One of the most unsavory aspects of marriage separation and divorce centers on the fact that the children are often adversely affected by the turmoil their parents go through. Marital separation and the possibility of a divorce are painful processes that can seriously disrupt the minds of children.
Parental Alienation Syndrome
Psychiatrist Richard Gardner formally introduced the therapeutic community to what he called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in a paper presented in 1985. PAS refers to a child’s physical and emotional withdrawal from a targeted parent even though the “alienated” parent provides appropriate care and tenderness to the child.
PAS is fueled by parental alienation, a series of behaviors used by an alienating parent, either consciously or subconsciously, to sully a child’s relationship with the target parent. While not exclusive to situations of marital dissolution, parental alienation and the resultant Parental Alienation Syndrome tend to emerge in the course of custody disputes.
Examples of alienating behavior include:
1. Using a child as a messenger of information between parents instead of practicing parent-to-parent communication.
2. Planting false memories of abuse and neglect in a child that denigrate the targeted parent.
3. Confiding in a child and sharing thoughts about the alienator’s distrust and hatred of the targeted parent.
4. Blaming the targeted parent for the dissolution of the marriage.
5. Withdrawing emotional and physical support of a child when the child affirms the love and goodness of the targeted parent.
How to respond to parental alienation?
- If the kids are caught in the cross hairs of your marital dissolution, make sure they are heard, supported, and loved.
- Do not ever place the other parent in a bad light when the children are in your presence. Your job, even if you hate your ex, is to make sure that your children enjoy a relationship with the other parent.
- And do not tolerate PAS, either. If you are a victim, tell a counselor and a judge immediately.
While you may be going through a tough time during your marriage separation, remember that the effects of the same are being felt by your children too. Do everything possible to make them comfortable and keep them stress-free during this period.