Be the Best Parent You Can – Have Empathy for Your Child

A child seeking to reject a normal range parent is a victim of psychological abuse. They are using coping mechanisms to defend themselves against that abuse. These children can demonstrate hurtful behaviours towards the rejected parent and extended family members. There are things you can do to help but it requires a shift in mind set to be able to effectively respond to the 17 Parental Alienation Strategies without Compromising Your Morals or Harming Your Child [2008] by Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D and Paul R. Fine LCSW.

The key is being able to ensure they have an independent and positive relationship with the child to show the negative view that the alienating parent wants the child to believe about the other parent is not true i.e. be the best parent you can be:

  • Be an Involved Parent. Take interest in your child, do fun things with them. Show up and show up on time, comfort your child if they need emotional help.
  • Be “in the moment”. Children remember how it feels to spend time with a parent. Enjoy your time with the child and don’t fester on the past.
  • Don’t talk the child out of his or her feelings. When a child says something that is not true about you don’t respond with anger or frustration or try to get them to change their mind. Like adults, children don’t like someone trying to change their thinking. Even if it’s obvious to you/others that they are being manipulated/brainwashed it will not be to the child. You don’t have to agree with what they say but you can react to it in a calm way e.g. “I see this situation differently from you but I do not want to spend our time together arguing about it.”
  • Hold on to love for the child. The child holds the views of the alienating parent inside of them. This causes the target parent frustration and it is hard to see the child as separate to the alienating parent’s views. The targeted parent should seek to maintain their love and commitment to their child – it’s not the child’s fault, they are a victim.
  • Revive positive memories. Reliving positive memories helps to reinforce the relationship with the child and undo the negative messages the alienating parent gives them e.g. showing pictures of past holiday’s where they had fun with the targeted parent or reminiscing about particular activities.
  • Manage your feelings of shame of being alienated from your child. No parent is perfect, other than the cases of justified alienation as a result of extreme abuse, normal parents are not to blame for the alienation – the alienating parent’s behaviours are responsible. Anyone feeling shame should get some support e.g. join online support groups, seek therapy etc.
  • Maintain hope. At some point the child may start to question the alienating parent’s behaviour and then seek out the targeted parent. Many who were alienated as children describe that even though they said they didn’t want a relationship with the rejected parent, deep down inside, they did not actually want a rejected parent to stop having a relationship with them.
  • Have a meaningful life. You have the right to have a happy life. Do things that make you happy. That doesn’t mean giving up on your child. Grief can drag you down and alter your behaviour and your outlook. Doing things you enjoy and taking exercise can help to reduce cortisol levels which reduce stress and depression. Your child needs to know you’re ok, they have enough on their plate dealing regulating the pathogenic parent’s emotions. Looking after yourself will make you more attractive to your child and when they are ready help them to see how well balanced you are.