Parental Alienation is a group of behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent.
My mother married and had me when she was 19.
Perhaps it was emotional immaturity, or simply my father’s wiring, that made for a potentially unsafe environment for my mother. Within a year of being married, she realized it was best if she packed the two of us up and left.
Looking back, my mother NEVER—not once—trashed my father or his character. There was no scorn. There were no mental games. Even after my father moved 3,000 miles away and began dodging child support, she encouraged me to stay in touch with my him and to have some semblance of a relationship with him.
Through it all, my mother earned my deepest respect.
In the United States, 50% of our children will witness the divorce of their parents. I wonder how many of these kids are fortunate to have the kind of experience that I did? How many feel safe and at liberty to love both parents equally and to witness an after-marriage relationship of their parents that is free of judgment and hatred? I can only surmise that it takes a hefty dose of maturity, forgiveness and peace with one’s self to be that kind of ex.
Parents Acting Badly
A friend and Colorado State University professor, Jennifer Harman, has just completed an extensive study on the topic of Parental Alienation and has published her findings in the book Parents Acting Badly: How Institutions and Societies Promote the Alienation of Children from Their Loving Families.
At a recent TEDxCSU event, Professor Harman explained how we all need to make protecting the child first priority and encouraged the audience learn more about Parental Alienation—and how not to be a bystander when we see it happening.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation is a group of behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent. It is most often found in high conflict marriages, separation or divorce. The behaviors whether verbal or non-verbal, cause a child to be mentally manipulated or bullied into believing a loving parent is the cause of all their problems, and/or the enemy, to be feared, hated, disrespected and/or avoided. It is a form of abuse and can be devastating.
Most of us have known someone who is a victim, or perpetrator, of parental alienation. Let’s all work together to protect the best interest of the child in a way that is really in their best interest.
Attitudes and Assumptions
Jennifer’s book got me thinking hard about my own attitudes and assumptions. Have I as a friend or aunt ever spoken ill of a parent of a child who I love? Has my attitude toward another individual or family member affected the emotional development of a child that is already struggling to hang on to some note of normalcy? Is it time for us as parents, grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles to stop the judgement and be the true support the child needs?