Relationship breakups or divorces can be nasty and painful, and the casualties of these battles (so often fought dirty) are the children caught in the middle. If you’re going through a bitter divorce, what measures are you taking to make sure your children will bounce back unscathed?
Although both sides always claim they have their kids’ best interests at heart, children are often used as weapons in a tug-of-war to hurt, control and exact revenge on an ex-spouse. In some sad instances, parents will go to the extreme of alienating their children from their ex-spouse by brainwashing them into believing terrible things about their parent. Often in an attempt to win custody, mom or dad will vilify the other parent—consistently bad-mouthing their ex until the child harbors the same hatred and disgust. The result is a controversial term called “parental alienation syndrome,” (PAS) and some argue it’s the ultimate form of child abuse. Children are burdened with feelings of guilt and betrayal as they are manipulated into aligning with one parent against the other.
When one parent makes it their mission to poison the children against the other parent in custody battle, the children will likely suffer feelings of guilt if they express any positive feelings toward the other parent, and may fear they’re betraying the alienating parent. If the alienation is taken too far, the damage to both the child and the relationship between the parent and child could be irreparable.
Victimized parents agree being alienated from their kids is the most helpless feeling in the world. As their children grow more and more distant, hostile and filled with unwarranted hatred, alienated parents are often left with little recourse and an uphill legal battle.
Could your ex be attempting to alienate your child? Or, could you be emotionally harming your child and not even know it? First identified by Dr. Richard Gardner, PAS is characterized by a number of signs and symptoms. According to Douglas Darnall, Ph.D (and lawyers.com), here are just a few warning signs to watch out for:
- A child is allowed to choose if he or she wants to visit their parent despite court orders
- A child is given explanations regarding the divorce
- One parent blames the other for destroying the family
- The parent refuses to be flexible with the visitation schedule, or over-schedules activities for the child so the other parent isn’t given a chance to visit.
- A child cannot give clear reasons why they harbor hatred for the other parent
- The child is used to gather information about the other parent
- Pushing a child to choose one parent over the other
- Encouraging any natural anger the child may have toward the other parent
- “Rescuing” a child from the other parent when there is no threat
- Listening in on the child’s phone calls with the other parent
- Arranging “temptations” that interfere the other parent’s visitation
Many believe that PAS doesn’t—that it’s a sham theory infecting an already overburdened legal system. Its strongest critics argue that it cannot be found in the DSM-IV (which is the American Psychiatric Association’s “bible” for diagnosing mental disorders). It’s a hot-button issue being debated on national news and talk shows more and more.
By Jennifer Anastasi for BounceBack