Child custody disputes between parents are emotionally challenging for everyone involved, but these issues are exceptionally difficult for children. When a child expresses unwarranted dislike or animosity toward one parent during or after a divorce, he or she may be expressing what is known as parental alienation syndrome.
Characteristics of Parental Alienation Syndrome
Parental alienation is characterized by the continuing expression of dislike or ostracism of one parent, often most strongly communicated in the presence of that parent. The behavior may involve hurtful or degrading language or actions.
Other identifiers of the behavioral syndrome in children include:
- Confidence and lack of guilt regarding the hurtful behavior
- No demonstrated reason for the mistreatment of the targeted parent
- Use of hypothetical and/or absurd scenarios rather than factual evidence to rationalize the behavior
- Contention that the decision to alienate the targeted parent belongs solely to the child Expressed support of the non-targeted parent’s feelings or actions
- Attempts to get others to share the feelings of anger and dislike
It is important to understand that the targeted parent is not responsible for his or her alienation. In some cases, parental alienation syndrome may be brought on by the non-targeted parent’s behavior. The other parent’s actions may involve “brainwashing” as well as subconscious processes that promote and reinforce the child’s feelings, further extending his or her anger and dislike.
Strategies to Remedy Parental Alienation
While remediation of parental alienation is difficult, researchers recommend the following strategies:
- Be persistent and rational when dealing with the child.
- Maintain a positive, even-tempered and loving attitude.
- Avoid discussing the custody case with the child.
- Avoid discussing the other parent with the child in a negative manner.
- Seek the assistance of a professional specializing in child-parent conflict.
The Legal Side of Parental Alienation
Parental alienation can escalate to abuse, which is a serious legal issue. Parents who are the target of this behavior at any level are urged to discuss the situation with an attorney right away.
If you’re being targeted by this type of behavior from your child, the attorneys at Petrelli Previtera Schimmel can help you work through these difficulties. We are committed to helping individuals find solutions to these and other problems resulting from family-related legal issues. Call us at (215) 523-6900 for assistance.