How to Recognize Parental Alienation – 8 Ways to Tell

parental alienation

After getting into trouble at school, a child casually reveals that they have no contact with one of their parents. In fact, they apparently have a very negative view of that parent and are glad to be rid of them.

An adult enters psychotherapy for anxiety, depression, or relationships issues, unclear about why they have all these problems. In the course of the sessions, they disclose that they had been cut off from one of their parents by the other parent.

Both of these situations are examples of parental alienation and its impact.

What exactly is parental alienation?

It is a series of schemes or strategies one parent uses to manipulate a child into turning them against their other parent.

Commonly, divorce and separation can breed this type of hateful behavior, as one parent may use their child to get back at their ex-partner through negative talk and actions that the child eventually adapts.

As you can see from the scenarios above, it’s difficult to see the impact of parental alienation until perhaps much later in life or until certain events bring it to light.

The same is true for the ongoing efforts of parental alienation—the manipulation coming from one parent.

However, are there ways to tell? Yes.

8 Ways to Recognize Manifestations of Parental Alienation

Paying close attention to telltale signs can help you spot efforts to alienate a parent and child.

Consider if the child manifests the following:

1. Rash hatred for a previously beloved parent

It may seem as if it happened overnight—a formerly loved parent whose child now regards them as a villain who is rejected, and hated. The child refuses all contact. No talking about or to the parent anymore. It’s as if something wiped out any positive experience the child connected to that parent, discounting them altogether. 

2. An adamant insistence that the rejection was their decision

When asked about their sudden change of feeling for their parent, they usually insist that it was their decision to reject them. They adamantly deny that the alienating parent had anything to do with it whatsoever, even if that influence is obvious to others.

3. Wild accusations and nonsensical justifications for their hatred

Often, the reasons the child gives for the rejection and hostility toward the hated parent are weak, frivolous, and wholly absurd. They may point out trivial matters such as appearance, habits, or idiosyncrasies. Or the child may make accusations that can’t be supported by any facts.

4. Adopting phrases and ideas from the alienated parent to find fault

When making these accusations, the child often uses wordings and phrases they heard from the alienating parent. It becomes evident—by the way a child speaks that these are not their own words and ideas. Usually, their speech is either in a scripted manner or providing inconsistent information. A child frequently doesn’t even understanding what it is they’re saying.

5. Rude and hurtful attitude toward the hated parent, lacking any regret

The child seems to lack any kind of regret or feelings of guilt for the way they behave, compounding their cold and harsh behavior toward their parent. Instead, they act as if they are entitled to get whatever the hated parent offers without having to show any gratitude toward them.

The child seems to lack any kind of regret of feelings of guilt for the way they behave, compounding their cold and harsh behavior toward their parent.

6. Seeing the alienating parent as perfect, the hated one as totally flawed

A sort of black and white, good and evil, view of their parents is prevalent. While the alienating parent is perfect and can’t do any wrong, the hated parent is villainized and seen as having no redeeming qualities. There’s no middle ground. The child can’t seem to see both the good and bad qualities of their parents, but only one or the other.

7. Always siding with the alienating parent in conflicts

Regardless of how baseless or illogical the stance of the alienating parent may is in an argument, the child will always be on their side. They’re unwilling to listen to the other parent’s point of view. Nothing they could say will make any difference.

8. Eventual rejection of all extended family of the hated parent

When the hatred for the targeted parent goes on long enough, a child may despise, reject, and avoid all extended family. Even if the two had a good relationship before, the child often completely spurns the parent.

When ex-partners target the other parent, they often don’t know what to do. It seems as impossible to reason with their ex as with the alienated child. Consumed by fear, many desperately look for advice and guidance, uncertain how to cope with the pain, anxiety, depression, and helplessness they feel.

Sadly, the child doesn’t fare any better. 

As noted at the outset, a child often fails to realize that parental absence—as well as their hostile feelings toward them—can cause damage. Eventually, the emotional trauma manifests itself. Anxiety, depression, anger issues, relationship problems, and more, generally follow in the wake of parental alienation.

If you are a parent in this situation or a child who finally has come to realize what alienation from one of your parents has done to your life, please don’t hesitate to contact me.