuse, children have the basic right to know and be cared for by not one, but two loving parents. So, if you and your spouse have been in the habit of arguing in front of your children and belittling each other, it’s imperative that you adopt a firm policy to foster a healthy co-parenting relationship with your child’s other parent regardless of how you feel about each other.
Here are some tips to avoid parental alienation:
- Starting now, treat your spouse with dignity and respect and ask him or her to do the same.
- Do not badmouth your spouse in the presence of your children.
- Avoid second guessing your spouse’s reward system and disciplinary actions unless mistreatment is an issue.
- Avoid badmouthing your spouse on social media or discussing the divorce on social platforms.
- Encourage your children to have a relationship with the other parent’s extended family. It’s good for kids to know their roots and where they came from.
- Don’t prevent your child from having phone calls with the other parent while they are with you.
- Create a flexible relationship with your former spouse, one that is based on mutual respect and the willingness to help each other with scheduling issues.
- To make drop-offs and pick-ups as problem-free as possible, live close to your former spouse. This will make a huge difference in the ease your child custody arrangement.
- When you drop off your children, make sure they are clean, well-fed and rested and expect your former spouse to do the same. This makes everyone happier.
- Remember, you may be divorced but you’re still going to know your former spouse for the rest of your life. Better make the best of it and focus on getting along for the sake of your sanity and the children’s well-being.