Emotional Toll of Parental Alienation on Children – Parental alienation has been a big topic within the counselling world recently—and rightfully so. Many people do not realise how profoundly parental alienation impacts the children involved, or even how to recognise signs that it is happening in the first place. At Horizon Plymouth, we believe that it is important to educate parents and family members about the dangers of parental alienation so that signs can be noted earlier, and steps can be taken to help to prevent further mental health damage for all parties. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the emotional toll that parental alienation has on the children involved, as well as ways to support them both directly and through counselling services. If you are not already familiar with the definition and signs of parental alienation, please refer to previous articles published on our blog detailing the specifics of this issue.
Emotional toll of parental alienation on children
The emotional toll of parental alienation on children has been well-documented through various research and studies and it has become increasingly clear that children can be deeply affected by going through such an experience. Parental alienation is considered a form of child abuse and, like any abuse, the mark that it makes on a developing child’s brain and psyche can last forever. Children inherently strive for a wholesome and mutually valued relationship with both of their parents, and being programmed to unfairly hate, exclude, and emotionally reject one parent without cause can leave lasting effects on the child that linger even into adulthood. Examples of emotional impacts of parental alienation in a child include:
- Post-traumatic stress symptoms
- Lack of trust in adults and those around them
- Lifelong problems with self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-worth
- Development of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
- Difficulty forming securely attached relationships with others
- Substance abuse and other forms of addictive behaviors
Because these effects do not go away with age and often can be seen in the child’s ability to form meaningful relationships even as an adult, it is incredibly important to offer support and counselling in such situations in an attempt to combat the deeply seeded emotional toll on the children involved in parental alienation.
How to support children involved in parental alienation
Horizon Plymouth always recommends counselling to try to help children work through their experiences and heal in a meaningful way. However, as a complement to counselling services, there are steps that you can take to support a child who might be involved in a parental alienation situation.
- Take time to listen to their concerns, giving them a safe space to vent without judgement or comment.
- Show empathy to their statements, and gently correct misinformation regarding parental alienation with the truth, but do not argue with them.
- Spend time playing with your child, engaging in the activities that they like to do with them. These sessions should be child-led and unstructured to create a safe, creative, and reflective environment to process trauma
- Attending counselling sessions as well as your child can also help you to learn what both you and your child need to work towards rebuilding a relationship and repairing mental health.
If your child or a family member is undergoing the intensely negative situation of parental alienation, it is important to step in and get help as soon as possible to try to mitigate serious negative impacts. In these situations, the counsellors at Horizon Plymouth are experienced in dealing with parental alienation and would love to help. Don’t wait to seek help, contact the welcoming team at Horizon Plymouth today and schedule your initial consultation. We are here to listen and to help support you and your family!