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What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is any behaviour by a parent with the intention to damage the child’s/children’s relationship with the other parent. The goal of an alienating parent is to effectively destroy the relationship the alienated parent has with their child/children. It must be noted that this sort of behaviour is not limited to parents but can also be perpetuated by stepparents and grandparents. Furthermore, there does not need to be a history of intimate partner violence for a parent to display and perpetuate alienating behaviours.

Examples of parental alienating behaviour include:

1. Intentionally scheduling conflicting and tempting activities during another parent’s scheduled parenting time.

2. Making false or unfounded child abuse allegations to Children’s Aid Society

3. Inducing guilt about visits with the other parent

4. Telling the child/children that the other parent does not care/love them as much as them or making claims that the other parent has left the family and them (the child/children).

5. Secrecy and gossiping might become more frequent.

6. Interfering with access whether by interrupting, blocking or otherwise.

On the other hand, non-alienating behaviour includes:

1. Fostering and encouraging children to have a supportive and healthy relationship with the other parent.

2. Co-operating with any parenting orders.

Parental Alienation and the Impact on Children

The effects of alienating behaviour towards one parent from another are not limited to the alienated parent. Parental alienation affects the children as it may instill feelings of fear, uncertainty, and anger. If parental alienation occurs long enough, it is possible that a child develops parental alienation syndrome and carries out acts of alienation themselves. Parental alienation syndrome is a term coined by an American psychiatrist, Richard A. Gardner, and is a term used to describe behaviours within a child who has prolonged exposure to parental alienation.

Examples of how this syndrome may manifest within a child are:

1. Temper tantrums and bursts of anger towards the alienated parent.

2. The child has an unwavering support for the alienating parent.

3. The child rejects the alienated parent, their partner and extended family.

4. Increased criticism and hatred of the alienated parent

The breakdown of a relationship can be painful and upsetting, but the appropriate response is not alienation, and it is certainly not in keeping with the spirit of moving forward and ensuring the best interests of the children are being met. On the contrary, alienating behaviours not only harm the alienated parent as intended but, eventually, negatively impact the children in these situations. Children who have been exposed to parental alienation tend to grow into adults who experience depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance abuse, feelings of abandonment and more.

In our upcoming blog, we will explore remedies for the alienated parent and the court’s responses to instances of parental alienation. If you are dealing with a family law matter and have questions or possible concerns about parental alienation, please call us at 905-215-1905 to book a consultation and explore your options.

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