Is There Parental Alienation in Your Family?

Most parents want the best for their children, wouldn’t you agree?

Then how is it that parental alienation has reached epidemic proportions in recent years?

Parental alienation occurs when one parent turns a child against the other (healthy) parent through emotional manipulation.

It is a largely overlooked form of emotional child and spouse abuse.

Parental Alienation is not to be confused with estrangement, which is a valid withdrawal by a child from a parent due to mistreatment or mental health issues.

The behaviors that create parental alienation often occur during the heat of a divorce when parents may become pitted against each other as they sort out the day-to-day responsibilities of physical care and financial support for their children. They can also occur within a marriage or with couples who have children but are not married. The frequency of parental alienation when not identified in court proceedings is difficult to determine.

The behaviors can range from mild and infrequent, to moderate, all the way to extreme. What starts out as mild can rapidly escalate to extreme if not checked. In order to assess for yourself where your family lies on this continuum, answer these questions for yourself:

Self-Assessment: Do I unintentionally or intentionally alienate my child?

  1. Do I badmouth my partner?
  2. Do I belittle or discount my partner in front of our child?
  3. Do I try to control my partner by making them feel dependent?
  4. Can I control my angry feelings without becoming physical?
  5. Can I listen to my partner without interrupting her when having a discussion or argument?
  6. Do I sometimes have uncontrollable outbursts of rage behavior?
  7. Have I ever felt abandoned?
  8. Who was “in charge” in your family of origin?
  9. Who do you consider to be “in charge” in your own family today?
  10. Are there any significant estrangements in your extended family within the last 3 generations?
  11. What trauma have you experienced?

If you answer “yes” to two or more of these questions, you need to learn more about how parental alienation works in a family and in a child’s mind. This information will help you address the problem in your family and protect your children and yourself. Some excellent resources include:

Breaking the Ties That Bind, by Amy J.L. Baker
Understanding Parental Alienation by Karen Woodall and Nick Woodall
Surviving Parental Alienation by Amy J.L. Baker and Paul R. Find
Divorce Poison by Dr. Richard Warshak
AND, available in Fall 2019:
From Heartbreak to Healing: Resolving Parental Alienation by Dr. Cara E. Koch