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Handling Parental Alienation: When Kids Echo the Other Parent’s Negativity


Parental alienation is a heart-wrenching reality for many divorced parents. It occurs when children parrot negative comments about one parent, often influenced by the other. Billie Tarascio of Modern Law recently discussed this issue, offering insights into how to handle such situations effectively and compassionately.

Understanding Parental Alienation

Parental alienation can manifest in various forms, but a common scenario is when children repeat hurtful or negative remarks initially made by the other parent. This can be particularly damaging, as it not only strains the parent-child relationship but also affects the child’s emotional well-being.

Initial Reactions and Missteps

When faced with such situations, the initial reaction might be to defend oneself aggressively or to invalidate the child’s feelings by insisting that the thoughts are not their own. However, this approach can backfire, further alienating the child and reinforcing the negative narrative.

Effective Strategies to Counteract Alienation

  1. Listen to Your Children: The first step is to listen actively and empathetically to what your children are saying. Understand that, regardless of the source, these are feelings and thoughts they are experiencing.
  2. Encourage Expression of Feelings: Allow your children to express their disappointment, anger, or confusion. Ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me more about how you felt when I couldn’t come to your game.”
  3. Validate Their Feelings: Acknowledge their emotions without judgment. Validation doesn’t mean agreeing with the negative comments, but rather acknowledging the child’s right to feel upset or disappointed.
  4. Gently Challenge Misconceptions: Once a level of trust and understanding is re-established, gently challenge any misconceptions. For example, if a child feels neglected because you missed an event, remind them of other ways you show love and support.
  5. Reinforce Your Love and Commitment: Continuously reassure your child of your love and commitment. Discuss ways to ensure they feel valued and important, even when circumstances prevent you from being physically present.
  6. Seek Professional Help: In cases of severe alienation, it might be necessary to involve a therapist who specializes in family dynamics and can provide a neutral space for addressing these issues.

Navigating Legal Implications

In some cases, parental alienation might require legal intervention, especially if it’s part of a broader pattern of behavior that violates custody agreements. Consulting with a family law attorney can provide clarity on how to address these issues legally and protect your rights as a parent.

Start With The Kids

Dealing with parental alienation requires patience, empathy, and a strategic approach. By listening to and validating your children’s feelings, gently challenging misconceptions, and reinforcing your love, you can begin to repair the damage caused by alienation. Remember, the goal is to maintain a healthy and loving relationship with your children, despite the challenges posed by divorce and co-parenting.


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