You are going through a high conflict divorce and your children are slowly pulling away. You begin to think, “Where are these behaviors coming from? We always had a close relationship?” Slowly over time, the rejection becomes worse and you do not know where to turn for help. Does this sound familiar? It might, if you are a targeted parent of something known as parental alienation syndrome.
Parental alienation syndrome was first defined by Gardner in the early 1980s to describe a disorder in which a child belittles and insults one parent without justification due to a combination of factors, including indoctrination by the other parent (as part of a child custody dispute), and the child’s own attempts to denigrate the target parent. Gardner stated that PAS occurs when, in the context of child custody disputes, one parent deliberately or unconsciously attempts to alienate a child from the other parent.
Although very difficult to master, targeted parents should try to keep a clear mindset that their child’s alienating behavior is not always their own doing. Children who blatantly reject their loving parent are most likely taught to do this by the alienating parent. It is critically important to remember that hate is a learned behavior.
Targeted parents report feeling angry with their children for alienating behaviors. Many parents also feel that a painful emotional trauma has occurred. Please remind yourself, children who are subjected to an ex’s dislike of the other parent are often exposed to badmouthing of the other parent. Children of a targeted parent are told the parent does not love them anymore, and are prevented from seeing their parent at established visitations. Due to these tactics, alienated children also experience emotional trauma.
When children experience traumatic situations, they change the way they act and think. So, when you say to yourself, “I do not recognize my child anymore,” please consider that they are being influenced to act in a different way then they truly are.