The term parental alienation describes a situation in which one parent drives a wedge in between the other parent & their child. This happens often in cases of divorce, when one parent refuses to allow the other to see their child. That parent tells the child terrible things about the other parent, such as that parent doesn’t really love the child. The child naturally gravitates towards the alienating parent as a result.
This type of scenario also can happen in intact narcissistic families. Narcissistic parents often similar tactics to cult leaders such as gaslighting, making love very conditional, isolating the children, rejecting the children if they question the alienating parent’s accusations & creating an unhealthy dependency on them in their children. Children are also parentalized when the alienating parent claims the other parent is abusive, because not only do they tell the child details of the relationship that the child doesn’t necessarily need to hear, but they also expect the child to protect them from the other parent while creating a deep wedge in between the child & the alienated parent.
Parental alienation sets children up to experience painful cognitive dissonance. A great deal of time & effort on the part of the alienating parent went into instilling certain beliefs in their child, & those beliefs become a big part of a child’s mind. One day, probably in adulthood, they will see or hear something that contradicts those beliefs, & that will be incredibly hard & painful for the child. That child may face the truth about what their alienating parent has done, & will be devastated because of their parent’s lies. Or, that child may reject facing the truth & continue to live in the dysfunction because the cognitive dissonance is too painful to face.
Many people who have been subjected to parental alienation experience life long problems as a result. Substance abuse, depression & the inability to trust other people are extremely common. Many of these people also go on to struggle to have healthy relationships with their own children.
If you are in the position of being the alienated parent of your child, one great way you can handle the situation is avoid saying anything negative about the alienating parent. Doing so only makes a child, no matter their age, become protective of the alienating parent. Rather than say something like, “Your mother wants to take you away from me,” work to create an environment where your child feels safe & loved. Tell your child often that you love him or her no matter what, & reassure that child often that you always will be there for him or her.
If you’re an adult & wonder if this describes your relationship with your parents, then seriously consider your situation. Parents who try to alienate the other parent often also try to come between their children’s other relationships such as with siblings, other family members & even their spouses. Also ask God to show you the truth. Pay attention to what your parent says, & look for evidence that proves what they say or disproves it. Ask people questions too, so you can form your own opinions. You will figure out what is happening in time, & if you find that your parent is one who employs alienation tactics, God will help you to handle your situation.
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