Parental alienation is a phrase that refers to when a parent harms their child’s relationship with the other parent. Usually, this is intentional, such as if they start telling the child lies about the other parent or promise to give them gifts if they will snub the other parent.
Sometimes, though, signs of parental alienation occur when a parent hasn’t had the intention of damaging that relationship. This might happen if the parent says negative things about the other parent to a friend while their child is present or if they start giving their child presents each time they come to see them when the other parent does not.
You can avoid accidental parental alienation issues with good communication
If you start to notice that your child is acting unusual when it comes time to see the other parent or when they should be coming to see you, then it’s time to sit down with your ex and discuss what’s happening. Have you said something that your child might have overheard that makes them angry or scared of the other parent? Has the other parent been giving their child gifts out of guilt but not realized that it’s creating an unbalanced situation?
If you’re both reasonable, you may be able to figure out if there is something causing your child to act differently and how you can reverse those effects. For example, not talking about the other parent negatively may help reassure your child that it’s okay for them to be with them. Similarly, reducing gift giving associated with coming to the drop-off could show that the custody exchange is an expectation with or without gifts involved.
Children are easy to influence, which can be difficult to deal with during a divorce. If your child is old enough to have a conversation with you and the other parent about expectations and their concerns, you may want to have that discussion. If not, then you and the other parent should try to co-parent together in a way that shows you’re a united force, not one where each parent is pitted against the other.