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What is Parental Alienation: Signs & How to Stop It

By 26th June 2024 No Comments

Following separation or divorce, parents become anxious about being similarly being separated from their children and likewise children become anxious about being separated from their parents. This can lead to a breakdown in communication and inevitably something called ‘Parental Alienation’.

What are the signs of parental alienation?

The breakdown of communication between parents is often the first sign of parental alienation. Usually, one parent will refuse to communicate with the other parent in relation matters concerning the children, including making arrangements for them to spend time with the other parent.  This extends to a refusal to communicate about the children’s day to day care, eg medical appointments, issues at school etc.

The less a parent spends time with the child/children and the less they know about their routine, day to day care, education and welfare, the more that parent becomes alienated and this eventually becomes ‘normal’ for the child/children. It is also important to recognise the signs of co-parenting with a controlling ex, as this makes the situation even more difficult to navigate and also contributes to Parental Alienation.

What is parallel parenting v’s co-parenting

Many parents set out with the intention of co-parenting. This involves sharing responsibility for their children and sharing information to ensure a continuity of care.  Over time, this can revert to parallel parenting, where parents stop communicating and sharing information. This leads to children being raised in two (often very) different environments.  For example, if parents don’t share information about bedtime routines, children can find they have two different routines in two different homes, which can be very unsettling and disruptive to sleep patterns.  This unsettling existence will then lead to an obvious impact in other areas of a child’s wellbeing, such as health and education.

Whilst many children are resilient and adaptable to change, they ALL require some stability through regular routine and continuity of care.  Children will adapt to living in two homes, in one world, but not two homes in two separate worlds.

When parallel parenting doesn’t work

Parallel parenting can ultimately lead to parental alienation, with parents becoming frustrated with the effects of lack of communication and blaming each other. This creates a vicious circle, with parents in conflict communicating even less.

If you are worried you are being side-lined in your child’s life or you are already the victim of parental alienation, it’s important to act quickly to minimise the impact on the child.

Is parental alienation a crime?

Unfortunately there is no legislation in the UK recognising parental alienation as a crime or taking steps to deal with it.  This is largely because parental alienation is brought about by poor communication. The courts are powerless to order people to communicate better, it’s almost impossible for the court to enforce such an order and to ensure the communication is healthy and appropriate.  Furthermore, the court process, is structured to ensure parents don’t speak directly to each other, but rather through judges and lawyers.

Mediation can help with parental alienation

Mediation can be a useful tool in addressing communication issues and providing an opportunity for parents to re-open lines of communication in a safe, controlled, professional environment. It is also a much cost-effective way of resolving disputes rather than going to court (our ‘cost of family mediation v’s going to court‘ article explains all).

It is really important for separated parents to establish a good parenting plan upon separation. The plan will determine who has responsibility for the children and their day to day care. The plan should include a routine detailing how the children share their time with their parents, during term time and school holidays, arrangements for special occasions such as Christmas and Birthdays and taking children on holiday.

Without an effective plan and good communication there is a risk of one parent becoming alienated from the children’s lives. This isn’t emotionally healthy for anyone involved.

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Get in touch

If you are experiencing parental alienation and would like our help to improve communication, please contact us directly and one of our expert team of mediators would be happy to help.