What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

By: Chris Anderson Psy.D

Parental Alienation Syndrome is the process by which one parent uses a set of strategies intended to foster the child’s rejection of the other parent. In time the child comes to fear and hate the one parent and reject any contact with them. This most often occurs during a divorce situation but can happen with intact families too. The prototypical scenario is a bitter ex-wife who turns the children against the father, but the process is not exclusive to mothers. Often the alienating parent is less emotionally stable and is often motivated by anger and revenge.

There are several signs that a child may have been subjected to parental alienation syndrome. These children often deny any positive past experiences with the alienated parent and reject all contact and communication. These kids also have vague or unclear rationales for the intense dislike. Conversely, the other parent is idealized and perceived as perfect, and the child often insists that the rejection of the targeted parent was solely their own idea. When children do interact with the alienated parent, they are cold, rude, disrespectful and appear to have no guilt whatsoever for their harsh treatment toward the targeted parent. Sadly, the rejection often spreads to the alienated parent’s whole side of the family such that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are also impacted.

Impact of Parental Alienation Syndrome

The impact of parental alienation syndrome is obviously devastating to the targeted parent who loves their children and wants nothing more than to maintain a relationship. The alienated parent is hurt, confused, lonely, and left feeling dejected. The children also suffer greatly. Many kids do feel a sense of loss and don’t even realize the impact of the absence of the targeted parent on their own development. Many kids are confused and conflicted about loving the alienated parent when the other parent hates them so intensely. Part of the confusion stems from having no way to challenge the lies of the alienating parent.

Targeted parents can seek some recourse through the court system. Unfortunately, it can be an uphill battle and the burden is on the alienated parent to supply solid evidence of the alienation attempts. If they are able to provide proof, a judge will often mandate reunification counseling to help rebuild the relationship with the alienated parent. It’s important to have lots of support as an alienated parent when working through this process.

If you are interested in talking with one of our psychologists to get support as you work through parental alienation syndrome, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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