Strategies for Successful Co-Parenting With a Parental Alienator
Co-parenting after a separation or divorce can be challenging, but it becomes exceptionally difficult when one parent attempts to undermine the other’s relationship with the child – a phenomenon known as parental alienation. Despite this challenge, it’s possible to navigate the path of co-parenting successfully. Here are strategies that may help.
Understanding Parental Alienation
Parental alienation occurs when one parent, the alienator, manipulates a child to reject the other parent without legitimate justification. These actions can cause significant distress to the child and the targeted parent (Kruk, 2018).
Promote Open Communication
Maintaining open communication is vital. Encourage your child to express their feelings, even if it’s about the alienating parent. This fosters an environment where your child feels heard and understood, building trust and respect (Bernet et al., 2017).
Maintain Consistency in Parenting
Consistency in parenting provides a sense of security to children. Regular routines, rules, and expectations can help mitigate the negative effects of parental alienation. Even when faced with resistance, consistency demonstrates your commitment and love for your child (Fidler & Bala, 2010).
Avoid Negative Talk About the Alienating Parent
It can be tempting to retaliate when you’re the subject of unwarranted criticism, but it’s crucial not to speak negatively about the alienating parent in front of the child. This shows respect for the child’s feelings and may reduce their internal conflict (Baker & Chambers, 2011).
Acquire Professional Support
Seeking professional help is often beneficial. A mental health professional, like a psychologist, can provide coping strategies and offer support to both the parent and child. Legal advice may also be necessary to address violations of custody agreements and protect the child’s rights (Warshak, 2015).
Remember the importance of self-care. Engaging in activities that promote well-being, like exercise or meditation, can provide the emotional strength needed to navigate this challenging situation.
Co-parenting with a parental alienator can feel like navigating a minefield, but with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, it’s possible to maintain a strong, loving relationship with your child.
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Baker, A.J.L., & Chambers, J. (2011). Adult recall of parental alienation in a community sample: Prevalence and associations with psychological maltreatment. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 52(4), 246–263.
Bernet, W., von Boch-Galhau, W., Baker, A. J. L., & Morrison, S. L. (2017). Parental alienation, DSM-5, and ICD-11: Response to critics. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 62(3), 832–835.
Fidler, B.J., & Bala, N. (2010). Children resisting postseparation contact with a parent: Concepts, controversies, and conundrums. Family Court Review, 48(1), 10-47.
Kruk, E. (2018). Parental alienation as a form of emotional child abuse: Current state of knowledge and future directions for research. Family Science Review, 22(2), 141-164.
Warshak, R.A. (2015). Ten parental alienation fallacies that compromise decisions in court and in therapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 46(4), 235-249.