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Identifying Parent Alienation

Early Awareness Can Save Families From The Effects of Parental Alienation

The more you know, the better you can do!

Early awareness and early intervention are the best strategies for reducing the impact of parental alienation on your child. The more you know, the better you can do!

Is something not adding up? Are you noticing abrupt changes in your child’s ability to relax with you? Talk to you? Enjoy your company? Is your child suddenly refusing your calls, or worse, visits with you? Is your child suddenly hostile towards you? Does your child say they are afraid of you or that they can’t be themselves around you?

You aren’t alone, and you aren’t crazy, you are likely experiencing parental alienation.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is a complex phenomenon that takes place over a period of time (not always a long time, in fact sometimes it can happen rather quickly). Spotting the warning signs and identifying them early can be difficult (because you’ll likely question your own sanity before you ever reach the conclusion that it is actually happening to you), even for experienced professionals. It is often mislabeled and misunderstood by the very professionals who are tasked with helping families and children.

While it still remains a highly controversial, and widely misunderstood issue (both in the courts and out) there is no denying that is it affecting millions of families around the world.

Parental alienation is commonly described as a set of strategies that one person (usually a parent, but not always) uses to foster fear, hatred, and rejection of the targeted parent. The use of psychological manipulation causes the child to align with the alienator and ultimately reject the target parent.

Many parents, after a high-conflict separation or divorce experience, start to feel the effects of their child being weaponized and used against them out of spite, vengeance, bitterness, and insecurity. Separation or divorce is often the trigger or catalyst for alienation because if you were married to a disordered personality type (Narcissist, Borderline Personality Disorder, Sociopath, Psychopath) they cannot handle the rejection and often feel like they have to win at all costs. Many want revenge, some can’t bear the thought of being alone, and some just feel so superior that they truly believe that your child is better off without you.

How Does This Happen?

Dr. Amy J. Baker has identified the following 17 behaviors as the most commonly used strategies to coerce and manipulate a child into rejecting a parent that they once had a close and loving relationship with.

1. Badmouthing - The alienator will use verbal and non-verbal tactics that communicate to a child that the targeted parent is unsafe, unworthy, and unavailable.

2. Limiting Contact - The alienator willfully violates court orders and limits contact between the targeted parent and the child.

3. Interfering with Communication - The alienator insists on maintaining contact with the child while with the targeted parent. They attempt to monopolize the child’s time with the targeted parent so that the child cannot share a meaningful relationship with the targeted parent. When the child is with the alienator, messages from the targeted parent are ignored, blocked, and unanswered.

4. Interfering with Symbolic Communication - The alienator will not allow the child to think about, talk about, or share memories of the targeted parent. Photos and family memories are restricted.

5. Withdrawal of Love - Alienators make their approval of paramount importance to the child. The child will come to believe that they have to do everything in their power to keep the alienator happy. Often the outward rejection of the targeted parent is what makes them the happiest.

6. Telling the Child that the Targeted Parent is Dangerous - Alienators tell stories (whether true or not) designed to make the child feel unsafe with the targeted parent.

7. Forcing the Child to Choose - Alienators exploit court orders and parenting plans in an effort to limit the time shared with the targeted parent. Alienators begin scheduling conflicting activities or promising valued items in exchange for the child’s rejection of the other parent.

8. Telling the Child that the Targeted Parent Doesn’t Love Them - Alienators will encourage a narrative that the targeted parent does not love or care for the child. Alienators foster the belief in the child that the targeted parent is not kind, safe, or loving.

9. Confiding in the Child - Alienators involve children in discussions about private personal matters and legal matters. Alienators portray themselves as victims and convince the child to step into a role of protection and take pity on them.

10. Forcing the Child to Reject the Targeted Parent - Alienators create situations where the child outwardly rejects the targeted parent by canceling parenting time, or requesting that the target parent not participate in the child’s events.

11. Asking the Child to Spy on the Targeted Parent - Alienators encourage the child to seek information in the targeted parent’s home to share with the alienator.

12. Asking the Child to Keep Secrets from the Targeted Parent - Alienators ask or hint that information from the alienator’s home not be shared with the targeted parent.

13. Referring to the Targeted Parent by First Name - Alienators refer to the targeted parent by the first name in an effort to demonstrate to the child that the targeted parent no longer holds value or authority as a loved one.

14. Referring to a Step Parent as “Mom or Dad” and Encouraging the Child to do the Same - Alienators refer to their new partners/spouses as the child’s “Mom or Dad” and encourage the child to do the same.

15. Withholding Medical, Educational, or other Important Information from the Targeted Parent - Alienators withhold schedules, report cards, medical records, and other important documents from the targeted parent in an attempt to keep them in the dark and uninvolved with the child. Alienators will remove the targeted parent’s contact information and replace it with their new partner’s information.

16. Changing the Child’s Name to Remove Association with the Targeted Parent - Alienators may revert to their maiden name after the divorce and will institute a practice of the child using their maiden name as well. If the alienator remarries and takes a new last name they encourage the child to adopt the same last name.

17. Cultivating Dependency and Undermining Authority - Alienators create a sense of dependency in the child and do not encourage self-sufficiency, critical thinking, autonomy, and independence. Alienators undermine the authority of the targeted parent in an effort to promote loyalty and alignment with the alienator.

There is no time for second-guessing or doubting yourself, trust your gut. If you feel like something is wrong, it’s probably wrong and it needs your attention. Parents who doubt themselves or fail to see the signs can potentially lose months, if not years, of time with their children if they don’t understand what they are up against. However, if you notice the warning signs and understand the pathology you can quickly take action to counter the poison and reduce the struggle between yourself and your child.

Early awareness allows you to take a strategic position early on rather than letting your emotions lead you astray. Trust me you don’t want to lead with your emotions! It’s easy to do and a pitfall for many parents because your responses and reactions to the madness will be the very justification and ammunition that they use against you later on.

Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss, it’s the recipe for the total destruction of your relationship with your child. You want to proceed with your eyes wide open and a strong strategy at play or else you’ll quickly be overtaken and lose your ground.

If you recognize any of the tactics above from Dr. Amy Baker do not ignore them and wish them away. Your child can’t afford for you to take a complacent stance here but they also don’t need you to come out with guns blazing, so that means you have to find the perfect strategic plan to minimize the conflict, remove obstacles between you and your child, and create a safe, stable environment that they can trust.

Take Notice & Take Action

If You’re Lucky You Catch On Early!

My best,


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Jenn Mullins - Parent Interrupted Coach

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