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Depending on their age, children of divorce may feel confused as to why their parents are no longer together. Unless there are extenuating circumstances which would cause harm to the children, then it’s important for them to maintain healthy relationships with both parents. Unfortunately, not all children are shielded from their parents’ conflicts and are sometimes expected to choose a side in the divorce. This can result in parental alienation.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to turn the couple’s children against the other parent, also referred to as the targeted parent. This tactic can effectively damage the relationship between the targeted parent and their children. Often, parental alienation is the result of one parent feeling hostile toward the other parent. The hostile parent will use negative language when speaking and can even go as far as creating an irrational fear in their children about the targeted parent. The children, modelling – or acting out of fear because of – their parent’s behaviour, will eventually distance themselves from the targeted parent.

How to spot parental alienation?

As mentioned before, parental alienation can include negative language when speaking about the other parent and causing an irrational fear within the children, but signs of parental alienation can also include:

  • Resentment from the children directed at the targeted parent

  • Oppositional behaviour in children who previously did not display this type of behaviour

  • Children excluding the targeted parent from certain events

  • Children displaying feelings of guilt whenever in the presence of the targeted parent

  • Refusal of contact with the targeted parent

Parental alienation is a sign of psychological abuse, toward both the children and the targeted parent. It is a tactic that is harmful to both parties and can have an effect on further divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, parental alienation is not something easily proven by court, but there are ways to combat it.

  1. Tell your children you love them.

  2. Remain calm.

  3. Keep any conflict regarding the divorce away from your children.

  4. Don’t force your children to choose between their parents during the divorce.

  5. Contact a licensed professional, such as a mediator, psychologist, or social worker for advice and/or assistance.

Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to children. It’s something that is taught to them by the environment around them. Creating distance between children and their parents can be detrimental to their personal growth, mental health, and future relationships. Allowing children to maintain healthy relationships with both parents (unless there are other circumstances to be considered) will ultimately provide the children with two loving and supportive homes.

If you have further questions on parental alienation, contact us and we’ll be able to guide you and your family through the mediation process.

Disclaimer: The information on this blog and website is provided by Lift Legal for educational purposes only. It is intended to give readers a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. Information contained in these pages should not be used in place of competent legal advice from a licensed practising lawyer in Alberta. Furthermore, by using this blog and website, you understand that no lawyer-client relationship exists between you and Lift Legal.

Mel Garbe

Mel founded Lift Legal with the goal of delivering cost effective legal services without sacrificing capability by effectively using modern tools to access the types of resources that larger law firms have access to. The result being that Lift Legal provides high level professional services at a greater value.

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