Exploring Parental Alienation Through the Eyes of Fathers
As a father, you want to do right by your children, regardless of whether or not your home is considered their primary residence. You want to offer them all of the opportunities in life possible and ensure that they grow and mature into kind and empathetic adults.
Divorce can be a traumatic event in a child’s life, but through communication and co-parenting, your children can find a way to transition to their new reality in a less damaging way.
This requires a settlement that puts your children first above any and all animosity. This means having a family law attorney who understands the unique circumstances that fathers face during the divorce experience and will work with them to ensure that their place in their children’s lives is protected.
Understanding parental alienation
According to Psychology Today, parental alienation is considered to be an attachment-based trauma, where instead of serving the psychological and emotional needs of the child by providing stability, alienating parents use their child to meet their own needs.
This violates the parent-child boundaries and trust, in how misleading the child serves only the best interests of the alienating parent. It also subjects the targeted parent to psychological trauma, classified as acute, chronic, and externally inflicted.
This trauma can be as simple as the alienated child parroting the alienating parent’s excessively negative views of the targeted parent and adopting them as their own, according to clinical psychologist Susan Heitler in Psychology Today. This results in unwanted hostility toward the targeted parent.
Signs of parental alienation
If you are a father with limited parenting time, this may be more difficult to spot. However, you need to be aware of the eight symptoms that are signs for the syndrome.
- denigration of the targeted parent,
- frivolous rationalization for not wanting to see the targeted parent,
- lack of ambivalence regarding the good qualities of the targeted parent,
- the independent thinker phenomenon that raises the question regarding the feelings of the child and the influence of the alienating parent,
- automatic and reflexive support of the alienating parent over the targeted parent,
- absence of guilt regarding how they treat the targeted parent,
- borrowed scenarios that tell an occurrence in the exact same manner as the alienating parent,
- spreading animosity to other people
Understanding reunification therapy
If you are suffering from parental alienation, there may be legal action that you may be able to take, depending on your state. This can result in court-ordered reintegration therapy, or reunification therapy, in order to restore the relationship between the targeted parent and the alienated child.
Reintegration therapy requires the assistance of a mental health professional who builds trust with the child and acts in their best interests. They are to erode the negative image of the targeted parent by providing incongruent information, refrain from actions that put the child in the middle of the conflict, consider ways to pacify the hurt and anguish of the alienating parent, look for ways to dismantle the coalition, convert enemies to allies, and never give up contact, according to Elizabeth M. Ellis, of The American Journal of Family Therapy.
Be a parent
The therapeutic process is intended to assist in the healing of the relationship, but that does not mean that all parties are healed from the experience. The assistance of a mental health professional always is beneficial, but when your child has been misguided to that extent, it can be necessary to utilize counseling, in order to maintain your own mental health and avoid holding these events against your child.
Even after therapeutic efforts, you need to remain an active parent in your children’s lives, continuing to reinforce the reality that you always will be the father that they need. After a divorce, it is important to make memories with them, and after that level of trauma, these memories can be beneficial in reminding your children how much you care.